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Stories from the field

Kaajal

Our girls’ hostels work to provide a space that is educational, engaging, safe and fun — so that young women have everything they need to focus on becoming who they are, not who they are told to be.

Kajaal

At the Vishrantwadi hostel in Pune, the staff practice this vision everyday. Providing free room and board throughout the school terms for 100 girls, they care about their students and the women they will one day become. 

Kaajal, 14, knows how difficult life can be. At just 10, she had to help her illiterate father and brothers work in a local quarry breaking rocks in terrible conditions. She would carry rocks through the mine, as she was small enough to fit more easily through its narrow corridors. 

Sadly, during an accident that is an unfortunately common occurrence, one of her brothers died after a rock fell on his head. Later, her father broke both his legs in a fall at the quarry and she lost another brother to an undiagnosed respiratory illness, very likely the result of the dusty and toxic conditions of the mine. 

Her parents desperately wanted more for Kaajal, and after hearing about the hostel, encouraged her to apply. When she first arrived, she was overwhelmed. “I couldn’t write my own name. I was so scared I couldn’t speak. I had no confidence.”

Now, three years on, she is transformed into a child with hopes, dreams and the knowledge that she can achieve them. She is working hard at her favourite subjects, maths and English, and feels confident about the future. 

Kaajal
Kaajal

Despite her young age, she feels sure she wants to study hard and get involved in social development, providing water, electricity, food and education to those that really need it. 

“I want the people around me to have a better life. I don’t want them to have the kind of life my family had.”

She has many friends at the hostel now too — friends like Vaishnavi, 13, who remembers the local school she was at before she joined the hostel. 

 “Teachers would give a lesson, in which they just read from a page, then go to their office,” she says. They didn’t engage at all. I felt I was smart and tried hard but I just couldn’t learn very much there.”

Luckily, after a family friend suggested the hostel to her parents, she was able to gain admission and become a full-time student at Vishrantwadi. Like the other girls, she can access quality education, receive free extra tuition and not have to worry about food, shelter or safety during the school term. 

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I feel I can speak boldly with anyone now,” Kaajal says. “I have aspirations, which I didn’t have before. Now, when my sisters see me, they feel inspired and encouraged to study too.

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The difference for her was profound. “It’s completely different,” she says. “Teachers are really involved and take the time to invest in students. They make me want to work harder.”

Her favourite activities are using the hostel computers and interactive learning using tools like projectors and teacher’s aids. None of these things were a part of her previous school.

All over India, your donations are giving girls like Vaishnavi and Kaajal the chance to lead a different life than the one they are born into — one that they choose for themselves.

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