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We are half-way to our goal of raising $200,000 for a school for the children of the leprosy-affected in Bihar. Yes, our remarkable readers have already raised $100,000! Thank you. With our matching donor we will have $400,000 toward a school that will change the lives of the most desperate people on earth. Where else can they turn for help besides to us? They are really the overlooked of the whole earth.
We have published two articles that have explained the plight of the leprosy-affected which you can access here:
An Impossible Challenge Turned into Hope for the Children of the Leprosy Colonies of Bihar https://latterdaysaintmag.com/an-impossible-challenge-turned-into-hope-for-the-children-of-the-leprosy-colonies-in-bihar/
What One Person Can Do to Help in the Most Difficult Conditions on Earth https://latterdaysaintmag.com/what-one-person-can-do-to-help-in-the-most-difficult-conditions-on-earth/
To make your donation or track how the humanitarian fund is growing click here: Risingstaroutreach.org/Meridian
If you’ve been following the story of the Little Flower School in Bihar, India, you know that when Rising Star Outreach first visited the school, things were grim. The building was like an empty shell—no doors or windows—just empty holes in the wall where doors & windows should be. When it rained, the roof leaked, and the school was flooded. In some rooms the pungent smell of mold was so strong it made breathing painful. In addition, there was a cement factory next door pouring foul-smelling smoke into the building so that on some days the smoke was so thick, you couldn’t see the students at the back of the classroom.
There were no overhead fans, as the former ones were long-ago stolen, and the children sweltered in heat that frequently rose above 100 degrees. The lightbulbs had also been stolen. In this far Northern area, it gets dark in the winter at 4:00 PM and without light the students were unable to see the teacher or even the notebooks in front of them.
There was only one qualified teacher in the school. The other teachers had only graduated from high school. The teachers did not speak English even though the school was billed as an “English-medium school”. There were no bathrooms, no blackboards and no textbooks. .All teaching was done by rote memory. Without any real curriculum, in some classes the students simply memorized and repeated the same poem week after week.
The diet was equally grim and consisted mainly of rice and unfiltered water. Several times a week, “dahl” or lentils were added. There were signs of malnutrition on all the children. The dorms were also atrocious. Again, they were without fans or light. One housemother watched all 75 boys and another housemother had responsibility for all the girls. The girls were required to return to their dorm as soon as school ended at noon. They were not allowed out until school the next day, for fear that they would be preyed on by the men in the colony.
The first thing Rising Star Outreach did when it took charge of the school was to increase the food so that every child was receiving an egg 4 times a week and chicken twice a week. They were given fruits, vegetables, milk, cheese, and nuts. What a difference!
The roof was fixed to stop the leaking and the mold was cleaned off the walls. Overhead fans and lights were installed in the classrooms and the dorms. The factory next door was shut down through social protests sponsored by the leader of Little Flower. Clean filtered water was made available throughout the school and campus.
Qualified teachers were hired and trained in hands-on teaching methods. They all had to attend English classes several times a week. Bathrooms were built. Books and uniforms were purchased. The inner courtyard of the school was walled off and bars were placed in all the windows to discourage thieves. Fulltime guards were hired, and CCTV cameras were installed. Now the girls had a place to play and participate in sports, which they had never done before. Sports equipment was purchased, as well as games.
Unbelievably a little computer lab was also started. The children had never seen a computer before. Now they were learning to use one! Classes were started in sexual harassment policies and everyone had to learn acceptable behavior. A social worker was hired to work with the children, many of whom came from dysfunctional families and backgrounds of violence. Healing was facilitated.
Tutoring classes were started every afternoon. The Promethean Dance program was started to teach the children life skills through dance. The children got to start art and drama classes. Most had never before seen a crayon or had a piece of paper to draw on. Now they were learning to express themselves!
Hope was in the air! The children had all assumed they would be beggars, like their parents. But now they were beginning to realize they could dream, and were taught that if they worked hard, they could actually achieve their dreams. This was a whole new concept!
One day, the Rising Star volunteers interviewed several of the staff, teachers and students to get their life stories. We asked them if they had hope for their futures. We were struck by how so many of them talked about the changes in the school. We put together some of their responses, because they made us so happy and we wanted to share the joy that hope brings.
Comments from students and staff at Little Flower about the coming of Rising Star Outreach to the School:
Khushi Samuels, 1-5 grade teacher
“There have been lots of changes in the school in the last 12 years. The school was great with Father Baba and then it declined after he died, but now that RSO is here, the school is becoming much better in every way (stronger education, nutrition program, English).”
Jauhar Ali, 1-8 grade class teacher
“How has the school changed? Now it is great! There was no technique to teaching, it was only rote teaching. Now there are many ways of teaching and all of the students are learning how to communicate in better ways. I’m very excited for the new school. It is very positive and will be very good for the students and teachers. I am very excited for the advanced technology we have access to. The students never had that before. I am happy about the new location because that means it’s a whole new environment and that will change the way of thinking and educating the students.”
Mukesh Kumar, student, 6th grade class
He is seeing changes in the school and how the teachers are teaching. The food is much better also. The supplies Rising Star Outreach is providing are wonderful, so he wants to stay. “When I returned, I looked for my future and I realized that if I stay, I can improve my future a lot.”
Rambha Kumari, Nursery to 5th grade class teacher
“Before Rising Star came, there was no electricity, toilets or drinking water. Now we have all of these things and the students can focus on their education. It’s very healthy for students and teachers. Sometimes it is challenging being a woman in India, but at this school, it is not challenging because the other teachers and administrators all support each other. In other places, we have to present our best qualities and people ignore it because I am a woman, but here, my qualities are raised up and rewarded. I feel like I am heard and respected here, which does not happen in other places. Being a mother of two small children (Prachi is 1.5 and Pari is 3.5) and doing work in the home can be challenging, but at the school I am able to have my children with me and do my work.”
Raphael K. Deo, Director at Little Flower Leprosy Hospital
“The new dressing room (donated by Rising Star) has changed the mood in the hospital, we feel like we have support now. The hospital was in terrible condition when I arrived. Rising Star arrived for the very first time the same day that I arrived — God works in mysterious ways. The new kitchen (also donated by Rising Star) has changed the way the patients eat food. The food has improved, and the patients are happy because they are finally getting hot food (it doesn’t have to come from the kitchen on the other side of Little Flower), and the food comes on TIME — the patients aren’t hungrily waiting for their food now. And once a month, they now get chicken.”
Sanjay Kumar, student, 8th grade class
“Some new teachers came and now students are learning English and improving their education a lot. The living style of the hostel has changed too. We used to try and run from the hostel at night, but now they cannot because the hostel mother and CCTV cameras are watching. We would try to go to the shops in the market at night. The changes in the school are very good for my future. They are helping us learn more and in new ways.”
Seema Kumari, Nursery and LKG teacher
“Since Rising Star Outreach has arrived in Bihar, I have received a lot more learning from the school and have a true emotional attachment to the school.”
Asha Devi, Administrative Assistant
Since Rising Star came, Asha is happier. “There is better food and improved school conditions. Originally, it was a Hindi medium, now an English Medium. Some say Sunderpur is not a good place, that there are money problems, but since Rising Star came, it has become so much better.”
Gulshan Kumar, student, 5th grade class
When he becomes a policeman, he wants to come back and help with Rising Star because they have done a lot of good for the school since they came here. He likes the changes in the school very much. He likes everything about this school, but he really enjoys that there is tuition (tutoring) for all the students now, (before there was only tutoring for the older students in the hostel) so he can learn more.
Najbunesa & Sakeiran, The Cooks
Since Rising Star came they now can work longer hours, have more pay, and more work. There’s better quality of food, higher standard of school, and more variety in the food. The kids now get eggs 4x/week and chicken 2x/wk. They are happy with their job because they are helping to earn money for their families and get to see their kids during the day.
Shoba Devi, Works at RSO with Willie (the watch dog)
Since Rising Star came, things are very good. Her first time with the dog, she was afraid of her. She kept biting her heels, but now, she’s happy with her new job.
WILLIE’S HUNGER FAST
Willie was purchased as a puppy to be a watch dog for the volunteers. Shoba was hired to care for her but was afraid of Willie. (Most people in Bihar have only seen small scraggly dogs. A lab is quite intimidating). Consequently, poor Willie was ignored and lonely. She spent all day in her cage, whining pitifully.
It was decided to give Willie away. A young professional man wanted her for his family, so she was given to him. Away went Willie. But she missed Little Flower! She went on a hunger strike—refusing to eat. Afraid for her life, the man finally brought Willie back to Little Flower.
When Willie was gone, Shoba had no job. But now that Willie was back, she decided to lavish attention and care on her. Today they are inseparable friends!
Bipin Kumar, student, 3rd grade class
He likes the school rules and that there is structure in his life here. He really likes the accommodations, especially the food.
Dharmendra Kumar Sharma, 6-8 grade Computer and English teacher and 6-8 grade Headmaster
“Since Rising Star has arrived at the school, we have seen many changes. The biggest change is that the children and teachers are actually speaking English regularly now and in more than just their English classes. This will be very good for the future of this school because we will create strong students who can be successful in India. Rising Star has also made sure that the students have a secure environment to learn in. They built a wall which stopped people from coming into the school at night to break things or steal things (like fans and lights) to sell for money. We have teacher meetings in the mornings now and we feel like the administrators listen when we have suggestions or questions about anything related to the school. We are also moving away from rote learning and trying to get the students to think about their studies and answer bigger questions like “how” and “why” – not just rote memorization.”
Gopal Kumar, RSO driver and parent of students in the school
Now he is working for Rising Star and he was appointed as a driver. He is very good with this change and happy because he feels too idle when he is not working. He would only be driving when Kabita was here, but she was gone many times and he wouldn’t have work to do which he didn’t like. He feels that the way Rising Star Outreach is teaching the students is very good and effective. He is seeing a change in his children who attend the school (6th and 2nd). They are learning better and actually having more fun doing it.
Our dream is to build a campus that will be safe and conducive to real learning. We can’t stay at the current school as it is not well-built and is in an earthquake region. We have seen what hope can do to transform people. Now we want to build on that hope to achieve true, meaningful and lasting success. We invite you to help us! We have obtained 8 acres of land where we hope to see a beautiful campus built for 600 children. As they study and go on to college, as our students are doing in Tamilnadu, these kids will one day lift their entire families and their communities a well. Thousands of lives will be changed for the better and hope will become reality.