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.
Greetings from the FFLV team in Vrindavan. We hope this finds you well. Winters have just started to set in. The weather is sunny and beautiful during the day but a bit chilly in the night. Our students are now in mid term preparing for their half yearly exams in this another year full of hope and excitement.
A BIG MILESTONE FOR FFLV: OUR FIRST GRADUATES!
This past school year meant a lot to us, as our first batch of students graduated from 12th grade. Of 12 graduates, 8 were girls, all of who are now enrolled at a private university, Ganeshi Lal Agrawal University (GLA), Mathura. The university is providing fifty percent scholarships to our students and FFLV is covering the balance, as well as the cost of their college uniforms, with the help of generous donors like you!
Going to university is beyond the imagination of most of our students, whose societal and financial circumstances put the cost of continued study so far beyond their reach that the idea itself is almost unthinkable. Most of their famlies live a hand-to-mouth existance that makes it impossible to save anything, let alone enough to pay for the steep costs of private college tuition.
In this report we would like to introduce to you Pushpa, one of the graduated girls, now attending the university.
Pushpa is a lively, talented and studious girl, who was in our first graduation class.
Having been born and raised in a very poor family did not stop her from focusing on her dream. At SMS she was active in extra curricular activities from excelling in odissi dance, feeling confident with a computer, and trekking in the Himalyas to becoming a karate champion.
Pushpa had been in our Sandipani Muni School since she was 8 years old when she admitted to first grade. Here she relates to us her journey from the street to SMS and now to University.
How do you feel about getting into University?
"Going to college would not have been that easy, had not Food for Life Vrindavan extended its support from school to university. I was under the impression that there would be less to study, on contrary I hardly get time for self-study and myself."
What keeps you occupied?
"The economic condition of my family is not good, therefore to support my family I have a part-time job of giving private tuition to small kids. Everyday my College finishes at 5 pm. I reach home at 6 pm,and then I give tuition to 7 children until 7:30 pm, after a quick dinner I go to bed to sleep for 3 hours,I get up at 11 pm to study till 2:30 am, then I sleep again for four hours, another day begins usually at 7:30 am."
Do you miss Sandipani Muni School?
"Of course I do. Now when I have professors who are very compassionate and patient, it reminds me of the teachers I had in Sandipani Muni School. It reminds me of their love and faith and because of that support, it has made me what I am today. Sometime when I get late for college, I skip packing my lunch; by the afternoon I start to miss the tasty lunch that we use to get at our school. I am grateful to God, that Rupa prabhu and Nikunja mataji picked me up and brought to SMS. My parents would have never been able to afford the education that I got for free at SMS. I learned karate, dance and computer in my school, where I also got a lifetime opportunity to travel abroad. And now FFLV is supporting my college education too."
What course are you pursuing in the University? What do you want to become?
"I am pursuing bachelors in Pharmacy its called B.Pharma. In terms of profession, there are many opportunities for me after I finish this course, for example I can get into marketing, sales, and research. I have not decided on it yet. Amid all of this my priority is to stabilize my family economically and serve the society."
It's thrilling for all of us at FFLV to see the first results of our many years of hard work. "I look back at the time when we started the school in 2002, " says Nikunjavasini Didi, Sandipani Muni Schools' co-founder, "We saw the potential in these children and wanted them to have a chance to learn so they could realize it. We dreamed and they worked hard. And now, here they are! We are so proud of them." We invite you to share in our pride and thank you for your part in helping them achieve this goal.
MEET SOME OF THE YOUNG WOMEN WHO STUDY AT OUR SCHOOL
In our last update, we gave you a sneak peek at a short film one of our volunteers from the US made about Nandini, one of the many gifted and ambitious young women at our school. The film is part of a series that will introduce to those of you who can't make it to India, to our students, our school and to Vrindavan, the special place where we work. We are very proud of the series and eager to share it with you.
Today we'd like to introduce you to Maya, who wants to become a teacher. Maya embodies the hope and possiblity that inspire us to work on behalf of girls like her every day. We'll let her tell you in her own words about her hopes and dreams and what having an education means to her. Please click on the link below to hear her story.
Thank you again, for supporting our work. It means more to us and our students than we can ever possibly say!
Rupa (Founder, FFLV)
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Secretary to the Director