Heart For Soles
Project Director Nazeela Nasseri
It is an unfortunate reality that millions of children across the globe are denied access to basic education, shelter, and health care, though across the Western world, these are seen as an extension of the natural rights to life, liberty and property. After visiting her maternal grandfather's ancestral village of Amethi, located in Uttar Pradesh, India Nazeela Nasseri decided to take action. At age 14 she began travelling to India annually and spending 8 weeks over summer vacation teaching English in the school for girls in Amethi. Along with English lessons, she began providing students with basic school supplies. Education is the key to breaking the cycle of poverty, illiteracy, and disease that plagues children in the oft-forgotten rural villages of India.
Since 2006, with the help of Grace Cares and Ms. Nasseri’s family the small project grew into a sprawling initiative that helps the entire community. There are currently educational programs at four different schools, with a student base of approximately 1500. Although teaching during summer was an impressive start, through generous donations the project now funds six full-time, qualified, English teachers to maintain the curriculum year-round. Ms. Nasseri travels to India often to oversee the project. In keeping with the Women's College Traditions, she has also begun schooling her students in the arts of independence, leadership, and etiquette.
By 2008 what started with the Ummesalma School grew into the “Lucknow Project” and included two other schools, the Noor-ul-Anwar School and the M. Jeevan School. That year the educational portion of the aptly renamed “Lucknow Project“ served approximately 1200 students in the village of Amethi, with about 85% of the student population being females between the ages of 3-19, and approximately 15% of the student population being males between the ages of 3-14. Two full-time teachers were hired and divide their time between the three schools. A continuing aim has been to raise enough money to sustain employment of the English teachers year round to provide a steady and continuous curriculum.
Thanks to generous donors, the Lucknow Project has been able to support both the installation of water tanks within, and renovation of, the M. Jeevan School, in order to provide a clean learning environment to both day students and boarders enrolled in the institution. The M. Jeevan School currently houses approximately 100 students who have been orphaned or whose families are unable to provide basic necessities for them. Water tanks have also been installed in the Ummesalma School and the Noor ul Anwar School.
In 2010 Ms. Nasseri traveled to Lucknow with her grandfather to oversee the integration of the Almighty Cambridge Academy into the Lucknow Project’s Intensive English Program. Upon evaluation of the 500 students prior English knowledge, an adapted curriculum was developed for the two English teachers in place at the School. These students have a much more thorough knowledge of English and its grammatical structure than the approximately 1000 students at the other three schools, the program focuses on coaching them on their speaking and reading skills, focusing especially on pronunciation and eliminating hesitancy whilst reading aloud.
Additionally, personality development (i.e., professional courtesy, etc) is being introduced as a method of pre-career training. The Almighty Cambridge Academy has students from Nursery-Grade 12 and a few are able to progress to government colleges/universities. Ms. Nasseri is working to provide these students with a wider array of English-language literature with which they can practice their reading/expand their vocabularies and is collecting books from all age levels to bring on future trips.
Efforts are underway to improve the living space at the Madersa Mullah Jeevan for the borders. In 2010, through the Community Initiative, proper bedding was purchased for the students to help them through the harsh winter. The school was also furnished with a system of Nals (faucets for prayer ablutions) outside the dorm facility. The other three schools were provided with school supplies and other educational basics.
The Lucknow Project has been expanded to include a Medical Initiative, overseen by Dr. Afshin Nasseri. Qualified American physicians provide a check up to each student at the schools, as well as the surrounding village community, free of charge. If necessary, students/townspeople are provided with the medication they need, and if Dr. Nasseri does not have the medication with him, he writes a prescription for the medication, provided to the individual free-of-charge. Dr. Nasseri also does a medical evaluation of the conditions at each school, to ensure that children are being housed and educated in a safe, sanitary, and healthy environment. We are actively working to improve dormitory conditions at the M. Jeevan School, which houses approximately 110 children who have been orphaned, or whose families are unable to support them. The Lucknow Project and Dr. Nasseri are currently recruiting any physicians who are willing to donate their time for this cause, and would be grateful for any donations from pharmaceutical donors in terms of basic medicines and ointments.
In 2009 and 2010 the Lucknow Project began to look at community-wide empowerment as a means of improving the quality of life in the area, which would in turn lead to higher numbers of children being sent to school. Working with her grandfather, Mr. Gulam Alauddin Haider, Ms. Nasseri designed and implemented a methodology for creating a community initiative. The community initiative is led by a group consisting of 7-10 members from each bloc or constituency in Amethi (with my grandfather serving as the impartial “leader”) and manages a small fund to help pay for marriages, funeral rites, birth certificates, hospitalization for critical illness, and other official ceremonies or emergencies, for those who cannot afford to do so themselves. Each area of the village will be equally represented through the group of leaders, to ensure appropriate and fair apportionment of the funds in this category.
The Lucknow Project has been hugely successful in improving the educational system of the area, overall health and quality of life for students and villagers, whilst empowering the overall community to become literate, healthy, and aware of the world around them. Students are learning English quickly--a huge achievement for those who have never been exposed to a foreign language before. Overall sanitation has improved exponentially--for example, they have learned the importance of filtering/boiling water to purify it, as well as the importance of cleaning vegetables/meats with this purified water. Thanks to the medical initiative, chronic illnesses are being taken care of, and medications are being provided to all who need it. The community has banded together to improve themselves as a whole, asking for our help with improving buildings and overall living conditions to ensure that they advance and progress as they should be doing.
This is an expansive and expensive project which relies on donors to fund all of this progress. Donations are need to continue the various initiatives including paying the teacher's salaries. The primary goals for the upcoming years are as follows:
· the provision of educational supplies and computers to schools
· the continuing improvement of health conditions in dormitories, community buildings, and school facilities
· the hiring of more English teachers
· securing pharma-donations/Doctor-volunteers for future Medical Camps