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Mar 19, 2020

Update from Snehalaya

Creative repsonse
Creative repsonse

Hello from India. We hope you and your loved ones are safe and healthy in these unprecedented days of Corona virus. Like most of the planet we are now on lock down which is having a significant impact on how we operate our projects.

Schools have been closed since the start of the week and today in Ahmednagar, where we operate, all shops and non-essential businesses have been closed. So far we only have three cases in our district but we are pleased that precaution measures are being put in place. While we don’t want to dwell on the pandemic we do want to reassure you that we are prioritising the health and wellbeing of our beneficiaries. This includes closing the slum schools you support until at least 31 March (the current date the government has directed). Fortunately we were nearing the end of exam season so most of our children have been able to complete their end of year assessments.

Obviously living in a slum makes social distancing impossible so our staff have been using their time to raise awareness of the signs and symptoms of the virus and promoting hand-washing, hygiene and other health precaution measures to the communities. The children have been provided their school books to work from home and our team are also preparing for the next academic year by reviewing and updating our highly successful curriculum which we brought in four years ago.

We have also closed our English Medium School based in the Rehabilitation Center where we shelter over 200 children, including around 100 who are HIV+ and are considered ‘high risk’. We are using the ‘break’ to continue to hone the basics of reading, writing and maths that will consolidate our children’s learning once schools reopen. We have also developed a program of extra-curricular activities to keep their bodies and minds active, including Lego competitions which have identified a huge number of future engineers and architects!

All of our projects are now closed to non-essential visitors and we have placed hand-washing and sanitising materials at all entry points for staff and beneficiaries entering each day. Our Childline team has also distributed free masks to all of our children.

There are many other measures being taken across our 22 projects, all with the health of the most vulnerable and at risk of our beneficiaries at the core. We will continue to monitor the situation and make adjustments as necessary. We truly appreciate all of your support during these challenging times and hope you are assured that we are as committed as always to meeting the specific needs of our beneficiaries in response to the current ever-changing environment.

Future engineer?
Future engineer?

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Mar 12, 2020

Stop the stigma

School attendance is on the rise
School attendance is on the rise

Thank you so much for everything you have done to support our children, including many of whom are living with HIV,

As the chill of winter dissipates and the temperatures start their annual hike towards the high 40’s in degrees Celsius, our students’ determination is also on the rise as exam season is underway. While it may be getting hot outside our first ever batch of 10th standard students from our Snehalaya English school are doing a good job of playing it cool and taking their exams in their stride.

While we may remember our own exams with a shudder, these young people truly appreciate the value of education and obtaining the good qualifications that will sustain them through their futures. They are busy soaking up every opportunity to revise and review their learning, from personal study and after school classes to online Skype classes with volunteers in other Indian cities and the USA.

In a positive initiative we are also extremely grateful that the extra obstacles facing children living with HIV have been recognised with an extra hour allocated to them during their current exams. This is making a big difference to our HIV+ children who end up missing school due to medical check-ups and ill health. To help improve their health we have recently appointed a HIV expert doctor to our on-site hospital. Along with improved nutrition in our kitchen, thanks to advice from nutrition experts, we are hopeful our children’s school attendance will continue to increase.

We hope you join us in wishing all of our children luck in their exams!

In other news we celebrated a significant milestone a few weeks ago as our first ever HIV+ child was adopted. The two year-old has been living at our Rehab Center since his HIV+ mother, unable to care for him herself, gave him up for adoption. Having bonded with many of or other children and the caregiver responsible for him, we are missing him already but we are really happy to have met his new adoptive parents when they came to collect him a few weeks ago. We have since been sent photos of him as he takes to his new life in the United States.

This may be the first HIV+ adoption we know of in India, but we are confident it will be the first of many. We are grateful to the parents who saw beyond the stigma, the more children are accepted by adoptive parents the more the unfounded fears surrounding HIV will be reduced which will benefit all of the children living in our Rehab Center.

We are grateful to you for standing alongside us as we create better futures for our children by tailoring our support to their health requirements. Thank you for your support.

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Feb 20, 2020

Testing times

Anjun is our own Malala
Anjun is our own Malala

As the chill of winter dissipates and the temperatures start their annual hike towards the high 40’s in degrees Celsius, our students’ determination is also on the rise as we enter exam season. This Tuesday saw many of our beneficiaries face their first 12th standard exam and while it may be getting hot outside they are doing a good job of playing it cool and taking the final challenge of their school days in their stride. So too, our 10th standard students are busy revising for their exams which start on 3 March.

While we may remember our own exams with a shudder, these young people truly appreciate the value of education and obtaining the good qualifications that will sustain them through their futures. They are busy soaking up every opportunity to revise and review their learning, from personal study and after school classes to online Skype classes with volunteers in other Indian cities and the USA. We hope you join us in wishing them luck!

They are hoping for the same success as some of their seniors, like Saba and Anjun.

You may remember Saba as one of the girls who joined us on our Malala Fund-supported education campaign trails where she shared her own fight in securing her right to education. Living in a predominantly Muslim slum with her widowed mother and four siblings, her dead father’s family started applying pressure on her to get married when she was just 15. She approached our team who counselled and helped her convince her family to allow her to pursue her dream of studying engineering. We are delighted to report that she has recently graduated from her University of Pune engineering degree with top marks.

Another success story is Anjun whose parents’ poverty forced them to arrange her marriage. Just three days after the wedding, having been abused by her husband, Anjun managed to escape and travelled the 120 km back to her family who were distraught to have put her in such a bad situation.

The day after her return, she was one of the many to watch ‘He Named me Malala’ at one of our roadshow screenings. After the screening, she thought, “If a 12-year-old can do all of this for her education, I can fight for mine too.' The very next day, Anjun came to Snehalaya asking for our help and with the support of Malala Fund and donors like you we were able to enrol her in a local nursing course. We also offered to support her younger sister to help avoid a similar situation for her. 

Anjun is now a fully qualified nurse, has remarried and has a baby daughter. She says: “Snehalaya allowed me to achieve a brighter future and I want to support other girls who are in difficult situations to do the same.” 

It’s thanks to you and girls like Anjun and Saba that we are able to inspire and support more girls to remain in education and achieve their dreams. We are also grateful to GlobalGiving for selecting us to compete for a place in the Global Girl Fund which supports highly effective projects providing education, legal protection, health care, and access to training and job skills so that girls can thrive - making a difference in their lives and their communities.

We have one week from Monday 6 March to Friday, March 13 (with bonus funding available during the first 24-hours of the campaign) to gain as many unique donations as possible. Eight organizations with the highest number of donors  will  win a year-long spot in the 2020 Girl Fund which could help us raise up to an extra $15,000 to support our girls. If you would like to boost your support, save the date and we will send you a reminder nearer the time.

Our school's 10th standard are a little anxious
Our school's 10th standard are a little anxious

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