Two Jones Intermediate School fifth graders were recognized Monday by Kiran Charities’ founder Michael Anthony, who flew in from Texas Sunday to present the girls plaques for making a difference in the lives of students in India and linking the “Leader in Me” spirit to students locally and abroad.
Anthony, a chemical engineer, made it his life’s mission to help children in India who he considered among the poorest of the poor.
The group he works with includes other businessman who grew up in poverty in India. For the first four years of the group, Anthony provided financial assistance to schools in southern India to supplement or completel underwrite the salaries of the teaching staff at three primary schools and two secondary schools, as well as underwriting capital improvements such as the installation of toilets, computer labs, and libraries. The organization grew from there as a way to organize charitable giving for his cause and currently serves 10 schools.
The girls honored were Avery Cox and Bailey Sizemore. The two organized a Kids to Kids Karnival on May 10 which raised $800 for the group and will be used to purchase chickens whose eggs will provide more nourishment for the students. The carnival represents nothing more to Anthony than proof every person can make a difference in the world.
The idea grew out of a challenge from Science Technology Engineering Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) Coach Patty Burgess for students to solve a world problem.
“Indian children are so serious about education,” Anthony told the students. “Because our children are orphans, they stay in schools all year long. They sleep in their classrooms at night on mats. I encourage you to take your education seriously. It is not just about money. Knowledge frees you from fear. It frees your heart and gives you hope. Learn. It is not to just help yourself. It’s to help the world”
He told the class members when they grew older they would change the world and said many of the adults now are carrying too much emotional baggage to help them solve global problems. Kiran Charities Executive Director David Long and his wife Polly were also on hand for the presentation.
The Longs showed their PowerPoint presentation on Kids to Kids at Jones last fall, which inspired Cox as she viewed the slabs of cement many of the children sleep, eat and study on. Burgess challenged the students to come up with a solution to the problem as part of the problem solving activities component of STEAM. After the class assignment, Burgess asked her students if anyone wanted to follow through.
“We know this is the end of the school year,” said Polly Long. “Use the summer to read, go to library, think about things and plan. These girls, your classmates are able to make a difference in the lives of hundreds of children. Eight hundred dollars is a lot of money in India. All of you can be a leader and make a difference.”
Long told the students children in India lucky enough to own a backpack can easily put all of their belongings in one. David Long said classes in the schools stop at dark only because there is no light and electric power is not consistent. He said some classes have 100 students to one teacher.
Anthony explained teaches often live in the schools as well and the numbers and range of ages of students makes the schools act like a community to itself, with older children taking care of younger ones. He said “they do this happily” and that one core value of Indian schools is to smile.
“It is hard for me to translate to you the difference the $800 will make,” said David Long. “Every penny goes to help the children.” He told the class they could obtain more information at the group’s web site, www.kirancharities.org.
David Broyles may be reached at 336-719-1952 or on twitter@MtAiryNewsDave.