The determination of our Shadhika Scholars to pursue their educational goals is steadfast in the face of the pandemic.
The Gift of Education
By Nandita Geerdink, Shadhika Board Member
September 27, 2020
What a difference a year makes – one year ago we were excitedly planning our first trip to India with our children. I’d grown up visiting family in India every few years and the impression it left on me was both of a rich culture that connected me to my roots and also of a world I’d never known where children who looked like me lived in a poverty I could never imagine. Seeing children on streets and in slums with no food or shelter was eye opening.
I wondered why they should have so little and we have so much? As a child I’d never really thought about what it meant to able to go to school and how that is the foundation for what your life will be as it unfolds. I have to admit, I took the opportunity to go to school and pursue my interests for granted. As I got older, this helped shape my values and my hope to be able to give back to those who needed it.
I joined Shadhika for so many reasons, the first being to honor my father who passed away. He and my mother raised three girls who knew respect and ensured we were educated and independent. I was also drawn to Shadhika’s mission because it triggered those memories in me – of being a child and wanting to help but not knowing how. With this opportunity, I could help raise awareness and financial support for young women to go to school and receive vocational training and leadership skills. I could be a small part in the ripple effect that each girl starts when she is empowered to be a leader – which ultimately can drive change and inspire a culture shift. For seven years I’ve volunteered with Shadhika and over the last four years, I’ve been privileged to be a board member. I’ve read stories about the young women we empower and, on many occasions, been moved to tears to hear of their strength, determination and ability to overcome even the most challenging obstacles. They’ve dealt with more in their young lives than most of us will in a lifetime.
I was honored to be able to visit Baale Mane, one of our grantee partners in Bangalore. Baale Mane is a home for girls age 10-18 who have been abandoned by their families or whose parents have died. Here they are given housing as well as skills training, educational and recreational opportunities, not to mention companionship and community. What struck me the most about being there with them was the joy – everywhere. From the brightly colored murals and inspirational phrases on the walls, to the tour they gave me with pride, to the time they spent showing us their favorite books and activities, it was all filled with happiness. These girls have seen dark times that might have broken many of us. But here they were, opening their home and their hearts to us. We enjoyed a simple lunch together. They guided us through some craft projects, sang songs, and ended with a traditional dance performance. My kids were in awe – to see these children who came from nothing have an outlook of positivity and gratitude. They were fluent in English, eager to share ideas and their smiles. Oh their smiles – happy, shy, excited, nervous – all of them, bright! To think that we played a small part in helping them find their joy after all that they’d been through was profound and humbling. In the end, it was really their own strength and resilience that helped them persevere with conviction and hope.
And here we are now, in a world that has been upended by a virus that changed the way our global community lives. While we have made sacrifices, my family is extremely lucky to still be safe and healthy. While school looks very different, my kids are getting a strong education. Every year at this time I think of our young Scholars in India and how going “back-to-school” isn’t always a given. This year, when their energy may be focused on keeping their families safe and helping their communities, these young women need our support more than ever.
As you can read in our When She Leads interview series, the determination of our Shadhika Scholars to pursue their educational goals is steadfast in the face of the pandemic. With your help, we can make sure that they know our commitment to their future is not diminished and that we will see them through this pandemic.
If this speaks to you, please join us by becoming a scholarship donor. With $1,500 a year, you are giving a full college scholarship to a young women at one of our partner sites. We welcome your input and participation!Read more