Intel Volunteers in India: Giving Girls a Chance


iesc_india_girlskushalda.jpgThe Intel Education Service Corps (IESC) is a short-term service and career development opportunity for a select group of Intel employees to support the deployment of Intel classmate PCs in developing countries. In this blog, Heather Levin, an applications engineer at Intel, recaps her team”s second week of experiences in India working with CARE in Kushalda.

The last afternoon in Hardoi was full of tears as the teachers wrote long letters thanking us and the girls made us a card with a flame and told us that we were a light in darkness. We felt like movie stars as we said our goodbyes to little girls as they waved, and asked us to return soon.

Today we were introduced to the Udaan school in Kushalda (Orissa province). There were some noticeable differences with the Kushalda School. First, it was warmer in Orissa, and for the first time since arriving in India, the sky was blue, instead of the usual white. Unlike Hardoi, the girls appeared more shy, and they wore uniforms of pink, blue, and green dresses. The computer room was bare; the only objects within the confines of the cement walls were pigeons, tatami mats, and the classmate PCs. Where in Hardoi we relied heavily on Deepak”s Hindi, here we were relying on Deepak”s translation of our lesson plans into Hindi and the teachers” translation of his Hindi into Oriya.

iesc_india_girl_smiling_kushalda.jpgThough different, it did not take us long to warm up to Kushalda. Where in Hardoi we were regularly served warm chai, here we get fresh coconut water. Within an hour we were served tea in tiny little cups, biscuits, sev puri and a mixture of salty snacks. Spoiled and well fed, we got to work creating a single “golden image’ of the classmate PC to clone the others, and then we connected them to a wireless network so that we could use Intel”s Classroom Management software to remotely control the student computers. We ended the evening with a meeting with the teachers and introduced ourselves to the entire school of wide eyed little girls.

We were greeted this morning with a class assembly of a 100 girls, singing and dancing in a circle around us. It is not clear to me whether it is a difference in local customs or whether these girls have seen more suffering but they do not smile as easily as the girls from Hardoi.

However, as we started our lessons the girls began to come out of their shells. They were surprisingly fast and maneuvered themselves around the computer and games with nimble skill. There is something very rewarding and comforting in the low hum of little voices, practicing their addition, subtraction, and multiplication in a way that had been foreign the day before. In the evening we listened to a few of the girls sing heart-wrenching melodies in their local tongue. Later we exchanged dance lessons as we taught them the Hokey Pokey and the girls taught us a local dance. iesc_india_team_girls.jpg

As we drove the one hour trip to and from the school each day, we observed children farming, fishing, working in construction, and walking through the streets. We realized that the girls in the Udaan school are here because of the hard work and vision of many people. It is hard to know where these girls will be in 10 years but it is clear that they at least have a chance, and their communities will prosper because of it.