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'Value of One Child' learned on visit to India
UTTC Teacher Education Interview - Tammy Kelsch
12 April 2006

Editor's Note: Teacher Education student Tammy Kelsch, Beulah, ND, recently returned from a church mission in central India. It was her second trip in three years to that country, where over 600 million of that nation's 1 billion people live in poverty. Tammy is a member of the Mandan-Hidatsa-Arikara Nation located on the Fort Berthold Reservation. She earned a Certificate and License as a Medical Laboratory Technician from Quain & Ramstad Clinic and an Associate Degree from Bismarck State College. She is currently studying to become an Elementary Education/Special Education teacher in the UTTC Teacher Education bachelor degree program. She hopes, one day, to teach Native children or children of another culture.

UTN: How did you get involved in a visit to India?
TK: In 2003, the founder of Reaching Indians Ministry International (RIMI), Saji Lukos, was a guest speaker at my church, Grace Evangelical Free Church in Beulah. RIMI is an international, interdenominational, evangelical Christian mission's agency. Members of our church were very interested in the ministry. I was asked if I was interested in traveling to India to see the compassion services, such as children's homes, hospitals, medical clinics, literacy and development program, and AIDS education program. Then, last fall I was invited back to India for a second visit by a team of people from Fargo, ND.

Tammy Kelsch with young girls
Tammy Kelsch with young girls in Warangal, India in March.

UTN: Describe what you did there.
TK: On this trip in March we went to three different remote and tiny villages where we taught vacation bible school along with morals and values, such as respecting your elders. We communicated through an interpreter. The language spoken in Warangal India is called Telegu. In one of the villages, we squeezed 75 children into a 10 by 12, one room home. How we got those children in that room is beyond me. The children were anxious to learn words in English. We taught colors, words of greeting, like hello and thank you. In return the children tried to teach us too. They would break into laughter at our scrambled attempts to speak their language. We were always presented with a beautiful jasmine flower Lau. I recall several very poor young girls who gave us each a necklace. In return I gave my earrings. Among my favorite experiences was reading story books, playing games and singing songs at two orphanages. The kids were just precious and soaked up all the attention they could get. After a while I realized that even little things, like hugs and smiles, bridged the language barrier.

UTN: How were you able to be of help there?
TK: RIMI offers several enriching volunteer programs in both urban and rural areas. These projects immerse volunteers in the culture and allow them to make a meaningful contribution directly with people. In teaching the children, I felt I helped shape young lives in India by sharing my English skills and teaching talents. Visiting the orphanages our team provided a "Hooked on Phonics" kit, a flannel board and Bible stories lesson plans, toothbrushes, color crayons, and money to help the orphanages with education and compassion needs programs.

Thank you
A bowed head and hands together is a gesture of "Thank You" in India.

UTN: Considering the educational level of the people you served, what observations or conclusions have you reached about the value of education?
TK: Educating girls in particular offers extraordinary social and economic benefits to current and future generations. Yet, in many developing countries, poverty, and the belief that cultivating a boy's mind is more important than educating a girl, work hand in hand to keep girls out of school. Over 120 million children of primary school age are not in school and most are girls. Many young girls around the age of 11 can barely read and write. Many are pulled out of school because their parents feel a young girl's time is better spent looking after the family's livestock and doing housework. Young girls have little hope for their future. Like their mothers and grandmothers, young girls can look forward to spending their lives working in the fields and around the house. Once they experience education, their dreams and aspirations can be different.

UTN: While this was a church sponsored trip, how did it help you with your education studies at UTTC?
TK: If anything, I learned the value of one child. One child, one smile, one life touched - showing love to someone who had forgotten love existed. I realized that God wanted me to look at the world as He does and I know He sees more than just crowds of people. This trip broadened my outlook about the needs of children. It'll help me become an educator who will make a difference.

UTN: What advice can you give other students about teaching abroad experiences?
TK: I found that teaching abroad is the most challenging but rewarding of opportunities.


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