The children sit sprawled out along the classroom floor, oblivious to the sweltering heat and lack of school supplies. All they seemed to care about is what the teacher was saying.
This isn’t an American classroom — it’s a school that barely stands. It functions without desks, chairs and books in the small Indian village of Udawad (pronounced U-da-vid).
But Park Maitland School is hoping to change that. The private school has raised more than $20,000 so far to build a new facility for the village school, complete with furnishings, educational materials. They also plan to hire more teachers.
“What’s more important than a school building a school?” said Brian Clyne, Park Maitland School’s dean of faculty and students. “Our goal is to help give any student who wants to help the opportunity, whether it’s here at school or globally.”
The Maitland school decided to take on this project through its own O Ambassador program, which partners with the charitable organization Free the Children.
This past July, Park Maitland School’s vice president of finance and facilities, Liz Kleppin and her daughter traveled to the small Indian village to see for themselves how much it needs a new school.
“The governmental school buildings are there, but one has the roof caved in, so they are all kind of crammed in one building, with hardly any windows, sitting on the floor with no supplies and teachers who don’t always show up,” Kleppin said.
She also said the goal is not just to put up a building, but to do things that are going to help the village and their culture.
Seeing the Indian village was an experience that motivated Kleppin to bring it home and share it with others even more.
Two 11-year-old Park Maitland School students, Isaac Ward and Lauren Cameron, became very excited about the project and started selling coupons in their neighborhoods to raise money.
“I’m really excited about it,” Cameron said, “because school is just something we have.
We’re used to it and we take it for granted, but over there it’s like their dream.”
Ward said he is very proud to be involved in helping people less fortunate then himself and wants to continue doing more to help people in the future.
Cindy Moon, the Head of Park Maitland School, said the objective is not just to help others, but to also remind the stateside students how important education is.
“You get up and you have this (education), and there are children in the world that have never even had a book, pencil or pen,” Moon said. “And just to have this is like giving them a lifelong gift.”
The construction of the new Indian school has been slow so far, but Park Maitland School is planning a follow-up trip to assess the progress of the new school in November.
“It really went beyond our expectations in really being able to provide everything for the school, including the teachers,” Clyne said. “But what we get back is so incredible what we’re learning and will continue to learn… it’s the beginning of something very incredible.”
For more information on Free the Children visit www.freethechildren.com or for more information on O Ambassadors visit www.oprah.com/angelnetwork/Free-The-Children.