Chanda and her shooting stars

This is a blogpost by Chanda Jain, a TFI Fellow in Delhi, who is doing something truly remarkable with her “small wonders” in the classroom. Here she introduces you to the shooting stars, as they like to call themselves, and her campaign. We are truly humbled that Chanda chose us to be a part of this beautiful initiative. Support Chanda’s campaign and cheer for her little shooting stars.

Good values are good actions and good words.

‘Can you give me an example of a good value?’

‘Didi if my friend does not have a pencil, I will give her my pencil. I am being helpful.

‘If my bottle falls down and the water is on the floor, and didi scolds the class, I will say didi it is my bottle. I am being honest.’

‘If you are talking, I will say excuse me didi, can you please help me’.

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One year down the road and I began to realize the importance of wording out the good and the bad to my girls. In an environment where 8 year olds hurl the choicest of abuses, fathers gamble under the sun in afternoons and marital fights are everyday affairs, ethics do not constitute a part of their daily life.

I started integrating values into the coursework or narrating stories with morals at the end. It created ripples. I could now refer to the hard-working tortoise who never admitted defeat or the lazy grasshopper who starved through the winters. But we needed more, a bigger cause. Something which would make the students think beyond their immediate community and expose them to the world outside of their homes.

That is when I chanced upon the Rang De website. A social investing site, it aims to lower the cost of micro credit to underserved communities through peer-to-peer lending. I introduced the website in the class along with the concept of savings and investment. What happened next was something even I had not prepared myself for. An open discussion ensued. About the less fortunate. About people striving to fulfil their dreams. About poverty. About propelling yourself out of poverty. And then my girls gave me the answer. They told me they wanted to pitch in.

 

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Now, the class comes forward in droves to drop in a rupee or two into the piggy banks I instructed to bring for the class. They try to do without a packet of chips or that typhoid-on-a-stick chuski sold right outside the school premises. Instead these ten-year olds are religiously putting aside their money so they can make their first collective social investment and help fund a dream.

Some days they pick up the piggy banks and weigh them in their hands to figure out if they have saved a respectable amount. Some days they chide themselves for not having saved enough. And every day, they inspire me.

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With Chanda’s consent we have launched a campaign where our social investors can triplicate the amount these little girls save for Rang De’s borrowers. Lets celebrate these little heroines. Please visit Chanda’s campaign on Rang De to add your contribution

And to keep up with Chanda’s journey as a TFI Fellow please follow her beautiful blog

 

A Day with Rang De’s youngest Social Investors

- Madhur Jajoo, Rang De Social Investor and Rang De Pune Chapter Member

A Rang De social investor since December 2011, Madhur Jajoo is also a member of the Rang De Pune Chapter. Madhur accompanied the students of Project Rang De Lives on their first field visit last October and spent a day interacting with the students, Rang De borrowers and our field partner Parvati Swayamrojgar. Here’s his account of the field visit. 
 

Sometimes in life we learn valuable things from children which we adults seldom put serious thought into. And more often than not, this process leaves us with increased wisdom and conscientiousness. I came across one such inspiring story last year which my made me take a step back and provoked me to ask “How?”

Last year, 19 students of class VII from Abhimanyu Eng. Medium School, Pune raised Rs.900 to invest in Rang De borrowers and became Rang De’s youngest social investors. Rang De borrowers are individuals who apply for a loan to support either their business or their children’s education. The class raised the money from their personal savings (I think it’s important to note that these students belong to middle class families). The story started with their class teacher, Mrs Payoshini Saraf, a Teach for India fellow and Rang De social investor, introducing Project Rang De Lives in her class. She explained the Rang De model to the class and got them thinking by asking them how they can help.

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Having made their first social investment in Rang De, the students were interested in interacting with the borrowers and learning how they operated their businesses and in getting answers for the many questions that they had. Their wish was granted by Rang De with its field partner Parvati Swayamrojgar and a field visit was organised in Pune for the students to meet the borrowers. Fortunately, I was part of this trip which allowed me to meet the students and learn from them.

On 4th October, the field visit started with the students visiting the borrowers’ houses at Ghorpade, Pune. These young ignited minds were ready to explore the world and their teacher, ready to teach them chapters outside the syllabus. The students asked a range of questions to every borrower we visitedfrom how they set up a business to financial viability of the business and the challenges that they faced. The kind of questions the students asked, their level of thinking and their curious minds left me amazed. To top it all, the students made hand-made utility gifts like paper envelopes, bags etc. for the borrowers depending on the kind of business they were involved in. These gifts would be of help to the borrowers in their businesses and I was completely astonished by this!

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This story of these enthusiastic and affectionate students enriched me in many ways and I hope it will do the same to you as well. These students showed me that age has little to do with empathy, maturity and the ability to make a difference. I also hope more teachers like Mrs Payoshini inspire and guide their students to do something similar to make India a better place.

Project Rang De Lives has invested Rs.3,800 and impacted 19 lives since September 2013. If you would like to explore ‘Empathy in a Classroom’ and introduce Rang De at a school near you, write to us sushmita@rangde.org.