Hygiene, health and helping out

schandler@newsobserver.comJune 30, 2013 

As Nupur Jain’s family was planning a trip to see relatives in India last summer, she saw a chance to make doing some good part of her vacation.

During her two months in India, Nupur, a rising senior at Enloe High School in Raleigh, worked with children at Mother Teresa’s Home for Abandoned Children, an orphanage in Secunderabad, India, to help them understand the link between good hygiene and good health.

The project earned her the Gold Award, Girl Scouting’s highest achievement, but that wasn’t her only motivation.

“I thought it would be a great opportunity, since I was going to be there, to do something to get involved with this organization that my family is involved in,” she said. Nupur’s grandparents live in India, and they donate food to the orphanage every year on Nupur’s great-grandfather’s birthday, Nupur said.

Her grandparents’ relationship with the orphanage – as well as their language skills – helped pave the way for her to spend several days there working with doctors and the nuns who run the facility and getting to know the children.

During her visit, she presented a slideshow to the kids about how hygiene can keep them healthy, and she collected donations from stores and her grandparents’ friends in India to buy supplies to back up her cause.

“They had learned a little about hygiene,” she said, “but I think they didn’t understand the importance of it and how, like, washing your hands for a certain amount of time really affects your healthiness.”

Once she got back home to Apex, the orphanage was still on Nupur’s mind, so she spoke about her experience to Enloe’s student council and Key Club, Apex’s town council and her fellow Girl Scouts in Troop 1842. After spreading the word about the orphanage’s needs, Nupur was able to collect several boxes of toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo and other personal hygiene items to ship back to Secunderabad.

“If you can explain your cause to people and get people interested in it, it’s really easy to get a lot of people involved,” Nupur said.

The shipment was acknowledged with a thank you note from the orphanage, she said.

“They would like to receive these donations every year,” she said. “They’re making really good use out of them, and I hope the kids have learned a lot from it.”

In her 10 years of Girl Scouting, Nupur has done lots of service projects, but this one, she said, was a little different – and not just because it took place 8,000 miles from home.

“I’ve done a lot of other projects before, but I think this one was something I really enjoyed personally because I was able to get a firsthand experience with the kids and talk to them and work with a team of people,” she said. “So that part was really awesome. I got to see what I was doing actually have an effect.”

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