Prevent Child Marriage, Educate 150 Girls in India

by Care for Vrindavan
Vetted
Neetu before joining the school
Neetu before joining the school

From a small tree, a mighty trunk may grow- Aeschylus

 

We take pride to share this story with you of a girl who joined us when she was but a little bud. Over the years she grew in the courtyard of our school. Little did we realize that this flower would blossom so beautifully…

 

“Being terrified but going ahead and doing what must be done—that's courage"

 

Neetu stated this very well in the incident below.

 

Neetu (16 yrs) was returning home in the evening, from her food distribution service at school. She was riding her bicycle when she noticed that a young lady (who was an expat) was being followed and harassed by an auto rickshaw driver. The road was lonely and suddenly the man pulled that lady into his vehicle and rode off. The lady was panicking and asking the man to stop and let her get down. Neetu could just not stand there and watch. Seeing no one around to turn to, she followed that rickshaw on her bicycle and saw that the rickshaw had pulled over at a very lonely place. Neetu didn’t wait for anything; she picked up a big stick and struck the driver from behind. The driver shocked and in pain, hurled abuses at her, but Neetu didn’t care. She took the lady by her hand and asked her to sit behind her on her bicycle and off she went. 

 

She dropped the lady in a safer area. Teary eyed and grateful, that lady offered Neetu her silver bangles as a token of appreciation, but she refused. The whole situation was so overwhelming that no names were exchanged. It was a gesture of care from one girl to another. 

 

The next day she shared this incident with her friends and teachers. We informed the principals who awarded her for her bravery in front of the whole school. She shared the incident with other girls who felt really inspired hearing this. 

 

Neetu made us so proud and we thought of sharing this incident with you all who are contributing towards the education and grooming of many these Neetus in our school.

 

About Neetu and her family:

 

In her family, her father was born in Agra and is currently an unemployed carpenter. Her mother was born near Kolkata, West Bengal. They moved to Vrindavan where her mother joined Food for Life Vrindavan as a cleaner.

 

Her older sister Poonam, who graduated from Sandipani Muni School last year in 2015, is now in college. 

 

Neetu has an outgoing personality and is known for her great sense of humor amongst her friends. During evenings she attends the free meal distribution where she helps in serving the street kids. She is a very good dancer and actively participates in stage plays and dance programs. 

Neetu in her classroom
Neetu in her classroom
Neetu Dancing :)
Neetu Dancing :)
Neetu at Evening meal distribution
Neetu at Evening meal distribution
Neetu getting awarded for her bravery
Neetu getting awarded for her bravery
Neetu sharing her incident with other girls
Neetu sharing her incident with other girls

Links:

Madhupriya (12th Grade) welcomed to her Farewell
Madhupriya (12th Grade) welcomed to her Farewell

Spring 2016 at Sandipani Muni School. A time for new beginnings and a time for farewells. A time for results and a time for promotions when it comes to our students progressing to the next level of studying.

A time for the 12th Grade girls who have been with us since their kindergarten or nursery days to enter a new stage of higher education and to start to consolidate their life plans regarding a career or a vocation. A time to say goodbye to a school which has shaped their personalities, a school which has guided, sheltered and fed them all these years, a place in which they will always be welcome to be part of and contribute towards the development and educational process of many other girls who will follow their example and follow in their footsteps. A place that will not be easy to forget.

The 2015-2016 school term has now come to an end and the new term has started from the 1st of April. We had two celebrations that have marked these rites of passage: The first was the 12th grade farewell part hosted by the 11th Grade students and the second was the Prize giving ceremony for all the students from the Prep Classes to the 11th Grade based on the best 4 students for each class based on the quality of their studies, behavior and attendance.

These few images are a record of both events which has marked the transition our girls are going through and the mood of celebration of achievement.

You might recognize some of your students amongst the faces in the photos. You might also see how they have blossomed and developed themselves into fine individuals whose past was of uncertainty and bleakness regarding their future, only thanks to your ongoing support we have been able to achieve the goal of educating these girls and providing an environment in which they could be safe and able to escape the cycle of poverty and bleak hopelessness which their parents had to deal with for generations.

Sangam, our student promoted to 12th Grade and visibly moved to tears upon being called on stage to receive first prize in her class for having excelled in her studies, her conduct and attendance.

We would like to thank you for your contributions who are transforming the lives of these girls and turning them into educated and confident individuals. We hope that you continue to support many more of these girls at the school and continue to walk this road with us untill the last girl is educated. 

12th A students Farewell party portrait
12th A students Farewell party portrait
Maya(12th Grade) receiving prize from her teacher
Maya(12th Grade) receiving prize from her teacher
Sangam received 1stprize for excellence in studies
Sangam received 1stprize for excellence in studies

Links:

Anusuya and her GLA certificate
Anusuya and her GLA certificate

Anusuya is one of those students of Sandipani Muni School who has been with us since the very beginning when the school had just started in the year 2002.  She is now 20 years old and studies in her 3rd year of GLA college doing Bachelors in Technology. Very soon she will be a graduate and qualified for a decent job!  Nothing can make the school more proud and happy to see a young girl who was loitering on the streets in tatters 13 years back and is now an educated, independent woman. She came from a family of 3 brothers and 1 sister where her father was a laborer earning a meager income and there was no way he could raise his five children specially the two daughters would have been married off few years back had they not got a chance to go to Sandipani Muni School. Their life changed completely at that very moment.

Read on to know what Anusuya has to tell us:

 

When and how did you join SMS and how old were you?

I joined in the year 2002,  at that time I was 8 years old. I came to know about SMS where some students were getting tuitions and prasadam. It was a very small room and there were about 15-20 kids attending classes. Some girls were younger to me, some were of my age and some were older. There were two ladies who were taking the classes.  I joined in 3rd grade then started teaching the kids because the teacher thought I was really good. She then got me and my sister admitted. We were so happy to be in school and really liked the tasty prasadam everyday. Soon I had many friends to play with.

 

How was your life before you joined Sandipani Muni School?

 We did not have much to eat and wear. We lived in a village near Vrindavan and my father did not have a job at that time so there was no question of us going to school.  SMS was very far from our house so we had to walk to school everyday. Soon my father found a job and we could save some money and moved to a place nearer to the school which made our lives a little easier. We could go to the school in the evening to eat Kitchri.

 

How has this program changed the lives of yours and so many other girls living in Vrindavan?

I and my sister never thought we could go to school but when we learnt that education was free my family allowed to attend classes. Many children in the neighborhood were also excited to join the school. Suddenly there was a ray of hope in the middle of darkness. I still remember the excitement in their eyes.

 

At the time of completing your 12th grade, how many kids you knew were with you right from the beginning when SMS started and how many left?

When I competed 12th grade there were 8 kids were from the same batch as me. I was lucky to have completed my school and unfortunately there were about  5-6 girls from that batch who got married at the age of 15-16.

 

What would you say now after so many years with SMS?

(Teary eyed) I am grateful to Rupa prabhu and Nikunja mataji who helped girls like me to go to school when there was no hope. I would like to give back to this school as a teacher or a sponsor some day.

 

What message would you like to give to the students who are now in Sandipani Muni School?

I would like to tell them to please study hard and do not think about marriage and study for as long as you can and like the school helped us we should help them back by standing on our own feet and becoming independent.

Girls from batch 2015
Girls from batch 2015

Dear Friends,

After a long summer, we finally have monsoon rains bringing cool breeze in Vrindavan, India. This breeze is quite literally entering the lives of our girls who passed their 12th grade exams with flying colors last month. Our third batch, this time with 40 girls, is all set to explore the world. Very excited to finish their school, they are now looking forward to walking to the college to become graduates in the years to come.

The most exciting part is that some of these girls have also taken up part time jobs along with their college studies to support their families. They are making full use of their education and skills that they learnt at school. In this report we are going to tell you about these girls who are now contributing back to their families and to the society, making this project a success by Walking the Talk

Neetu: She is an Odissi dancer, which she started learning at the school at a young age and since then she has been a part of various school programs charming the spectators with her graceful dance moves. Neetu is 21 years old. Her own determination and encouragement from the school helped her to pursue what she liked doing the most. She is proud of herself and aims to be a dance teacher so she can teach this very beautiful traditional dance form to many other girls like her. Neetu is now in college and along with that she does dance performances at various events in Vrindavan. This way she supports herself, doing what she loves to do. 

 “Dancing is like dreaming with your feet”, says Neetu.

Anuradha: Here is one brave girl who not only has the courage to stand for herself, she also knows how to deal with difficult situations. She is 18 years old. She lives with her parents and 3 siblings. Her sister Radha is 19 years old. Anuradha fought for herself when her father tried to marry her off at a young age. She raised her voice against it and shaved off her head to save herself from getting married. She also informed the school authorities and the marriage was stopped after intervention. Today she has successfully finished her school and is now in college. She takes tution classes for younger children and supports herself and her family. She also does embroidery.

Anuradha says: "I stood up for myself. I deserve to be educated and not to be married at 16. I hate to be called a victim of circumstance. I fought against a difficult situation and came out as a winner."

Radha: She is 19 years old and is now in college. She is Anuradha's sister and does beautiful embriodery, which is her hobby, and she plans to make it her profession as well. Today Radha, along with her sister Anuradha and her friend Roompi, has started a small-scale business where they take embroidery orders and also make their own products and sell them locally. 

 “I sew threads of happiness and colour. I feel good about what I do. “ says Radha 

Roompi: She is 18 years old and has just finished her 12th grade. She lives with her parents and 2 sisters. Their mother and father work hard to support the family. Roompi is a fine artist and draws very well. Painting comes naturally to her. Today Roompi, along with her college classes, takes painting orders and also does embroidery.

Roompi says, “I dream my paintings and I paint my dream.” Painting has changed my life and helps me to deal with difficult situations."

We hope to share more success stories with you in the years to come. Thank you all for making this possible for these girls and for hundreds of others that you continue to support through our project. We feel that the best way to thank you is to share these stories with you, to show you that your contribution is making a huge difference in someone's life.

Thank you for giving them this chance. Now they are ready to give back to the world. There are hundreds of other girls under this project that dream to give back one day, and with your continued support, this will be possible year after year. 

Neetu, a classical dancer
Neetu, a classical dancer
Anuradha gives classes to younger ones
Anuradha gives classes to younger ones
Radha and her magic threads
Radha and her magic threads
Roompi, the creative one.
Roompi, the creative one.

Dear Friends,

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. 

 

Links:

 

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Organization Information

Care for Vrindavan

Location: Saratoga Springs, NY - USA
Website: http:/​/​www.fflvrindavan.org
Project Leader:
Sri Radhika Dasi
Secretary to the Director
Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh India
$52,955 raised of $64,000 goal
 
1,451 donations
$11,045 to go
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