Dance for the soul and a dorm for shelter

US student raises funds for Parijat Academy

By SUMIR KARMAKAR in Guwahati
  • Published 23.11.16
  •  
Elise Lindbergh in Garbhanga

Guwahati, Nov. 22: Nineteen-year-old Elise Lindbergh postponed her college education in the US for a year to teach English and classical ballet to the students at Parijat Academy, a school for underprivileged children here.

A few weeks after she came here in September from Virginia, Elise came to know that the girls here needed a better dormitory more than ballet.

She was quick to launch a fund-raising drive and has received pledges of nearlyRs 7.5 lakh from donors in Australia, US and others for the dormitory.

"Lynette Kelly, a research manager in the University of Adelaide in Australia and her husband have agreed to donate Rs 5 lakh and rest of the Rs 2.5 lakh will come from other donors. The girls studying at Parijat live in a cramped dormitory and they need a better one. The one we are planning will have the facility to house at least 30 girls and a separate space to study," Elise told The Telegraph.

At present, nine girls stay at the academy. They hail from neighbouring Garbhanga reserve forest along the Assam-Meghalaya border and study at the academy at Gorchuk as there are no schools in their villages.

"Most of their parents depend on jhum cultivation for livelihood and so they send them to our school for free education. There are many such girls in the villages but we can't bring them here as we don't have a proper girls' dormitory," said Uttam Teron, who started Parijat Academy in 2003 with four children. The school now has nearly 500 children. The academy runs on donations and provides education free of cost.

Elise started a website, thesualifund.weebly.com, and pages on social media to collect donations for the dormitory.

"On December 9, I am organising a fund-raising event in the US. Kelly had visited Parijat several times earlier and wanted to donate money for the new dormitory. When she came to know that I was interested, she immediately agreed to donate," she said.

Elise did her schooling from St Anne's-Belfied School at Charlottesville, Virginia, and took admission in Bowdoin College last year but postponed her education after she came to know about Parijat Academy.

"For me, it is very important to respond to needs of the community," she said.

Elise came to know about Parijat Academy through the website of Omprakash Foundation that allows potential volunteers to directly contact such organisations.

"Apart from collecting donations, I am teaching English and classical ballet to the students here. They are learning very fast and will perform at Shraddhanjali Kanan (a park here) on December 27," she said.

Elise wants to complete the construction of the dormitory in the dry season. The Academy will, however, have to get clearance from the ministry of home affairs to accept donations from foreign sources under Foreign Contribution Regulations Act (FCRA).

"Once the donor gives us a commitment letter, we will apply for FCRA clearance but it takes some time," Teron said.