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A chance to go to school : You too can play a part.
A chance to go to school : You too can play a part.

PANKAJA SRINIVASAN

Festivals are the best time to receive gifts, money and all kinds of goodies. Have you thought about it being the best time for giving too?

A book called Three Cups of Tea, written by mountaineer Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin, is one that you really must read. It is a true story about Mortenson who, exhausted, sick and desperate for help, wanders into a village in the Karakoram mountains. There, he is nursed back to health by the poor but generous-hearted villagers. As he recovers, Mortenson is appalled that the village has no school, no teacher and therefore education for the kids. He promises the villagers that he will help build a school there. This happened in 1993.

So far, Mortenson, and the Central Asian Institute (CAI) that he set up with the help of a Swiss Physicist, Dr. Jean Hoerni, has helped build 64 more schools, especially for girls, in the remote, forbidding mountainous regions of Central Asia. And, helping him in his mission are children. Through a programme called Pennies for Peace, school children collect pennies (each penny is about 45 paise!) and the money is used for building more schools in the remote regions of Central Asia, buying books and stationery and paying the teachers their salaries.

There is a reason why I am telling you all this. It is a season of festivals and there is going to be a lot of merry making and partying. It would be wonderful if like Greg Mortenson, some of you got together and put aside just a little of the money and do something for other kids who may not be having as much fun as you in life.

Some ideas:

- Collect a packet of fireworks from each friend, put it into a big basket and gave it to kids who do not have. - Deny yourself that one box of sweets, one packet of fireworks, or one extra pair of shoes, and with the money saved, buy story books for a child inan orphanage, or for the children’s ward in a government hospital.

- Visit a poor school in your neighbourhood and find out what it costs to keep one student in notebooks, textbooks and other stationery.

- Chip in for a black board, pencils and erasers, charts, dictionaries or anything that might be useful.

- You don’t even have to collect money. Contribute one book from your vast collection. These books can be sent to the needy children. Try it this festival, or any time at all. On birthdays, instead of distributing sweets in class, donate a book. When you have collected a healthy number of books, cart them off and spread some joy in someone else’s life.

These are just suggestions. You may have even better ideas. So, what are you waiting for? Remember, when Motenson decided to help out, he thought he would save a little money himself and send it to these people to build their school. But, his large-hearted gesture caught the imagination of thousands of others. Do you know how much money your neighbourhood poor school needs? Find out. And, if you want to learn how Mortenson did it, visit www.penniesforpeace.org.


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