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December 2017 visit to school

Hello lovely Friends of Kasam,

We are already a little over a month into 2018, and we hope you have had a great start to this year! We have been busy here at FoK, and have some updates for you from the school and about our amazing kids.

One of our teammates, Rahul, visited Kasam in December 2017, and celebrated Christmas with our kids and partners at the school. Along with it being Rahul’s first visit to the school, the visit also helped us get an update on the activities at school, explore potential areas of collaboration, and understand how we can better ensure our contribution serves the needs of our students in more effective ways, as we continue our long-term relationship with the school. Here is Rahul’s account of his experience meeting our lovely kids:

I have been with FoK for several years now and the fact that I had not been to the school even once weighed heavy on me. On my recent India trip, I was determined to change that. Moreover, the idea of spending Christmas with our kiddos was a tempting one. I arrived in Vellore (the city closest to Kasam) on Christmas night (December 25th) and hopped straight to school from the train station. There, I was treated to an array of beautiful performances by the school students – Christmas-themed songs, energetic dance performances, and a couple of hilarious skits. This was one talented bunch of kids!  

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The next morning, I headed to the school to interact with the administration, check the school facilities, and most importantly, meet some of our sponsored students. And I made sure to pick up chocolates for the kids lest my welcome be anything less than endearing.

Thus began a day with a bunch of meetings with the school principal, a tour of the school facilities, and multiple interactions with our students and other kids at the school. One bummer was that I could meet only the 11th and 12th grade students as they were having special classes during the break. The other students were on a winter break. I managed to shoot a few videos of greetings from our kids, and you can check them out below.

I also met Priyank who, along with Aditya, is one of the two interns we hired last year to coordinate our activities in the school. In the meeting, we hashed out a path for the on-the-ground activities we would like to organize at the school, and how to better coordinate with the school administration. I also became buddies with Mohan Raj, one of our star students, who graduated from high school last year, and is pursuing his undergraduate studies in Mechanical Engineering at Thanthai Periyar Government Institute of Technology. Mohan Raj is a recipient of The Doreen Denlinger Fund, and just got done with his first semester at school, and has performed exceptionally well (8.32/10). 

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My conversations with the administration and the school principal, Anna Ma’am, in particular, were quite helpful. I got a first-hand perspective of the ground situation there and we were able to come up with quite a few ideas on how to take our collaboration forward to serve our students’ educational needs better.  As we craft and finalize our platform for the next year, we will get back to you with more details on this.

A big shout-out to the folks who made this trip possible and were super-hospitable: Anna Ma’am and Daniel (my point-of-contact on the school staff who took care of everything).  It was a wonderful trip and a calm retreat to the beautiful south Indian countryside. The next time you find yourself in India, I’d strongly recommend a trip there!

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Another of our teammates, Likith, is in India now and is planning to visit the school over the next week (12 Feb). Likith will be taking gifts of chocolates, books, and small toys to the children.

Looking forward to hearing from you,

Likith, Megan, Naman, Rahul, Sowmya

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Upcoming Plans

For the next school year, we are hoping to implement a few changes to help support the relationship between you and your sponsored child, should you choose to do: 

  • Establish a way for one-on-one updates: Having Aditya and Priyank will help us facilitate more contact between you and your sponsored child. We’d like to do some sort of video chats or coordinated videos back and forth so you can get to know your child better.
  • Implement the "school uniforms, bags, and gift-giving" program: As you know, the children you sponsor are far below the poverty line. Many of these children do not have clothing other than their school uniforms and cannot afford much more. We are aiming to begin a fundraising initiative if you’d like to donate to help purchase additional uniforms and bags for the children. Also, we want to raise a few dollars per child to purchase small birthday gifts for them.

 

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FoK Fellowship

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FoK Fellowship

A couple of months ago we coordinated with Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), an engineering college located near the school, to start a fellowship program for the college students to be a part of Friends of Kasam. The objective of the fellowship was to have our "eyes on the ground" - our points of contact for coordinating activities and getting more frequent updates from the school. We have two new team members: Aditya and Priyank, who are both students at VIT and are now helping us with more local support. They are both engineering students and have backgrounds in volunteering, and are thrilled to be working with us. Their main responsibilities are visiting the school to see how the children are doing and progressing, and to coordinate communication between sponsors and the students.

Aditya and Priyank visited the school in April, where they spent some time with the students and had them draw some photos and write letters to all of you. We are consolidating them and will get those over to you in our next newsletter, along with updates about your individual kids.

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Naman visits school

One of our founders, Naman, traveled to India to visit the school in March. Naman used to teach at the school more than 5 years ago, when he attended Vellore Institute of Technology (VIT), an engineering college located close to the school. In this visit, he met the new school principal, Anna, who was Vice Principal for several years until Vatsala, the former principal, retired last year. Anna comes with over 30 years of experience in education and is very dedicated to the children.

He also saw the school’s new activity lab, where the children get more hands-on experience with learning.

As a result of this visit, we also identified some top needs that we will support in the upcoming years:

  • School uniforms and bags program
  • Expansion of the lunch program
  • Addition of new bathroom facilities
  • Helping teacher aides and starting an e-learning program

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