Last month we trekked out to Minneapolis to resume our project with The Indian Land Tenure Foundation and the Tanka Fund who are continuing their mission to repopulate buffalo in the Great Plains. This trip was geared towards exploring the tremendous historical and cultural significance of buffalo in the Indian community. Nearly all aspects of life i.e. hunting, cooking, teaching, praying, singing and celebrating not only incorporated, but also honored the buffalo. The colonization of North America and the subsequent mass killings of buffalo reduced what was a once thriving population of 50 million to one small herd. While in Minnesota, I was fortunate enough to gain access to Indian artifacts in the Minneapolis Science Museum’s permanent collection. The incredible influence of the buffalo upon the culture of the Plains Indians can be seen through many examples of tribal artistry, as exemplified in the sandstone pipe pictured here.
Children’s Flight of Hope offers families relief. Relief from having to worry about how they will transport their sick child to the medical attention needed. The energy that would have gone to worrying about flights, costs, and all of the burdens of travel can be directed where it needs to be, with their child. While flying with Kellen and Kathleen this moment presented itself. Kellen was not doing well. Instead of being preoccupied with the next leg of their journey, Kathleen could focus on Kellen. That brief moment was fleeting, but at least for a short time Kathleen could offer love and reassurance to Kellen without distraction.
There’s something magical about an inspiring teacher. Someone who doesn’t just blindly follow a lesson plan, but a person who brings heart and passion into the classroom. To an excellent teacher, rote memorization isn’t enough. They want to see that flash of inspiration in their students’ eyes and watch it turn into a lifetime love of learning. Teaching is a tough job no matter where you go. But try it with overstuffed classrooms and virtually no resources. Toss in the fact that you’re not only a full-time teacher but also the school’s principal and you have Madhav Chand.
The standard method of teaching in Nepal adheres to more of a “be seen and not heard” philosophy. But not in Madhav’s classroom. Instead he’s the Nepali version of John Keating: an educator with the soul of a performer and a flair for inspiration. When he’s teaching, there are no students blankly staring out the window. No one gets away with hiding in the back of the class. Madhav is up and down the aisles, calling on students, making them laugh and more importantly, making them think for themselves.
For his school of more than 400 students, the government only guarantees one full-time salary. The government also pays for nine “temporary” teaching positions that are not guaranteed from one year to the next. The salaries for the other 6 teachers necessary to keep the school running are cobbled together on a month-by-month basis with private and local funds raised by the school’s management committee and the principal. With such a small staff, it’s no wonder that Santi School Project volunteers are such a welcome addition to the classrooms.
When the school bank accounts are empty, Madhav has to get creative to pay his staff. On the months they are short, he asks the government-funded staff members to give a portion of their salaries to the private teachers, so no one has to go without a paycheck. He then returns the borrowed money to the teachers who generously agree to help (all of them do, he says) once the school receives more funding. Running Shree Shringery (Shringery School) is a constant juggling act, but one that Madhav has mastered during his tenure. Despite having such limited resources, his school is the only one in the area where all classes are taught in English in an attempt to best prepare students for college and beyond.
And in the end, it works. Shringery has one of the highest percentages of students passing their final exams.