Each year we provide all the students with a new school bag at the start of the school year. This is necessary as many bags aren´t made strongly enough in India and have a habit of falling apart within a few months. However, we try and buy smart and spend a little more with the idea that a bag should last a year of normal use. But as well as poor quality control, the bags do have a hard life during the monsoon and then have harsh sunlight for the remainder of the school year.
Bags also have a hard life as the children wash their bags at the river when they get dirty so even the children who try to keep their bag in good order still tend to wear them out by washing them on the washing stone, and we haven´t even mentioned the rats that often take nibbles out of the bags and the other 101 mini disasters that might happen in the slums.
This year we thought it would be a good idea to collect in all of last year´s bags and see how well they have weathered. Each of the children was asked to return last years´ bag, or if they wanted to keep it they could donate 100 rs. In lieu. The idea for this is three fold.
1. The returned bags can be checked over to see if one particular company´s bags have lasted better than another,
2. All bags that can be used again can be washed and given to other needy children who aren´t part of our core group, and
3. We make sure that the children are using their bags and not giving to siblings (or older siblings taking them).
So far this year we have collected 41 old bags and most of them have been in pretty good condition. So we have thrown them into the washing machine and given them a good clean, the best ones have been set aside and will be given out to other children from poor families who are in need.
So far 30 have been given out to children from Chimbel and a few to local children who were extras we couldn´t afford to help this year.
When more bags are returned for restoration they will be re-issued to other children who have a need.