We park the car on a patch of yellowed and very dry earth, in front of the Gift School. Gathering our backpacks, we make our way to the corrugated metal building – a school in the slum called Bangladesh. With almost 500 children attending, the school has no room for growth as the slum is overcrowded and has run out of space.
A woman in pink comes towards us, rushing, with arms and hands extended. She stops directly in front of me and says, “May I guess who you are”? At my nod, she says, “You are Tanya!” And we hug and greet each other, the director of Gift School and the director of AFCA finally meeting. We’ve never met, but she seems familiar, a kindred spirit of sorts. She takes my hand after greeting Tifany, Juju and Veronica, and gently pulls me towards the school entrance where a group of children start clapping and singing. This is so unexpected, I clap to show my appreciation as the kids continue to sing a song of welcome.
Soon, one girl takes my hand and we dance our way into a large room where parents gather on one side, students in another, with teachers flanking them. The others dance their way in, as well, to what has obviously been a huge, planned surprise of songs, speeches and gratitude. What an honor to meet the teachers and administration that has fought so hard to educate these children! How wonderful to hear that the parents and teachers have seen how the children care for the school books they borrow to do homework and to learn their lessons. How encouraging to hear how grades have gotten better since the UFEEMA Library was set up with school books on loan. Every child now has access to the required books and literacy has improved, vocabularies have expanded, homework is being done, grades have surged up, and hope has been rekindled. They went from one set of books for every 50 children to a set per every other child. With 19 required books per set, there are plenty of books in the library and every single child here has access to them daily, even during school vacations.
They kept saying “thank you” through poetry, speeches, and song. But, really, it is me who is grateful.
I am grateful to see how well cared for the books are.
I am grateful that children are learning.
I am grateful that the teachers feel heard.
I am grateful that a little idea has changed the educational path for 500+ children so far, with many more coming right behind them.
I am grateful for donors who listened to an idea, understood the possibilities and jumped in to help.
I am grateful.
This is good. So, so good.