A big two-storied building. All that one could hear while standing on the stairs were rustling of the leaves from the neem tree outside the gate. I was curious to know whether the school was open. I knocked on the wooden door and as it opened I realized I was at Richa Mohan’s office, which is also her home. She does her research mostly from here and visits the school at Sanjay Colony, Ghaziabad.We started our 20-minute drive to the school. It was definitely a task reaching that place due to the bad roads.
There was the laughter of children, and a chorus reciting ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star,’ and to confirm it all a school bell, which rang as we reached. I knew I’d come to the right place: Arthala Bal Vidyalaya, with an Uttar Pradesh curriculum, it’s an education initiative by Empowering Minds. I was greeted with colorful murals on the school’s walls. On the top floor were the older students, while the ground floor housed the kindergarten. Dressed in brown and blue check shirts blue skirts and shorts, these kids looked smart and talented.
One kid ran towards Richa with a chocolate in his hand. Greeting her with “Good afternoon, Madam” Then I see all the kids with chocolates or biscuits. I asked Richa if it was a birthday celebration. “No, it is a part of their midday snack,” Richa explains.
Richa then told me why and how the midday meal started and how it has serendipitously helped their educational development as well. “When I initially started the school, many children were frequently absent. They weren’t coming back for days together. One of our volunteers then approached their families to check what the problem was. It was often ill health due to insufficient nutrition. That survey proved the catalyst for our midday snack,” Says Richa.
As the days passed, they came across other situations where kids revealed how they could not afford breakfast. This some were malnourished, some were low on energy, and others could not concentrate on their studies. The midday snack changed things. “The children were very happy with the snacks. It so happened that some kids were actually coming for the snack, so they even started attending school regularly. For the kids, the snack is exciting and they keep looking forward to it. It’s a treat to see them this way,” Richa said. The midday snack consists of biscuits, chips, and fruits like watermelon or guava. Apart from the midday snack, the kids are provided free utilities like stationery and uniforms.
Providing something more than a roof, snack and books—an education to face the realities of life, the only ticket to which is learning and the holistic development of a child. Empowering Minds is winning the hearts of these kids and providing them with a strong base until the 8th standard after which they are referred to high schools.