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 ...
Oct 7, 2016

Readers are Leaders!

Pre-primary student and parent literacy activity
Pre-primary student and parent literacy activity

On September 8th, 2016, we celebrated International Literacy Day at AIC!

The lead up to ILD 2016 was a very exciting book collection project wherein AIC supporters and donors from near and far sent books via AIC's Amazon.in wishlist during the two weeks prior to International Literacy Day. The books had been carefully selected and requested by AIC teachers, counseling staff, and volunteer librarians, and the children were absolutely beside themselves with excitement watching the packages trickle in and helping to unwrap their new reading materials.

On International Literacy Day itself, the AIC Education Centre was abuzz from early morning until evening with games and excitement. Early in the morning, the head teacher for the pre-primary school, Barnali, was the perfect host for the occasion. She conducted games and fun activities with the children and their parents, and also took the opportunity to educate the parents about the importance of their own ongoing education and development as parents, while also urging them to learn to read and write alongside their children and encourage others in the community to embrace literacy and education as well.

The activities were geared toward facilitating positive parent-child interactions through matching games related to literacy (letter matching, small words, phonics, etc), music, dancing, and storytelling. A number of fathers attended the program and actively participated in the games, which was a truly heartening development and the children loved having some special time with the dads, who too often play a minimal role in the parenting process.

Teacher Utkarsha hosted the second phase of events (Standards 1-7), which combined attendance awards and more parent-student activities. A particularly memorable moment was when parents were invited to stand up in front of the audience and share their dreams and aspirations for their children's futures. Pilots, and scientists, and teachers, oh my! The parents have high hopes for their children, as well as the faith that with AIC's support and guidance along the way, their children will have bright futures and the skills to achieve their ambitions.

Every child at AIC left with a new book that day, plus yummy treats and prizes for participating in the events. A fun end to a very meaningful day!

Distributing books to students
Distributing books to students
Checking out the book rack and book table
Checking out the book rack and book table
Enjoying the books!
Enjoying the books!
Good turnout from community men as well
Good turnout from community men as well
Parents shared their aspirations for their child
Parents shared their aspirations for their child

Links:

Sep 19, 2016

New Report

Developing bonds at playgroup
Developing bonds at playgroup

The new academic year began in June at AIC, and like clockwork, 14 little ones - 6 girls and 8 boys - began their bridge year before kindergarten in AIC's playgroup. 

Although timid at first, now that they have been attending playgroup for several month, the children are old pros and now march enthusiastically into the classroom to begin their sessions! The mothers have also been quite motivated and engaged this year. Several are former AIC students who were married in early adolescence, fled abusive husbands and are now young (teenaged) mothers raising their children on their own, so these young women feel an extremely strong desire to ensure their little ones do not have the same upbringing that they did and thus put in tremendous effort to learn and implement the skills and methods taught in the playgroup classes. One mother even arrives half an hour before each session starts to practice her English skills!

For the first three months of the academic year, teacher Shubhangi has focused on several core elements:

  • nurturing positive relationships between the children and their mothers
  • exposing the children to 
  • developing fine and gross motor skills
  • providing a happy, secure, and stimulating learning environment

Shubhangi and caregiver Shobha place special emphasis on selecting activities that they notice the children and mothers find the most enjoyable, since their primary goal at this stage in the year is to develop positive rapport with the women and children and inculcate habits of regular attendance and active participation. So far this year, these activities have included:

  • arts projects (paper tearing, cutting, clay, etc)
  • aerobics
  • music 
  • dance
  • video clips
  • meditation
  • yoga
  • face painting
  • balloon play

We look forward to a productive, fun year with these little ones, and can't wait to continue to see them grow and learn!

Goodnight, Gorilla!
Goodnight, Gorilla!
Listening and learning
Listening and learning
Group activities
Group activities
Paper activity
Paper activity
Developing bonds at playgroup
Developing bonds at playgroup
Jul 1, 2016

The results are in...

Part of AIC
Part of AIC's standard 10 crew

...and the AIC kids have done us proud!

Earlier this month, AIC students and staff logged into an online portal with breathless anticipation to check the results of standard 10 board exams. For those unfamiliar with the Indian education system, board exams are secondary school completion exams that are taken after grade 10. The scores from these exams are extremely important in determining eligibility for junior college, university, and other higher education opportunities, hence we take them pretty seriously here at AIC.  

AIC's first student took the 10th standard board exams in 2009 and subsequently became the first member of the Waghri community to have completed secondary school. Since 2009, over 30 more AIC children have taken and passed their 10th standard board exams!

This year was our biggest test yet, however, with a total of 21 Residential and Education Program children appearing for the standard 10 board exams. Of these 13 girls and 8 boys, many are struggling with extremely challenging circumstances. Two of the girls are former child brides (one widowed, one fled her husband); one had given birth to her second child less than two months prior to the start of exams. Another student's father broke his back resulting in paralysis shortly before exams started. Another student had just barely hung in school all year (having already had a disrupted education and dropping out previously) as her family is not supportive of education and community members scorn educated girls. Still another student's mother fought breast cancer this year and this student was forced to miss many days of school because her father is deceased and she had to stay by her mother's side in the hospital instead of attending school. These are the day-to-day realities that AIC's students go home to at night, and AIC staff work valiently alongside them to provide the support necessary to give them a fighting chance at success.

Hence it was with some trepidation that the staff and students logged in to check the results of the exams, but we soon realized that we didn't need to be worried: 20 of our 21 students passed their exams and are now secondary school graduates! Most impressively, too, this year's group achieved the three highest scores in AIC's history.

We are so proud of these hardworking students, and of our dedicated teaching and counseling staff who went above and beyond to ensure their success. Finally, these achievements wouldn't have been possible without the support of so many generous donors and well-wishers, and for that we thank YOU as well. We look forward to sharing more updates about our new high school graduates' upcoming college and employment journeys in the days to come!

Boys
Boys
Girls
Girls
Hard at work!
Hard at work!
 
   

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