They Are Hungry To Learn.

Scarlet had her first day of school this week. We all woke up as a family and had breakfast. Then we packed her a lunch with healthy food, packed her backpack with her favorite book and favorite water bottle, and sent her on her way to first grade.

hungry to learn

Then we picked her up, as a family (but with three-year-old Des asleep in my arms) and took her home to hear all about her day. I had to fill out about 20 pieces of paperwork and she told me about how first grade is so much harder than kindergarten, and how she didn’t know whether to bring lunch or buy lunch. Above all, I feel so lucky to have this privilege of having her in a loving and caring school, because she is hungry to learn and she is getting a wonderful education, both in school and out.

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And the wonderful part is – she knows she’s lucky. She knows her fortunes.

She knows that we make tough choices, but they’re only between different schools and different daycares – all unique and nourishing in their own ways. These choices aren’t really tough, because we are lucky to have more choices than barriers.

All children are hungry to learn.

Laxmi Pal, 12 years old, poses for a picture outside the Udaan Girls School in Hardoi, India. Laxmi, along with 24 of her classmates, were chosen to parcipitate in CARE's "International Day of the Girl" art exhibition in Atlanta, GA. In all, girls from 5 countries created works of art that were displayed in the exhibit. Photo by Josh Estey. Photo credit CARE/Josh Estey

Laxmi’s story.

Laxmi Pal is a 12-year-old girl who grew up in a tiny thatched-rooof hut in Kodanna village, believing she didn’t belong in school. In this rural farming village of 90 families, girls are often seen as outsiders and they do housework and look after younger siblings until they get married and move out at age 14. Laxmi is the oldest of five kids, so the burden of family care fell on her shoulders. She spent entire days home alone with her siblings, feeling sad and entrapped, while her parents were out working. On July 15th, Laxmi broke tradition by setting foot in a classroom for the first time, and becoming the only member of her family to ever go to school. Just 15 miles from Kodanna, adolescent girls like Laxmi are being given a first or second chance to learn through an accelerated bridge course at the CARE-suppored Udaan residential school in Hardoi.

Laxmi will graduate from fifth grade after 11 months at the Udaan school. She will then be mainstreamed into a government school to continue her education. Last year, a storm flooded her village and a wall fell and buried her under the mud. Her family feared her dead, but Laxmi was rushed to the hospital. Her Uncle Raj has become her caretaker and will make sure she stays in school and waits to marry. Every year, a new class of 100 girls between 11 and 14 will attend the Udaan school. Since CARE and their local partner – Sarvodaya Ashram – opened the Udaan campus in 1999, 98 percent of the girls have passed the fifth grade exam and 90 percent continued their schooling at a formal school, receiving above average grades.

Laxmi Pal, 12 years old, sits on her bed in the Udaan Girls School in Hardoi, India. She was a featured girl in CARE's "International Day of the Girl" art exhibition in Atlanta, GA. The Udaan Girls School provides girls with a core curriculum in language, math, and environmental science subjects. Udaan teachers also interweave activities such as morning assembly, sports (volleyball, soccer), bicycle riding and computer usage. Photo by Josh Estey. Photo credit CARE/JoshEstey

Laxmi has discovered art since coming to Udaan, and her drawings hang in the classroom – which doubles as a dorm room. She was thrilled to participate in CARE’s art collection activity, and creating art has made her very happy.

Laxmi Pal, 12, smiles for a picture inside one of the rooms at the Udaan Girls School in Hardoi, India. She, along with 24 of her classmates, created pieces of art for CARE's "International Day of the Girl" art exhibition in Atlanta, GA. This exhibit also marked CARE's 20th anniversary in Atlanta. Photo by Josh Estey. Photo credit CARE/Josh Estey

Many girls, like Laxmi, are hungry to learn and are benefiting from CARE helping to fuel and foster girls’ education. There are barriers that stop young girls from earning and/or continuing an education:

– Keeping girls out of school sentences them to a life of poverty and poor health

– Women earn 10-20% more for every year of school completed – Children of educated mothers are 2x as likely to go to school

– Children born to literate moms are 50% more likely to survive past the age of 5.

Jennifer Osei Boakye, 8 years old, leans out window of the Bosomkyekye Municipal Assembly Primary School in Ghana. She, along with 24 other students were selected to create artwork in conjunction with the celebration for CARE's 20th anniversary in Atlanta. In all, students from 5 countries around the world were asked to create artwork for an exhibit celebrating the "International Day of the Girl". CARE has several programs in this area of Ghana, including the REGAL program for students and a training program for teachers. Photo credit CARE

The good news is that you can help. You can visit and read more about CARE’s work for girls’ education HERE. The best back to school gift you can give is a gift that helps other kids go to school. The gift catalog found HERE will support girls’ education around the world. CARE is working to remove the barriers to education that are keeping an estimated 31 million girls around the world out of school. A gift as little as $10 makes a difference. School uniforms for two girls are only $38.

Jennifer Osei Boakye, 8, collects water to bring back to her home Bosomkyekye, Ghana, Teachers at Jennifer's school participated in CARE training programs. In addition, Jennifer and her classmates participated in an art project done in conjunction with the celebration for CARE's 20th anniversary in Atlanta. Photo credit CARE

CARE is a global humanitarian organization that fights poverty by empowering girls and women.

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About Tamara

Tamara is a professional photographer at http://tamaracamera.com/, a mama of two, a writer/blogger at http://tamaracamerablog.com and a nearly professional cookie taster. She has been known to be all four of those things at all hours of the day and night. She is a very proud contributor to the book, The Mother Of All Meltdowns. http://themotherofallmeltdowns.com, as well as Stigma Fighters Anthology (volume 1), and The HerStories Project: So Glad They Told Me. She is also a proud Community Lead/QA Reader with Sway, and a regular contributor to the SoFab Food blog, and the Target Made Me Do It blog. After two cross country moves, due to her intense Bi-Coastal Disorder, she lives with her husband, daughter, son, dog, cat, and 11 chickens in glorious western Massachusetts.

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