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Girl from Delhi slum carving her way to success

This is the story of a beautiful girl called Nandana in her own words:

My name is Nandana. I am 18 years old. We are a family of 7. My parents moved with the 5 of us from Punjab to Delhi in desperate search for work. The big city overwhelmed us. With great difficulty, we could manage to build a one room shanty with pieces of plastic and sticks right beside the railway tracks in Mayapuri.

The constant noise, the rattling sound of the trains all day and all night meant that I just couldn’t sleep. I was bothered by the dirt all around me, and the smell would make me sick. When it rained, all the waste from the overflowing drains along with garbage would flood our shanty. We kept falling sick all the time because of the terrible hygiene.

My father was a day labourer, and barely earned 120 USD a month. We had two meals a day, mostly food that badly lacked in nutrients. We used a wood fire to cook as we had no money for cooking gas.

Life became a nightmare when my father began to drink regularly. He would spend all his money on alcohol. He then became violent and abusive, and I was always scared because I never knew what he would do next. I spent many nights crying out of sheer desperation with no solution in sight. I was deeply traumatized.

My brother opened up a small makeshift grocery shop to somehow help us financially.

My father went into liver failure and died last year. What a sad end he had because of poverty.

My sister Vandana had already been coming to Asha for many years. She was the first person in my family to go to university. I was so inspired by her. She encouraged me to come to Asha, and on her advice, I got associated with Asha.

That became the turning point in my life. Asha Ambassador Tushar spent many days and hours tutoring and mentoring me. As a result, I scored 91% in my school leaving exam. I was so happy. I never imagined I was capable of such a result.

I will be now studying Psychology and Philosophy at the famous Laxmibai College of Delhi University. When I saw my campus, I felt like I was walking in a dream. I felt wonderful. The Asha family helped me with every step of the admissions process. Without their help, I would never have been able to understand this complicated system. They paid for all my college expenses. I could never have gone to college without a financial scholarship from Asha.

I enjoy my work as an Asha Corona Warrior. My sister Vandana and I worked hard, going from home to home, identifying Covid patients and referring them to the Asha team at our health center. I have taken many people from my community for vaccinations. My service to my community gives me great satisfaction.

I want to thank Friends of Asha all over the world for doing so much to support me and many other young girls like me, to get a university education. I will never ever forget your kindness. Thank you once again on behalf of all the Asha students who are gettting into university this year. We are eagerly waiting for our classes to begin.

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Kavita- Determined fight to enter the hallowed portals of the university

Hi folks, here’s another story with a tragic start and a beautiful ending.

Kavita lives in Safeda Basti, a slum that is one of the worst I’ve seen. It’s about 4km away from Chanderpuri. The Asha team from Chanderpuri go there on a regular basis, and the students from Safeda come to the Asha center walking 4km.

Kavita is one of 7 siblings. Her father brought the family to Delhi 20 years back in search of a better life. Living in Safeda Basti was not what they ever imagined would happen. The poor living conditions and the absence of work made life miserable. Finally Kavita’s father began to sell vegetables on a cart by the side of the road in the local area. He barely earned 80-90 US dollars a month.

Kavita loved to study and somehow managed to do well in primary and secondary school. I was amazed to hear that she did so well in spite of being in a poor quality public school and living in a one room shanty.

Suddenly Kavita’s father suffered from a stroke and the left half of his body was paralyzed. The family took loans for his treatment and they had to arrange funds for huge medical expenses. Then Kavita’s mother fell sick and could not go to find work. In such a situation, Kavita gave up all hope of studying further and began to give private tuitions to young children from the slum, in her home. She began to earn a small amount of money. She and her family went through the worst of times. With both parents unable to work, Kavita was supporting the family financially, doing all the household work, and taking her ailing father to the hospital.

When the country went into lockdown because of the pandemic, Kavita felt she was waging a losing battle. She decided to abandon her education and her dreams forever.

The Asha team arrived with Groceries at her doorstep just after the lockdown. Kavita began to have conversations with the Asha team members, confiding all her troubles and worries in them. The team and Warriors brought her to the Asha Centre. They were determined to encourage her and help her through her troubles. They introduced her to the world of smart laptops with high speed internet, they coached her with enthusiasm and diligence, and gave her access to the well resourced library and quiet study spaces.

Slowly the long lost smile came back on Kavita’s face. She became immersed in the world of hope, positivity and promise. She began to love coming to the Asha Centre. She didn’t care about the 4km walk in the scorching heat, so keen was she to come everyday.

With her wonderful efforts and the compassionate support of the Asha family, she scored 81% in the National School Leaving exam. She was thrilled as was the Asha family. Kavita’s parents were reluctant to send her to university because of their financial distress and the loss of income from Kavita.

Asha took a long time to convince them, helped Kavita to navigate the university admissions process, and she now has a place to study for a BA at Maitreyi College of Delhi University! Asha has promised to take care of her financially, emotionally and in all other ways necessary, including supporting her family through the pandemic.

Kavita’s dreams have been resurrected, her spirits are raised, and there is Hope, Asha, once again in her life.

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Anshika’s Resilience to conquer the odds in pursuit of Higher Education.

Hello folks, this is the story of Asha student Anshika who lives in Kusumpur Pahadi slum. Her father is an alcoholic and does not work. Her mother works as a housemaid in people’s homes and earns about 120 dollars a month. Her brother was working on and off doing odd jobs at a nearby mall. Anshika has had a hard life in Kusumpur where the terrain is rough, the shanties are poorly built, and the residents are dependent on water tankers for water supply.

When the pandemic struck and there was a nationwide lockdown, both Anshika’s mother and brother immediately lost their jobs. The family went into terrible destitution. Over all that, Anshika’s father went into severe health problems related to his alcoholism.

Anshika completed her secondary schooling and almost gave up on studies. She was confused, she didn’t know what to do with her life.

That was the time when the Asha Warriors and Ambassadors found her. They understood her circumstances, and were determined to help her out. They invited her to the Asha study Centre. They helped her with access to study material, coaching, quiet study spaces, and general mentoring and guidance. The warm and friendly environment fostered by the Asha team and Warriors slowly began to change her perspective on life. She felt transported into a new world- a world filled with optimism, hope and enthusiasm. The team stood behind her as she went on to take the school leaving examination. And what a wonderful performance from Anshika! She scored a brilliant 92.5%. Through Asha’s support, she has now found a place to study an Honors in Political Science at Bharti College, Delhi University. We have paid every single college related expense including the college tuition, without which her educational journey would have come to an end. How sorrowful that would have been. But now Anshika is excited to begin her university education. She could hardly believe it when she saw her college. We are determined to stand with her all through her university years, making sure she continues to be assisted financially, mentored and supported. Way to go Anshika! We are all behind you, never to leave you. You deserve to flourish and attain your highest potential just like anyone else.

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Imrana – Fighting severe Malnutrition on road to good health

Hello folks, here’s a story that broke my heart. Imraana from Seelampur slum is a mother of three young children. Her father died when she was very young. Her mother, considering her to be a huge burden, married her off at the age of 17. She soon found out that her husband did not work. There was no money and her in-laws threw the newly married couple out of the joint family home. Imraana soon had a baby. There was no food at home. Her husband drank everyday and beat her. She said she would dream every night of having food. She and her children would beg for food near wedding venues or near mosques. On most days she and the children would drink black tea and the sides of bread slices a man from a nearby bakery would give her. I was so heartbroken when I heard this. Imraana began to do some piece work for which she was given a pittance per piece. And all that came to a complete stop when Covid struck and there was a full lockdown.

One day an Asha warrior was passing by and saw Imraana’s 2 year old baby. She was severely malnourished and crying of hunger. Then they met Imraana and noticed that she was really thin. They brought the mother and daughter Shifa to the Asha centre immediately. Imraana weighed just 26kg. The Asha Health Team assessed the mother and baby on an emergency basis. They put them on a daily high calorie high protein diet immediately. And gave Grocery Parcels to the entire family. They gave Imraana a Vitamin D3 injection and put her on vitamin and mineral supplements. The baby was given supplements too.

Imraana developed a urinary tract infection because of the use of dirty pieces of cloth during menstruation. The team immediately treated her UTI and gave her feminine hygiene products.

Imraana now weighs 33kg and both she and the baby are slowly getting better. They both have a long way to go. All of Asha’s interventions continue and will do so for a long time.

I have promised myself and my team that we will never leave her alone again and will continue to take care of her and her children always.

There are so many malnourished women like Imraana. May we find them all, as we look for them, and reach out to them with love and healing.

Thank you to everyone of you. You are working so hard to raise resources for Asha. You are saving and transforming lives every day.

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Opening the doors of college education for Dev

There are daily admissions happening at Delhi University and each time I receive the news of any student, I’m always excited. In many ways it’s a miracle. Here are some more stories:

Dev lives in Chanderpuri slum community with his father who is a labourer, his mother and his other siblings. Dev has been a member of Asha’s Bal Mandal from a young age. He watched many students go to university in his slum, and dreamt that one day he would go too. His father lost work during the pandemic and the family fell into great poverty. Asha came along side them and helped them in every way possible for many months. Suddenly Dev got Tuberculosis in 2020. This was his critical school leaving year. Once again he was diagnosed by Asha, and his treatment was started at the TB hospital. He recovered fully under Asha’s care. Asha then helped him with books, academic aid, coaching and mentoring. The team and Ambassadors rallied around him with full support. As a result, he scored 85% in his school leaving exam. He has just got a place at Delhi University to study a Bachelors in History and Political Science. Asha of course has helped him navigate the entire complex admissions process and given him all the financial aid he needs. Dev is the first person in his family and his entire village to go to university. What a story!

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Ganpat’s winning stride to enter Delhi University

Ganpat is an Asha student from Kusumpur slum community. His father is a daily wage laborer. We found Ganpat to be intelligent and good at his studies in school. We supported him with plenty of scholastic material, books, mentoring, coaching given by his Asha seniors, and a quiet place to study. Sadly due to Covid and the lockdown, Ganpat’s father lost his job. The entire family was forced to return to their village. We were all worried for Ganpat as was he. However he did not give up, and continued to receive help and coaching from Asha online from his village. He scored an amazing 92% in his school leaving exam. He has just found a place at Delhi University and will be doing a Bachelors in Commerce ( Honours). Asha has taken care of his college related expenses. Way to go Ganpat. We are with you all the way!

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Successful educational journey of Khushboo

Khushboo has lived in great poverty all her life in Peeragarhi slum community. Her father is a Cycle Rickshaw Puller who had no work all through Covid. The family fell on desperate times, and the Asha family came to their aid in every way possible. Khushboo lives in a shanty hut made of tin sheets with no toilet and no kitchen. She has no smart phone and no access to the internet. She studied at the Asha Centre and at the home of a friend. She does not remember when she last bought new clothes. She has just got a place at Delhi University to study an Honours in History. Asha has paid her entire tuition and has helped her successfully navigate the admissions process. We are all so happy for her. We have promised to support her all through her 3 years at university.

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Malnourishment and increased disease risk amongst girls and women – The pandemic effect

Hello folks, this message is about the very sad circumstances some young girls are during this pandemic. They have lost so much weight due to just not eating enough food and calories. We give groceries to entire families, but of course have no control over how they are used.

These girls are exhausted all the time, cannot concentrate on their studies and fall sick frequently. I was sad to see some of them falling prey to Tuberculosis due to greatly reduced immunity. The burden of household work and filling water and carrying it back home mostly falls on their shoulders. They are the last to eat, after feeding their entire family.

We call them to the Asha centres everyday for high protein laddoos and drinks, run a weekly clinic for them where we provide them with all essential vitamins and minerals, as well as treat their ailments promptly. One girl vomited out a ton of worms when we dewormed her. She had worms coming out of her nose as well.

They really struggle with going to the public toilet where there is voyeurism. They have no money for sanitary pads.

We are giving them these feminine products regularly. Here are some pictures of these girls and women. There are hundreds of them.

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Asha releases its Annual Report

Dear Friends,

As we complete another year, we bring to you the significant developments that have taken place at Asha.

The past year has been a period of one of the greatest challenges the world has ever faced. It may be a time to fight, a time to question, but there is a way one thing we can hold on to hope.

Click to download our Annual Report: https://bit.ly/2YjyB3M

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Ramvati’s story of dedication

Hello folks, you may have noticed that I haven’t said much about the Asha Womens Groups and how the members have been impacted by Covid. They haven’t been able to have large meetings for nearly two years now, and everyone can sense the loneliness they are experiencing, after being so used to wonderful weekly meetings, and accomplishing such enormous tasks for their communities for years. Many have suffered a great deal of financial distress, and the Asha family has stood with them all through these two years.

Here’s a story of one of them, a 60 year old woman called Ramwati, who lives in Asha’s Zakhira Slum Community. Her life exemplifies the lives of hundreds of women like her.

Ramvati became one of the first Mahila Mandal (Women’s Group) members of Zakhira slum community. She was keen to gain knowledge on healthcare and absorbed all information on health shared by the Asha team during the weekly meetings. She would help share this knowledge with her community members, and became instrumental in highlighting the importance of healthcare interventions such as vaccines, maternal care, tuberculosis treatment, and so on.

In the year 2012, Ramvati was unanimously voted by the other members of the Women’s group to become the new President of the group. Her hard work and dedication had become an inspiration to all the women in her community. The Asha team in Zakhira wholly supported this choice and congratulated Ramvati on her new role that came with much more responsibilities and decision making.

As President, Ramvati was instrumental in providing leadership to develop the infrastructure in her community. The Women’s Group in Zakhira under her leadership, visited multiple elected politicians representing Zakhira. Drainage systems, sewage networks, bore wells and toilet blocks were constructed. The entire community began to look much cleaner and nicer.

When the pandemic happened, Ramvati’s husband like thousands of other slum dwellers, lost his job as a daily wage labourer. He was earning about 7 dollars a day on the days he got work. But once Covid happened, he had no work, not even for a day. The family had no savings, and Ramvati started to panic. However, the Asha family came to her aid immediately, and provided her with groceries and financial assistance to help the family survive during such terrible times.

Even after the first wave, the future looked bleak for Ramvati’s family. Her husband set out every day in search of opportunities to get work, but as most businesses had faced huge losses, there was hardly anyone looking to hire and provide daily wages. To help her family, Asha continued to provide them with essentials and funds.

No sooner had the first wave receded, than the second wave hit shortly thereafter. Her situation and that of her family got even worse.

Today, the second wave has abated, but has left behind great poverty for her family and many families like her.

Her husband gets work one day a week or once in two weeks. The Asha family continues to provide for them. That’s what family is all about, right?

In spite of facing such serious personal struggles, Ramwati decided to be an Asha Corona Warrior, and a champion, spreading awareness and safety protocols to all her community members. She has made it her mission to help people realize the severity of this disease and the importance of wearing masks. And she has been successful!

When the vaccination for the elderly began in early 2021, Ramvati and her husband were among the first couples to register and receive the vaccine.She was then able to speak to her community members to dispel various myths on the harmful effects of the vaccine. Many elderly community members followed in her footsteps and she personally accompanied them to the vaccination centre.

Thank you for standing with Ramwati and hundreds of women like her, many of whom you have met in the past. What would they have done without you? You are true and faithful representatives of what Family stands for.

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