Reflections on Leadership

Today, I want to share with you some reflections on Leadership, and the types of leadership that
are helping us to successfully strategize, implement, and see the impact of our efforts on Asha communities, especially during this pandemic.

I truly believe that the effectiveness of our efforts is directly attributable to the strength of our leadership.

Talent and skill among leaders is very important. But, the most important demonstrations of our leadership qualities are the ways in which we love, we serve, and our authenticity, solidity, and personal substance.

Our leadership calls for loving attention to every member of the team, their nature, their gifts, their needs, and their motivations. They are precious people, and they must be given full support, and shown kindness at all times. Their problems must be listened to and heard with empathy. Each team member must be affirmed and appreciated. As Asha leaders, we must create an environment of safety and security for each team member. An atmosphere of trust creates wonderful bonds between co-workers. There is then no room for politics or gossip.

We must necessarily lead by example, demonstrating compassion and courage in the midst of the most difficult circumstances.

Boundless energy, passion, and an optimism rooted in reality will gain leaders many supporters who when empowered, will carry Hope and Asha, to the farthest corners of every Asha community.’

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Asha warriors take personal care of the Elderly in the slums

The elderly under our care are in great distress at this time. These pictures speak volumes on the poverty they are living in. Run down homes, little to eat, little to wear, sickness, frailty, inability to take care of themselves. Lonely, abandoned and forgotten by their families. So much emotional pain.

What a wonderful source of solace, comfort and help our Warriors are. Each Warrior is given the responsibility of an Elderly person. They visit them every single day. And how the elderly look forward to their daily visits.

I feel that there is a lot more I must do for them. I will consult all around and then expand my work. They must be given a lot of love, and must live in comfort and with dignity.

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The power of touch in Asha communities

One of the greatest challenges the Asha family is facing during this pandemic is the physical distancing needed between people. The language of touch is not being spoken these days, and it’s joys seem lost for a while.

Affectionate and loving hugs have been a hallmark of the Asha family. The power of touch has created an environment of safety and trust. It has spread tremendous amount of goodwill and fostered cooperative relationships in Asha communities everywhere.

Touch has the power to soothe, to express compassion, to calm down stress, and to produce generosity.

Hugging boosts self esteem and brings about a sense of security in a way no words can. Hugging stirs the soul. Sometimes only the language of touch can fully express what we feel.

May the joys of this wonderful language soon be restored to us all, and may we learn to cherish it more than ever.

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The transformational stories of young Asha students in various slum communities

I hope you have been enjoying the wonderful transformational stories of our young people from the Asha slum communities who are at university.

These and hundreds of other stories are really a tribute to each one of you.

Together we have created opportunities for much better health, much higher income levels, development of a vast variety of skills, and dream careers. We have created opportunities for our young people to grow and expand their minds, and experiment with what they are passionate about.

Their communication skills, critical thinking skills, sense of discipline, and productivity, have all grown by leaps and bounds.

The benefits of higher education to entire communities is clearly visible, and bring me much joy. The communities are much healthier with higher life expectancies. Many have been able to break free from the cycle of poverty. The strong are lifting up the weak. They are politically aware, are good citizens, and highly involved in civic affairs. Child marriage has gone down dramatically, age at marriage has advanced, and women are seen as equal partners with men, rather than just future wives and mothers.

May this movement grow to reach thousands upon thousands of young people, and transform the entire landscape of the Asha communities, forever liberating them from the distress and sorrows of poverty.

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A warm tribute to late Ms Ruth McKibbin

Hello folks, today’s posts are dedicated to the Late Ms Ruth McKibbin who spent over 20 years bringing teams of pupils from Methodist College Belfast from out to the Kalkaji slum community every 18 months. She was dearly loved by everyone at Kalkaji: the Asha team, university students and school pupils alike. What a wonderful legacy she created at Asha over the years.

Here is the story of Shiva who was a part of the Asha Children’s Group at Kalkaji since a young age. He learnt a lot from Ruth and the Methodist teams that would spend time with him and other children during their visits. Ruth would have been so proud of his achievements.

Shiva lives in a tiny two room home with his family in Kalkaji slum. His father has been working as a daily wage laborer at construction sites for over 30 years.

During the pandemic, Shiva’s father lost all work, and then developed Covid. At first he was quarantined at home, but his condition deteriorated, and he had to get admitted to a public hospital. He was really ill, and for a time the family thought he wouldn’t make it. Fortunately he recovered after a prolonged hospital stay and finally came home.

You can imagine how hard it might have been for Shiva to focus on studying for his school leaving exams with the tremendous worry of his father’s health.

Asha stood with Shiva, providing groceries for the family regularly, and giving Shiva all the support and mentoring he needed to take his exams. He would study at the Asha Centre, a place that has been lovingly been created by the pupils of Methody.

Shiva scored an amazing 91.2%, much to our delight!

It was impossible for Shiva’s family to fund his university education.

With Asha’s full support, Shiva has secured a place in a Bachelors in Commerce Honours program at the prestigious Kirorimal College of Delhi University.

Thank you Ruth for your loving service of many years to the poor of Kalkaji. I’m sure you are smiling from above.

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Asha Scholarship Awards given to Asha students admitted to the Delhi University

Hi there folks, here is the list of Asha students who have made it to Delhi University so far! You will see how wonderfully they have scored in their high school exams, and have opted for the courses of their choice, that are varied, from many streams.

The process is on, and will continue for a month longer. The students who have scored lower are anxiously waiting to see if they might get in through the declaration of the next list by the university.

Here are some pictures of the Asha Scholarship Awards given to the admitted students. How excited they are to begin life at university!

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Asha Corona Warriors honoured with certificates for their hard work and dedication

Hello folks, as you might know, the Asha Corona Warriors have been working tirelessly with compassion and kindness for the slum communities under Asha’s care ever since the lockdown began. The team is made up of doctors, nurses, paramedics, social workers, volunteers, drivers, maids, admin and finance staff, and the communications team members.

To express our appreciation and gratitude to these wonderful people, we have given certificates to each warrior. Your support and thanks too will mean the world to them! Send the team a message at info@asha-india.org, and we will be sure to get it to them.

You can help protect them by raising funds/making donations towards USD 10,000/ GBP 7,700/ AUD 14,000 for much needed protective gear and essential medical equipment. You can create crowdfunding campaigns in different platforms such as GoFundMe, JustGiving Crowdfunding, My cause etc, to reach our goal.

Thank you so much for all you have done, and want to, for standing with our team of Asha Corona Warriors. Your generosity will assist in aiding the Asha team with their work on the field and provide them with safety, encouragement and support to continue working with dedication.

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Asha students from various slums gain admission to the prestigious Delhi University

Hi folks, today I have some exciting news. The Delhi University admissions process has begun and the Asha students have begun to get in!

19-year-old Adil of Jeevan Nagar slum community has just found a place in BSc Physics Honors at Delhi University! He had scored 93.4% in high school. His father is a daily wage laborer and he has grown up in extreme poverty. Although he loves to study, his books get wet when it rains, and they are regularly eaten by huge bandicoot rats that make their home in his shanty. He has been greatly inspired by Chandan, who also lives in the same community. Congratulations Adil! Asha will pay for all his expenses, and allow him to concentrate on his education.

Saddam’s father has been working as a daily wage unskilled laborer at construction sites all his life. He has now become frail. Saddam began to do waitering work at weddings and parties from class 10 onwards. He earned Rs 300/-( 4 USD) a day and gave the money to his mother to buy food for the family. Saddam scored 88% in his high school exam. The Asha team and volunteers mentored and inspired him through his journey. He has now been admitted to Delhi University where he will study English and Sociology! Saddam says his life in the slums has been small and he has been greatly limited by his circumstances. He is grateful for Asha’s financial and emotional support, and is ready to begin the next chapter of his life, exploring the world and all it has to offer him. And at the same time absorbing the Asha values to become a man of compassion and integrity.

Anjali’s shanty is on the river bed in East Delhi. It’s made up of hay and bamboo, and each year, when the area gets flooded, her home gets flooded, and her family has to move their belongings to higher ground on the main road.
Anjali’s father is a labourer in the farms close by, and earns barely 70 dollars a month. Anjali scored 81% in her high school exams, and has found a place at Delhi University! She will be reading History and Political Science. Asha has always mentored and supported her, and will continue to do so, including paying for all her university expenses.

Deepanshu from Tigri slum colony scored 84% in his high school exam, and has just been admitted to Delhi University in the Bachelors in Mathematics Honors program! Big congratulations Deepanshu for this rare achievement!  He resides in a tiny shanty; his father is unemployed due to the pandemic. He shared how he had only one school uniform, and would wash it every evening for the next day. Chandan’s Mathematical journey will, I’m sure inspire him. May he flourish abundantly and become a man of compassion and integrity as well.

Nisha lives in Tigri slum community as well. Her father is a daily wage labourer and her mother collects scrap and recycles it to somehow make ends meet. Nisha’s grandmother sadly passed away during the lockdown due to the unavailability of medical services. She scored 84% in her high school exams. This girl who has been selling mud lamps by the roadside, will now read English and Political Science at Delhi University!

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Asha team practice the Asha value ‘Compassion’ in the slums

I had an exciting Zoom call with over 350 Asha team members and volunteers a couple of days back. Everyone was enthused and energized to continue working with even greater zeal and passion.

I spoke about Compassion. The Latin meaning being ‘to suffer with.’ Its about recognizing of another person’s suffering and being sensitive to it; a sharing of the heart, followed by a deep desire to alleviate the suffering.

I distinguished between Compassion and Pity, explaining that Pity is a fleeting emotion that does not fully recognize the pain of others. It also has an element of superiority.

I then spoke about the wonderful benefits and effects of exercising compassion. It uproots the wish to harm others. The compassionate mind is purified of the taint of ill will.

Compassion brings the mind to a state of peace. It brings about justice, harmony, and mental freedom. It makes us move from a desire of self promotion and self achievement, towards a desire to feel the pain of others.

The exercise of compassion gives us bliss and pleasure. It relaxes us, and helps us regulate our emotions through reduced activity of the amygdala( a part of the lower brain). It’s a great stress reliever, because it lowers our inflammation levels and strengthens our immune system through increasing the levels of the hormones dopamine and oxytocin.

We then spoke about ways to cultivate compassion. To begin every morning with a Gratitude and Compassion Meditation. Next comes the practice of Self Compassion, eliminating guilt and negative self talk. Then reach out to those who are suffering and try to imagine how you might feel if you were in their place. I spoke about practicing compassion with people of all castes, colour, age, and gender, in order to bring in justice, dignity, and harmony, and break down barriers.

I spoke about the importance of being non judgmental while practicing compassion. And also about listening well, giving full attention and making eye contact.

Finally I said we should reflect on our acts of compassion at the end of each day. It must be practiced daily and become a firm habit.

The habitual practice of compassion brings True and Lasting Happiness.

Here are some beautiful pictures they sent me the next day.

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Asha children share what they learn at Asha centers

Hi there everyone, here’s a beautiful video with Asha’s young children from slum communities. Hear them speak about what they are learning and how they are living their lives during the pandemic, through their relationship with Asha.

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