Sunday, May 13, 2007

Preppie Compassion?

Yesterday at the Compassion Beyond Borders yard sale (which I blogged about earlier in the week), I found a Bloomingdale's Boys' Shop sport coat--wool and silk, beautifully made. The silk lining has a pheasant motif--it looks like a hunting jacket. Very English, really. Got it for $1.

Might any of the four nephews wear it? Playing dress-up as an English Country Gentleman? May I send it on?

Compassion Beyond Borders got about $500 from the yard sale--not too shabby, as it takes only $40 per year to educate a student at the Prajna Vihar school in Bodh Gaya, India, one of CBB's partnership projects.

In Sanskrit, Prajna means wisdom, Vihar means house. This school for “the very poorest” of children, was founded by a Buddhist meditation student 15 years ago. Today it has 440 students, over 80% of whom are low caste or outcaste--"untouchable” Hindus. About ten percent of the students are upper caste Hindus who are chosen to provide diversity to the student body. They too receive a remarkable education, being required to treat their classmates as equals in every way.

Prajna Vihar begins with two years of kindergarten and continues to the eighth grade. The schedule is rigorous, six days a week, with daily homework after the first grade. Instruction is in Hindi, the language of northern India, with English beginning in kindergarten. All students are taught “moral signs”, the ethical values of the Indian and world religions. The school offers physical education, art, and dance instruction to all students.

Parents pay only the cost of their child’s school uniform. The faculty receive an annual salary equivalent to about $3,500 a year. This salary is higher than that in Indian public schools, higher even than in other private schools in the area.

Financing for Prajna Vihar comes through a network of supporters in Australia, Switzerland, England and the U.S., with no income coming from the Indian government. Compassion Beyond Borders sponsors 100 children at Prajna Vihar, and would like to sponsor more, as many children are on a waiting list to attend the school.

I personally know both the Executive Director and the Chair of Compassion Beyond Borders, and they are wonderful, selfless people who are doing great work.

With its focus on the education of impoverished girls and illiterate women--the poorest of the poor in the developing world--it really is making the world a better place, and it is especially effective because it works through local groups that know the needs of their communities and how to meet them, thus strengthening existing grassroots organizations and avoiding costly intermediate structures.

This is one of those small charities that deserves much support.


Ms. Theologian said...

This sounds like an awesome organization!

Femminista said...

A follow-up, sent by Lawrence, Executive Director of CBB, to Anne, orgqnizer of the yardsale--and noting that in more rural schools in India (with whom CBB also works), it is possible to educate an outcaste girl for just $10 per year (!):


I am writing to thank all of you for your wonderful effort last week that brought about such a successful lawn sale. I know that such events take time and energy. As a teacher, I am also hoping that they brought an awareness of how others in the world live.

At the sale someone asked me if it was really possible to give a year's education to a child for $10. Yes it is. I have met these children and attended their schools. These are schools for outcastes, "untouchables" in India. Outcaste families are so poor and so oppressed that their children have to work all day just to help keep the family alive. These children attend schools organized by Jesuit priests and Christian nuns especially for them early in the morning, from 7:30 to 10 AM. The children then go home or to the fields to work all day. The next morning they come to school at 7:30 AM again. This is all the education they will ever receive.

Compassion Beyond Borders finances 52 of these schools in 52 villages, educating 1,400 children. These schools are not expensive, costing only $10 a year per child. The proceeds of the lawn sale will educate 42 outcaste children for a year.

Please realize what you have done! This is wonderful!