Sewa at Schools on Wheels- Empowering the Underprivileged through Education
Homelessness is a huge issue that negatively impacts people around the globe, especially young children. Many of these children don’t know when their next meal will come or where they will sleep at night. Their lives are constantly uprooted and unstable. The solution to this problem is complicated and Hindu Swayamsevak’s partnership with Schools on Wheels has a unique and inspiring approach.
About Schools on Wheels
Schools on Wheels is a nonprofit organization that has now been operating for twenty years in Indiana. They offer one-hour weekly tutoring sessions that take place at homeless shelters, elementary schools, and even domestic violence shelters. The Indianapolis branch of Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh has been partnering with Schools on Wheels for the last four years. Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh is a Hindu faith-based nonprofit organization with a strong focus on giving back to the community.
As education is given high esteem in Hindu culture and upbringing, HSS was easily able to associate with this organization because of the shared value of the importance of education. While I’m sure most of us agree that education is important, what exactly is the connection with homelessness and how is a one-hour tutoring session going to make a real impact on these kids’ lives? This is the question I had while researching this organization and interviewing its volunteers.
When children constantly jump from school to school, they cannot keep up with the changing expectations, teachers, and content. Many of these children have parents who have to work double or even triple shifts just to make ends meet so they don’t have someone at home who is always there for them. These reasons result in children experiencing homelessness being nine times more likely to repeat a grade and four times more likely to drop out of school altogether.
One of the volunteers I interviewed, Eesha ji, is a rising sophomore at Caramel High School. She has been a volunteer for SOW since 2018 and a volunteer for HSS since 2016. She was surprised to find that many fourth or fifth-graders struggled to do basic math such as multiplication. Through Schools on Wheels, HSS volunteers were able to try their best to close these disparities and give them the one-on-one attention they needed.
Eesha ji also told me a heart-touching story about a young girl named Alisa who would constantly ask for Eesha when she was not there for her sessions. I believe that this really shows the impact that the volunteers make on these children’s lives. The most significant impact in my personal opinion was not the math or reading classes but the human connection that was built between the tutor and the students.
For many of these students, these one-hour tutoring sessions were the only real constant in their life. The sincerity and commitment of the tutors helped bring a little comfort and trust. They could finally know that there were people who would be there for him. People who cared about them, People who rooted for them, and people who showed up for them. Every session is only one hour so using it as efficiently as possible was of utmost importance. One of the volunteers, Madhuri ji, is a software engineer at Liberty Mutual. She was able to give me a look at what a regular tutoring session would look like. It would usually include a writing prompt or reading assignment, some homework help, and games if there was time in the end. Volunteers researched innovative ways to simplify concepts for their students.
Schools on Wheels also help these underprivileged kids in ways outside of tutoring. They organize yearly book and school supply drives. Volunteers also tried their best to help these children out in any way possible. For example, one child asked a volunteer for just one tennis ball and it gave him such joy when the volunteer gave it to him. A sense of ownership can be so rare for them.
Over fifteen volunteers from Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh dedicated time and energy to make these students’ lives just a little better. They embodied the true spirit of sewa or selfless service. Every one of these students has a story with challenges, struggles, and sorrows but sewa at schools on wheels gave them a chance to write a better tomorrow. This is just the first step and there are thousands of underprivileged children across the country whose untapped potential can change the world.
School on Wheels. “Home.” School on Wheels, 27 May 2022, schoolonwheels.org.
“Indianapolis School On Wheels | School on Wheels’ Mission Is to Provide One-on-One Tutoring and Educational Advocacy for School-Aged Children Impacted by Homelessness.” Indyschoolonwheels, indyschoolonwheels.org. Accessed 15 July 2022.
“Homelessness in America.” School on Wheels, schoolonwheels.org/homelessness-in-america/.
By Roshini Selvakumar: A Freshman at Early College High School. She is a Potterhead and is always up for trying new things and meeting new people