In 2014 we marked our 3rd year anniversary of the founding of Rukmini Foundation. We first opened doors in 2011, improving the lives of underprivileged girls by empowering them through a holistic program of quality education, supportive mentoring and a physical well-being program. Being born a girl shouldn’t mean living with less freedom and rights than a boy, so from the start we have been committed to challenging outdated conventions and giving them a voice.
Quite a lot has changed over the past three years. Rukmini Foundation serves now many more girls, our programs continue to improve and expand and we have a bigger volunteering team than ever before. With a constant focus on our mission, we envision a Nepali society where being born a girl does not mean having to lose your childhood to child labor, early marriage and early motherhood. This can only be achieved by empowering young girls through a holistic approach of quality education, mentoring and health & wellness services. It is through these dimensions that we take a look back at a truly wonderful year.
Being born a girl shouldn’t mean living with less freedom and rights than a boy, and being born a girl does not mean having to lose your childhood to child labor, early marriage and early motherhood.
Quality Education (Gyan):
The accomplishment we are most proud of, without a doubt, is the passing of the “Big Exam” of 8 of our scholars. In June, Dikshya, Puja, Sandhya, Sarathi, Sujata, Susmita, Junu and Rabina took the School Leaving Certificate (SLC) Examinations, the National level Board Exam which gives access towards higher education. All 8 of the girls passed, and they all finished in the top 20 of the best scores in the entire school. We are proud as a peacock!
We were filled with pride when all 8 of the girls who took the national School Leaving Certificate (SLC) examinations passed (with flying colors)
While we were most proud of seeing 8 of our original scholars graduate in one year, we knew that we had to strive to help girls that were facing even more hardships, and this was only achievable by reaching out to more remote villages. This was a concerted effort by our selection committee and through the help of community leaders, we were able to identify a new group of girls who came from some of the most remote villages surrounding Pharping.
The Didis (mentors) traveled to remote villages to speak with families of new scholars
Along with increasing access to education, we keep striving to improve the quality of the education we offer in rural Nepal through continuous learning for teachers. Life is a never-ending learning process, thus our teachers keep growing and developing through the Teacher Training Program. This year, the most remarkable sessions were Active and Thinking Teaching Learning Method and The Importance of Early-development: Educating the Educators. Teachers make the most of these sessions and by the results previously stated they sure do a great job.
Ms. Yasodhara Pant led a teacher training program for educators from our partner schools
Another addition to our multidimensional education program was the introduction of a new Arts Program called Kalaa (Sanskrit for Art). We heard a lot from the students about how much they love music, dance and arts & crafts so we figured that adding a program like this will get the students more engaged in school activities. Making school fun and interesting is important in order to promote education. We started by holding a small music class for a limited number of student. While we have not been able to fully implement this program due to a lack of funds, we have already seen the hugely positive response from the students and the community. We look to grow this program over the next few years as a core component of our quality education efforts.
Even though we started off on a small scale, the introduction of a music program at Shikharapur School has been a big hit
We also enjoyed the visit of two prominent females in Nepal: 2012 CNN Hero, Pushpa Basnet and the nationally renowned Nepali Radio broadcaster, Laurisa Osti. They both served as positive and intellectual role models for the girls and were clear examples of what they can achieve with confidence and dedication. Their inspirational speeches proved that girls can achieve whatever they set their mind to in life.
CNN Hero Pushpa Didi was a hero to the scholars as she inspired them to pursue their dreams.
While not as famous as those personalities, our dedicated Didis (mentors) held many sessions to educate the girls about important issues affecting girls in Nepal and worldwide. Some of these include:
- New Year’s Resolutions
- Celebration of the International Literacy Day
- Team Building Activity – How to Work Together
- World AIDS Day and International day for Abolition of Slavery
The Didis have opened up the girls eyes to the issues not only in Nepal, but the rest of the world. This program taught them about the abduction of girls in Nigeria and the girls wanted to show their support.
Finally, our signature mentoring program revolves around International Day of the Girl Child, which is also our foundation’s anniversary and also the day we celebrate #StandUp4Girls with our partner organization LitWorld. It was a typically busy and festive occasion.
Guest Didis from the US made the #StandUp4Girls program even more special for the girls
Health & Wellness (Aayush)
While there is typically less activity in this program than the Quality Education and Mentoring, our Health & Wellness initiatives are crucial not only as an educational resource, but also as a way to ensure the physical well-being of the girls we support. A yearly check up and additional support for those with serious issues provides a basic level of security for the girls with regards to their health. In 2014, we took on some more challenging issues like that of how to tackle the taboo subject of Reproductive Health Education. We were able to bring in an expert from Kathmandu, Ms. Durga Gautam, a trained nurse at a prominent hospital to conduct a program called Reproductive and Adolescent Health benefiting over 65 girls AND boys. By opening up these sessions to the entire community, not just our scholars, we ensure that teens have the information and services needed to stay healthy and stop poverty before it begins.
The students and even the mentors were listening intently to Ms. Durga’s presentation. The participation from the audience was also much better than we thought it would be.
For our Health & Wellness program, we have some exciting plans that we hope to unveil over the next few months. We want this program to continue to grow and cover additional topics like mental health, which is yet another taboo subject in this part of the world. Another exciting development we are working on is the introduction of sports for girls. We held an inaugural soccer tournament this year, but hope to build on this in the coming year.
Events & Fundraisers:
In order to advocate for education equality and fund our programs, we held various events and fundraisers in 2014. The focus and size of each program was a bit different, but each program was meaningful for us and hopefully for those who participated. Here are just a few of the activities we performed this past year:
- Ruk & Roll 2014 (Photos of Facebook)
- Scholarship Ceremony (Photos on Flickr)
- World Read Aloud Day
- Teacher’s Day in Nepal
- Sewickley Academy Dinner to Support the Girls
- No Menu Monday at Bar Marco
- Anniversary Dinner Fundraiser
We had a special guest from the US Embassy join us for the scholarship ceremony this year
World Read Aloud Day (#WRAD14) was a huge success in Nepal. Thanks to our friends in LitWorld for including us in this movement.
We created our own menu for a No Menu Monday event at Bar Marco. Huge thanks to our friends there for hosting us twice this year.
We would like to thank all of our supporters and volunteers who made these possible in 2014. We will continue to need help in 2015 so we hope to continue to receive your support.
Partnerships / Collaborations
Along with our donors and volunteers, we are also grateful to our partners and other organizations that collaborate with us during our campaigns and programs. One of our goals for 2014 was to continue to strengthen existing relationships and build new ones. Through campaigns like World Read Aloud Day and StandUp4Girls, along with the expansion of LitClubs to 2 new locations, we have truly strengthened our relationship with our friends at LitWorld.
LitClub Shikharapur is one of 2 new LitClubs that we opened in 2014
We are looking to build some more promising partnerships and collaboration opportunities in Nepal in 2015. More to come on that over the next few months.In the US, we were able to improve our operations and increase our advocacy reach through a couple of key partnerships. We are now part of The Global Switchboard in Pittsburgh, which is a shared-space, community-oriented, work center for Pittsburgh’s globally engaged social-profit organizations and individuals. Through this collaboration, we have been able to work more closely with other globally-minded organizations in Pittsburgh and we have been exposed to new opportunities that we could not otherwise take advantage of.
Another key collaboration that we are proud of this year is being a coalition member of the Global Campaign for Education – US Chapter (GCE-US). The mission of GCE-US is to promote education as a basic human right and mobilize to create political will in the United States and internationally to ensure universal quality education. Our missions align very well, and being a member of this strong network of organizations allows us to leverage lessons learned from efforts worldwide while also providing a platform to share more about our work. One of the highlights of this partnership was our presentation in one of the sessions as part of a Global Education Conference organized by GCE-US.
Taking part in this prestigious conference was one of our key highlights of the year. Thanks to our friends at GCE-US.
Along with those collaborations, we were proud to have either partnered with or worked with the following organizations in 2014:
- YWCA Greater Pittsburgh
- Barnes & Noble
- Children of Shangri-Lost
- Duquesne University
- PRYSE Academy
- Sewickley Academy High School
- World Affairs Council – Pittsburgh
2015 and Beyond:
This was yet another successful year for everyone connected with the foundation. Just as the girls we support are learning, we continue to learn and improve on how we operate the foundation. We know that there is much more we can do to improve the lives of these girls, and we are already focusing on how we can do that in 2015 and beyond.
The future for these girls and the foundation is as bright as these smiles thanks to you our supporters.
Happy New Year!
Rukmini Foundation Team