16 June, 2011

SRMAB Part 2

On Wednesday, Tony and I returned to the the Shree Ramana Maharishi Academy for the Blind to serve lunch donated by my mom and her family. This time we were able to observe some of the classes and speak in more detail with staff and administrators.

We were given a tour during class time, which allowed us to look in on English, Dance, Pre-School, Horticulture, and Vocational classes.

During the Dance class we learned about the Touch and Feel Method, where students feel the legs and hands of the instructor and then replicate the movements. After that, dance students Rohini and Vanitha performed for us, which was a pleasure to watch (video below). Traditional Indian dance is a large part of the culture, and one that most blind kids would miss out on if not for schools like SRMAB.

One cool program we learned about was their plant rental service. SRMAB, through their garden, rents plants to facilities such as banks and offices. For 40 rupees ($1) per plant per month, the school provides plants to be used indoors. They provide pots, soil, and regular watering. At the end of each month the students collect the plants and replace them with plants they had been caring for. This way the plants are able to receive sunlight and stay healthy, and the offices are able to have vibrant, healthy plants year round with no upkeep on their part. In this way, SRMAB is able to generate some revenue for their efforts and creep closer to sustainability.

We were also able to share the video we made after our first visit with the staff, and they were extremely appreciative. They remarked that most people give money and leave, but very few actually do anything afterwards. And so for the first time an example of what we can do to help started to emerge.

The donation by my family was great, and the kids certainly enjoyed the food, but the benefits ended as soon as lunch was over. The video, while very modest and amateur, provides a lasting benefit. Whether just by increasing their online presence or providing more promotional materials, they now have one more tool to work with. They already have a pretty good 20 minute promotional video about their school, but it's not online and we all know it's tough to get people to sit down and watch something that long.

And at the same time we have content for our blog, our readers have a new experience, and now there's a link on youtube that can wander the internet. So the act of donating became mutually beneficial (outside of the joy of helping), which is what we're really after. Whether that opens the door for us to produce professional videos for various organizations, or allows others to duplicate our efforts in other countries, is yet to be seen. But it felt like a small step in the right direction. With a second visit's worth of footage, we'll see if we're able to create anything else.

We also left behind a Tetris Cube, which is a puzzle I can't solve, but I'm confident the students will be able to. We attempted to make a large touching slate, but it wasn't quite ready for use. If we can work out the kinks we will drop it off at the school. More on that later.

With two unplanned days ahead of us (other than Kat's arrival), we hope to fight off the last of our jet lag and prepare for our first visit to Kudugal. We will be at the school on Monday followed by a quick turnaround as we head to a school in Mysore on Tuesday.

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