It’s official. My heart has been stolen… by 30 incredible girls from the Sharanam Centre for Girls! Generally after visiting a foundation, I can remember every detail of the foundation activities and only a few of the faces that left a lasting impression, but this past Saturday was unlike any visit before. This time I will most likely forget the hilarious attempts at three-legged race, leaving room for 30 unforgettable, unique smiles.
The goal of the Aasha Foundation is to give these young ladies more than just the formal education, and help them really experience normal life outside of Dharavi. As a result, they know that they can “fit in” and be accepted by the broader world, are full of confidence, and are definitely on their merry way down the path to becoming productive, independent women.
I was blown away when Gita asked to access her facebook on my Blackberry, because she desperately needed to check it after being offline for a few weeks. I fell in love when her next question was if she could also check her Gmail account. My mini me!
Bharti, a budding photographer who spent 6 months doing a photo internship with the Center Stage team at Mid-Day, informed me in a very serious tone I looked her age but was old. I laughed so hard I almost spit my water out on her crisp white button down purchased independently at the Bandra Market.
How did these 30 destitute, orphaned and abandoned girls become so cool? Not only are they raised in a loving permanent home by a young married couple, Sharda and Nirmal, but they were blessed by the appearance of Karen Doff and Jenn Ryan in their life.
Karen and Jenn are the co-founders and executive directors of the Aasha Foundation. They fund the private school education of all 30 girls, but also do everything they can to enrich the lives of the Sharanam Girls through much broader experiences beyond education. During one of our initial emails, Karen wrote “It stopped feeling like an NGO or charitable endeavor long ago – now it’s more like enjoying time with our favorite nieces and helping give them opportunities.” Just to list a few of these unbelievable opportunities:
• They have all traveled by plane!
• Annual back-to-school shoe shopping in Bandra
• Shadowing young professionals
• Quality healthcare
• English tutors
• Computer literate from Microsoft Office to Facebook
At this moment I may not take the generous offer by a few girls to move in with them (it is a match made in heaven they explained as 4 of us wear the same size shoe and we use the same shampoo), but the Aasha Foundation will forever have a place in my heart.