Ashraya Initiative for Children, Inc.

The Ashraya Initiative for Children (AIC) is dedicated to improving the lives and shaping the futures of vulnerable children in Pune, India by advancing educational opportunities, nurturing holistic development and building healthy, empowered communities. AIC has shown throughout its organizational life a deep and unwavering commitment to serving some of the most vulnerable populations in India. Its organizational approach has been community-centered and bottom-up from the onset. AIC has developed in conjunction with the community and formed deep and lasting relationships with all of the families with whom it works. In the last five years, AIC has built a network of intertwined services ...

Ashraya Initiative for Children, Inc.
9 Sparrow Crest
% Elizabeth Sholtys
Ithaca, New York 14850
United States
6072412611
http://www.ashrayainitiative.org

Board of Directors

Mary Kay Hazel, Elizabeth C Sholtys, Bunty A Pai, Mithun Mukherjee, Julia Neubauer, Jillian Dumas, Virginia A Fitt, Judith Eckl

Project Leaders

Elizabeth Sholtys

Mission

The Ashraya Initiative for Children (AIC) is dedicated to improving the lives and shaping the futures of vulnerable children in Pune, India by advancing educational opportunities, nurturing holistic development and building healthy, empowered communities. AIC has shown throughout its organizational life a deep and unwavering commitment to serving some of the most vulnerable populations in India. Its organizational approach has been community-centered and bottom-up from the onset. AIC has developed in conjunction with the community and formed deep and lasting relationships with all of the families with whom it works. In the last five years, AIC has built a network of intertwined services and programs designed to address children's holistic needs, with an eye toward their immediate needs and a commitment to their long-term futures.

Programs

AIC works in collaboration with a registered nonprofit in India (Bhatke Vimukt Jati va Adivasi Dnyanpeeth, abbreviated as BVJAD) to run its programs. While AIC's work in India falls under the legal ownership of BVJAD, its activities are 100% funded by AIC and its programs are administered by AIC's On-Site Directors in accordance with the plans and decisions made by AIC's Board of Directors. AIC's activities are divided into four distinct yet interconnected programs: a Residential Program, an Education Outreach Program, a Health Outreach Program and a Community Outreach Program. Each of these programs contributes toward AIC's broader goal of providing opportunities, resources and support for vulnerable children in Pune, India. The Residential Program was started to address the fact that there are an estimated 18 million street children in India, many of whom lack stable families and shelters. AIC's Residential program provides an alternative to the ineffective strategies of many government programs, as it is devoted to the holistic care and individual needs of each child in the program. The program provides a permanent family for 13 (and an eventual maximum of 15) children, all of whom are enrolled in high-quality, private English-medium schools and also study Hindi and Marathi. Each day the children participate in supplementary study sessions at the home. A live-in caregiver and program director (also a live-in position) act as stable parental figures, while international and local volunteers lead the study time, extracurricular activities, Global Affairs sessions, computer lessons, social service projects and other opportunities to enrich the Residential children's growth and development. In the past six years, the Residential Program has grown into a cohesive and supportive family. In the process of creating the Residential Program, AIC cultivated a unique connection to a neighboring slum area in the Yerawada community in Pune. This area is home to the Waghri and Sikligar communities, which are Denotified (formerly "Criminal") Tribes and systematically oppressed castes. These populations have difficulty accessing external aid, face ongoing discrimination and remain well below the poverty line, with households of 10 to 12 people living off of less than $1 a day. AIC's ongoing commitment to providing opportunities for street children led to the creation of AIC's Education Outreach Program. In order to address the prevailing lack of education among children in the Waghri and Sikligar slums, AIC enrolls children in school, supports their educations, and provides the resources for them to stay off the streets and continue their studies through the Education Outreach Program. This program serves 250 children daily, providing meals, uniforms, transportation, school supplies, and afterschool tutoring to make sure that the children have all of the necessary tools to succeed. In the five short years since this program's inception, the demand for this program has grown enormously. Unfortunately, poor children are often unable to remain in school, let alone succeed academically, when faced with economic pressures and stress caused by health problems that are largely preventable, such as a parent's battle with tuberculosis. AIC's Health Outreach Program works with Waghri and Sikligar families and assists them in accessing proper and adequate medical care. AIC not only sponsors life-saving medical procedures and employs three full-time health workers to accompany community members to visits with doctors and specialists all over Pune, but also provides routine medical 'camps' (mass screenings), Mommy-Baby classes to teach young mothers about their babies' needs and development, as well as preventative care seminars to complement the program's palliative medicine component. These seminars include topics and activities that were designed for these particular communities, such as basic hygiene, reproductive and sexual health, nutrition, domestic abuse, prenatal care, substance abuse and first aid. Finally, AIC's Community Outreach Program consists of a myriad of activities aimed to facilitate the holistic development of the Waghri and Sikligar communities. The vast majority of Waghri and Sikligar adults are illiterate and are unable to secure employment as members of Denotified Tribes due to pervasive discrimination against them. In collaboration and partnership with community members, AIC has developed microfinance opportunities for Waghri and Sikligar women, legal advocacy assistance, adult literacy classes and vocational programs such as a three-tiered tailoring training program, motorcycle and mobile phone repair classes and hospitality service certification. The Community Outreach Program addresses the family unit as a whole and strives to empower community members to utilize available resources to make a difference in their children's lives and their own lives. This program is AIC's newest, but is rapidly growing and being shaped by the community's needs and aspirations.

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