The Little Tribal School in Ooty Project with MOB

The MOB project in Ooty is lead by a band of volunteers that clean up Ooty, collect garbage and recycle it. It is lead by Shobhana Chandrashekar. After they clean up the area they have the surrounding community adopt the space and maintain it.

Ooty is a small hill station on the Western Ghats in South India. It’s home to many local communities and tribes such as the Badagas and the Todas. At one point it was the British place of rest during the summer months and hence has a lot of historic buildings. It also has tea gardens and large tracts of forest was cleared for this and tea continues to be a cash crop.

I got interested in Shobhana’s work when they cleaned a Government Boys school in Ooty and the results were spectacular! That was when I decided that’s where I need to go help at; because Ooty was where I grew up.

Gathering Support

I started the campaign on Sunday the 12th of June and I  raised 5000 Rupees  and Volunteer support through Social media
This is the school
Inline image 1
 Shobhana did some spade work and we came up with stage 1 of the project which was to clean up the school and the surrounding. We also decided to build up library resources for the children.
These are the children
There was a lack of basic amenities such as bathrooms and safety.So a lot of stray dogs wander into the school. Children even got their heads stuck between the grill when they looked out.
Inline image 3
This is evidence of the  work from before by the MOB
Inline image 4

By June 24th

So far this is what I’ve achieved.
:Money sponsored so far that has gone into an existing educational trust for the school is around 20,000 rupees. This is run by the MOB volunteers.
:Books – 4 boxes received
:Painting the school wall for the mural – completed yesterday -600 rupees spent
:I’ve written letters to publishers asking for books to stock a library that doesn’t exist as of now.
:I’m also carrying some donated things from here, in Shanghai.

I meet my mentor

As part of my course requirement-TAC (Teaching Artist Certification) from the University of the Arts,Philadelphia, I meet my mentor, Cheilaugh Garvey, she has lovely ideas and I wish I could work with her. I spent two days walking around with her and quietly observing her and taking many many notes.


 I reach Ooty with my younger daughter,Dia in tow on the 11th of July. After Madras,Ooty is very cold and we were soon outfitted with our winter clothes which we had brought from our home,Shanghai.
The first day we arrive we achieve a whole lot of work. We clean out one classroom and paint the exterior of the school walls.
I read them a story “Where is the Sun” by Janu Bhiva Ravate by Tulika publishers .
I also get to observe the children during a free drawing class and quickly realize that the children don’t know how to draw except for one little girl who seems to draw freely without any trepidation. I also learn through my observation that the teachers are correcting them in their drawing. I also observed that the teachers are very good and use the Montessori material very well. The children genuinely like their teachers. There was no electricity for the four days that I was there.
The children are from the little village close by and most of their parents work in the tea plantations that we see from school.



After a very restless night I decide that there is something that I can teach to get the children to think and work independently with nature, outdoors. Its the only way I can make them ‘draw’ without second guessing themselves.


I arrive at school and the children want to draw and read the books that have been donated. It’s a fun day and a lot of children spend time on their own drawing and looking at the books for inspiration. I read a lot of books to them and they are so excited. They observe the Warli drawings and soon begin to draw and make little books out of their drawings. I also teach them to put things away and look after the marker pens.

I take the children out to play. I also introduce them to working with nature and throw the idea out there for them to make the best of it without giving them too much direction. I also realize that the children want to speak English and reply in English whenever they can!

Once we go out and work with nature Viktor Lowenfeld’s Creative and Mental growth charts emerge.





I have been talking to the children on their aspirations and ambitions.Some children want to join the army or drive a truck,others want to be a teachers and veterinarians.

I have with me some aeroplanes that have to be assembled. I talk to the children on what we have been discussing on what makes us happy.The children first plot their design for their aeroplanes on paper. I then teach them how to fashion brushes out of rope.

Some of the children’s mothers come to visit me in school when they are on lunch break from the tea gardens.


Dia (my daughter) and I take turns to work with the young children and the Montessori material.



On day 4 I decide to tackle the problem of alcoholism that the children are witnessing at home. I talk to the first grade and up about this and ask them what they think about alcohol and budgeting for it if they received an income and spent 90%  of it on alcohol. We have a very interesting discussion and I leave them with a lot to think about.

I then show them how to make collages.Unfortunately we get interrupted by the Government Health team that has come to dispense  inoculation shots.The little children are inconsolable. Its very sad to witness and my heart is breaking because I can’t help. The teachers help with the children and the children feel better with them by their sides.

Its time to say goodbye and the children ask me why I have to leave? I explain that I must go visit my grandmother and will come back next year. It’s never easy saying goodbye.


Keep those dreams flying high!









3 thoughts on “The Little Tribal School in Ooty Project with MOB

  1. What a remarkable job you have done gayathri. ..for those little angels in the countryside…may the almighty bless your work abudantly. ..happy to see smiles in their faces…continue the great work you do


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s