Oneonta Sister City Celebrates 10th Anniversary in India

ashok malhotra

Ashok Malhotra

The Ninash Foundation is a 501 (c) (3) charity that has been promoting literacy among the underprivileged children by opening schools in India since 1996. In 2000, Oneonta Mayor Kim Muller in cooperation with the Ninash Foundation signed a declaration proclaiming Oneonta (USA) and Dundlod (India) as sister cities.

Marking the 10th year anniversary of the Oneonta-Dundlod sister cities project, Ashok Malhotra (ISI 63-69), Distinguished Teaching Professor of Philosophy and Linda Drake, Director of Center for Social Responsibility and Community at SUNY Oneonta, traveleld to India. Their group consisted of six Oneontans and two faculty members from Belmont University, Nashville. They visited the Ninash Foundation’s six Indo-International Schools in India: an elementary and a high school in each of the three remote villages of Dundlod (Rajasthan), Mahapura (Rajasthan) and Kuran (Gujarat), which were built with the help of the participants of the SUNY Oneonta “Learn and Serve” program.

The group visited the first Indo-International School in Dundlod, which started in 1996 with 50 underprivileged children, has now grown to 550 students. Combining the celebrations of the 15th Anniversary of the school and the10th Anniversary of the sister cities project, the children performed music, dances and plays to entertain the guests from India and the USA. The celebration was further augmented by the news that 10 students from the Dundlod Indo-International School had completed their studies and were going to the college of their choice.

The Ninash Foundation, through the generous donations of individuals and organizations globally and locally, provided funds to the Dundlod High School to construct two new class rooms and an office. To provide the children the richness of the Indian and Western cultural heritage, one of the class rooms will be named as the Jack Finestone Music Room and the other as Hari Chand Chopra Culture Room. These rooms will be used for classes to provide music, stories and other cultural enrichment programs.

One of the side highlights of the trip was the giving away of 50 dairy goats to the poorest of poor people of Dundlod by Linda. This “joy of giving” was made possible by the kind-heartedness of the children and teachers of the Riverside Elementary School, Oneonta, New York, who participated in the “Kiss the Goat Project” during December, 2010 to raise money for 27 goats. The remaining funds for 23 goats were generously donated by the members of the Oneonta colleges and local community. During the past 5 years, as part of the sister cities project, children and teachers from the Oneonta City Schools District and the members of the Oneonta community have donated 153 goats to provide dairy products to at least 600 members of the Dundlod community. An un-matched feat of compassion and generosity that is a part of the Oneonta-Dundlod sister cities project since 2000!

The group started the New Year’s Eve by celebrating the 10th Anniversary of the Ninash’s building of the second Indo-International School in Kuran, Gujarat, an area which was completely devastated by an earthquake in 2001. The Ninash group was greeted by the members of the village government, local community, teachers and 280 students, who entertained by performing dances, music and short skits in four different languages. The entertainment provided by the Indian and Western musicians was followed by a delightful fire display.

On the New Year’s Day, the group inaugurated a mobile library funded by the Ninash Foundation. They also dedicated a garden with flowering bushes and a tree in memory of Dr. Douglas Shrader, SUNY Oneonta Distinguished Teaching Professor, who had selflessly given time to be a voice over for the Ninash’s video, which helped raise funds in half a dozen countries. Similar memorial gardens are planned in the other Indo-International schools during this year.

ninash foundation logoThe Ninash group also visited the third Indo-International Culture School in Mahapura where they were greeted with leis and flowers by more than 270 enthusiastic children and teachers. Since the school is moving towards becoming a high school, it highlighted its accomplishments by showing its four newly built rooms to accommodate classes up to the 9th grade, new toilets and an eco-friendly garden. In addition, it displayed stained glass art done by the two newly hired art teachers in the John Koller and Mimi Forman Artisan Wing. As part of preserving the culture of India, children entertained the group by presenting poems, plays, dances and music on topics ranging from India’s linguistic diversity and global warming to education as a human right. The inside and outside of every classroom was decorated with paintings and art work, which was a joy to behold. Along with the Ninash group, a number of Indian and foreign guests were invited to enjoy the entertainment presented by the children.

Ninash’s six Indo-International schools are dedicated to educating more than 1100 underprivileged (female and minority) children of India. The schools have been making a genuine economic and cultural impact in the three villages where they are located. They have become the hubs of educational and social change; a model for the rest of rural India. All this exciting progress has been made possible by the generous donations of individuals and organizations from all over the world.