As strong supporters of grassroots initiatives that make direct and effectual impacts, we were very pleased to have been able to provide assistance to The Garhwal Organization for the Upliftment of the Needy, or GOUN (meaning “village” in Hindi), an NGO based in the small village of Sainji, India. GOUN was established by a Canadian Anthropology PhD student, Lori McFadyen, alongside her husband, Kunwar Chauhan, a respected pradhan (village leader) native to Sainji. Sainji is a very poor area, and with little money comes little resources; children do not have the opportunity to receive an adequate education, let alone build a life that diverges from the profoundly constrained socio-economic conditions of previous generations.
Lori and Kunwar aspired to create a better educational system that could provide younger Sainji citizens with the opportunity to achieve an increased quality of life. GOUN established a school in 2009 named The Garhwal English Medium School, or GEMS – a word that, to Lori and Kunwar, suitably described their students: “…our children are like unpolished gems, who with a little work will shine brilliantly.” GEMS is not just a school with a comprehensive academic curriculum, but a multifaceted learning center that engages the children’s minds with important life lessons, from ways to nourish good health to the value of being generous towards others regardless of one’s own hardships. GEMS has also become a second home for their students. Oftentimes, the school gives baths, and even vitamin tablets, to their students, for their families are unable to provide these necessities. We encourage you to read more about the admirable work of GOUN here: www.gems-school.org
The assistance EPN provided to GOUN was initially planned to go towards a sustainable and economical kitchen garden and hothouse project for the village of Sainji. The project aimed to provide a well-balanced and year-round diet for villagers, encourage citizens to create their own gardens/hothouses, and increase the community’s level of health. As many changes took place at GEMS, such as the school’s relocation and expansion from 8 to over 100 students, our partnership also took on a slightly different route – one that remained equally as valuable. Our assistance went solely toward the hothouse project for GEMS. Here, the garden acted as a means for teaching school children agricultural skills and knowledge, while the variety of harvested vegetables supplied healthier diets for the students. We wish Lori, Kunwar, and all the little GEMS the very best.
Visiting volunteer teacher at GEMS, student watering plants in the hothouse garden (Images courtesy of GOUN)
What started out as a small school in December 2009, with just 8 students, had grown to hold more than 100 students by the end of 2011! The hothouse continues to serve as an educational tool for the children while providing them with a healthy diet.