Thursday, January 31, 2013

"Pamohi Village Gets Into the Photo Pals Groove" by Prof. Chantal Krcmar, USA

Pamohi Village Gets Into the Photo Pals Groove!

30 January 2013

The Photo Pals Project just keeps getting more and more fun!

Apparently, Mama and I are not the only ones for whom the Parijat students’ joy is contagious. The whole town gets into it.

Today, we struck out to the local outdoor veggie market (about 1 ½ km away from the school) with Class 5. At first, Mama and I were a bit apprehensive about taking young students so far. We knew that keeping 5th graders walking in a line for that long so as to avoid getting smooshed by little trucks heading to the market and big trucks heading to the quarries would be no easy feat. But we sweated it out and managed to go and return with all the students!

Thank goodness we got over our initial hesitation because today’s Photo Pals Project was even more fun than yesterday’s Photo Pals Project— and I did not think that was possible. When the students were finally set loose in the crowded outdoor veggie market, it was utter and heavenly pandemonium. The students took photos of everyone and everything in sight.

At first, the students started just taking candid photos of vendors and customers without asking. No one seemed bothered by it, and then it went a step further: they actually enjoyed it! Vendors and customers started mugging for the camera and asking to be in photos. They also started taking photos of the students as they took photos, and they asked to take plenty of photos of Mama and me, too.

On the way back to Parijat, the students just kept snapping photos. They stopped at a roadside stand that carries snacks and candy, and the vendor gave each of them a piece of candy. How sweet…no pun intended! And then as we were walking through the fields, we passed a fruit tree (I still don’t know what the fruit is.) and the students started jumping and knocking the fruit off the tree. The owner of the house by the tree came out and I thought, “Uh-oh. Now we’re gonna get it.” But nope. He smiled, pulled out a long pole and started knocking the fruit off the tree for the students. The owner, Mama and I stood by and chuckled as they scrambled all over the ground to pick up the fruit and pop them in their mouths.
We came back pretty wiped out. Too much excitement for one day. :-) No rest for the weary, though. We promised Class 6 that we would take them out with the cameras once more this week.

[On a side, but related, note: We finally got rechargeable batteries, so it seems that we can make this project run more smoothly. That is, if the electricity would stop cutting out! Seriously, in the last few days, we’ve had electricity outages for most of the day. That makes recharging the batteries (not to mention uploading these photos!) quite the on-going challenge. I know I’ve mentioned the battery problems and electricity outages in other posts, but it’s a regular part of life. And it’s a regular part of the Photo Pals Project, too!]

"Blissful Chaos" by Prof. Chantal Krcmar, USA

JANUARY 29, 2013
Blissful Chaos

The Photo Pals Project Continues
The Photo Pals Project between Parijat Academy and Epiphany School of Global Studies is utter chaos on our end…and I think it’s great. With Mama and I at the helm, it was bound to be pretty wacky to start with, but given how things work (and don’t work!) in rural India, it’s even wackier than we imagined. Regardless of all the glitches, the Parijat students are loving it, and I feel so grateful to have been roped into this project. (Oooops. The truth comes out…I did not come to Parijat to work on the Photo Pals Project. I came to do English language training for the teachers. But upon arrival, Mama and I realized this Photo Pals Project was a bit too big for one person to handle here, so I became her partner. What luck!)

It’s all the challenges and hurdles that we face in this project that make it such a rich learning experience. To be honest, these challenges and hurdles also make it frustrating, but those blips are worth it. Some of the challenges were to be expected. For instance, we have too few cameras (This school desperately needs funding!) and the students don’t know how to use them, as they are living with very little access to any technology. (I bet most 5th and 6th graders in most parts of the USA know how to use computers, video game systems, digital cameras, ipods, etc. That is not the case amongst the poor here in Pamohi Village.

But some of the challenges have been less expected. Here’s an example:
This morning I was sitting in the courtyard preparing to go into the Class 5 classroom to take them out for a photo shoot, and one of the Class 6 boys approached me. He seemed kind of distraught or over-excited or both.

“Ma’am! Ma’am!”
“You come?”
“Come where?”
After some miming and more broken English I realized he meant, “Will you come to our classroom?”
So I asked, “Why?”
“No teacher.”
How could I say “no” to that?!
He also happened to see the cameras I had with me and that bumped up his level of urgency to get me into the Class 6 classroom.
“OK,” I said. “Five minutes.”

Mama and I had to figure this out (i.e. scramble like mad!). We did a head count, and Class 5 and Class 6 had 49 students all together. And we had ten semi-working cameras.

With the help of Uttam, our fearless Director (whose English is very good), and two teachers (whose English is passable), we got Class 5 and Class 6 out into the courtyard to try and work things out. After much wrangling and creating and re-creating groups, we decided to take Class 6 out with the cameras today, and Class 5 out with the cameras tomorrow.

It might seem strange that even creating groups is so challenging, but it is. The English proficiency of the students is wildly varied, and I am coming to see that some of them do not even have the ability to count very well— even in Class 6, which is our equivalent of 6th Grade! This is not the fault of Parijat. Many new students enroll throughout the year, and you may recall that I wrote earlier that many of them come from households in which their grandparents, parents, aunties, uncles, and other adults are illiterate and uneducated. Many of these children are literally walking in from the fields. One may learn a lot about planting, harvesting, chopping down trees, tending chickens and other important tasks from time in the fields, but language and math skills will be lacking.

Uttam, Mama and I stuck it out, though, and finally had the students in some semblance of order. We got Class 6 into groups, impressed upon them the importance of sharing the cameras— as well as the consequences if they did not!— (There were 38 students, and ten cameras, so one of today’s lessons had to be about sharing.), and set out to take photos of their neighborhood.

It was crazy. And crazy fun. At first, the students seemed a bit shy about using the cameras— no matter how many times we said and asked their teachers to translate to them, “Take pictures of anything and everything.” But once the students finally jumped in, their joy was totally unleashed…and totally infectious. Despite the fact that it was hot and I was overdressed and I had to mediate some student disputes over cameras and I was trying to make sure students would not get run over by trucks rumbling by on their way to the quarries (This is a village, but there are quarries nearby, so the traffic that does drive through Pamohi Village is loud and big and potentially dangerous.), it was so great that I wanted to stay out with the students and their cameras all day long.

But all good things must come to an end. One of our biggest challenges— low quality batteries bought from the nearest town, Garchuk— started to shut down the works today. Slowly but surely, more and more students came up to me saying, “Ma’am! Low battery, Ma’am!” And, sure enough, their cameras would die right in the palm of my hand. So we walked back to the school and promised that we’d take them out with the cameras again day after tomorrow. That promise was met with broad smiles.
Now we are committed to take Class 5 out tomorrow and Class 6 out the next day. I must admit I am a bit perplexed about how we’ll pull this off. Most of the cameras are out of commission since the batteries are dead and many of the memory cards (pieces of junk, really) are full. It is so hard to find batteries here and we’ve been out of electricity all day so I can’t upload photos onto the computer, thereby emptying the memory cards. (My fully charged laptop has allowed me to write this piece, but I need the office computer to do more sophisticated stuff for the school.)

Hmmmm…This is tricky, but we’ll find a way. I’ll do whatever I possibly can to give the students more opportunity to use the cameras tomorrow.  

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

More photos by the children, of the children and for the children

Photography by children of Parijat.

 Photography by children of Parijat..
Taken the children to vegetables market. In each group of the children  given one one camera. Children has taken photography according them.
Helping them by the Volunteers -Chantal and Lilly.

Photos  are by children for the children.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Help us Reach Every Child

Every child deserves an excellent education

Change starts with you


Volunteers are an integral part of Parijat classrooms. They aid teachers in maintaining class and assisting teachers. They become role models and friends to all Parijat children.

Parijat welcomes volunteers and interns to work in various program including Fundraising, Marketing and HR. If  you have a specific skill or interest in graphic design , social media etc., please contact at to find out how you might be  able to be part of the organisation.

Parijat Academy
Pamohi,  Garchuk, Guwahati-781035, Assam

Lily ( 80 years old) from North Carolina, USA.
She is teaching arts, photopal in Grade -5,
card making                                              

                                                  Tat (78 years old) from   Pennsylvania, USA
                                                           teaching English in Class-4

Shaffer ( 23 years old) from Seattle, USA
He teaches Basket Ball and Computer                                            
Read his blog

Chantal from Boston, USA
                                  linking  Parijat with Epiphany School, USA
                                   teaching Photopal