I was first introduced to the work of Asha in Delhi back in 2005 when I had the opportunity to travel to India as part of a Tearfund Transform Team. Asha means “hope” in Hindi and this is in evidence as people are helped to realise their full potential regardless of their background, caste or religious beliefs. Ten years later, I continue to see the ongoing transformation in people’s lives due to the inspirational work that is carried out day after day by Asha’s dedicated team, some of whom have been part of the story since Asha’s beginnings back in 1988
One of the areas where Asha has been making a huge difference since my first visit, is that of education. Part of their mission statement says:
– Every child has a right to an education that will give them the opportunity to reach their potential, earn a living and grow in self-esteem.
For many years Asha has been encouraging parents, many of whom are uneducated, to see the benefits of education for their children. One of the ways they have been successful in getting children enrolled in local schools is by the example of older children who love to pass on what they have learned and have even been known to visit the schools and get the younger ones registered for entry! The free government schools the slum children attend are typically under equipped and the teaching standards are low. Only a few English and Computer lessons are taught during the week and some children have said they are not allowed to touch the computers! Of course this means these youngsters are not off to a great start compared with those from more well off families who can provide English speaking opportunities and laptops for their children.
The Asha staff, never ones to be daunted, have risen to the challenge! Why shouldn’t the slum children be given opportunities which would enable them to hold their heads high with their peers? After school computer classes have been set up in slum communities. English teachers, some local, some volunteers from abroad, come in and teach the children. “Tell us about verbs” they call out! The hunger to learn is evident and what’s more they share their knowledge. We have walked past a home and seen a pile of sandles outside the entrance. Inside a teenager has gathered “her class” and is teaching them something she is studying. The age range is wide,no one is omitted.
When he was 15, Jubair used to watch other students from a nearby college walk past his slum colony and wish that one day he could be like them. It looked impossible as his father was struggling to support his family of eight and it was more likely that Jubair would have to drop out of school and get a job. However, with Asha providing encouragement, guidance and resources for him to study, he did well in his school exams and was able to apply for a BA at Delhi University. He graduated in 2014 and Asha was able to get him an internship at a seven star hotel where he performed so well, they offered him a job!
He says, “As we got help, so we provide help to those with potential but no opportunity.”
He now volunteers as a Student Ambassador providing tuition, advice about college admission and financial help. He also urges parents to give their children freedom to achieve their dreams!
One Mother told us that she had joked with her daughter that she was going to arrange her marriage instead of sending her to university. The daughter looked horrified and burst into tears “But Mummy I want to go!” Such is the hope that now rises in the hearts of both boys and girls as they see the older ones graduate and stand tall with great dignity.
The phrase ” Never underestimate the power of one” is popular at Asha. We have seen how the Christian faith of one woman, Dr Kiran Martin, has brought hope to so many who had no dreams, no future they felt they could look forward to. Asha sees each person as made in the image of God, having value and encourages them to reach their full potential in every area of life, which of course is what we all want for our children and for one another.
If you are interested in seeing the work of Asha for yourself, we hope to take a team out Easter 2016. There are always opportunities to volunteer so do have a look at their website www.asha-india.org