KAP President, Sheryl Hoye, with the six Wings' graduates who have received KAP scholarships to attend high school.

KAP President, Sheryl Hoye, with the six Wings’ graduates who have received KAP scholarships to attend high school.

I look forward to our annual site visits; there is no substitute for chatting over chai with program leaders and hearing directly from the children who benefit from KAP support. This year’s trip was a whirlwind itinerary that included familiar faces and new introductions. I visited The Wings School and Loyola Academy Junior College in Hyderabad, Carnations Preschool in Bangalore, and Sarojini Varadappan School outside of Chennai.

My first stop was The Wings School where our treasurer, Mallika Kohli accompanied me and my daughter Nina. Grace Rajkumar, the director of Wings, was excited to show us academic projects under way at the school. These included a unit on environmental science with a special guest lecturer, KAP supporter Ravi Sanga. We also heard presentations from older girls who were excited for the opportunity to attend high school at Loyola Academy Junior College in the footsteps of the 2015 Wings graduates.

The following day I toured Loyola and met with the six 2015 Wings graduates who are attending the high school. I was very impressed with their confidence and aspirations for the future. The girls each read me a personal letter thanking KAP for supporting their education, which was touching. I also got the scuttlebutt of what it is like to go to school with boys (Loyola is co-ed) and the freedom to wear street clothes instead of uniforms.

Next Nina and I were off to Bangalore to see Carnations Preschool.  I had heard about Carnations from KAP Board Member Nita Talwar, who has been affiliated with the school for many years. Carnations serves 80 children from a slum area in the city. It has a Montessori based curriculum, meal program, and a history of empowering and promoting women from within the organization. We were invited to join the students by putting on our “listening ears” for their phonics lesson. It was so impressive to hear 3 year olds, who have no English exposure at home, seamlessly read an English story to us. Nina attended the visit to deliver preschool packs that were handmade by Teen KAP groups in Washington State and California. The children were delighted to receive the gifts. I am thrilled that KAP is in final stages of contracting with Carnations for grant support.

The last stop was Sarojini Varadappan, a school for girls located outside of Chennai. I was very curious when our former board member Usha Vedagiri told me about her family’s involvement in the program. Sarojini Varadappan is a low fee private school supported by a family trust.  A portion of the facility is dedicated to 50 girls who are orphaned or have lost one parent. They live on campus, nurtured by the housemother Kamala. The girls at the Sarojini Residential Home have an impressive 100% pass rate on state exams and attendance at college. Many of the former Sarojini graduates volunteer at the school, especially in the residential program. There is a rich extracurricular program of music, speech and debate, and art. I was very moved by the warm family atmosphere. KAP has invited Sarojini to submit a grant application for our support once their Indian federal permits are in order.

It was an inspiring trip. The girl that remained in my mind long after my return home was my student guide at Sarojini, a girl named Sarika.  She had an impressive resumé of winning medals at state speech and debate competitions, was an accomplished yogi and musician, and was an excellent student.  Her aspiration was to be an environmental scientist. I asked Sarika how her family felt about her success.  Without hesitation she said, “Ma’am, Sarojini is my family.  My parents both died. I was very depressed and then I came here.  Now I am happy.”  I believe that is the case for many children who are served by KAP sponsored programs.  Not only do they receive a quality education but they also find a second family, which is invaluable for children who need so much. I am proud to support such outstanding programs and look forward to my next visit.