In the spirit of the Holiday Season we wanted our work here at Parabo to give back. So, we teamed up with Communities Rising to donate $5 for every pack of Holiday Cards we print to their work bringing education to kids in rural India!
We feel a special connection with Communities Rising’s work because all of our printers and a big part of the Parabo Team live in India. Fun times when we visit each other in SF/India and countless Skype meetings have given us all a special bond with our two homes.
We spoke with Communities Rising’s President, Elizabeth McCoy to let you all know a little bit more about what they do.
Meet Communities Rising
Q: We’ll start with a little HUGE question. In a nutshell what does Communities Rising do in India?
A: CR runs after school programs in rural south India. All of our students are from severely poor families-most of their parents earn less than $1.50/day. We have initiated new programs in the past 2 years to address some of the academic and social problems faced by our students. Most of our students come to us about 3 years behind grade level. Our innovative academic curriculum is designed to close the gap between our students’ learning and grade levels. Each day, we work with our students to help them develop problem solving and decision making strategies that they can use to deal with the challenges in their lives.
Teaching Tech and Art
Q: Along with educational basics you teach tech and art. Can you explain a bit about what Scoot Tech and Art To Many are? (We think they’re super cool and want everyone to know about them)!
A: We have one of the largest computer education programs in our area and teach over 1600 students at 5 permanent centers and through Scoot Tech. For the past three years we have been taking laptops by motor scooter into the villages where we do not have computer centers. None of our students have computers in their schools or their homes. Our curriculum includes Microsoft Paint, Office and Movie, digital storytelling and Lego Robotics. This year, for the third consecutive year, we will send 2 teams to the Lego League Robotics competition in India. Last year, we won 1st prize for our presentation on teaching coding without computers. Our students are the only students from government schools (comparable to US public schools) in the competition. In December, our students will participate in the Hour of Code sponsored by code.org. All of our students will have a week of coding activities. Since none of our centers have internet access, we will work with unplugged activities and with Scratch-a programming language developed by MIT that can be downloaded and installed on our computers.
Art to Many (ATOM) is our art education program – designed to be used where there are no formally trained art teachers. Although we have one art teacher on staff who travels among our centers, we wanted to develop a program that our other teachers could incorporate into their daily classes. ATOM was designed in collaboration with Kathleen Fritz, a former Nehru-Fulbright Scholar during her tenure at the Shristi College of Art, Design and Technology in Bangalore. Kathy and her students at Shristi, spent a semester working with CR and our students to develop the program. We published a teachers’ manual with text in both English and Tamil and designed and distributed art supply kits for our teachers and students.
Q: What first led you to want to help rural communities in India?
A: I first became interested in working in rural India about 12 years ago, when my oldest son Matt traveled to Tamil Nadu to do volunteer work during high school. His first trip was one of those “life changing” experiences that started him on the road to a career in nonprofit work. After that first volunteer experience, he spent several years working in India. He persuaded me to join him on one of his trips, and that two-week visit eventually became my life’s work. They say that your passion chooses you – and that has certainly been the case with me. I now live and work in India for 6 months each year. Matt was instrumental in helping to get CR off the ground and serves on our Board of Directors. Consequently, we are firm believers in the long-term value of short-term volunteer experiences. Over the past 6 years, over 500 volunteers have worked with our program in India.
Q: What positive impact have you seen in the 6 years since you started Communities Rising?
A: During the past 6 years, we have witnessed a positive impact on our students in many areas. Since we started our new On Target curriculum two years ago, we have seen tremendous academic improvement. Based upon data that we are collecting in partnership with the University of Delaware, we are finding that our students are now outscoring students throughout India in English, Tamil and Math. Our goal is to take students who come to us three years behind grade level, and help them to perform at grade level by the time they start secondary school in 6th grade.
In addition to academics, we are seeing a huge improvement our students’ self confidence. We believe in them and their ability to learn and as a result, they now believe in themselves – regardless of their economic or social condition. Two years ago, none of our students could divide. Now, at some centers, all our students can perform a division problem. Previously, none of our our students had ever read a book for pleasure. They now read books every day, understand the importance of reading, and are proud to call themselves “readers”. Visitors to our centers are amazed at our students’ confidence and willingness to ask questions. After our first Lego robotics competition, one of the team members told the staff that the most important thing he learned from the competition was that, “We can compete with anyone-regardless of how much money they have or how big their robots are – we are just as smart as they are.” After hearing him talk, I knew we were doing something right.
Q: What’s your favorite holiday tradition or treat?
A: We have 6 children in our family. Our favorite holiday tradition is spending Christmas Eve with our best friend’s family. We started getting together when the kids were little and to this day, our children fly in from around the country and the world to be together and enjoy our families’ life-long friendship together.
If you want to help Elizabeth’s amazing work, grab a set of Parabo Holiday Cards from our app, and we’ll send $5 for each set to Communities Rising, and you’ll know you’re making more than just your cards’ recipients’ holidays a little brighter.