- in Shakti -
Get to know our work, speak for itself.
Shakti School of Arts for Girls is located in Chandreswar Nagar, Rishikesh, near the town center, and has a beautiful view of the Ganges from the roof. Most of our students live in poor areas near the dry riverbed. Their families make a living by selling vegetables, working in repair shops, driving rickshaws or selling food they make. Many of the girls live with a large number of family members in a small, rented room, with an external bathroom that they share with 30 or more people in their area. It is our dream to help the girls break free from the cycle of poverty, develop their hidden talents and capabilities, and lead happy, successful lives.
Our school currently has 60 students divided in two groups of girls. The morning group is for the smaller girls, 3 to 9 years old, who are currently not attending a regular school. We work as a pre-school for those who still don’t know how to read and write, and focus on those subjects, and as a kindergarten for those who need to keep perfecting their ability to write both English and Hindi. We are also giving them introductory classes in math, science, computers, arts and yoga.
In the afternoon we work as an ‘after school program,’ where girls aged 9 to 14 study English as a primary subject, along with art, dance, music, yoga, and computers. English is an essential subject for self-empowerment in the modern world, so that is a strong focus in our school. Fluency in English will open doors of opportunity for these girls into higher education and well-paid jobs and help them to escape from the cycle of poverty.
Everything in the school is given for free. This includes books, notebooks, pens, art supplies, toys, games, sports equipment, and uniforms (including shoes). We also give the girls a nutritious meal each day. Since many of the girls are underweight, along with their meal they receive a glass of fresh milk combined with protein powder. This is important because some of the girls come from very poor families and are not getting much nourishment at home.
Another key factor for empowering the girls is helping them develop confidence in self-expression, which the Shakti School seeks to foster through all of the girls’ activities. They are encouraged to express themselves fully and without inhibition through their artwork, dance, and spoken presentations. An important corollary to courageous self-expression is helping them to find peace within themselves through the meditation that accompanies their practice of yoga.
The girls are making great strides in learning English and are also excelling in drawing, painting, and yoga. They have put on several excellent dance performances and art exhibitions which the local community has enjoyed.
Tarini wants to eventually include self-defence among the subjects of the school, as protection for the students in situations of abuse, which many girls in India have to face.
The school’s expenses run to about $1,500 a month, including rent for the building, electricity, teachers’ salaries, food and supplies.
We are actively seeking teachers, donors and partners to help sustain the school. Tarini’s dream is to sponsor our students all the way to higher education, and cheer them on to succe
Another essential key to empowering these girls is proper nutrition and medical care. The Shakti School has sponsored 2 medical camps, where all the girls were weighed and examined by a pediatrician for signs of parasites and other problems, and then given the required medicines. As many of the girls are underweight, we have increased the quality of nutrition in their daily meal, and in addition to the food are giving each girl a glass of fresh milk mixed with protein powder each day.
Who else do we help?
Shakti School of Arts for Girls is a charitable project that comes under the umbrella of a global organization we founded known as Saving Lives with Love, Inc., a US government-approved tax-exempt charity. Also included is Feeding Rishikesh, (www.feedingrishikesh.org) that is registered in India as a charitable organization known as: “Maa Anapurna Sewa Project” which runs a project providing free dinners to 250 people each night and large bags of basic foods to many poor families. During the Covid lockdown, Feeding Rishikesh gave over 35,000 large bags of groceries to those in need.
We are also running a large charitable project in Venezuela called Saving Lives in Venezuela (www.savinglivesinvenezuela.org), where volunteers in three cities distribute food, medicine, baby formula, and childcare supplies to those in need.
To date we have shipped more than 20 tons of supplies into Venezuela, and are serving hundreds of people each week, including dozens of malnourished children and impoverished elderly people. Our latest project in Venezuela is a new school in the town of Mérida, which currently has 36 children enrolled. They are now receiving a full array of classes and a great breakfast each day.
Covid and Education
The Covid crisis that has roiled the world during the last two years has created huge obstacles for the education of young people everywhere. In wealthier countries, where most people have access to computers and cellphones, children were able to attend online classes, but in poorer countries like India that strategy has been impossible to implement, especially in the poorest communities. The public schools in Rishikesh were completely closed due to Covid, and most of the girls who attend our school had no access at all to computers or cellphones and were therefore unable to receive any education at all for the two years prior to the creation of Shakti School of Arts. You can imagine what a loss it is for a growing young mind to be deprived of education for two full years! More concerning is that with nothing constructive to do, young girls in the slums could easily fall into bad company and get into trouble. Shakti School of Arts has played a vital role in providing essential education and support for these girls, and given a special boost to help them recover for lost time. Now that their regular school as resumed, Shakti School continues as a high quality ‘after school program’, giving the girls a much richer educational experience than they would ordinarily receive through their public school. Our strong focus on mastering English, and self-expression through dance, art and music, will help them find new power in themselves, and bring out the greatness they all have within.
Women in India?
The tragic situation of underprivileged women in India
According to the UN, an estimated 1.5 million underage girls marry each year in India. One of the women we are helping in Rishikesh was married at age 12, had her first baby the next year, and by age 14 had two children! Her husband was abusive, and she was finally able to divorce him (a rare feat in India), and is now trying to raise her children on her own without any substantial source of income. How different her life could have been if she’d been able to complete high school and college and find a career, and then make her own decision to marry!
The age-old practice of dowry in India, whereby the bride’s family is expected to give a large financial gift to the groom, has created a situation where girls are considered a financial burden, whereas boys are considered an asset. Largely for this reason, discrimination against women in India begins even before birth, as many parents choose to abort female fetuses, or even kill newborn female babies. Although there are now laws in place to prevent determination of the gender of the fetus before birth, many parents in India find a way to circumvent those laws, and if the fetus is female, terminate the pregnancy one way or another.
The traditional cultural ideal in India is that after they are married, women are expected to live with their in-laws and dedicate themselves to raising children rather than having careers. For this reason, it is often considered a waste of money to educate girls. One result is that female literacy in India stands at only 65.5%, compared to 82.1% among men.
There is a horrible phenomenon in India known as ‘dowry deaths’. If the groom’s family feels the bride has not given enough of a dowry, sometimes they will try to extort more money from the bride’s family. If a larger dowry is not forthcoming, or if for any reason the groom (or his mother) is not pleased with the newly acquired wife, the groom’s family may just pour kerosene on the wife and burn her to death, and then claim it was a ‘kitchen accident.’ The police and Indian legal system will often do nothing, and the groom is then free to find another wife who he hopes will bring in a larger dowry. In 2020 alone there were 6,966 dowry deaths reported in India, and one would have to assume that majority of cases go unreported and that the actual number is much higher.
During the last 20 years, alcoholism among men in India has been on the rise. In the poor areas where the girls who attend our school live, it appears to us that the vast majority of the men are alcoholics. An alcoholic man will be an abusive husband and father, and may forcefully take any money his wife has made through her daily work and use it to buy alcohol. Men who come home drunk may even sexually abuse their own female children.
This makes it all the more urgent that girls in India receive a full education, so that they may make their own choices in life and escape from the cycle of poverty and abuse.
If you need any additional assistance with the donation, do not hesitate to contact us directly by whatsapp