For two weeks in December, a group of Beaver students who participated in NuVu last spring traveled to India. They attended and volunteered at the INK conference and piloted an Android smartphone app they developed in cooperation with Sesame Workshop for children in the Indian slums.
During the trip, junior Tess Anderson kept a blog about her experiences. Here are some of her thoughts.
Being at INK I was so inspired and had so much to say about everything that I felt as if no words would describe the way I was feeling…It was an overflow of amazement, inspiration and determination. I was amazed at how people like Babar started his own school at age 8 with kids in his backyard. I was inspired by people like Aisha who was brave enough to talk in front of the world about how she is dying. I was determined to make changes in the world like John Hardy has with his green school. The INK conference made me want to do more with my life. It opened my eyes to realizing how much is out there in the world and the impact people can have on the world. As a child, I always thought that when people said they were trying to “save the world” they were just kidding or pretending to be a big shot. But, after listening to such powerfully inspirational men and women, I have started to grasp the understanding of what it actually means to “save the world”.
I’ll give you a feel for what the kids were like. They go to school from 7 in the morning to 9 at night. When we first introduced ourselves to them they were all standing in a straight line. The culture is very interesting here; the kids are taught SUPER traditionally. A 7 year old kid would be better at pre-calc than the smartest boy in our grade, but when asked if there is oxygen inside your hands when you cup them together they would say no. They are only taught in forms of memorization and formulas and have no sense of imagination. They don’t know what “make believe” is. This makes it hard to relate to the kids, but makes it extra fun since its more challenging and interesting.
The whole reason why we went to the village was not only to test the physical games we came up with but also the smartphone app we created. Just to give everyone reading my blog a background of what I am talking about, I will explain what exactly we created to be here in India today. Last spring I did NuVu and at this unbelievable program we created an app for Android phones for kids in India. A total of 9 boys and girls made 6 separate apps, which were educational games for children in the urban slums of India. We were partnered with Gali Gali Sim Sim (the Sesame Street of India) for this project and they gave us guidelines of what our games had to teach the children. This set of guidelines included a list three pages long with different concepts that Gali Gali Sim Sim tries to teach children through their cartoon. The 9 of us were split up into 3 groups of 3 and we all had to choose 3 of the concepts on the list that Gali Gali Sim Sim provided to us. From there we spent 2 weeks creating our apps and determining how they would work. We did not physically create it, but we came up with the game and how it works and what each screen on the phone would look like. From there developers came into NuVu and LOVED our ideas. We were more than thrilled. They decided to create our games. They only made 2 apps that had a combination of everyone’s games in them. They are now available on Android cell phones.
We are here in India introducing the games to the children to see their reaction and fix all the glitches along the way. Yesterday was the first day we brought the apps to the children in the village we are working at…We had never showed it to anyone other than the people here on our trip. It was SUPER exciting and amazing to watch the kids play the games. They LOVED the games; they just couldn’t get enough of them. When we were playing our physical games that we came up with to play with them (the multiplication game and so on) there were around 40 kids in the park area we were playing in. But, when working with the kids and the technology, we had to work inside in an enclosed area so that it was a controlled environment to work in. When it was my turn to play with and observe the children interacting with the phones and our apps I was blown away. It was so unbelievably cool to see the apps we made in the hands of the kids we made them for. I couldn’t believe that our apps were actually being played with in India. I couldn’t believe that our millions of massive white sketched on papers had come to life into real apps on the Android. This has been the coolest part of the trip for me. It has topped everything from INK since this is something we actually did. We might actually be able to have an influence on the kids now, through the games that we designed specifically for these amazing children.
Now, being back home, back to continuing my life where I left off, I am changed. I know this may sound ridiculous, but it’s true. The way I see the world is changed. I used to think of the world as some beautiful place where most people were happy…Being in India, I saw too many children without families living alone on the streets and having to face the world on their own. I feel so incredibly lucky to be a part of such an amazing healthy family. I am fortunate to be able to have access to as many meals a day as I wish. I am fortunate to have friends to hang out with and to have amazing teammates on REV who always support me. Most of all, I am fortunate to have opportunities like the one I just had. I would never have been able to go to India if it weren’t for having such an amazing education. I am happy with where I am today in my life. I just wish that I could do more for the world and the people around me who are unhappy.