It is that time of the year again… The ‘Puja’ season. While the weather turns nippy and the days get shorter, there is a palpable feeling of excitement in the air! Fairy lights in every colour go up on houses and stores, allowances are made to indulge in shopping and good food and there’s mounting optimism in every heart—it’s like magic. As the countdown of festivals leading right up to New Year begin, there is little wonder that this is the season of generosity. October marks the ‘Joy of Giving’ season; we at VOICE 4 Girls have been busy planning for a fundraising campaign to be launched on October 11, the International Day of the Girl Child.
As participants of the Daan Utsav 2016, we had a stall put up at the Sethe Mela, at Gandhi Medical College on the 1st and 2nd of October. It was wonderful to meet people from different walks of life and talk about the work that we at VOICE are doing.
With all this excitement and anticipation in the air, we can’t help but feel nostalgic about all of the support and love we and our campers have received. So we caught up with a few of them, each of whom has, in their own way, supported VOICE and become part of our extended family.
Lakshmi Shankar, a music instructor and whipper-upper of mouthwatering baked goodies, is a loving friend and do-gooder with the VOICE family. Last year, Lakshmi extended her invaluable support to us by baking us some heavenly goodies to sell at the Seva Mela, 2015!
“I was introduced to VOICE 4 Girls by Sharanya Gautam (in the picture), Assistant Director, who happens to be my niece. I was inspired by the work that VOICE is doing. I think it is very important in today’s culture and environment to focus on giving back. I think young people should be taught to participate in providing solutions to rampant social issues. I was particularly happy to see that college girls are involved in the VOICE model and that they are mentored to become role models for their campers. I was glad to do my bit at the Seva Mela last year,” Lakshmi says. She adds, “A girl is a crucial element of society; she can initiate change. I think what is most essential is to empower girls by giving them courage and confidence. That is what is lacking; if they are given the required encouragement they can really change the world!’
Another wonderful human being who extended her support and love to VOICE is Madhuri Gunti, Coordinator at CIEE, Hyderabad. Madhuri first heard about VOICE through some students of hers who had worked with VOICE 4 Girls. After hearing about the program, Malathi visited a VOICE Camp so see the magic firsthand. She has been a generous donor to our cause…
“I was amazed and incredibly motivated by my experience at VOICE Camp! Spending the day with young girls and seeing the kind of activities conducted and the information that these girls receive. Given the crimes and discrimination that young girls face today, it is important to raise awareness about these issues. At VOICE Camp, girls learn about their bodies and about ways to keep themselves safe. In addition, they learn about their rights (with respect to education, protection from abuse and delaying marriage). Empowering girls with this information is very important,” says Madhuri.
When speaking of VOICE’s support system, we cannot go without mentioning Bonnie Sue Zara, who is an advocate for increasing girls’ self-confidence, assertiveness, and efficacy both the US and also in India. Bonnie led a group of students from the University of Wyoming to organize a fundraiser for VOICE there. She also visited VOICE Camps along with her students and spent time getting to know the campers.
Says Bonnie, “I have been researching low-income girls’ and women’s challenges in Andhra Pradesh since 2007, and I have helped bring attention to these challenges here in Wyoming and also all across the United States through our donor mailing campaign and my connections with Stanford University. (She is an alumna of Stanford.) Voice4Girls has an incredible curriculum. They make learning fun and thus increase the chance of girls remembering the skills and knowledge they have discussed. They also are careful to be true to traditional ideas and values while simultaneously enabling girls’ imaginations to soar beyond what they see around them. It is a truly inspiring mission, and I am very proud to have formed a group to support Voice4Girls!”
Another magnanimous donor is a gentleman from Mumbai who wishes to stay anonymous. He had made a generous contribution to VOICE 4 Girls after watching a small presentation about our work at an event last year. When asked what drew him to extend his support to VOICE, no questions asked, he replied saying that there are certain causes that one feels an instant attachment to. He explains, “I have in my time known some amazing women; I have grown up with sisters and have always felt a keen empathy towards the issues faced by them. I truly believe that supporting girls and empowering young women can spark a change for generations ahead, educating a girl is the most empowering thing you can do for her. It is this belief that made him feel an instant connection towards VOICE 4 Girls. Urging us to carry on doing good work he says, “To cite a quote from Schindler’s List, ‘Whoever saves a life, saves the world entire.'”
What wonderful words… We hope that as we kick off our fundraiser on October 11, 2016, these words encourage you to join hands with us. Help VOICE 4 Girls raise funds to conduct 25 VOICE Camps and help over 600 girls find their voices! Coming soon…