By John Gillespie (@JohnG703)
I’m bringing back to the United States the stories of many different kids from numerous different religious, financial, and educational backgrounds. These stories I put together through interacting with these kids for only two weeks have altered my outlook on gratitude, but also showed me how bad things really are in other parts of the world.
It’s one thing to read the statistics on the computer that less than 10% of students in India graduate secondary school, or that the average daily income for the parents of a child attending an Indian public school is under $2 US. It’s another thing to go and visit an overcrowded, timeworn public school in India.
About half the kids in any given classroom don’t have shoes, there’s no running water, and for some, the highlight of the day is a lunch the school legally has to provide which usually consists of rice. This is because that might be the biggest meal they get that day. Yet these kids are as happy and full of life as any kid I’ve seen in the United States.
Before leaving for India, I used to tell people that I didn’t like kids. This experience proved that belief I previously held to be completely unfitting. I was only going to stay for the first week, but near the end of that week I already felt an attachment to these kids. Luckily my job allowed me to take an additional week off, and my parents were willing to pay a reasonable fee to change my flight and extend my trip another week.
I read through about half of the surveys the night of our last day of camp. These were given to every student at the end of our program, and translated to Tamil for those who weren’t strong English speakers. One of the questions asked was, “What was your favorite part of Crossover?” It would be safe to say that half put down the classroom sessions.
I brought up to Shaun the trend that I had noticed because I was really surprised that out of everything we did with them, so many would say the classroom was their favorite part. Shaun explained that he believes it’s because some of the values we promote for daily life taught through basketball they’ve had little, if any, exposure to. These are skills that some would consider pretty basic, for example: acceptance, initiative, team spirit, and loyalty.
While as a college student I’m not currently in a position to contribute financially, I really want to continue to give what I can, which is my time, knowledge, and life experience. I’m still having a hard time knowing that some of these kids I may never see again, and won’t know where their story goes after Crossover. However, I know a majority of them will be there when I’m back next year.