It was hard to hold back the tears of joy and emotion that we all felt. The moment had finally arrived after much anticipation. We had reached the AIM for SEVA Khategaon Girls School and hostel after a short flight from Delhi to Indore followed by a 3 hour adventurous bumpy ride in a small bus through some of India’s beautiful rural areas.
Our entourage consisted of Shailesh and Mina Raja, their two sons and wives, Nikil and Uma, Nishant and Mariya, along with their 3 grand daughters Aryana, Rania and Layla (who were particularly pleased with the journey as they were able to see some roadside monkeys along the way!).
Our skilled bus driver had taken us as far as he could navigate, at which point we were met by a man sent from the school on a motorcycle to show us the remainder of the route, through twisty rural roads. It might be a long time before Google Maps has these side roads online! As we drove through the large front gate entrance, we saw hundreds of young girls and teachers lining the driveway.
Stepping off of the bus, we were first greeted by Swamiji as the girls began singing in unison a most beautiful welcome song and we were each adorned with beautiful garlands. It seemed almost surreal and the joy felt is hard to describe. As we greeted the sweet girls, teachers and principal, Swamiji led us along the driveway and into a large common hall where seats were set up for us.
The girls filed in and sat down right before us, bright eyed and excited as we were, in perfect order with the younger ones sitting up front followed by rows of the older girls in ascending age. All told, there were close to 300 girls sitting together, ranging in age from just 3 up to 18 years old. The girls sang a few beautiful songs for us and recited some shloks and prayers all from memory. Swamiji requested a few of the older girls to stand up individually and sing different songs. One girl, as we found out later, whose family lives in the Assam region, sang a song about Mother India. A few of the younger girls started tearing up, clearly evident that they were missing their own mothers. It was very emotional for us all… extremely joyful and heartfelt with empathy.
Mina shared some words of inspiration to the group of girls in Hindi.
Swamiji then led us outside and gave us a tour of the compound. There are a multiple buildings consisting of a fairly large two story school building, a main hall where meals are served and multiple newly constructed guest houses for teachers, staff and visitors. There is still much construction under way for other buildings and structures including a new sports and stadium complex with multi tiered seating, and plans for food to be grown onsite.
We briefly visited a few of the classes in progress and were greeted with enthusiastic smiles from all the students. There are many classrooms and plans for a new computer lab to be installed. We walked up to the roof of the school building where there are many solar panels installed to generate energy. From this height we were able to observe a fantastic view of the surrounding beautiful greenery and farms. We proceeded to visit the girls hostel where about 60 girls currently live who have come from all diff erent parts of India, along with 2 women who oversee them in the multi storied hostel building. The remainder of over 200 girls who attend the school live locally. The girls in the hostel seem to be very happy and have a sisterhood that exists amongst them all. Some of them who hail from remote corners of India, only see their families once or twice a year. This was diffi cult to hear as we don’t realize how truly lucky we are to have family surrounding us on a daily basis, back home in Canada. The remainder of time was spent viewing the newly constructed resident/guest buildings and chatting with Swamiji, the principal and teachers about the future for the project and education goals for the girls. Ambitious plans lay ahead and we are excited to see them implemented. At this point, the sun had started its slow descent over the horizon and it was time to get back in the bus for the return journey back to Indore. ever since we were introduced to AIM for SEVA, we have been excited to be a part of the wonderful initiative.
The experience of being able to actually see fi rst hand the direct impact that AIM for SEVA donors have had in this project, was beyond words… truly priceless. In a country where women’s rights and equality often times leaves much to be desired, this shining light of a school exists to give some of India’s most underprivileged young girls an education. But far more than that, what especially resonated with us was that these girls were now empowered. empowered to use this knowledge to further their education to university level and beyond, ultimately helping uplift not only their families, but also their communities and their country at large. As the bus departed and slowly accelerated the long driveway, we were all waving to the girls teachers and Swamiji. We left smiling, filled with happiness and once again teary eyed, thanking God for this wonderful experience.