Visit to Pune
After a long flight to Mumbai via Delhi and a three-hour drive, I reached Pune. The first stop was the CASP office, where I was greeted by Dr. Anil, the Executive Director of CASP, as well as many other employees and people who I had been in contact with over email. These were the people who had made this whole journey and project possible. We spoke for an hour about CASP, AppVidya, and other projects that Dr. Anil and his team had facilitated in the past. I was pleasantly surprised by just how many people CASP supports (3000 plus students). Additionally, I was touched by how passionate and dedicated the CASP team was to their jobs and to their mission – to provide greater equality for education opportunities to children in India. Additionally, I met Mr. Pramod Kale, the President of CASP and a scientist who has worked at the Indian Space Research Organisation and won the Padma Shri award from the Government of India. Mr. Kale has a deep understanding of and lots of experience with providing education through technology. I had the wonderful opportunity to ask him questions, such as how he thinks the tablets that I am providing may help children and what potential challenges they may face with it. While I am sure that these tablets are bound to help the children to a certain degree, I wanted to know more about how they will help the children in the long term and how viable it is to spread this project elsewhere. Speaking with Mr. Kale, Dr. Anil, and the rest of the team was a great way to learn more as well as further introduce my project to the CASP team.
After this, I visited a local school that many children supported by CASP in Pune attend. The school, Utkarsha English Medium School, is an all-girls school and is attended by a student that my family and I have been sponsoring for years. It is partly funded by the government, but relies a lot on donations, too. I was able to meet many students there, who were very happy and cheerful to see visitors on campus. Additionally, I was captivated to see a computer lab, where students were taught how to use computer software - something that is extremely important in today’s world. While the school is a government school, features like the computer lab are totally funded by sponsors and donors. Having seen the campus, I saw how the lives of so many children are changed by technology and by donors who support modern education. I was also fortunate enough to be able to visit the home of a sponsored student, whose family had invited us over for lunch. I knew that many of these students lived in urban slums and small houses on the side of the roads, but seeing them in-person was a completely different experience. I was greeted by the family that resides in the house, a friendly and kind family consisting of grandparents, a mother, and three children. I gave gifts and was eager to learn more about the family over the wonderful meal of Poha (a staple Indian rice dish) that they had kindly prepared. We spoke about their lives and how education has impacted their life choices and possibilities. The CASP-sponsored older sister of the student who we have sponsored was attending a state college, which would allow her to pursue a job with her degree and help lift the family out of poverty. In a country of 1.3 billion people, education is, without a doubt, vital to most people’s lives.