Not just your average teenager – this 17-year old is a Community Youth Leader!
Seventeen-year old Swetha is from a small slum community in the South Indian city of Mysore, Karnataka. The AJ Block in Gandhinagar that Swetha calls home houses many families like hers. Swetha’s 5 person family survives on just just 6,000 Rupees a month, the equivalent of $98 USD, and the combined income of both of her parents.
Swetha first came in contact with Magic Bus in 2011 when she was 15 years old. Her mentors, or Community Youth Leaders, nurtured Swetha through a learning curve that covered the importance of education, healthy behavior, and instilling the confidence and skills needed to lead a life that is in no way lesser than her male peers. This is a challenge since her community is one that strongly discriminates against girls.
In just 2 years with Magic Bus, Swetha has seen her and her community's views change rapidly, giving her the belief that she herself, can be a changemaker. With the help of Magic Bus as support, she finishd high school and then set her goals on becoming a Magic Bus Community Youth Leader herself. She has since enrolled and is proud to say that she's paying it forward, undergoing intensive training designed to show her how to apply the Magic Bus curriculum with children from her community.
“Swetha has been volunteering with Magic Bus for almost a year now,” says her mother, who works as a domestic helper. “The drastic changes I have seen in her from the time she joined –- in the way she talks, handles life’s challenges, takes active steps to do good -- brings me so much hope. I am no longer alone; I feel she has taken over the responsibility of bettering this family’s future. It feels like a weight has been removed from my back.”
Swetha’s father is battling alcoholism, a problem that affects many men in the AJ Block area. With her newfound confidence, Swetha engages with her father daily, helping him break his addiction. She also makes sure her younger brothers take education as seriously as she does.
“I learned not just about education, gender equality, but also things like how to control your emotions and plan for a more ambitious future,” says Swetha. “If I could overcome all of the obstacles in my life, I know others can too!”
As of today, Swetha is studying hard to gain admission into a local college, which would make her the first college student in her entire family.
Swetha is one of the beneficiaries of the GlobalGiving campaign "Create 4000 high school graduates in India."
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