We had the amazing opportunity to meet with some of the girls from Pardada Pardadi. Pardada Pardadi is an all-girls school in Uttar Pradesh, India. The mission of the school is to increase the attendance of girls in school and to help them complete school and college. This school has spent many years figuring out the best way to make school more accessible for families so as to increase the attendance and retention of female students. Part of their success is because they have created a system where the girls receive money that is deposited into an account every time they attend school. The girls then receive the money once they graduate.
On Thursday evening we were able to meet these young women within the comfort of our homes. We were split up into groups and started having some great conversations. I met with three girls that shared their very high expectations and goals for themselves. They want to go far in school and know what they want to do with their life. They were so confident and driven, it was inspiring. They shared how they study constantly for school. They wake up early to study and it is the last thing they do before going to bed. The girls in my group were bright, passionate, and dedicated to their education and future. When we went around asking what they like to do in their free time, they either said school or helping others. They were very genuine and kind. They always had a big smile and were eager to ask me about my life. You could tell they knew that school was an opportunity for a better life, and they were going to use it to the fullest.
On Thursday night, we had the opportunity to meet with students from Pardada Pardadi girls school. It wasn’t as nice as being able to fly to India and meet them in person, but it was nice to see them and hear from them. A lot of them shared interesting hobbies with us, like playing sports and traveling. The girls were eager to talk to us and we were just as eager to talk to them. I liked talking to them and if I get a chance to go see them in person (if and when this pandemic is over), I would gladly take that chance.
The girls that I talked with spoke about how they really wanted to help people. As someone who is looking into philanthropy, I really liked hearing that. We need people that want to help others, especially right now. Some of them wanted to participate in athletics and that is really cool to me. Some girls said that they want to go into engineering, a profession I also want to get into. The students I spoke with work very hard so that they can pursue their dreams in the future. That is very inspiring to me.
Our time speaking with the girls from Pardada Pardadi was an exciting change of pace from the more serious, and somewhat intense conversations we’d been having earlier that week. Instead of doing a lot of research into a person, we just asked questions to get to know them, and have a look into their lives.
I was in a group with Kira, Octavio, Minakshi, and Nahin. Although there were some technical issues, we prevailed! What struck me most was how dedicated Minakshi was to playing basketball. She said she spends around four hours a day. There were actually three national basketball champions on our zoom, her being one. When we talked about what a day in our lives looked like, I was surprised at just how much they study. I’ll admit to cramming for finals and procrastinating on some big projects, so I’ve spent a few days like that, but I can’t imagine that being the norm. Speaking with them encouraged me to examine the way I think about studying (and procrastinating). I enjoyed the small groups, and even though I was worried it might be awkward, it was a highlight of the “trip.” I spoke with a classmate, and we hoped for even more time in small groups for the next day’s Sri Ram Ashram zoom.
After we got back in the main group I got to hear some other girls speak. I was surprised to hear that so many wanted to be engineers! Near the end of our time together, I asked them what made them happy or brought a smile to their face. Many of them said going to school. Because they aren’t going anymore, several noted that they missed the social and extracurricular (basketball) aspects of school. This year I’ve become more grateful for the ability to go to school. Seeing my friends and interacting with teachers feels like a treat compared to online learning. Because of the changes Covid has brought, I felt what they said much more deeply than I would have had this been a normal year.