Sister school project opens eyes |

Sister school project opens eyes

When two 14-year-old girls recently met and entertained students at Forest Charter School, it was the culmination of a year-long project that spanned two continents.

Mamta and Kusum traveled from Rishikesh, India, to Nevada City as ambassadors for the Mother Miracle School and its 192 students, who have a different attitude about education than many of their counterparts in this country, according to Sandy McDivitt, executive director of Forest Charter School.

“These children in these Third World countries are thrilled to just have a book in their hands,” she said.

The Mother Miracle School is actually an after-school program founded by Shahla Ettefagh and Patrick Riley, whom McDivitt met last year when they were visiting western Nevada County.

The couple wanted to establish an orphanage for the impoverished children of that area of India but found the bureaucratic obstacles impossible to overcome. Instead, they started the after-school program two years ago with an enrollment of 85 students. It now has 192 students.

“I had it in my mind that I wanted to meet them,” McDivitt said when she heard the after-school founders were in the area.

The eventual meeting planted the seeds for the relationship between the two schools.

McDivitt traveled in December to Rishikesh, which is in the Himalayan foothills and along the Ganges River. She brought with her pictures and stories and other items of cultural interest that were put together by 55 of her Forest Charter’s students.

While in India, she said she was struck by how happy the students there were while living in homes without electricity, running water or hardly any of the conveniences that Americans take for granted.

“Here they are at the survival level, but they were so full of joy. They love music and dance and have so much enthusiasm for life,” McDivitt said.

Her students were exposed to those qualities when Mamta and Kusum visited the school to dance and sing and share information about their lives and country.

The girls, who had never left their village before this trip, are now onto Disneyland and other American experiences before they return home and to the Mother Miracle School.

McDivitt said although the girls are gone, she believes they have left a positive impression on her students.

“I remember I had one student who said ‘I think we’re spoiled’ after meeting with them. I said we just need to be grateful for what we have,” McDivitt said. “I think this kind of program expands people.”

To contact Staff Writer Pat Butler, e-mail or call 477-4239.

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