Jeff Warner PHOTOGRAPHIC, Golden, Colorado, USA

Thursday, October 13, 2011

10/13/11: Homestay Day #3: The $100 Solution

Mahdu and I got out first thing in the morning to pick up Heidi at the port, and returned to a lavish South Indian breakfast, including the best (red) curried shrimp I’ve ever had in my life. Rao and Heidi hit it off instantly as I knew they would, and after breakfast I suggested Rao tell Heidi how his typical day begins, from which materialized a very in-depth conversation about the nature of spirituality, in various religions. Rao is an amazing guy, and so far all of the Rotarians have been very giving people, perhaps obvious to anyone familiar with Rotary Clubs in the US. Malathy and Rao wanted to give Heidi a sari on condition that she wear it all day, and I received from Rao the male Indian equivalent, which we both wore for the rest of the day. Malathy brought out a beautiful pearl necklace and matching earrings for Heidi to wear, and Sujathe came over to help Heidi don the sari, not a simple process considering the 12-meter long piece of cloth. With a bindi on her forehead and fragrant jasmine flowers in her hair for the finishing touch, Heidi looked like an Indian princess.

Kartic and Sujathe came, and we proceeded to a wonderful but hurried Indian lunch, as we were due to arrive at Bhaktavatsalam Vidyashram school for the boys’ service learning project. We first sat with the school principal to hear about the school, then moved to a large classroom where the school’s Interactor Club was assembled for us. Interactors are essentially a Rotary Club of school age kids, and and a few college-age Rotaractors attended as well. Once the kids officially started up the meeting, they allowed Krishnan to speak about our endeavor, being a Rotary Club member. 

Krishnan introduced the boys and I, and we led off with Tate telling the ‘Starfish Story’ from the $100 Solution website, followed by Reade addressing the differences between donating, volunteering, and service learning. In particular, The $100 Solution’s approach incorporates five key aspects to service learning: Teamwork, Reciprocity, Capacity Building, Sustainability, and Reflection. I then gave some insight as to how we became interested in the endeavor, explaining how my lack of international travel experience coupled with taking the boys around the world led me to read dozens of previous SAS students’ blogs for some perspective on the places we’d travel to. I had started to question how Heidi and I would explain the social injustices we’d see while travelling, while by necessity not allowing people on the street to convince us to give them money, or anything else for that matter. How do you explain to barely decade-old kids that giving a child in India an apple could lead to the kid getting overrun by others as hungry as him or her? Anyway, I’d run across some information on the SAS website about Dr. Bernie Strenecky’s The $100 Solution service learning course, and emailed him nearly 6 months ago to see if Reade and Tate could somehow be involved. That ultimately led to them being the first school-age children ever to implement a $100 Solution, which I had previously suggested become a pilot project to evaluate the feasibility of implementation by dependent children on future SAS voyages. Over the past several months I’ve spent hours adapting The $100 Solution’s college-level course module outlines into content that can be taught to school-age children, with the help of both Dr. Strenecky, and Amanda English of Western Kentucky University, one of his students who is on the Board of The $100 Solution.


Anyway, after giving the group of mostly teens the background information, they broke up into two groups to come up with some ideas that, from their perspective, would benefit their community in a sustainable way. They served us wonderful samosas and tea in the interim, and Reade and Tate sat with each group to listen to their discussions. These kids were bright and organized, clearly used to using cogent thought process as a guideline to effect an outcome. Very impressive to watch, and I became fully aware of why Krishnan had chosen this venue for this case study for The $100 Solution organization.

After 20 minutes, we reconvened, and the two Interactor Presidents communicated the results of the two groups. Ideas included mosquitoe-netting, sewing machines, cloth shopping bags in the interest of decreasing the use of plastic ones, a water purifier for an orphanage, etc. Reade and Tate and I then sat down for 5 or 10 minutes, and we talked about the ideas, and I asked them each what they thought. After some discussion, the boys and I came to the conclusion that the ‘Cloth Shopping Bag’ idea did indeed meet the five criteria of The $100 Solution, and it was a budding idea of the school’s that they needed help getting off the ground. Reade and Tate then presented the two Interactor Presidents with one crisp U.S. $100 bill, took some pictures, and chatted with some of the Rotoractors that had come to help out.

All in all it was a very, very positive experience for the boys, and we’ve since talked a bit about how they might want to sustain the effort once they get home to Colorado. They also really like the sewing machine idea, and perhaps we will try to implement that one in the future, perhaps with the help and input of their schoolmates.

Mahdu returned us home, and we took a walk to Anna Nagar park with Malathy, followed by another wonderful dinner at their home. As this was our last day with them, we packed up and began to say our goodbyes, at which point Malathy refused to allow Heidi to give back the pearl necklace and earrings she had adorned her with. Rao presented us with a beautiful wooden image of Ganesh, one of the Hindu gods, and we presented them with our relatively meek-seeming gifts we’d gotten them in Mauritius, in addition to a Molly the Owl book for their future grandchildren. :)

Our time in their home was a true gift that cannot possibly be adequately described here, and we sincerely hope that they will visit us in Colorado in the future.


  1. Heidi wrote that your presentations went well, and it was great to hear about them in more detail from you. I imagine that this experience gives the boys a whole new outlook on the money they have given and will be giving to charitable causes. In this case they truly got to see how the money will be used and the impact that it will have.

  2. BTW, Heidi looked beautiful in her sari and you looked quite dashing yourself!


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