After seeing Anganwadi in a dilapidated state during her trip to Kerala, Maria Castleman launched Positive Power for Children EV, an NGO that works to renovate run-down government schools.

tThe Anganwadi centers run by the state government were intended to provide adequate food and quality education to children under the age of six, but they often lack toilets, have no drinking water facilities and wear leaky roofs, making conditions unbearable for children to access education.

The lack of basic facilities shocked Maria Castlemann, a former primary school teacher from Germany, who had visited India. “I was a primary teacher in the Netherlands, and later became a photographer, traveling a lot and exploring different parts of the world. However, a hip problem in the mid-2000s hindered my travels and forced me to undergo surgery. By then, I had settled in Germany And I couldn’t walk well because of my health condition. I found a yoga teacher there, who guided me with techniques to improve my health,” she said. India’s best.

Maria says her guide suggested she visit India for treatment. So in 2008, I traveled to the southern city of Kovalam in Kerala. While passing through the town, it came across Anganwadi in Thrissur.

Positive Power for Children eV NGOs
Students learn in dilapidated Anganwadi.

Got inside only to find a leaky ceiling, broken seats, and withered paint on the walls. Children did not have clean drinking water or sanitary toilets. There were also no toys, stationery, ceiling fans for ventilation, or electricity. Their condition worried me, and I decided to do something about it,” she says.

With three days left before she returns to Germany, Maria buys some stationery, school uniforms, books, toys and other equipment for the children.

“But I came home feeling that I wanted to contribute more to improving the lives of these children. I shared the experience with my partner and expressed my desire to raise money and renovate the school for the children.”

Maria then started a fundraiser in Germany in 2008, asking residents for financial help. All the funds raised through her initiative helped the school to transform into an exemplary institute equipped with facilities.

The school was renovated and painted, new seats were received, and students received study materials. Soon, she learned of three other schools in the area that also needed help. I discovered that children walked miles to go to school and thought renovating the building could be the least I could do,” she says.

Then she collected more money for himself. “Turned a small initiative into a full-blown campaign, creating Positive Power for Children eV, an NGO working for the cause of restoring run-down public schools,” she says.

To date, her initiative has helped transform 22 public schools. On average, about 40 students learn in each school. So at any given time, about 800 students are making use of the facilities. Over the years, many have gained access to the improved infrastructure from these schools,” she says.

Positive Power for Children eV NGOs
Newly built school by an NGO.

Maria says she prefers to help public schools that need help in the real sense. “They are not as special as other private schools.”

Her efforts were recognized by government agencies, who took note and worked to improve the conditions of the schools. In the beginning, it was difficult to coordinate with the government officials as it took time to build a relationship with them. Once they felt confident about my efforts, the administrators supported me. Today, they distribute some of the money to paint schools or provide other equipment at the request of teachers.

Sindhu, a teacher at Adimalathura Anganwadi in Thiruvananthapuram says, “I have been working in this school for five years, and it was in bad condition. The government offered 1,000 rupees to rent a place for the school, but we could not find a place for less than 2,500 rupees. So I paid 1,500 rupees Leftovers from my salary to continue school.”

She learned of Maria’s initiative to renovate the school and says, “But then the NGO didn’t have money, and we were looking for space to build a school. In 2021, someone donated six cents of land for construction and Maria stepped in. Thanks to her, she helped build a permanent structure that took a year.” It also provided children with seats, uniforms and study materials when we moved in April 2022. The newer place is more comfortable for students to access education. Student strength has increased from about 15 children to more than 30 due to better school infrastructure.”

Maria claims to have built eight such schools with donations. “These schools have a playground, which is very important because many educational institutes lack a playground,” she says, adding: “The main challenge is the lack of funding. I have to prioritize where to spend the money. Sometimes it becomes difficult to take.” .

Positive Power for Children eV NGOs
The activity wall created by the NGO.

She adds, “On one occasion, the teachers of one of these public schools requested stationery, uniforms or paint for their school walls. But on the other hand, two schools lost their roof due to a hurricane and needed urgent attention. Of course, a school without a roof takes priority.”

Besides, she invests in training children in self-defense classes. “I provide training to girls aged 15-17 through a coach during school hours in Thiruvananthapuram. Although the initiative to develop confidence among children, especially girls, has been paused due to the COVID-19 pandemic and lack of funds, I aim to revive the same The thing is, you say.

Edited by Yoshita Rao


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