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By Janet and Bill Kramer
This past summer, Janet and Bill Kramer had the opportunity to visit with Anne Janeway, the first School Sponsorship Program Coordinator, at her lovely Vermont cabin in the woods. She generously shared stories of her past, exclaiming at one point, “Wow…I was lucky to have really interesting work.”
When she was 23, Anne Janeway fulfilled a dream she had nurtured since she was 12 years old: going to India. She was given an opportunity to be a teacher in a small primary school founded to provide an English medium education for the children of doctors and staff at the Christian Medical College of Vellore. For 15 months, she taught alongside three Indian teachers, and she chuckled while recalling her time there. “As the native English speaker, they thought I had all the answers – and, of course, I didn’t!” Still, it was an experience that deepened in Anne the importance of providing quality education to Indian children.
Anne Janeway (third from right) with recent School Sponsorship Coordinator Robin Walden (second from left) and Rowan Daligan from Maine, visiting with a sponsored student and his family.
At first, there was no English medium school available to village children in our area of Tamil Nadu. “It was Appa’s idea to build a school,” Anne said. “And the Europeans in our community already had an effective school sponsorship program. It felt natural for me to be involved in such a venture. I always had an interest in going to the villages. I loved seeing children in their homes and learning of their individual circumstances. Obviously, educational opportunity in an English medium school was essential to prepare them for the future. The idea was that the students could help bring up the life in their villages – and that mattered to me!”
“I loved seeing children in their homes …. educational opportunity in an English medium school was essential to prepare them for the future.”
The School Sponsorship Program in North America began in 1997. Anne immediately undertook the challenge of tasking community members to find enough sponsors for the 30 eligible students. That effort was successful and the second year, 30 new students and sponsors were added. Anne recruited from the American and Canadian communities – as well as family and friends. “We all had good hearts and good intentions,” she said. Still, it was not an easy request. “We were asking people to be sponsors for 10 years – and that’s a lot.”
In those early years, Anne kept meticulous handwritten ledgers in addition to sending out letters to sponsors and postcard reminders for payment. “I remember making those cards,” she said with a smile.
Sometimes sponsors came to her from unexpected places. Anne recalled one woman who worked in the local post office. “And she asked me, ‘What are these things you’re mailing all the time?’ And I told her and she said, ‘Well, I think we should sponsor a child because I have two daughters who are interested in India!’”
24 years after it began, the North American School Sponsorship program – with its emphasis on English medium education as a pathway for upliftment – is still going strong amidst the unique challenges wrought by the pandemic, particularly in-school vs. remote learning. These challenges are being met by school staff and administrators determined to see their students succeed. For them, as for Anne in her 14 years as the Sponsorship Program coordinator, it always comes back to the students. “Remember,” Anne said, “the most important thing is the children!”
“The idea was that the students could help bring up the life in their villages – and that mattered to me!”
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