There was a huge excitement over the fact that Liz & Julia (founders of AIC) got - our oldest boy at AIC- Akash into this exclusive summer camp program in the U.S. at Exeter Academy. The school even gave him a full scholarship into their (very expensive) program, and an AIC donor offered to pay for his round trip ticket. This all happened back in January/February, and it was such a big deal that he was accepted, it's a very difficult program to get into. He was so excited. Every time we spoke he would ask questions about the U.S. and what to expect, he loved talking about it. I remember telling him about how in the US we don't have dogs running around wild like in India. He thought that was so strange, he said "Well then where are all the dogs?" I said, "Mostly people own them, as pets, they are loved and cared for." I told him "The ones that don't have homes go into animal shelters until they're adopted." This concept was so foreign to him and fascinating. I was explaining traffic laws, and how you can't just cross the street in the U.S. where ever you want like in India. How everything is going to be very clean, and no trash on the ground (mostly). It was like describing heaven....a dreamland to him.
He was beyond excited. Akash has never really been outside of Pune, let alone India. Everyone was so excited for this to happen for him. I couldn't wait for him to return to India after his time in the U.S. and give the other kids hope too. It would be good to give the other kids here some dreams to wish for in their own future. With their backgrounds, even though they live in this house and go to school and get fed everyday, it's hard to keep a hope alive that there is something actually better than this out there. That there is something more than just being fed and having a roof over your head. I really thought this trip with Akash would light their imaginations afire....give them the reality of what's possible for them. Help build their aspirations and give some real motivation.
It's extremely hard for an average Indian to get an American visa. Unlike U.S. citizens who can basically travel anywhere "visa-free", Indians cannot go anywhere without visas. Just getting Akash's birth certificates took months, City Hall here is ridiculously corrupt and refused to give any birth certificate to a slum kid unless bribes were paid (only way to get things done here). After finally receiving the passport, it was sent to the U.S. Consulate in Mumbai for the visa, where ultimately it was denied. Basically, because he is a slum boy. They won't send him to the U.S. for fear he'll just run off and never come back.
When I watch this it makes me cry. I guess because I know Akash and how excited he was. He doesn't talk to me about not getting his visa because he is still really upset about it. It really breaks my heart.
It was originally supposed to be done as a "Slum boy gets dream of going to the U.S." type of news piece, however they changed the story after his visa was denied.