One of the worst things about traveling is the number of children you see working as touts, and it is heartbreaking how good they are at their jobs. While adults are pushy and annoying, the kids are—more often than not—clever, cute and funny. In short, they’re brilliant little salespeople, but purchasing from them perpetuates a cycle that is not in their long-term benefit. Parents will pull their kids out of school (which often costs money), to put them to work making money. Unfortunately, this is all too common in touristy areas.
Hampi Children’s Trust focuses on providing—free of charge—three square meals a day for these kids in addition to an education, and works with the community at a grassroots level to ensure their students stay in school. We had the opportunity to meet one of the cofounders of the school, and I was extremely impressed by his gentle nature and tenacity. Apparently, it’s been a bit of a rough ride in the community recently, because many people have been forcibly removed from their homes since they were on lands that formed part of the UNESCO heritage site. Ostensibly, this leads to fragmentation in the community, increases the potential for homelessness, and is likely to exacerbate any preexisting problems like alcohol dependency or domestic violence.
We met the cofounder in the evening of our second day there, and were invited to drop by the school the following morning. Although it was summer holidays, there were still a good amount of children who came in for breakfast, nearly 25 of the approximately 45 children enrolled there. However, the kids seemed completely oblivious to the meaning of “school holiday,” because they were raring to go. Focusing on the more finite rules of English grammar? Yes please! Ornithology lessons? More please! Multiplication table quiz? Again please!
It’s clear they run a tight ship and the kids responded really well to the structure. When it was time to eat, they settled down immediately, and when it was time to tidy up, they threw themselves into it wholeheartedly. All in all, we were very impressed, and it’s clear we’re not the only ones who think so. When we chatted about the school to people in the community, it was clear they all thought a lot of the work they do at Hampi Children’s Trust, and I think that speaks volumes. We had purchased some toiletries for the school the evening before, and the shopkeeper—knowing the intended recipients—displayed an unnatural desire to ensure we got value for money, and a complete lack of interest in verifying the total bill. Even our somewhat brusque travel agent brightened considerably when told him we were dropping by the school.
On the whole, we could not recommend the school more. If you’re in the area, stop by the school to see for yourself, or if you’re in want of penpal, you could sponsor from abroad. More information about Hampi Children’s Trust is available from their official website here: http://www.hampichildrentrust.com/