Thursday, May 22, 2014

Rays of Hope

Hello dear readers
I am back with a story of hope, change and a vision that sees a future for the children who would otherwise be a part of the forgotten, the many who slip through the cracks in the system and take to a life of crime, mediocrity or menial jobs.

For some months now, I have been volunteering with an NGO called Ashraya Institute for Children, the brainchild of a 19 year old student, Elizabeth Sholtys from Mahindra United World College , Pune.  Elizabeth conceived of a social initiative to fulfill her 'Service' requirement as part of her IB syllabus.   What started as a school project is now a fully functioning NGO under the caring and visionary leadership of Liz Didi as she is fondly referred to by the children who are given nutritional, residential and educational support by AIC.  The Ashraya Initiative for Children (AIC) is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization that runs a home for street children and a series of interwoven outreach programs designed to benefit vulnerable children and communities in Pune, India.

This story is about two girls Geetha and Jyothi (see photo insert) who pretty much spent their childhood under the auspices of AIC.  Their background covers the gamut of absentee parents, extreme poverty, unstable homes and lack of a role model.  What separates them from the others is their association with AIC and Liz, and other volunteers and staff at AIC.  Both the girls became a part of AIC at the tender age of 8.  I was fortunate enough to be asked by AIC to help coach these children on how to face an interview as they were getting ready for college. 

I will be frank with you.  I did not know what to expect.  I had a few simple questions prepared to take them through a 'mock' interview.  But as I met the first individual, I knew that I had underestimated them.  Not only did they speak fluent English, they spoke with a confidence and poise that one associates with private schools and convents.  They were well read, clear about why they wanted to go to college and what they wanted to do with their lives. 

It was no surprise that both mentioned Liz didi as their role model, and that they wanted to emulate her work so that they could help other children like themselves have a better future.  Tell me, dear reader, what better testament can there be that change is possible?  The years they spent under the tutelage of AIC and all it had to offer changed the trajectory of their path.  The likelihood of them finishing school was slim let alone aspiring for higher studies. 

PS:  Both Geetha and Jyothi secured admission to UWC's Foundation Programme.  They are now beacons of hope for several other children  as well as a source of pride and joy to the founders, directors and staff of AIC.  Their future is now shining with possibilities, of travel to countries abroad, a life filled with hope, joy and success......

Those of you that want to know more about AIC and their work, please log on to their website at: