At the age of 48, Udaya had never even seen a school. She spent her days walking the forests, gathering fruits to sell in the markets of the surrounding cities in order to make a living. Her time was consumed by her efforts of wandering the woods to find sufficient supplies and then traveling to various cities with the hopes of selling enough so that she can go out and do it all again the next day.
One day a local literacy teacher invited Udaya to class. That day, Udaya attended school for the first time in her life. While she showed up to class with excitement and eagerness, Udaya’s body and mind needed a bit of time to catch up. She had to train her hands that were used to picking fruit to hold chalk instead. And rather than distinguishing one tree from the next, Udaya’s mind needed to learn the nuances of the alphabet—and not just one, but several! Her adept years in the forest and the patience and compassion of her teacher paid off, and Udaya diligently studied every alphabet. Soon she could write her own name, and it brought great joy to her and her classmates!
School became a place of transformation for Udaya. Not only did she learn numbers and letters, but she gained an appreciation for housework! She was motivated to take pride in her home and herself, keeping her physical and spiritual spaces clean. She learned new skills every day that added to her ability to thrive as a member of her community. Most importantly, Udaya gained friendship with God and her classmates. She now had people to share with and to listen to. They helped each other with school, encouraging learning and perseverance, but they also supported one another through life’s trials and triumphs.
Names and images have been changed to protect the privacy of individuals.