Donna Laveriere (India)

Donna Laverdiere (Butterflies, India): Donna grew up in a small town in Maine and received her Bachelor’s degree in English Literature from Tufts University. After college, she spent three years in the publishing industry, and then worked for AT&T and Cadillac. During this time Donna was heavily involved in political organizing on women’s issues and helped found a nonprofit privacy rights organization. At the time of her fellowship, Donna was pursuing her Master of Public Policy at Duke University’s Terry Sanford Institute of Public Policy, with a focus in global policy.

Street Educators

07 Jun

I have been spending the last few days getting to know the work of Butterflies and observing the street educators in the field. Educators travel to one contact point in the morning on a city bus, a trying experience in the heat, and teach from 10 to 1. Then they board another bus and travel to a second contact point and teach from 2:30 to 5. The days are long, especially in the sticky heat of summer. Yesterday, I did the same journey, traveling on Delhi buses, squeezed tightly into seats, sometimes sharing with two other people. Daily I gain more respect for the teachers at Butterflies.

Yesterday I visited the Interstate Bus Terminal, known in Delhi as ISBT. About 10 children gathered with us on a blanket in a back corner of the bus station. We were surrounded by homeless men who slept on the hard floor, using their plastic sandals for pillows. The children and educators alike ignored the sleeping men, as well as men out of work who sat and stared at us for the entire session.

At ISBT, I met a boy named Amar. I learned later in the day that Amar has tuberculosis. An educator calmly informed me that Amar would need to be cured soon or he could die from the disease. Amar’s lips were white and his skin a bit gray in tone, but he was upbeat and very interested in my cameras. He kept saying “Photo, photo!” as I walked around, snapping pictures of the children as they worked. I sat next to him and showed him how to use the film camera, and showed him his own photos on the screen of my digital camera.

I hear many upsetting stories about children on any given day working with Butterflies. Also while at ISBT, Naremdar, a Butterflies street educator, got a phone call from another NGO in Bombay about a little girl they found there who had accidentally ended up on a train out of Delhi. The other NGO sought Butterflies’ help in locating the girl’s family. They told me that the NGOs in India often work together to solve difficult cases like this one. Then two of them went off to investigate the case, asking street children and homeless adults alike, trying to locate someone who knew the girl. The very same street educator appeared later at the second contact point, sweaty, hot, and ready to work for the afternoon.

The resilience and resourcefulness of the people I have met here continue to amaze me. They understand the problems facing children here, and work realistically every day to try and empower the children to make their own lives better. I look forward to becoming more involved in the day to day work of this organization.

Posted By Donna Laveriere (India)

Posted Jun 7th, 2006

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