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Nirmala solves her problem

A laundry business in India
A laundry business in India
Carol Stigger

Most winters, I am in India working with a community development organization. This winter, I am missing the Indian sun as I watch yet another snowstorm block my driveway. This has been a week of agony for my community as the school board forced a respected principal into resigning even after 1,000 students, teachers, and parents came to the board meeting to plead for the principal who changed our high school from an out-of-control nightmare to a place of order and learning.

To take a mental break from the disheartening decision that could very well send our school back to the dark ages, I remember India. The corruption that is so open there is also in my hometown = and in your hometown.It is just better hidden. I am trying to take a clue from Nirmala, the woman in the photo. She washes linens in her back yard for several hotels. She washes sheets in pots of boiling water and lye soap. She hangs the linens to dry. She uses the money she earns to pay her children's school fees. All she wants is enough money to educate them. And she works every day of the week.

I asked Nirmala what she wants, what she needs. "A drier," she said simply. "That way I can dry sheets when it rains and not lose a day's pay."

Thanks to a microcredit program in her community, she will get a loan for that drier. She will pay her loan off, and she will invest her increased earnings in her children's health and education.

Nirmala is a sensible woman. She has defined her problem, and she has found a way to solve it.

I am a sensible woman. I have uncovered serious problems in our local, elected officials. Nirmala would tell me to find a way to solve it.

I am trying. It is difficult for a poor woman like Nirmala to find a way to educate her children. But she stood up to a group of professionals and with no education, she made her case. And she won.

In my community 1,000 well educated people made a case for the school board to do what is right.

We were ignored. Board members texted while students poured their hearts out. The board looked and acted board. Power and greed won. The need to be "right" won. After all, we elected them.

Nirmala had her drier several weeks after I interviewed her. We have to wait one and two years to vote out certain members of our school board. I am glad Nirmala did not have to wait that long. In Nirmala, I find a happy ending.

Two days after the school board meeting, a kid shoved a gun in a teacher's face at the high school. The principal showed great courage in unarming him before anyone was hurt. According to the school board, our principal is still leaving. Perhaps our happy ending is that the next gun will malfunction.

Remembering Nirmala is keeping me warm this week.

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