Thursday, April 28, 2011


Our hike to Jhule was special for two reasons; one, it was the first time we were hiking on that trail and second, because Punam was with us.  Until this time, she had missed all activities organized by the school on a Saturday. 
Punam is one of the most complex children we have at school. She was born in an extremely poor family and was later adopted by her aunt and uncle who are pastors in a local church. 
Punam has had a very mutilated education- in her 8 years of schooling she has been to 7 different schools. Why? Because her schooling was based on grants provided by people visiting the church, who decided the school and its duration. Punam landed up in Koseli, as that year no one came forward with a grant. This constant uprooting has made her academically very weak. She was admitted in class 6 in Koseli and failed the exam. 
Her background and upbringing has also resulted in her being emotionally disturbed. 
She was the first child at Koseli who showed signs of being a rebel. She cut her school trousers to make them look more fashionable, loitered on the streets and came late to school, lied to her parents and us.  She got into arguments with her peers and teachers because of which none of her classmates were really fond of her.
At home too, it seemed that she didn’t have much support. Her parents found her a burden. We were almost sure that instead of becoming a pastor at the local church, she would end up on the streets if we didn’t take any corrective steps. We were seriously contemplating of taking her to a psychiatrist. 
And then one day a miracle happened. Her parents came to school accusing her of being a robber. It was too severe an accusation and she was trying to negate the whole thing vehemently, but then who had ever listened to her that they would this time. I overheard the conversation and intervened with the intention of ending the whole argument. All I said was ‘Punam I believe you’.  She was surprised and asked me to repeat what I had just said.
That one sentence changed everything. For the first time she had found someone who listened to her and was on her side. There was somebody who believed in her and that was a big deal.
Punam, then on started coming to school in time, paying more attention to her studies and other activities in school. 
However when was life smooth? After the hike,  Punam didn’t come to the school for 3 days. On speaking to her parents we found out that she had been once again offered a grant to go to some other school for a year. This time around we convinced the parents that it is not a great idea to keep changing schools for such short periods. What she needs in her life the most is a sense of continuity and belonging.
The good news is that she is back to Koseli and we hope that she will not change any more homes and schools and eventually mature into a confident adult. She has a long way to go but the journey has begun with a good start.