Help Educate Girls in India

by Snehalaya 'Home of Love'
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Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
Help Educate Girls in India
100% pass rate for Harshal & our 10 Std girls
100% pass rate for Harshal & our 10 Std girls

As lock down continues here in India with school remaining closed, unfortunately despite our precautions we had a small outbreak of COVID 19 in our Rehab Center where half of our 200+ children are HIV+. Fortunately, this was predominantly among staff and older children who were immediately isolated and all of whom have recovered. It was a great reminder to continue to keep our guards raised to prevent a more serious outbreak. We hope you are also weathering the pandemic and continue to stay safe and strong.

It is at times like these that your support means so much. You are helping some incredible girls, half of whose mothers are sex workers and half who are HIV+. Despite the hardships they endured before they came to our shelter home they are confident and ambitious and take their studies very seriously. We are incredibly proud of their resilience and dreams to live the successful lives you are helping create through your belief in them.

We want to share the story of one of these amazing girls. Harshal is a 16 year old orphan who came to live at Snehalaya when she was five years old. With your support she completed her 10 Std at our Snehalaya English Medium School earlier this year. She is also an incredibly talented dancer who loves performing on stage at our annual events and festival celebrations.

In January this year she started complaining of a pain in her leg. We took her to hospital for examination by a doctor who misdiagnosed her condition. Sensing there was more to it we took a second opinion and it was recommended she have a biopsy to rule out cancer. As she is HIV+ it was difficult to find a doctor willing to do this and when we finally did the biopsy came back clear. The pain continued for Harshal and we realized that maybe the first biopsy had not gone deep enough and insisted that another one be done by another doctor. This one confirmed our worst fears, she had cancer in the bone of her leg and the best option was to amputate to prevent the spread to other parts of her body.

We had to share this news with Harshal just as Corona virus was beginning to take hold in India and also just before her 10 Std exams. She bravely accepted that her leg would have to be removed and said: “I would rather live without a leg than die”.

As we continued to search for doctors willing to treat her, she bravely fought the pain to sit her exams. Soon she was unable to walk, and was relying on a wheelchair to get around. Fearing COVID 19, we also took the decision to isolate her in our on-site hospital to prevent infections. With the country going into total lock down and limited medical expertise in our city to treat Harshal we started looking to Mumbai and Pune for help. The sad fact is that not many doctors are willing to take the ‘risk’ of operating on someone with HIV. When we did find a doctor in Mumbai, travel restrictions meant we were unable to reach the hospital.

Time was passing and the threat of the cancer growing and spreading was becoming very real. At last we found a doctor who recommended she undertake chemotherapy. Harshal endured this, losing her hair in the process but also the pain subsided. Unfortunately, the cancer was stubborn and the pain returned. Another doctor recommended another round of chemo which again Harshal took in her stride. Again this didn’t work. Finally, last week Harshal’s leg was amputated. She is now recovering in hospital and it is a testament to her fighting spirit that just over a week after her surgery, yesterday she managed to stand on own.

What is even more incredible is despite the pain and trauma she was going through during her exam period, is that she was not only one of our 10th Standard class that secured a 100% pass rate, she was also the top scoring girl achieving 72%.

We are so incredibly proud of her fighting spirit and determination, she has been smiling through the pain since her initial diagnosis and has been so patient over the eight months it has taken since diagnosis to finally get the treatment she so desperately needed. She is an inspiration to our other girls and last Saturday, in celebration of International Day of the Girl Child, her best friend Anuja requested to speak with this year’s 10 standard class to inspire them to study as hard as Harshal.

We know that children all over the world are struggling to continue their education during lockdown and although everyone is facing different challenges, we hope that Harshal’s story is an inspiration to them to do their best to persevere with their current situations. We also hope you take comfort that the support you offer is paying off with girls like Harshal focused on their futures despite the hardships they face. Thank you so much for giving your support to all our girls, it really does mean the world to them.

Harshal's incredible smile
Harshal's incredible smile

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Home schooling
Home schooling

We sincerely hope you and your loved ones are staying safe and healthy during these unprecedented times. As a valued supporter of our projects we want to reassure you that work on our existing projects continues, despite the challenges the current pandemic and lock down is presenting on a daily basis.

Maharashtra, where we are based, currently has registered the largest number of confirmed cases in India and as a result we have been on lock down since 24 March. Before the national and state governments intervened, we had already taken action by stopping visitors to our 23 projects, reducing our field work and providing our staff and beneficiaries with health and sanitation support. As a direct result of our early interventions, we are happy to report that so far we have no suspected cases of the virus.

Our Rehab Centre (childcare institution) and women's shelter have been closed to visitors since March. Our skeleton staff includes our caregivers who are working hard to keep our women and children busy with educational and recreational activities. We are doing our best to have fun to quell their concerns and have been using technology to continue online classes, while also enjoying treasure hunts, fashion shows, Zumba classes, art exhibitions, Lego building sessions, dance competitions, film making and much, much more.

People living in slums have been hit extra hard as many rely on daily wages to feed their families, as the lock down forced most businesses to close, people who live from day to day have seen their meager incomes and food supplies rapidly disappear. Living in cramped and basic quarters they are also at a higher risk from COVID 19 and our teams have been responding by providing food and hygiene kits and emergency financial relief to help them fight off both the virus and starvation.

Usually we would be reporting on the start of the school year on 15 June but the Indian government has suggested that schools will not reopen until at least October. With India’s extreme lock down closing our own school and after school classes and limited technology available to our pupils, it has been a challenge to continue to support our children’s educations. Our staff, children and their parents have been amazing in rising to the challenge. When strict lock down measures prevented anyone from being outside our slum teachers used Whatsapp to contact students via their parents’ mobile phones. They set tasks and assignments and asked those who could to send photos and videos of their progress. Now lockdown has eased a little our teachers are now able to hold small classes in their own homes and conduct home visits to our 700 pupils, one child at a time, to check in on their work and set more homework.

As our Snehalaya English Medium School for the 200+ children living in our shelter home was also forced to close, our shelter home caregiving staff, some of whom have teaching degrees, have been conducting classes for 1-8 standard, while our older children have been attending daily online classes with volunteer teachers. Not only are our children continuing their education but the routine of school hours is helping them cope with the stress of lock down.

We are relieved that our strong foundations and networks meant we were able to keep our children learning, however UNESCO estimates that there are 700 million girls worldwide affected by school closures. With women and girls making up the majority of caregivers, healthcare providers, and essential workers, we are concerned that many girls will never return to the classroom. With so many families facing extreme poverty and loss of livelihoods, they may feel more pressure to force their daughters into early marriage or child or domestic labour. Our projects such as our slum centers, IT center, vocational training centers, hospital, Childline and other outreach services will continue to promote the importance of education and offer support to enable every girl in our district the opportunity to complete 12 full years of schooling.

Now more than ever, your support is vital. We only exist because of wonderful people like you. While we completely understand your own situation may prevent you from donating, you can still help by spreading the word about our work and raise awareness of the situation for vulnerable women and children in India.

Never before has it been so important to know that we are all in this together. Please take good care to stay safe and healthy.

Keeping girls learning
Keeping girls learning

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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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Mayuri wishes she could have nursed her parents
Mayuri wishes she could have nursed her parents

 

Thank you so much for your support of girls’ education in India. It’s shocking that a reported 60 million girls are still missing from Indian classrooms and it is our mission to ensure that every girl in our district makes it to school and has the ability to be independent. Your donations help us to reach further to spread our message.

Next week, we will be continuing on our girls’ education campaign in partnership with Malala Fund. Among our team of peer mentors who will be leading workshops, conducting street plays and taking part in a street rally, are pupils from 10 local schools. They will be joining our beneficiaries standing side-by-side with them to encourage girls to continue studying and hoping to break down some of the barriers to education for girls living in rural areas by making them aware of their rights.

While the issues of child marriage and labour are some of the main reasons girls miss or leave school early, many of the girls and women who come to live in our shelter homes have missed out on their education for weeks, months or even years or have failed their exams for other reasons. As part of our admission process we aim to re-enrol them in schools and colleges to ensure they complete 10th standard as a minimum. While we encourage all of them to continue into 12th Standard and on to higher education, some like Mayuri prefer to opt for vocational training.

Mayuri grew up in a slum in the shadows of Aurangabad’s district hospital. Her father was a daily wage worker on construction sites and an alcoholic while her mother worked as a housemaid. Their already difficult financial situation was worsening day by day as her parents began to fall sick repeatedly and were finally diagnosed with AIDS.

Both parents quickly succumbed to the illness and Mayuri and her two sisters were tested for HIV: unfortunately, Mayuri and her youngest sister tested as positive. None of their relatives were ready to take responsibility for the orphans, so at just 7 years of age, Mayuri and her two sisters were admitted to Shri Baba Sai Institution.

There she studied up to 10th standard, but failied her final exams and then when she reached 18 unable to stay at the orphanage. Without the qualifications to support herself, she was transferred to our Snehadhar women’s shelter where we gave her extra tuition to help her resit and pass her 10th standard. Having struggled to pass but still very keen to become financially independent, she signed up to our bedside nursing course.

Healthcare is fast becoming one of India’s largest industries - both in terms of revenue and employment - with healthcare delivery, which includes hospitals, nursing homes and old age homes, constituting 65 per cent of the overall health market. Factor in the Indian medical tourism industry worth US$3 billion per year and its plain to see the need for skilled health professionals is rising dramatically. Our Certificate in Bedside Assistance Nursing Training Course (CCBANC) delivers employability-focused training for healthcare assistants through a three-month programme. Located in our Rehabilitation Center, class-based learning is complemented with practical teaching in our on-site, 50-bed hospital, dedicated to the care of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA).

Not only are we able to train our own pool of bedside assistants to meet demand in our expanding health projects, we are also providing our beneficiaries the opportunity to maximise their employment prospects in an expanding sector. The course is also open to those from low socio-economic backgrounds and rural, tribal and at risk communities within our district.

As one of our first graduates, Mayuri is now employed as a nursing assistant at our Caring Friends Hospital and Research Center. She is one of our best staff, treating and caring for HIV+ patients and we continue to support her in her dreams of becoming a qualified nurse.

Girls come to us from a range of backgrounds and all with different reasons for needing our support. Therefore it’s important that our services are as diverse as their needs. We have a range of vocational education courses on offer that you are supporting. Thanks to you, we able to provide solutions that address their separate needs and capabilities giving them the skills and expertise to become successful and financially independent.

Want to give more?

On Tuesday 3 December you can help to give our girls 50% more. #GivingTuesday is an international day of fundraising and Global Giving will be matching all donations we receive that day by 50%, meaning for every $1 you donate we will actually receive $1.50 to deliver our life-changing support.

Graduates jumping for joy outside our hospital
Graduates jumping for joy outside our hospital

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freedom to education
freedom to education

In our earlier report, you joined us for celebrating the success of the 12th standard results of our children. This time we would like you to join us in celebrating the freedom to be educated. Let’s celebrate the freedom to think, freedom to make the decision, freedom to learn and freedom to soar high. We believe in giving equal opportunity for girls to be educated just like a boy. And this time our girls have made us proud. And as proud parents would, we boost their success with head held high.  

On 12th July we celebrated ‘Malala Day’ where we had a get together of our girl beneficiaries who participated last year. And now they have become peer mentors. With the guidance and counseling they have received here, they are now confident enough to offer the same support and help to many other girls who are in need. We are strengthening their dreams by giving them the wings of education.

With you support we are able to provide equal opportunities all our girls. After completing their school and junior college, they now look forward to higher education. Out of 11 other girls who participated in the selection process of MM (Marathwada Mitra Mandal) Polytechnical College, Pune; two girl beneficiaries from our rehabilitation center, Sarita and Vidya have been selected for pursuing a Diploma in Mechanical Engineering. After clearing a written entrance examination they qualified for the oral interview round. After clearing the interview, they have been granted a scholarship for a Mechanical Diploma by the SNS Foundation. , They have defied all the odds, inspite of their vulnerable background. One of the girls was sent to the organization as she had a single parent while other one was abandoned only because she was a girl child.

We believe in empowering women and only education can give them the power to break down all the barriers of gender inequality, poverty, violence and enlighten the paths towards a better society at large.

Thank you so much for believing in our girls and helping them to dream big and soar high, this couldn’t have been possible without you. Their futures were in your hands and you delivered! Our deepest gratitude for supporting us and believing that together we can!

Malala Day (12 August 2019)
Malala Day (12 August 2019)

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Organization Information

Snehalaya 'Home of Love'

Location: Ahmednagar, Maharashtra - India
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Twitter: @Snehalaya
Project Leader:
Snehalaya Home of Love
London, Greater London United Kingdom
$38,115 raised of $45,000 goal
 
312 donations
$6,885 to go
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