2018 – Four Years On

I’m not sure where I expected to be four years on from first conceptualizing this project.  When Sagar and I began discussing India in 2012 and what he had been doing in India for a number of years I had no idea where it would go.  We decided to take a trip over to India so that I could see, with my own eyes, the situation and what, if anything, I could do to help.  It sounds cliché, I know, but I had no idea where that initial trip would lead us.

We are now four years on, and while progress has been slow we are expecting 2018 to be our biggest year yet.  When I say slow, I don’t mean that we haven’t made progress, only that things seemingly take a lot longer than we originally expect.  We now have five classrooms, a school hall and I’m very proud to say have secured a new accommodation place for the children within the same complex.  I am hoping we can get that space finished around mid-year and have the children move up into their new accommodation around the start of their school year.

You’ll also see in some of the pictures attached here, that our children are now wearing uniforms, which we have had made for the school.  The school, the Dayamani Joseph English Medium School, is undergone all its inspections and is now a fully-accredited, registered and recognized school in Andhra Pradesh.  I have to express my thanks and gratitude to our wonderful principal Hema Latha Athota for overseeing that process.

We have also just taken our fifth trip to the Academy with staff and students from the University of Notre Dame Australia.  This is a great partnership that sees teacher education students and business students travel to Tenali to spend time with children, teach them English and inject their lives with some fun activities.  I have to say, for me professionally, this is one of the most rewarding things I do.  To see the faces of the children when we arrive and the fun they have when we are there brings pure joy.  And for the university students who travel there and tell me how meaningful and life-changing the experience is for them – I simply couldn’t ask for anything more.

We are already starting to plan our 6th trip in January of 2019 and as always, all member of the Dayamani Foundation Community are more than welcome to join one of our trips and see what we do first-hand.  If you’d like more information on that or anything else the Foundation is currently working on please send us an email and don’t forget to check out our website and visit us on all our social media platforms.  Namaste

The Inspiration behind the Dayamani Foundation

I want to begin by telling a little story. In 2011 I visited the Aberdare Ranges Primary School near Nakuru, Kenya. This was the first service-learning trip organized by the Notre Dame School of Education, Sydney. Two other lecturers and I along with 21 students, travelled to a displaced community of internally displaced people to volunteer at a local primary school built by an Australian NGO for the children of this displaced community.

When I returned I was introduced formally to Sagar Athota, a colleague from the School of Arts and Sciences. He was interested in what we were doing in Kenya and he told us about his hometown of Tenali. I was quite interested in what Sagar was doing in trying to help the most disadvantaged children in his community. Having just come back from Kenya, I was acutely aware of the importance of education to reverse cycles of poverty and discrimination. I was impressed by his connection to his community and thought that this is what service-learning is all about – here we have a true success story. The idea of an Indian kid growing up, working hard, moving overseas and becoming successful, isn’t new, but what grabbed me was Sagar’s dedication to helping the community he came from.

In one of our subsequent meetings Sagar told me the story of his mother, Dayamani; a tireless schoolteacher and school Principal who always put her children first. He told me of the award she won and how she changed the lives of her students through her love, compassion and dedication to her work and to the children she taught.

These two stories – the tireless hard-working mother and her successful son who wants to help his community inspired me to want to be part of something that we could build from the ground up. Sagar and I started talking about a potential trip to India so he could show me what he had started and what his parents and brother were doing in India. Needless to say I was inspired about what we could be achieved and a year later we went on our initial trip with ten students from the University of Notre Dame Australia.

The rest is history – when we returned to Australia a core group of students led by Sarah Bee, now the Australian Director, and Sagar and me started a charity and started building the Dayamani Academy.