At some point in life, every individual feels an inclination to contribute something worthwhile to society. Not for nothing, therefore, Dan and Monali, the husband and wife couple from UK felt the same which brought them to Assam and saw them traversing the remote areas on the outskirts of the capital city and helping out the needy. Dan and Monali had quit their jobs in UK to volunteer in Parijat Academy, a school for the underprivileged children located at Pamohi. Founded by Uttam Teron, this school has been providing free education to the children of the poverty struck families of Pamohi and other adjoining areas.
Dan and I have thought about doing some social volunteering for some time now, but unfortunately other commitments kept intruding on our aspiration. We pacified our conscience with very occasional volunteering and donations to various welfare societies, but the desire to do something more substantial never abated. Finally we decided and took the plunge, said Monali. Assam became the destination because Monali, who is an Assamese, though not raised here thought that it would be nice to give something back to the community. In Assam there is significant need for support in social and economic development. Education is a key area of concern, observed Monali.
It needs to be mentioned here that overseas volunteers have been landing at Parijat Academy quite frequently and apart from teaching the school students, these volunteers also transfer their experience and expertise to the families of these children so that they can improve their living status. Uttam Teron said that the children have greatly benefited from the volunteering. Starting in 2003 as a one classroom, four student school, Parijat Academy now offers free education to 502 children from nine impoverished tribal villages. So far the school has benefited from the volunteering of seven overseas men and women.
We began our volunteering at Parijat Academy one month ago and it has been an incredibly inspirational experience for us, expressed Monali. The couple visited three tribal villages in the Garbhanga area, near the Assam Megahlaya border to view the outreach centres of Parijat Academy. To reach the centres they had to travel along an almost non-existent rocky and precarious road. During the rainy season, Garbhanga is accessible only by foot. The only concrete building in the whole area is the government school which teaches Classes I-IV.
It was heartening to meet the sole teacher at one of the education outreach centres of Parijat Academy teaching classes V- VII, said Monali. What touched the couple most was the commitment of the teacher as well as the students. Although class room means a few bamboo walls with most of the classroom being exposed to the outer elements, a few benches and tables and almost no books or writing materials at all, the teacher as well as his students are determined to achieve some semblance of an education which is being appreciated by the couple. Despite the impoverished circumstances, some parents of Garbhanga wanted better education for their children and approached Parijat Academy to do something for their children. Uttam has taken 21 children from Garbhanga as students at Parijat Academy, where they are currently housed in very modest hostel facilities. These students are sponsored by various people around the world, costing roughly INR 2,000 a year for each student. These children are all from the Karbi community and spoke almost no Assamese at all before starting at Parijat Academy. But now they all are fluent in both Assamese and English and can read and write. Parijat Academy has become a passion for Dan and myself and we hope to be involved on a lifelong basis and help Uttam to achieve his vision, concluded Monali. Today was their last day in Assam, but they are looking forward to coming back again.