On Monday, I visited the anti begging outreach program for the first time. When we arrived in the program’s neighborhood, I followed one of the teachers down a dirt road. We passed shacks and vendors on the side of the road. She led me through a small doorway. I entered the room where several members from the organization were gathered. The walls were filled with murals and learning aids, which consisted of Hindi, English, and number charts. As I took a seat, many of the teachers began transforming the empty room into a comfortable learning environment. Tables were spread throughout the room accompanied by stools. There were writing desks and a rug set out on the floor, facing a wall with a whiteboard. Soon after this 180 transformation, children began to flood the room. Upon arrival they were redirected to wash their hands and faces before they came to learn and ate their bananas. I sat down at a table towards the back of the room, with a young boy who was slightly older and more advanced than those there at the time who were focusing on counting from 1 to 5 in English and Hindi. He and I sat together and worked on the English alphabet. We worked on recognizing the letters, and then writing them. Halfway through our lesson, he asked me if he could take a break and go work on block painting with another young man, who was a vocational trainee.
As he stepped away, I slowly scanned the room to see 4 or 5 children sitting at tables nearby, some were coloring, and some were practicing math, English, or Hindi. Before I knew it, two young boys joined me at the table. These brothers were at very different levels in English, but both eager and determined to work and learn more. The younger boy, Sunny, asked me to write out the alphabet for him, so he could practice writing the lettersone by one. His older brother, Bobby, didn’t quite let on how much he knew. So I first asked him to write the alphabet, in all upper case letters, and then again but all lower case. Both of which he did perfectly, and looked at me like it was way too easy. So I decided to push him a little further, and said “A is for apple. How do you spell apple?” He looked at me, smirked, and got right to work. He not only wrote apple, but also continued with B is for ball, all the way until Z is for zebra. I was absolutely blown away! Everything was spelled right, he knew all the meanings of the words he wrote, and he did it so effortlessly. Then, I decided to have him work with my friend, Emma, who has come to Dehradun with me to work with Aasraa Trust. I wanted to spend more time working with his younger brother on the alphabet. I glanced over periodically to see how this young boy was exceeding Emma’s expectations as well. He knew fruits, animals, body parts, days of the week, and months. Even though we were asking him questions he already knew, he was eager to do the work. He wanted to write down the words, he wanted to share the knowledge he had. But there was something about his modesty, and at only nine years old, he didn’t want to overshadow his younger brother who was learning his ABCs right next to him. Bobby’s intelligence was not the only thing to amaze me, but his determination and thirst to learn was really something I won’t forget. With these traits, I am dying to see where he ends up next.