Written by Casey Allred

As I duck my head and shoulders to pass through an undersized door, and see freshly painted desks organized in straight rows. Walking closer to the classroom for the first time, all I can see is brown eyes staring back at me with huge smiles. The children all break out into a scream, “Good morning!” I respond, “Good morning.” While meeting the children they shake uncontrollably from the cold January weather and I shake their ice cold hands. My heart is full to see the children for the first time and to realize that my colleagues and I at Effect International had done it…we opened our first school! I’m also shameful and heartbroken that we do not have funds to buy uniforms (which include sweaters) for the children, to keep them warm during the cold months. (This trip was mainly financed by Whitney, Mandi and me.)

The children that attend our school are poor by worldly standards, but they are like kids anywhere else in the world. They love to play, and are starving to learn new school material. Some children have walked a long distance, and I’m told from the teachers they have never missed a day, even on such cold mornings like today. One child moved away from his parents to live closer with his grandma to attend school. We currently have 120 children registered and 95 that come regularly.

The children have been attending for free for 3 months now. However, we must stick with our philanthropic model, which requires students to pay a small price. This week the teachers started collecting 25 rupees (50 cents) per student. The children will pay this each month, some children have asked if they could receive a receipt. We also had several parents who have all their children attending our school, ask if they could get a discount. We agreed.

This morning we gathered the children and took each of their pictures for future fundraisers and social work documentation. It is not of their culture to smile in front of a camera, but with some tickling from Whitney and funny faces behind the camera we tricked many into smiles.  We then had to organize all 100 children for a group school picture. The teachers were very efficient to get them in rows, the tallest in the back and smallest in front.

While I’m attending my senior year in college, I sometimes question our work here in India. Like most of my team we are all college students with part time jobs putting in countless unpaid hours for Effect International. Being here at our school reminds me why we work so hard! It shifts my heart forward, realizing the potential each of us have to change the world.

When your own school children tell you “thank you,” it’s worth every minute of hard work. At Effect International we are only adding small drops of water to a large bucket, but those small drops have a ripple effect that mean a lot for those who volunteer for us!