What happened when our donor–volunteers from AIM for Seva Canada met the students at the AIM for Seva Balika Vidyalaya in Khategaon, Madhya Pradesh? The experience is captured in a touching account by Nikil Raja.
“It was hard to hold back the tears of joy and emotion that we all felt. The moment had finally arrived after much anticipation. We had reached the AIM for Seva Khategaon Girls School and hostel after a short flight from Delhi to Indore, followed by a three-hour (adventurous!) bumpy ride in a small bus through some of India’s beautiful rural areas.
Our entourage consisted of Shailesh and Mina Raja, their two sons and wives, Nikil and Uma, Nishant and Mariya, and their 3 granddaughters Aryana, Rania and Layla (who were particularly pleased with the journey as they were able to see some monkeys along the way!).
Our skilled bus driver had taken us as far as he could navigate, at which point we were met by a man on a motorcycle (sent by the school) to show us the remainder of the route, which ran through twisty rural roads. It might be some time yet before Google Maps gets these side roads online!
As we drove through the large front gate entrance, we saw hundreds of young girls and teachers lining up along the driveway. After stepping offthe bus, we were first greeted by Swami Aishvaryananda Saraswati ji (coordinator of AIM for Seva hostels in Madhya Pradesh). The girls then began singing, in unison, a most beautiful welcome song, and we were adorned with beautiful garlands. It seemed almost surreal, and the joy we experienced is hard to describe. After exchange of greetings with the girls, teachers and principal, Swamiji led us along the driveway and into a large common hall where seats were set up for us.
The girls came in and sat down before us, as bright eyed and excited as we were. They sat down in perfect order, with the younger ones sitting upfront, followed by rows of the older girls. There were close to 300 girls in the room, ranging from just about 3 years and going up to 18 years.
The students sang a few beautiful songs for us and recited some shlokas, all from memory. Swamiji requested a few of the older girls to stand up individually and sing some songs. One girl, whose family lives in Assam, sang a song about Mother India.
Mina shared some words of inspiration with the girls in Hindi. Swamiji then led us outside and gave us a tour of the compound. There are multiple buildings, consisting of a fairly large two-storey school building, a main hall where meals are served and several newly constructed guesthouses for teachers, staff and visitors. There is still much construction under way for other buildings and structures, including a new sports and stadium complex with multi-tiered seating. There are also plans for vegetables to be grown in the campus itself.
We briefly visited a few of the classes that were in progress and were greeted with enthusiastic smiles from all the students. There are plans to build a new computer lab. We walked up to the top of the school building to see the solar panels. The green building notwithstanding, we also absorbed the surrounding foliage and farms from the school rooftop. We then proceeded to visit the girls’ Chatralayam, where around 60 girls from across India currently live and study under one roof, along with two women who help to look after them. The rest of girls (over 200) come from the villages nearby.
The girls in the hostel seem to be very happy, and a strong sense of sisterhood prevails among them. Some of them hail from remote corners of India. The rest of the time was spent viewing the newly constructed resident/guest buildings and in having a discussion with Swamiji, the principal and teachers about the future of this educational project for girls. We were happy to note the plans ahead and are excited about seeing them get implemented.
At this point, the sun had started its slow descent over the horizon, and it was time to get back in the bus for the return journey to Indore. Ever since we were introduced to AIM for Seva, we have been excited to be a part of the wonderful initiative.
The experience of being able to actually see, first-hand, the direct impact that AIM for Seva’s donors have had in this project was beyond words… It was truly priceless. AIM for Seva is a shining light that gives underprivileged girls from rural India quality education, leading to empowerment. Such initiatives will ultimately help the girls by not only uplifting their own families, but also their communities and country at large. As the bus departed, we were all waving to the girls’ teachers and Swamiji. We left smiling, filled with happiness and teary eyed, thanking God for this wonderful experience.”
Our journey to educate and empower rural India could have not been possible but for the support of countless donors, volunteers and other well wishers – both from India and overseas. Since 2002, AIM for Seva Canada has built 27 student homes in India, and the organisation supports over 600 students annually.