The Sambhali Sheerni Educational Programme was started in July 2012 to help provide 15 girls from the village of Setrawa (100km to the west of Jodhpur) and outlying areas with the chance of a good education in Jodhpur. Some of these girls had been attending our Empowerment Centre in the village and now had the opportunity to go to a good private school and receive bed and board with a local family.
Virendra and his wife Nirmala, put in a lot of work and preparation to make these girls feel at home. They installed bunk beds in the girls’ room and together with six volunteers from Sambhali the girls gradually established a routine in the morning to get washed and dressed and have breakfast. Some health and dental checks were done, their weight recorded and arm measurements taken, because these girls were mostly malnourished and we hope that after some time in their new home, the girls will gradually gain weight by having the nutritious meals that Nirmala is cooking for them. The plan is to document these measurements each month so that we can do a follow up and monitor the improvements.
As we were not able to get rid of the lice of the girls with normal lice shampoo and some of the girls had some skin rashes we went to see a dermatologist. Two girls with a specific skin disease got a prescription, a profound lice and worm treatment was started and the skin rashes were being taken care of with medicine. Two of the girls complained about bad vision especially in bad light. The physician suspected nightblindness because of Vitamin A deficiency and prescribed medication and all the girls started a multivitamin/iron supplement medication once the worm treatment was finished. We are sure that all signs of undernourishment will stop after a few months of a good diet- signs like very low weight, skin and vision problems, growth of thin hair on arms and legs (symptoms that are in the Western world are only seen in anorexic or bulimic girls). We also all paid a visit to the Shared Vision Centre in Jodhpur which assesses eyesight and the need for wearing glasses. Five girls were provided with glasses.
It took a few days to establish new methods of hygiene and good eating habits; the volunteers slept at the boarding house overnight to help with any initial homesickness and helping early in the morning to establish a routine; preparing new clothes to wear for home and school, books, backpacks and food to take to school.
The 15 girls ranging in age from 7-12 years now attend Galaxy Sr Secondary School in Jodhpur which is 5 mins walk away from their house. Ten days after moving from their rural way of life to living in Jodhpur, they started to attend school. Gradually the girls are changing from being reserved and shy to joining in group activities, smiling and showing how much their self-confidence is growing. School is from 7.30am-12.30pm and after that 2 volunteers go 6 days a week, from 3.30-6.00pm to help them with their homework and do some creative and fun activities with them.
We are happy that this project has started so well, after some initial problems at the beginning and now we hope that we can continue to fund this programme for at least the next five years, so that the girls can receive a good education and give them the best possible start in life to help themselves and in turn their families.