Student helps India’s disabled

Frances Ue will become a literary ambassador this summer when she travels to India to teach the disabled.
Frances Ue will become a literary ambassador this summer when she travels to India to teach the disabled.
Photo courtesy of Frances Ue

On July 2, Frances Ue, ArtSci ’06, will be at home in Toronto. On July 3, she will be in India, where she will live and work for three weeks at a school for disabled children in the village of Veranasi, west of Delhi.

Ue, a third year Life Sciences student, was one of seven Canadians selected to take part in World Literacy of Canada’s Youth Overseas Program.

“I hope to gain a new perspective,” Ue said. “I’ve never been outside of North America and I don’t really know what poverty is like.

“You can’t be passionate about a cause until you experience it for yourself.”

World Literacy of Canada is a registered charity that works to promote literacy in Canada, Nepal, Sri Lanka and India.

Ue will develop and implement educational programs for disabled children in the Veranasi school.

“There are 23 kids between the ages of six and 29 with varying levels of disabilities,” she said. “We have a lot of leeway [with programming] so we will do arts activities, music, science . . . more of a camp-based experience.”

The school was started last year by Artana and Anil Rani, who run the school out of their home. It is the only educational facility in the village.

Ue has been attending training sessions with the Canadian International Development Association.

“They teach us how to prepare for culture shock and the environment,” Ue said. “For example, women do not have the same rights [as in Canada]—how would we deal with that?”

Ue said the personal privacy taken for granted by Canadians is non-existent in India.

“In Canada we have a bubble around us,” she said. “In India it is a community based culture and [there is] not much opportunity to be alone.”

Ue has also been learning Hindi. None of the students in Veranasi speak English.

“I started two days ago,” she said. “I’ll be fine as long as I get a couple of key phrases.

“They want us to teach them English,” she said.

International Development is an area of interest for Ue, and a possible career path.

“I’ve always been really interested in international development,” Ue said. “I’m interested in getting involved with implementing different health care structure systems [in developing countries].”

Ue said her experience working with disabled children at the Ontario Science Centre and her extra-curricular and volunteer involvement, including sitting on the model UN and the AMS volunteer committee, improved her chances of landing the volunteer position.

“Since high-school I’ve always loved being involved,” she said. “You get to network and it opens doors to other volunteer opportunities.”

Ue hopes to start a World Literacy Canada chapter at the University when she returns from India.

She is currently fundraising to help cover the cost of the placement and to procure materials for the school. She also received funding from the faculty of Arts and Science and the Life Sciences department, but is preparing to cover most of the cost herself.

—With files from

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