Ten years back, nine-year old Gowri was the illiterate daughter of construction workers who had migrated to Mumbai to escape starvation in their native villages. The third of five daughters, she spent her day on the construction site minding her younger siblings while her father broke stones and her mother and older sister hauled the rubble to the site on baskets carried over their head. She knew that in a couple of years when she was strong enough to bear the burden, she would join the older women, and would continue working as long as she was able. Her parents often spoke of returning to their village ‘when times got better’, but Gowri knew that the day would never come- when landless peasants migrated to the city, they left their roots forever. All Gowri hoped for was that her family would find permanent employment for a construction season, instead of having to hire out their services as daily wage earners.
When a local charity started conducting basis literacy classes for children at the construction site itself, her parents were initially reluctant to let Gowri and her younger siblings go. ‘What did a girl need education for?’, was their query, ‘hadn’t they survived for centuries without it?’ They relented only when the social worker told them that the classes would be conducted in a safer part of the construction site and that they would take responsibility for the safety of the children during ‘school time’. Gowri had no idea what to expect from school, but she loved having her own piece of chalk with which she could mark lines on the blackboard. In a few months, she became functionally literate, and in a few years, she became the first in her family to enter secondary school.
After graduating from high school, Gowri took up a job with the charity that gave her a new direction in life. As a teacher, she conducts literacy classes for two groups of 40 children everyday. She is thrilled that she has the opportunity to mold young minds, as her teachers had molded her’s.
Her job lets her brings in a steady income- an income that has enabled her to move her entire family into a house more solid than the shack she grew up in. Her youngest sister is a brilliant student and dreams of becoming a doctor and starting a practice in the community. Gowri is saving up to ensure that her sister is able to pay her way through medical school.
But that is not enough for Gowri. She is enrolled in a night college, pursuing an undergraduate degree in Economics and Commerce. She dreams of becoming a lawyer and ensuring justice for people who cannot otherwise afford it.
Gowri and her younger sister would have been two more of the faceless thousands who live on the streets of Mumbai. Living at the poverty line, they would have been content with staying one step ahead of hunger and starvation. Instead, they aspire to become lawyers and doctors, and to help pull their entire community out of poverty.
It doesn’t cost much to change a life. All it took was a donation of $ 30 to send Gowri to school for a year. SeeYourImpact partner, Pratham, is conducting Urban Learning Programs to deliver basic education to children like Gowri. How many Starbucks coffees is that?
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About a month ago we discussed The Importance of Girls Education and highlighted two of our partners doing work with girls education in India as well as Africa. The post discussed the merits of Girls Education highlighting why it’s so essential to progress and lifting families out of poverty. The results really speak for themselves, lowered HIV/AIDS infection rates, lower child mortality rates, the list goes on and on. What I missed out on in that post are the barriers that prevent girls from receiving the education they so need and deserve. So what’s preventing girls from attending schools?
1. Inadequate Facilities – Sometimes it’s things that we don’t even think of, like toilets that prevent girls from attending school. It’s easier to stay home then face the embarrassment of not having a dedicated girls bathroom. Not having adequate sanitation facilities for girls can increase rates of absenteeism by 10-20%. Additionally, lack of proper facilities can leader to #2.
2. Absenteeism due to sickness – As UNICEF so aptly puts it “Safe water and adequate sanitation are as important to quality education as pencils, books and teachers.” Without basic needs such as clean water, proper food and sanitation girls are unable to avoid illness and disease. Missing a day of school here or there is one thing but when disease removes you for a months at a time it’s difficult to ever catch up.
3. Lack of Qualified Teachers – Learning can be difficult when teachers are absent (this can be helped by government inspection and the para-teacher concept). But for girls it’s important to have teachers they can relate to and work with and studies have shown that girls perform better when learning from female teachers.
4. Fear of Sexual Harassment - Laws have been enacted in India to prevent “obscene gestures, remarks, songs or recitations” towards women. Despite having laws in place it does not mean that sexual harassment has stopped. Parents sometimes fear sending their children to school because of fear of sexual harassment on the walk there and back.
These four problems are ones that can be solved. SeeYourImpact partner Pardada Pardadi is doing it already with their incredible program. Consider providing a student with a uniform or empowering a girl through education.
What are our barriers to girls education that we missed? Let us know in the comments!
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Navigating our front page you may notice that some of our gift options include the words “tuition” and “education”. After spending time receiving impact stories and learning more about the communities they serve the word “tuition” takes on new meaning. To me, seeing the term “tuition” on a gift only scratches the surface. It’s not just a gift of tuition, it’s a gift of opportunity for a girl or a boy, a chance to break the cycle of poverty and change a life. Education is a broad topic and each of our partners play an essential role in the local community they serve. Every area that a SeeYourImpact partner operates in has a different set of challenges and needs that are as unique as the students that attend the schools. In the fight to end poverty, education can not be underestimated as an incredible tool that challenges adversity and breaks down barriers. I want to use today’s post to turn the spotlight on a partner we have been working with that has been particularly inspiring to me.
Shoshit Seva Sangh, provides educational opportunities to a group called the Musahar. A sub-group of the Dalit (traditionally known as the untouchables) the Musahar live predominantly in the Indian state of Bihar. Their name translates literally to “rat-eaters”(musa = rat, ahar = diet). Historically, the Musahar lived simply off resources from the forest but as forests were nationalized and an agricultural economy took over the Musahar found themselves working as bonded laborers for the landed class. In exchange for their work of clearing rats from the fields the landowners would allow them to take them home as food. For the landless food deprived Musahar the rats provide much needed protein. Despite the caste system being declared illegal in India the lives of the Musahar remain stuck in a vicious cycle of poverty. Our partner Shoshit Seva Sangh is breaking this system of poverty through education.
Shoshit Seva Sangh has established a school, Shoshit Samadhan Kendra, which is free and English language based. The school provides educational opportunities to the children of the Musaharie community. The $25 that pays for two weeks of school is not a simple gift that provides tuition rather it opens a door to a life of opportunity and meaning. The impact stories that we receive back from our partner in the field are simply inspiring. I strongly encourage you to look into only Shoshit Seva Sangh and our other educational partners. I think you’ll be inspired by the stories of the students and may even look at the word tuition and watch it change into opportunity right before your eyes.
Has your life been changed by education? Tell us how in the comments below!
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As I got out of the car, all I could hear was the roaring cheer of children running outside of the gates of Amar Jyoti School. A school that was founded on creating an integrated learning environment for children from low-income backgrounds, as well as, children with disabilities. As we looked amongst the children, who was poor or who was disabled was hard to distinguish. All I could see were smiling faces and sparkling eyes beaming with hope. Children having fun and sharing their laughter with one another. I have spent a lot of time visiting schools in urban and rural india, going to villages across the country, seeing incredible examples of socio-economic change being made by various organizations, but very few compare to the work being done by Amar Jyoti.
As someone who worked with SeeYourImpact last year for 6 months, I had learned about the great work of Amar Jyoti and Dr. Uma Tuli-ji. I heard numerous stories and saw several pictures taken by my fellow SYI colleagues on the amazing sights and sounds they experienced in their visit. Although frankly, no pictures or stories can adequately describe the incredible impact Amar Jyoti has made in the lives of children and families. It’s only once you make the visit, does one really get it.
Amar Jyoti is not just a school, but rather, it is a holistic center that includes a school, vocational training, full-service hospital, a canteen that serves home-cooked food to the children, library, computer lab and other such facilities. It provides students with the necessary support infrastructure to not only have a sound education, but also acquire vocational skills that will help make them immediately employable. In particular, I was most impressed by the following three things:
1. The deep integration of students low-income backgrounds and disabilities. The value of this integration helps to instill empathy and compassion in kids at a very early age thereby, providing the opportunity have a much more compassionate and accepting society in the long run.
2. Second, I absolutely was thrilled to see Amar Jyoti providing school education, as well as, vocational studies in an expanse of areas including: computer / hardware repair, paper-bag making, embroidery / sewing, among others. In India, 90M students graduate with unemployable skills; Amar Jyoti’s focus on integrated education and vocational training helps provide a platform for sustainable development for children coming from underserved communities is what will help break the poverty trap that much of India still lives in.
3. Last, but certainly not least, Amar Jyoti has built a facility complete with the necessary medical infrastructure to take care of the children’s healthcare needs, including limb replacements; for absolutely free of cost. This facility is not only available to Amar Jyoti’s students, but to any disabled child who comes to their facility across India in need of a new limb or medical attention. Such complete care given with a generous, open heart is so heartwarming and just adds to the exceptional impact of Amar Jyoti.
Amar Jyoti is an extraordinary organization and operates at a level above the majority of organizations I’ve come across in India. The compassion and care for students to support them along their journey is truly unique and I am convinced that with such organizations in existence, India has the opportunity to provide a more inclusive society for all members of the community.
I’d like to sincerely thank Dr. Tuli-ji and Sundari for their gracious hospitality and for their generous time in giving us an in-depth tour of Amar Jyoti and for sharing with their wisdom, learnings and vision. Amar Jyoti has really touched me and I can’t express the gratitude and humility that resides in my heart after seeing Dr. Tuli-ji’s vision in action. As now a believer, I’d also like to thank the entire donor community that has supported Amar Jyoti throughout the years for giving a platform of hope and growth for underserved communities across India.
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Chauhan Shatru is from Mehsana District, where his family of six live in a small house. When he was young he had an accident and injured his eyes making it hard for him to read and write. His father is a farmer and his mother is a house-wife. He loves dancing in his free time . He would like to become a teacher in the future, specializing in the Gujarati Language. Thanks Amit for providing the Low Vision Kit to Shatru.
The Blind Peoples Association is making a difference in the lives of the visually impaired in India! Find out more!
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Dappu Bai and her husband Jagannath live in Munj Ka Pura a remote village in Rajasthan. Jagannth is a Priest. He visits neighboring villages on his bicycle to perform prayer ceremonies during festivals.
In order to complete nightly prayers, Dappu and Jagannath used an oil lamp, which costs $3 a month to run. As their total income is about $12 to $15 a month, they are happy to have received a light, which not only illuminates much better but saves a significant portion of their income. They say thank you to Susan who donated the Solar Lantern and they are praying for her prosperity and good health.
Learn more about giving solar energy to a family in need! click here
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Despite having no father and a low family income, Vaishnavi has always been a dreamer. Vaishnavi is a 4 year old little girl studying in Kindergarten at Isha Vidhya school in Tamil Nadu, India. She has one brother and her mother works as a craft shop helper, earning a salary of 2200 rupees (~$45)/month. They all live with Vaishnavi’s grandparents. She is excellent in school, and especially enjoys sports and extra curricular activities. She dreams of taking her family to live in the country, but she can only do this with a great education! Thank you Sivasankaran for your support of Vaishnavi’s dreams!
Support a child like Vaishnavi today at Isha Vidhya!
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SeeYourImpact is a charity network that cost-effectively enables donors to give small, life changing lifts to people in need through carefully vetted charitable organizations and directly see the impact of their donations.
Our partner charities that support education are about far more than classes and homework. Sponsoring the tuition of a child often means providing them lodging, meals, uniforms, vocational training and medical care. When you support a student at Amar Jyoti school, you also support an integrated educational environment (50% of their students are mentally or physically handicapped) that teaches equality and respect for all its students.
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Notes from the Field, January 2010
In January I visited the Blind People’s Association (BPA), a See Your Impact partner organization located in the Indian state of Gujarat. The most rewarding part of my visit was meeting Gaguben and seeing the impact BPA had on her life. Gaguben is just one success story, but there are countless people whose lives have been transformed by the good work of dedicated, transparent NGOs in the field. However, a vital component of her story is missing: how did Gaguben find out about the free cataract surgeries offered by BPA? Providing services is just the first step for many organizations whose target populations live in rural areas. Connecting people in need to the services being provided is a major obstacle for some of our partners. Not all children go to school, not all adults work regular jobs, not all families have access to transportation. If you want to help as many people as possible, how do you reach them?
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Notes from the field: November 2009
To take advantage of opportunity is a privilege. I learned this first-hand when I visited Manjakuddi village in Tamil Nadu, home of the Padma Industrial School. Most of the local people make their living as “farmer coolies” or agricultural laborers. The work is inconsistent and the pay is low. Everyone in the family who can work does work. The AIM for Seva school that forms the cornerstone of Manjakuddi village sees a high drop out-of rate amongst young men, who leave school to pursue employment. Secondary education is a privilege they simply cannot afford.
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