Ramona has told me, already quite a while ago, that during her school time, her school had organized a student exchange with a school in France. A group of children from her school in Germany went to France and visited the school there. In exchange, the children in whose houses they stayed, came to live with their families in Germany. Since that time there is a thought in my mind and it has become alive again after a talk with a friend who had come to the Ashram: Wouldn’t it be great if we could arrange such an exchange for our school’s children and send them to Europe?
I believe this could be a wonderful idea: imagine 20 children from our school could travel to Germany, France, England, Spain or Portugal – or any other country in the west! What an experience this would be for these poor children, what a joy it would bring them and how beneficial it would be not only for them but for the exchange students as well! It would be a lifetime opportunity!
I imagine that we could bring the children in touch already beforehand and maybe the partner children could send a letter to each other to get to know a little bit about the other one before they meet. Then we would go with the group of our children and visit the European kids in their home town. They would stay with their exchange partners in their home, get to know the families, the life there and how everything looks like and works there. They could do some sightseeing in the surrounding but they would not really need a lot of program – even only going to the supermarket will be a huge experience for them!
The children would become friends in that time already, so some time later, maybe when it is cold winter there and pleasant weather here, the European children could visit us with a few of their teachers. The children could stay at our Ashram – because the families of our children cannot afford to have them stay there, don’t have place and often don’t even have toilet facilities. So they could stay at the Ashram, visit the school, see how things work here and of course also visit the children at their home for an afternoon. Obviously, a trip to the Taj Mahal would be a must as well.
I realize that this is not as easy to realize as it sounds but I believe it can be done! There would not be a burden on the school or the families on both sides, because it would be an exchange of food and accommodation. No child would have to pay for that – but of course the flight tickets would need to be paid. The European parents would buy the flight tickets for their own children and both schools, our and the one in Europe, could try to find sponsors for the flight tickets of our school’s children. We would promote and advertise this project. Maybe even one company could sponsor all of them and we could get a special group price from an airline.
Once the plan is that far, we will still need to prepare a lot: the parents of our children need to get the kids’ birth certificates and we will need to help them with getting passports for their sons and daughters. After that the visas – so quite some work would go into this as well.
It can be done however and now I am making the first step by bringing this idea out into the world! Whoever reads these lines, please spread the word and think of any school that could be ready to participate in such an exchange! How many children from both countries could benefit from such an exchange!
If you have some information, know a school, are a teacher who would like to do this or maybe even a sponsor who wants to support this project to show the world to our children, you can write to firstname.lastname@example.org – and I am sure we can do something together!
I am looking forward to reading from you and hope to make this dream come true!