Asha communities setting brilliant examples

You may have heard that on November 9th, the Prime Minister of India Mr Narendra Modi announced that the currency of 500 and 1000 rupee notes had been demonetised, and will no longer be valid. His government took this decision in order to fight corruption and black money in India. Since then, ordinary Indian citizens have been queuing up outside banks for many hours daily in an effort to change their old notes for valid currency. Over 80% of India’s economy being a cash economy, unlike in developed countries, and with millions of Indians outside the banking system, this has caused much distress among the poor, most of whom belong to the informal sector and are on daily wages. The government is making every effort to deal with this crisis that will take time to ease due to the huge population needing cash for their daily lives.

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Source: PTI

In the midst of all this chaos, I heard amazing stories in the Asha communities that I was deeply touched by. Stories of neighbours helping each other with cash that is so rare, people displaying untold generosity towards each other, community members standing with each other and supporting one another, and people still displaying good cheer and optimism through this period of adversity. And all this without any respect for religion, caste, gender, colour, or status at a time when boundaries and walls are defining the perspective of vast numbers of people all over the world.

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What a wonderful example the members of Asha communities set for us all! May we see equal worth and significance in every human being, and may we display the highest standard of generosity and kindness as we watch them in action during one of the most trying times in India.

Here are a few glimpses from my visit…

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With the wonderful Asha team!

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Dr. Kiran’s Meeting With Ambassador of Ireland HE Brian McElduff

Dr. Kiran with HE Brian McElduff, Irish Embassy

Dr. Kiran expressed her gratitude of meeting the Ambassador of Ireland to India HE Brian McElduff-
It was a delight to meet with the new Ambassador of Ireland to India HE Brian McElduff this morning. We spoke of the long standing relationship between Ireland and Asha, going back about 20 years. He was really pleased to hear of the various activities of Friends of Asha (Ireland), particularly the relationship with the various Irish schools and churches. He is keenly looking forward to meeting with the school teams in October, and has offered to host them at his residence.
The Irish Embassy has been hosting Asha interns since 2012, and many have gone on to getting really good jobs. He met with Rekha who is currently interning at the Visa Section. He was also glad to hear Usha’s story, and congratulated her on her achievements in Australia.

Thank you Your Excellency for taking out the time to meet with us.

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Meeting with Dr Harshvardhan

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It was wonderful to meet with India’s Minister for Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, and Senior Leader in the Modi Government, Dr Harshvardhan. He was delighted to hear of Usha’s visit to Australia and gave her his blessings and good wishes for a bright future ahead. He was also so pleased to hear of the Asha school leaving results this year, and warmly congratulated Asha and the students, particularly the toppers for such an excellent performance. He has promised to attend Asha’s Celebration of Learning event in July once all the college admissions are over.

Thank you, Dr Harshvardhan for your deep interest in and encouragement of the work of Asha!

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Essence of Affirmation – The Way Forword

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On the eve of turning 57, I have been reflecting on one of the Asha values that has brought out in my team and communities all that is right, and good, and beautiful. It has multiplied their joy, stimulated them, quickened them, and whirled them into action!

The Asha value I am thinking of is that of Affirmation. When we recognise in others a commendable skill, personality trait, or action, it must be noticed and named. The practice of affirmation is life giving, bringing peace to a fearful heart, supply into want, health into sickness, solutions to problems. We blossom in ways that are wonderful to behold. Our strengths, capabilities, and talents are brought to life. We feel empowered, and our self esteem is strengthened.

When we affirm others, we demonstrate that we are on their side. They are then far more inclined to take our counsel to heart when we have some constructive criticism to offer down the road. We therefore earn the privilege of offering feedback that can help a person understand behaviours or actions that require change.

Behaviours that are rewarded and celebrated are also more likely to be repeated. When we are seen as people who look for the best in others, others feel safe in our company and like to be around us.

It is important that affirmation is specific and consistent. Affirmation in the presence of others where appropriate, is key. This means that we are giving public honour and respect for a person’s gifts and abilities.

Everyday I see the amazing effects of affirmation on the members of the Asha family penetrating so deeply that their entire attitude, behaviour and actions are affected. The way they experience events, and the emotional climate of their relationships, has completely changed.

Let us embrace affirmation as a value to be practised everyday, and remember that our affirmations can have a profound impact on the lives of others.

With all my good wishes and thanks for your kindness and generosity towards Asha.

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Wonderful interaction of Asha High School Toppers with Mr LK Advani

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It was a joy for me to take some of Asha’s toppers in class 12 to meet Mr LK Advani, senior most leader of India’s Ruling Party, the BJP. Santosh Kumar of Zakhira slum colony has scored a brilliant 91% in Chemistry and Physics each. His father is unemployed and mother earns a shocking £2.50 per month. Having faced extreme poverty all his life, this remarkable result is such an inspiration to the world. He would like to do an Honours in Physics and would like to become a Scientist.

Sonam from Chanderpuri slum community scored a wonderful aggregate of 88% with 91 in Political Science and Hindi each! She would like to study an Honours in Political Science. She has been a member of the Asha family since she was a young child. She too has been raised in severe poverty and couldn’t have ever dreamed of studying further without Asha’s support.

Rishabh from Dr Ambedkar slum colony has scored a fantastic 92% overall, and amazing marks in Business Studies, Economics, and Accounts with an A plus grade in all the subjects. He dreams of becoming a Chartered Accountant someday.

There are hundreds of children from the slums Asha is currently helping to apply to Delhi University. I’d like to give each one of them a chance at a decent and dignified life. My team and I are completely committed to helping them all the way. I hope all of you can help us in every possible manner to attain this goal. Here is how you can help – https://www.givengain.com/cause/1772/donate/#start

I’m deeply grateful for all your support.

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Meeting with the Australian High Commissioner

I had the immense pleasure of meeting with HE Ms Harinder Sidhu, the recently appointed Australian High Commissioner to India this week. Ms Sidhu was delighted to hear that Usha, a young girl from the slums, is now, with Asha’s help, a journalist, and will be accompanying me to Australia. She was excited to hear more about the trip, and expressed her very best wishes. She is so passionate about critical issues relating to the urban poor and we are looking forward to working together with great anticipation. Thank you, Your Excellency for your warm welcome!

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Mother’s day experiences

What a wonderful celebration we had on Saturday! I’m not sure how many of you know this, but there are a number of Asha kids that I have been mentoring directly for over a year, although I’ve known most of them for a long time. I keep adding new ones as I spot amazing talent and vast potential. We meet at my home quite regularly, and we have grown to love and cherish each other so much over the years. They read out letters, poems, and cards with beautiful emotions expressed through laughter, tears, and hugs. They made contributions and bought me a beautiful cake and a lovely dupatta (Indian stole). I feel so fortunate to have these relationships in my life; they have enriched me in unimaginable ways.

Here is a selection of beautiful photos and heart-warming letters that I hope will inspire every reader.

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Welcomed Dr Harsh Vardhan to Asha

Following on from my meeting with Dr Harsh Vardhan, Hon’ble Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Government of India last week, today we had the joy of being able to welcome him once again at Asha.

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First, he visited the Asha Polyclinic and Diagnostic centre where my team and I showed him our state of the art services that are available to slum residents at nominal fees. The Hon’ble Minister reminisced on his visits to Asha in early ‘90’s and was pleased to note how the work has expanded over the years.Picture3Later, Dr Harsh Vardhan went to Kanak Durga slum colony to meet with the women, children and college students who are associated with our work. The community was thrilled beyond words as the Hon’ble Minster showed great interest in the stories of their accomplishments and impediments they faced.

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Dr Harsh Vardhan was meeting with the college students from Asha for the first time and spoke warm words of encouragement to them. “With your hard work, you have managed to convert situations of extreme challenges into a life of hope and bright future. I cannot congratulate you enough for this,” said the Minister addressing them.

It was a wonderful afternoon filled with much joy and great conversations, and I would like to thank the Hon’ble Minster for taking out the time to visit us.

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Meeting with Indian Minister for Science and Technology

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I had the honour and pleasure of meeting with Dr. Harsh Vardhan, Hon’ble Minister of Science and Technology and Earth Sciences, Government of India. He has been an Asha supporter almost since it was founded. As the Health Minister of Delhi in the ’90’s, he was instrumental in involving Asha in a number of collaborative programmes with the government.

He pioneered the Pulse Polio Programme in India, launching it first in Delhi and then helping its expansion throughout the country. Amongst his numerous achievements, he was instrumental in the formation of the Delhi Prohibition of Smoking and Non-Smokers Health Protection Act of 1997.

Dr Harsh Vardhan was happy to note of Asha’s great strides in slum development work, particularly the Higher Education Programme. I also presented him with ‘A Journey of Hope’ a photographic essay on the work of Asha by a British photographer. We hope to receive him at Asha later this month.

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A lovely interaction with the Premier of Ontario, Hon. Kathleen Wynne

My team and I were delighted to welcome Hon. Kathleen Wynne, Premier of Ontario, Canada to Jeevan Nagar slum colony on Friday, January 29, 2016.

Amongst much warmth and joy, we had a lovely interaction as the Hon. Premier showed great interest in the work of Asha. Despite her extremely packed schedule, she spent over an hour and a half with the community and answered all the questions they had to ask.

The Hon. Premier also had warm words of encouragement for everyone and remarked that even the first world countries like Canada can learn so much from the success of Asha communities. She also gifted books on the culture and history of Canada to the children. What a wonderful gesture!

Thank you so much, Premier Kathleen Wynne, for visiting us.

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