Pratim, Archana, Sara, Som and Anita at Keystone, Kotagiri are getting ready to work with our colleagues in Cornell, Ithaca to launch the first course in January 2015. It’s cold here in Kotagiri but it’s getting warmer for us as we think of January 19th2015.

Word has been going around for sometime now in Keystone about the NFLC. In 2013 we at Keystone presented the dream of the NFLC at a staff meeting and asked area managers to be on the look for candidates. In 2014 October we meet with the Tribal Advisory Council of Keystone Foundation to share the details of the course. We ask each area and its leaders to nominate suitable candidates.

December 1st is our interview date and the area leaders have selected 10 candidates from various regions and communities. Again to the 10 we start by sharing the NFLC story and go into a discussion about it. People’s questions and expectations were talked about.

Post lunch of the same day we met with them individually for 15 mins each. It was a time of great learning for us. We enjoyed the interviews as each one spoke easily with us. One who was shy opened up as soon as we started to talk of honey hunting. Another spoke in the gentlest voice about his mother who “even scolds only gently”.  Yet another spoke of the hopes to learn English, to meet and learn about people from lands that cannot be fathomed. Many spoke about discussions that were on with family especially since the course would require that they live here in Kotagiri for most of the time. Leaving behind spouses, children and grandparents – a mother tells of her plans to buy a new chess board and a carom board so that when she is away the children don’t demand too much of their grandmother’s time.

Keystone NFLC  Team1Our interviewees gave up school because they couldn’t afford it in terms of time and money. But we could see in each one the intense wish to learn something new. We were humbled by the efforts of one of them who has been organising a tuition center in the village so that the children could get help with their homework and prepare for the tests. We were inspired to meet all these people who have given back to life much more than what they have received and they are all below 30 years of age!

We have selected seven of them and strengthened our resolve to work even more closely to be able to meet the aspirations of these people. We were quite sure that each of us was going to learn a lot more than we had anticipated.

An initiation program is being planned between 10th and 12th December. We may consider if we need a second one before we start in January.  We brainstorm on what we would start with in our session and we all felt it was important to get to know each other and become friends. We plan to talk about Geography and Governance. We also plan to do a English conversation, comprehension and writing session.  Each subject will be handled with activities, reading material, writing tasks and movies or presentations. As group assignments we plan asking the group to make a bio profile of each person-either through video, audio or pictures. We are excited and gearing up in cold but sunny Kotagiri.


Anita Varghese