After a long summer, we finally have monsoon rains bringing cool breeze in Vrindavan, India. This breeze is quite literally entering the lives of our girls who passed their 12th grade exams with flying colors last month. Our third batch, this time with 40 girls, is all set to explore the world. Very excited to finish their school, they are now looking forward to walking to the college to become graduates in the years to come.
The most exciting part is that some of these girls have also taken up part time jobs along with their college studies to support their families. They are making full use of their education and skills that they learnt at school. In this report we are going to tell you about these girls who are now contributing back to their families and to the society, making this project a success by Walking the Talk.
Neetu: She is an Odissi dancer, which she started learning at the school at a young age and since then she has been a part of various school programs charming the spectators with her graceful dance moves. Neetu is 21 years old. Her own determination and encouragement from the school helped her to pursue what she liked doing the most. She is proud of herself and aims to be a dance teacher so she can teach this very beautiful traditional dance form to many other girls like her. Neetu is now in college and along with that she does dance performances at various events in Vrindavan. This way she supports herself, doing what she loves to do.
“Dancing is like dreaming with your feet”, says Neetu.
Anuradha: Here is one brave girl who not only has the courage to stand for herself, she also knows how to deal with difficult situations. She is 18 years old. She lives with her parents and 3 siblings. Her sister Radha is 19 years old. Anuradha fought for herself when her father tried to marry her off at a young age. She raised her voice against it and shaved off her head to save herself from getting married. She also informed the school authorities and the marriage was stopped after intervention. Today she has successfully finished her school and is now in college. She takes tution classes for younger children and supports herself and her family. She also does embroidery.
Anuradha says: "I stood up for myself. I deserve to be educated and not to be married at 16. I hate to be called a victim of circumstance. I fought against a difficult situation and came out as a winner."
Radha: She is 19 years old and is now in college. She is Anuradha's sister and does beautiful embriodery, which is her hobby, and she plans to make it her profession as well. Today Radha, along with her sister Anuradha and her friend Roompi, has started a small-scale business where they take embroidery orders and also make their own products and sell them locally.
“I sew threads of happiness and colour. I feel good about what I do. “ says Radha
Roompi: She is 18 years old and has just finished her 12th grade. She lives with her parents and 2 sisters. Their mother and father work hard to support the family. Roompi is a fine artist and draws very well. Painting comes naturally to her. Today Roompi, along with her college classes, takes painting orders and also does embroidery.
Roompi says, “I dream my paintings and I paint my dream.” Painting has changed my life and helps me to deal with difficult situations."
We hope to share more success stories with you in the years to come. Thank you all for making this possible for these girls and for hundreds of others that you continue to support through our project. We feel that the best way to thank you is to share these stories with you, to show you that your contribution is making a huge difference in someone's life.
Thank you for giving them this chance. Now they are ready to give back to the world. There are hundreds of other girls under this project that dream to give back one day, and with your continued support, this will be possible year after year.
A lot has been happening over here!! Recently, a group of 45 students divided in groups of 15 each from Grade 10-12 visited the Mahila Thana Police Station of Mathura, which deals specifically with women cases. They were ccompanied by their teachers and by Ms Pratibha Sharma, a lawyer and member of the Child Welfare Committee.
Every district in the local state of Uttar Pradesh, India has one of these Police Stations. The Mathura Branch is run by Station Head Officer Bipin Chowdary and her supporting staff. Amongst the girls, in particular those who are studying in the 11th and 12th grades there are many who want to become Police Officers once they complete their studies.
Hence they had a lot of questions for the Station officers regarding how to deal with reports of abuse, violence, rape, etc. The girls were told about the 3 Helpline numbers to use in the event of any cases of violence, abuse, etc.: Dial 100 to report a case, Dial 1098 for the women helpline and 1090 in the case of child abuse or violence (up to the age of 18), they were shown practical demonstrations on how to fill up form and write reports. They were briefed about the history of these kind of Police Stations and how they started.
Afterwards they visited the District Legal Service Authority, a type of Court for people who are not able to afford the fees to fight a legal case. They met with a local advocate who explained to them the type of services they provide and the intricacies of the legal system, and other information.
The girls were very enthusiastic about asking questions and those that chose to become Police officers received some great advice and details regarding how to join and apply. The whole visit was highly informative and in a way empowering for the girls. Such interaction with the law and judiciary system gave the girls a lot of confidence.
We aim to organize such informative sessions more and more for the girls in the near future and will certainly keep you posted.
It has been a long time since we last communicated. We hope you are well. A lot has been happening all this while. Our second batch of graduate girls are now in college. Our, once cute little angels are now turning into graceful young ladies feeling all confident and standing strong. Breaking the cycle of poverty and refusing to submit to the circumstances, this next generation of girls is now all set to lead their own world!
Today we have a small interview with Mithlesh, our second batch graduate student sharing with us a little about her life. Mithlesh is an 18 year old girl now attending college and certainly one of the best student from our school. Although born in a family that had a very turbulent environment within the household, she is very polite, graceful and calm. Her mother has been the pillar of support for her and her two younger brothers. Read on to know more about Mithlesh and her life.
Q: Tell us when you came to Sandipani Muni School and something about your family?
A: I was 7 years old when I joined Sandipani Muni School along with my two younger brothers. At that time my family was going through a very rough patch. My father had a job which was not stable due to his reckless nature.
Often there were fights at home where we used to get beaten up. Few days after I joined the school, he abandoned the family, leaving us to fend for ourselves. My mother then took up a job as a cook and some cow service and that is how we survived.
Q: Did you like going to school ?
A: I always wanted to go to a school and study. My teachers were happy with me because I always scored good marks. They encouraged me by saying that if I study hard I can show extraordinary talent in studies which can make way for great opportunities for me. Unlike other students I was never into too much of extra curricular activities but focused only on studies. My friends says that I am very shy and reserved.
Q: Being the eldest how did you manage both studies and household duties since you had a working mother after your father left?
A: Since childhood I had to perform all the household duties. My mother left for work early mornings so I had to cook, feed my brothers, pack their tiffins, wash the dishes and then leave for school. My mother worked really hard to raise me and my brothers. In year 2007 Sandpani Muni School started a sewing centre which taught ladies to sew which was also a source of income for themselves. My mother knew since her youth how to stitch clothes and therefore she joined the course and till today she is part of it and is doing her job very well. Although her eyesight keeps troubling her due to the intricate work which strains the eyes, yet she does it with precision.
Mithlesh has acquired the qualities of her mother as far as patience and perseverance are concerned. Both mother and daughter experienced tough times but emerged as confident strong women supporting each other at all times.
Q: Tell us about your aspirations?
A: I am now attending college and have taken up science subjects. My dream is to have a bachelors as well as masters degree and then be able to teach. I would like to obtain a government job since these kind of positions are well paid, stable and secure. I would like to provide enough for the family so there is never a shortage of facilities in our lives. My brothers have grown up now although they are still in school, the elder of the two is also getting trained to become an electrician which he attends after school.
Mithlesh’s desire to support her family is commendable, since she witnessed how hard her mother had to work to raise her three children.
Q: What is your opinion about marriage?
A: Marrige will only happen when I will be able to stand up on my own two feet and am capable to earn enough for my family so that I do not end up suffering like my mother. I will choose what I want to become and with whom I can spend my life respectably and happily and for this I need to work hard now. I am glad to have been given the opportuinity to prove myself and nothing can prevent me from achieving my goal now.”
I would like to take this opportunity once again, to thank you for the tremendous support you are giving us, both financially and motivationally! Your support means the world to the girls here. This project has generated a marked change within our girls. They have become even more courageous, confident and enthusiastic about their futures. Not only this but the older girls are showing leadership qualities amongst their peers.
For the past month the students from grades 8-12 have been working on a play, which they presented on July 14th, 2014, to the parents, staff and students. The premise of the play was the prevention of child marriage. Through the play we showed the contrast between the lives of two girls. One that gets married at 15 years old and is pulled out of school early and the other that finishes school and attends University. The target audience of the play was the parents of the students. The intention behind performing this play was to encourage parents to allow their daughters to study longer and create for themselves the best future possible. The students and staff wanted to relay the impact that early marriage has on a young girl’s life. Many of the parents were moved to the point of tears while watching the performance. The girls performed extremely well and we are very proud of them!
The July 14th function also included performances from other student groups. The self-defense/karate students showed us some of their stellar moves! The young yoga dance performers wowed the audience with their flexibility, skills and grace. And the traditional dancers were beautiful and talented! (Photos of event are attached and video coming soon)
The staff compiled a legal affidavit, which was circulated at the function and signed by parents whereby they swore not to marry their daughters before the age 18. Attendance from the parents was surprisingly high, 80% of parents were in attendance!!
This entire function would not have come into fruition had it not been for our project and your support, we thank you whole-heartedly!
We are very pleased to share that since enrollment is rapidly increasing we have opened another branch of the Sandipani Muni School. There are still many girls without sponsors who wish to study. Your donations can dramatically improve these girl’s lives. Please continue to help us reach our goal!
Rupa Raghunath Das
Happy New Year!
2013 was such an eventful year at Food For Life Vrindavan, thanks to you, our donors, and we hope 2014 will bring many more blessings! We are here to share with you some really special moments at FFLV recently.
Food for Life Documentary:
We are so excited to show you our brand new Food For Life Vrindavan Documentary. This 8 minute video will tell you who we are, what we do and about the girls that you are sponsoring! The link is attached.
Celebrating National Girl Child Day:
This year our New year gift festival coincided with India's National Girls Day. National Girls Day was inaugurated January 24 in 2009 to promote national awareness regarding the plight of females in India. Some of the problems addressed include education, nutrition, legal rights, medical care, protection, honour, child marriage, female infanticide, etc. This day of awareness, and the timing of our pack distribution coincided perfectly. How apropos since we are becoming an all girls school!
As for the girls, they were really excited to receive their presents after waiting for so long. Shouts of joy and laughter were heard, smiles and expressions of amazement on their shining faces were seen, and the festive energy was contagiously felt.
The packs contained vaseline, woolen cap, toffees, peanuts, toys, tooth paste, tooth brush, pencils, school bag, soap, pictures etc. The girls were overjoyed!
Creating environmental awareness:
Recently, a group of Sandipani Muni School girls got together with Food For Life volunteers to do a clean-up Vrindavan day. It was very nice for everyone to participate together, using teamwork, to pick up a large amount of waste and enjoy doing it! We are hoping that by getting the girls involved in cleaning, they will see for themselves, and show to future generations, the benefits of a clean environment.
We will also be posting a new movie starring some of the girls, coming soon to the FFLV website! It depicts the fate of Vrindavan caused by the trash that continues to pile up onto the streets. The animal inhabitants of this city suffer along with the people when trash and plastic are tossed on the roads.
Stay tuned for our big celebration coming up 14th February, 2014!! Our girls, along with other girls of the area are going out in the streets celebrating their rising and spreading awareness. We will be celebrating the 1 billion rising festival along with the whole world!
We will tell you everything in our next report, so stay tuned...
And for now, do not miss out on our new documentary! It will be worth your time. The link is below.
If you have questions or want to know more about what you've seen, please write to us.
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Secretary to the Director