When we held our first parent-teacher conference at Gyetighi Primary School ten years ago, I was shocked to see only a handful of people show up. It was hard for me to imagine parents not being interested in the opportunity to support their children and see firsthand what kind of education they were receiving. Clearly, I was new in town.
I slowly grew to realize that it wasn’t that the parents didn’t care about their children; they just didn’t know how to turn that care into action. I decided to lead by example and demonstrate different ways parents could advocate for their children’s rights. I became known for pulling “Mama Indias” when confronting treatment that was unacceptable. If a teacher repeatedly failed to show up for class, they would quickly learn that absenteeism was no longer tolerated. If a child was sick and neglected, I made sure they got proper care. If a young girl was being abused, we did whatever was needed to ensure her safety. I fought tooth and nail and shocked many with my determination. My relentlessness got the attention of countless district officials as I continued to push for the rights of the children in our community, schools, and health clinic.
It turns out that the parents in our community were also paying attention, and a shift in parent engagement was taking place. Attendance at parent-teacher conferences skyrocketed, and I now watch with a smile as parents pull their own “Mama Indias” when standing up for what they believe is right for their child.
We always hoped that our work would have a ripple effect beyond our Children’s Village. We have seen this vision come true through our work at Gyetighi Primary and Oldeani Secondary Schools, our Rural Community Health Clinic, and our Microfinance program. But I never could have imagined witnessing such a powerful change taking place among local parents, who are now leading their own fights to protect children’s rights.
We are seeing the incremental impact of our programs which, even when serving one person, ultimately affect many. This element of sustainability not only gives me hope for future generations of children, but it also stands as one of our proudest achievements.