Meet Sarita.

She does not know when her birthday is but she thinks she is about eight years old. She is enrolled in Malwa Public School as a Lower Kindergarten student and receives supplementary lessons at a learning center called Gyaan Ghar daily from 1:00 to 3:30 in the afternoon. This is Sarita’s first year of school. Before this year, she would stay home and work all day, helping her mom around the house, until her neighborhood friends came home from school. They would play around for a while, and then Sarita had to return home to help her mom with dinner.

In the meantime, her friends would attend afternoon classes at
Gyaan Ghar. When they told her about the fun material they were learning in this relatively informal atmosphere, Sarita decided to go with them to check it out.
She liked it, and that encouraged her to start attending Malwa Public School during the day.
Students like Sarita inspired me to start Gyaan Ghar. When I was in eighth grade, I noticed the children of domestic helpers in my grandmother’s neighborhood in Ludhiana (India) hanging around a nearby park in the afternoons. When I asked them if they would like to learn English, they were incredibly enthusiastic about it. So I started holding informal sessions for them every evening, for as long as they wanted. I would help them with their homework and teach them subjects they were not taught in school, such as art. The kids loved it. But I would visit Ludhiana only once or twice a year, and my long absences solicited daily questions such as “Where is Ratna Didi (sister)?” from the students.
Thus, I thought about setting up an organization that would continue to instruct them in these supplementary and creative aspects of education, even when I returned to the States after my summer vacations. In the summer of 2008, I consulted with a lawyer and registered the society under the name Gyaan Ghar, or House of Knowledge. I published an advertisement for teaching positions in The Punjab Tribune. After several candidates had indicated their interest, I interviewed them and selected the two I felt were most qualified and, more importantly, passionate about teaching. I then visited local public schools, discussing with principals which students they thought would benefit most from this instruction, searching for a pool of students both bright and underprivileged. I decided upon Malwa Public School, a school catering to underprivileged families in the vicinity of my grandmother’s home. On August 23rd, 2008, the day I was leaving India, Gyaan Ghar had its first class.
The learning center has been running successfully ever since, with students branching out from their core school curriculum into extra-curricular subjects such as Health and Government, and activities such as dance and painting. 2010 is its third year of operation, and the school now has 42 regular students -- double the number first enrolled!

I am in the process of collaborating with Mr. Lamont to design a pen pal program between the students of
Gyaan Ghar and the students of Flint Hill. My hope is that Gyaan Ghar will not just be “my school in India” but an endeavor in which each and every Flint Hill student can take immense pride.
Thank you so much, Flint Hill, for your incredible support of and involvement in this project. Please be sure to participate in the Husky Dress Fundraiser to take place on February 18th this year!

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