His View–The 5$ uniform.

January 12, 2010

Truth be told I did very little, if anything ,in preparing to take items or donations on our first trip.  Laura is much more proactive in these things and she is very good at it too (In my defence however, listening to Laura and giving her my council was a job unto it itself).  You can read Laura’s blog to see all the work she did in preparing for the trip and that is just the surface, she really immersed herself in collecting donations and money, and often felt overwhelmed with all the generosity of her church. I was rather surprised myself with the amount of money she had managed to raise –and from a church to boot.  What I mean by that is, that at no point were Laura or her church pushing their religious beliefs onto anyone we interacted with on our journey. Her congregation knew this before they donated.  I perhaps naively thought that they would have wanted to spread their message if they were to donate, but they didn’t.  This ‘bigging up’ of Laura’s church has no ulterior motive, as I myself am Muslim, I just wanted to make the point that these people gave willingly.

The money was donated specifically for uniforms, and they were to be bought in Umaria, about 30 odd miles from Tala. The journey to Umaria would take an hour and a half on account of the poor condition of the roads.  We were joined on our journey by Mohan, the day to day manager of the White Tiger Forest Lodge. The White  Tiger Forest Lodge is our base , when we are in Tala.   Mohan is a lovely chap who ,when not being bitten by snakes, is fascinated by mobile phones and other electronic gadgets ( and if his ring tone is anything to go by,  a fan of the Pussycat dolls.  He would join us at every meal, not to eat you understand, but to ask more questions regarding mobile phones and give us a run down of the dietary habits of Laura’s mum Elfrieda when we had nothing else to talk about . He knows Elfrieda through her many years of visiting the Bandhavgarh Tiger Park). 

White Tiger Forest Lodge, Tala.

Mohan is the 0ne in the hat!

In Umaria,  I haggled with the shopkeepers to give us the best deal possible so we could buy more uniforms. In fairness they did , and Mohan I am sure , supplemented my haggling powers!  The shopkeepers were all very pleased with what we were looking to achieve and in the end,  we were able to buy 100 uniforms. 

Main Street, Umaria!

The slogan to encourage people to donate, was ‘Your 5 dollars will buy a uniform’.  I doubt when hearing these words the actual gravity of what that 5 dollars was buying dawned those who donated, it didn’t even hit me until I was handing a uniform to a student who had never owned one before.  These weren’t just clothes; they were a symbol to these kids; that they were worth an education, that their education was worth investing in, that they were worth spending the money on.  I cannot describe to you now how proud these kids were when receiving and wearing their uniforms, hopefully,  the pictures will do some justice but trust me– they were beaming. 

Principal of the school, fitting a uniform.

Giving each of them an Ipod or Playstation would not have given them the feeling those uniforms did. I just know ,that even I didn’t feel as good as they did, when I bought my Hugo Boss cashmere and wool overcoat– for lets just say a substantial amount (It’s a great coat).


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