We have our new student picks for the school year pretty much narrowed down. The process has been long and tedious and emotional. For the past month we have been screening through applicants to determine who is eligible to apply. We do radio and newspaper announcements to cast a wide net and be sure that word gets out to the far corners of the district. We receive application forms for about a month which gives eligible applicants enough time to spread the word and for applicants to get all the necessary documents together. During pre-screening prospective students assemble all their documents, parent’s death certificates, recommendation letters from local government officials, application form and photo. If the children meet all of our criteria and can apply we accept their applications in a file. We had just over 300 applicantfiles this year that Ganga so awesomely went through and put into piles.
The next step is an initial interview where we review the documents for a second time with the admissions committee. Our committee is divided into four interview teams, each of which made up of 1 administrator, 1 teacher, 1 board member and 1 volunteer who collectively need to make a decision on whether the child should move onto the next round. If the child makes it through to round 2, a “home visit” team goes to gather information on the child’s living conditions. Nine times out of ten the home visit team comes back and report that “yes, we have to pick this one!” but occasionally by doing a home visit and talking to villagers we’re able to eliminate a child with a story that doesn’t line up.
I keep the master list and throughout the day the fellows and teachers and board members come up to me attached to the certain kids they’ve gotten to know throughout the process over the last few days.
“Please tell me that little girl with the blind dad from Mugu got in.”
"Do you any of the siblings with the big brother who breaks stones to support them got in?"
"What about the little girl with the round cheeks and the pig tails?"
"What about the boy with those scratches all over his face?”
Because there are 300 applicants for 30 seats my responses over the last few days were mostly,
“Nope, they just got cut,” and after being really sure that we made some good decisions, I’d go back to square one, right back to where we started.
But I’m breathing. And I’m taking quiet time at the end of each day to listen to music or a podcast. Last night I sat with the girls on their beds for a little meeting. They wanted to know how it was all going and I told them how I felt and how much work we still have to do in the world and how they have to use this opportunity to do something good for other kids like them. "We are so lucky. We are so so lucky." They kept saying.
My sweet Deepak came into the room for two of my final interviews today and had to leave after two. When I saw him at lunch he looked at me with a look of concern on his face, "How will you pick mom? How will you pick?”
Over the past few days I’ve found myself looking at each of my children who I am so utterly in love with and I wonder. If they had come to me this time would I have picked them? Would I have known? Would they have gotten a chance? And then I stop myself because I know that those thoughts are no good. I know to go with my gut and keep taking it all one step at a time.
I heard a lot of life stories these past few days, widows, beggars, orphans, homelessness, grief, and pain and struggle- and I’m trying to keep it as in perspective as I possibly can. I know when to get up and take a little walk or drink a cup of tea. I’ve done this enough now that I know what to expect and how to prepare and talk my team through every step. My teachers and my board, and my volunteers have been incredible. As the years go by we get more and more experience. It’s not fun but if you keep the focus on the positive, the fact that the kids we pick over the next few days are amongst the poorest most vulnerable children in the entire world and if they make it, they walk their way into a 12+ year scholarship and their lives are about to be changed forever.
The thing that’s been so inspiring to me over the past few days were people from the community, relatives, villagers, and our neighbors who have stepped up and offered to give some of the orphan applicants a place to live and sleep and a home to live in, should they be selected. That made me feel happy. Nepali people are really truly caring and beautiful and kind and I’ve seen a lot of goodness these past few days too.
Tonight I opened up a book I keep on my bookshelf of Mother Theresa’s private letters and writings. I always feel kind of strange reading this particular book because before she died, she had asked that her letters not be released. But tonight I was looking for some sort of insight. I opened up to page 176 and read something that broke my heart and spoke to me.
“If you only knew what goes on within my heart.—Sometimes the pain is so great that I feel as if everything will break. The smile is a big cloak which covers a magnitude of pains. Pray for me, please."