Written by Adam Versaci
Interview by Lisa Rennie
Being born in a country like Australia, with access to life’s most basic of needs like running water, electricity and medical services, it is arguable that we are privileged in every sense of the word. Even those living on the fringes of poverty can access ample government welfare to aid in survival.
For Padmaja*, growing up in a rural village in India, scavenging for food and water and begging on a daily basis to assist her family, the contrast could not be more apparent. Ironically, when Padmaja was asked to join The School of Life, she didn’t want to go. She didn’t want to leave the only life she knew or her family, even though her family urged her to go to make her own life better.
Padmaja admits that when she first arrived at the school she didn’t like it. In fact, she felt undeserving of the opportunity. She explained that in her village, very few people studied and obtained an education and those who did were all male.
Many years later, Padmaja is eternally grateful to her parents for compelling her to improve her life and Padmaja’s plan is simple; she wants to give back.
An obvious but underappreciated revelation is that for the children of rural India, opportunity for change is lacking. A vicious cycle exists. Those born into poverty, usually die in poverty. But with the help of her teachers, Padmaja understands that she, and others like her, have a chance at life.
A chance to break the cycle.
When a large stone is cast into a body of water, there is a large ripple but after time, the ripples subside. However, when many stones are thrown into the water, the ripples build and build until there are enough ripples that they can change the tide. This is Padmaja’s vision for the village people in India.
Padmaja explains that “More children need to study, we need to do it to improve our culture and our society”. She has realised that she does not want or need to beg on the streets any more. What was once reality for her and her family is now being replaced with the prospect of a better life. And that prospect fuels her inextinguishable fire.
“I want to be a nurse, and Jess and Dan are helping me develop the skills I need to become a nurse”, Padmaja states with a determined grin ear to ear, spoken almost in defiance of the caste in which she was born. It was explained that in India, doctors are reluctant to assist poor people who live in villages, such is the divide between social stations, but Padmaja is bridging that gap by learning the skills necessary to go back to the village at some point and bringing to the villagers’ medical care that they so desperately need.
Without The School of Life, such dreams and hope would not be possible. Padmaja, like all of her other student colleagues, would have been destined to continue the cycle, but now, with the proper education and training, what seemed like a dream is completely achievable. Padmaja is keen to help her village prosper, not only by providing medical care, but by becoming an ambassador for education. She explains that, in the village, because each day means foraging for food to live another day, education is perceived as a luxury not a necessity.
Padmaja is living proof that through the power of education, the cycle can be broken. She is only one, but she is proof that many, presented with the same opportunity; once their education is complete, can go back out into their world and be a force for good and for change.
SCOOP Australia is committed to creating a world where access to basic human needs is available. Our commitment is to empowering children like Padmaja and providing them with the proper tools for them to stand on their feet and effect positive change from the ground upwards.
* Padmaja’s name has been changed to protect her privacy