Barefoot in Rajasthan: Children Who Chose a Road Less Traveled Re-inspire August 2009 Fellow Laxmi Chhaya to Live with Integrity
Indicorps support structure includes quarterly workshops where Fellows regroup, re-energize,and share best practices. One of the workshops – the March “personal workshop” is a self-directed learning process. Fellows are asked to organize a 4-day visit to an organization that engages with the same challenges/issues they face in the field. For her personal workshop, August 2009 Laxmi Chhaya visited Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan. Her learnings are as unexpected as her experience:
As we leave the Barefoot College Campus, based in the small Rajasthani village of Tilonia, I look outside and can’t help but feel overwhelmed at absence of agriculture. The arid lands seem to go on for miles. We drive past a cluster of ‘kacha makans’ (makeshift homes) into what seems like the middle of nowhere. We park near a wall that may have once been a part of a larger building. Resting against this wall is a blackboard, with a young man standing in front of it, and a group of 20 kids, sitting cross-legged on the floor with their notebooks in front of them, taking in every word he is saying.
This is a Barefoot College Night School.
I crouch down behind some of the children, while Tejaramji (an experienced member of Barefoot Team and a natural with children) asks the children to introduce themselves to us. Most are between the ages of 7 and 12. None of them have attended conventional schools, since during the daytime they tend animals and have other responsibilities. Many of the children’s parents migrate for work. The children are mostly raised by their grandparents.
At that moment, I realized that these children come to school every evening at great personal sacrifice – after they have completed their daily chores, they walk some 1-23 kilometers to come to this school by choice, their own choice. Tejaramji tells us how the parents of these children are largely indifferent to this choice, but at this point it doesn’t seem to matter. What does matter is that these children feel a hope for their own futures; not only hope, but a determination to do something with it.
During this Fellowship year, I have had to think more deeply about who I am and more crucially, can I do what I need to do despite the challenges? I am still trying to understand the questions within myself. I draw inspiration from these children – walking, talking and smiling examples of how you can do what you need to do, despite any challenges.
The small light of purpose, unknowingly, held up a mirror to my face and reminded me of an intention I had made during this year – to live with integrity and do what I say I am going to do, even if only I am the only one who knows. I am reminded that there is always inspiration around me, whether I expect it or not.
Laxmi Chhaya, August 2009 Indicorps Fellow