Happy Father’s Day, Pithaji!

Happy Father’s Day, Pithaji!

All good fathers share common qualities of love and affection for their children, a desire to protect them and keep them safe, to encourage and care for them. Through actively embodying these qualities, they teach their children how to display these characteristics in their own lives. Sahasra Deepika’s founder–my father, T.V. Ramakrishna, didn’t have the opportunity to get to know his dad, who died when he was a young boy. Although he was unable to receive that fatherly wisdom from him, he was inspired through literature and the words of great thinkers and leaders. And when one day a teacher recognized his talents in the classroom, it gave him the confidence to rise higher. My father believes in what Gandhi said: that we should “be the change we wish to see in the world.” That is why he and my mother made the commitment to build Sahasra Deepika as a place of safety, encouragement, and learning for children in need. Most of our girls have single mothers. For them, Dad’s calm, reassuring presence and his constant encouragement is a stabilizing force. They call him “Pithaji,” or honored father. He encourages them to dream big dreams, and to believe that despite their humble beginnings, they too are capable of great things. He knows from his own experience how important it is to make a child feel not only loved, but inspired—to complete their education and use it to make a difference in the world. He’s been a wonderful father for me and my brother, and a loving grandfather. And as founder of Sahasra Deepika, he is a father figure to...
Congrats to the 2015 pre-university graduates!

Congrats to the 2015 pre-university graduates!

Sahasra Deepika 2015 graduates: (L-R): Jayshree, Radha, Amrutha, Mamtha, Chaithra, Preethi, Pooja, Stella, Sharada, Amruthavalli[/caption] It’s such a joy to report that 10 out of the 10 girls who comprised the class of 2013 have all passed pre-university college! Nine of the girls attended Christ University in Bangalore. Jayashree, the daughter of a maid, is a diligent worker whose high score in the SSLC (secondary school) exam was recognized in an article in the Deccan Chronicle in 2013. Two years later, she’s passed pre-university college with a score of 93%, graduating with distinction. She volunteers in the admissions office at Christ and also participates in dance club. Jayashree will pursue a CPA and a business degree at Christ University. We’re so proud of the leadership she’s shown. Jayashree’s classmates Mamtha and Preethi are also going to continue their studies at Christ University. Amruthavalli and Stella, both very talented artists, have been accepted at an arts college. Amrutha plans to continue studying in Shimoga. Sharada and Chaitra spent the day touring colleges with us, and will soon decide where to attend. Radha and Pooja have decided to take a break from their studies and work for a while. What a blessing it has been to see them become such confident, mature young women of achievement. And until they finish their education and start working, Sahasra Deepika will be there every step of the way—providing housing, tuition fees, transportation, healthcare and support. Some of the girls might have been able to attend their village schools, complete and go further. But the experiences that Sahasra Deepika provides, and the girls’ growth in terms...
The Joy of Giving Back: Q&A with Anjali

The Joy of Giving Back: Q&A with Anjali

You might remember Anjali from our Snehotsava blog. She and her friend Veda organized a fundraiser, which means “festival of love”, for Sahasra Deepika back in February. Here’s a question-answer with Anjali, who’s only 16 years old but wise beyond her years. How did you first get involved with Sahasra Deepika? When I expressed an interest in volunteering, my family suggested Sahasra Deepika, where I began conducting dance classes for the girls. Who came up with the idea for Snehotsava? I think this idea came up during a conversation between Vaishali Aunty (Sahasra Deepika Trustee Vaishali Khandekar), Vandana Aunty (Veda’s mom), and my mom.  As a young woman, what does it mean to you to encourage these girls? As a young woman, I believe strongly that every girl should feel confident about herself. Since these girls come from difficult backgrounds, it’s all the more important that they learn that as long as they believe in themselves, nothing can stop them (however clichéd that may sound). Dance contributed enormously to my self-confidence. I have learned to let go of my inhibitions and stand on a stage with a hundred people staring at me. I figured that by teaching the girls dance, I could maybe instill some of that confidence in them too. What would you tell others who may be interested in supporting an organization like Sahasra Deepika? Everyday when I went to Sahasra Deepika, I returned inspired because the girls are so joyful and content. I think everyone should have a chance to experience that. I also think that, since we’ve been blessed with financial security, it is only right that...
The Class of 2015: Facing the Future With Hope

The Class of 2015: Facing the Future With Hope

T.V. and Vijaya Ramakrishna, the Founders of Sahasra Deepika, reflect upon the Class of 2015. L-R: Seniors Gagana, Bhumika, and Ashwini with Triveni, Kavya and Sushma at Bangalore’s International Airport.[/caption] Every year, without fail, the children at Sahasra Deepika are moving forward in the right direction. This fills us with great joy, because to help anyone move forward in their life is a contribution towards the betterment of society. The class of 2015 consists of three girls from different backgrounds, and with different personalities—but each with tremendous potential. Ashwini’s family is originally from Rajasthan. They came to South India looking for work and settled in Bangalore. Her mother is a housemaid who doesn’t even have a place for her daughter to stay, because she lives at her employer’s residence. Bhumika hails from the northern part of Karnataka and has an older sister who is also very bright. She dealt with the loss of her beloved father while she was studying at Sahasra Deepika. Gagana is from a rural background. She is looked upon as a leader in her community, and an inspiration, because she is an educated girl. In the Sahasra Deepika environment, we raise the girls to think not only of themselves, but to think in terms of what they can do for others. That aspect is ingrained in their upbringing—to complete their education, and help those people who are in poor conditions. They have been encouraged to think in terms of being mentors for other girls, and to consider what role they can play in society. Maybe one of them will become that future leader to make...

Opening Doors, Inspiring Hope

We’re only a few months in, and 2015 is already proving to be a great year for Sahasra Deepika. It’s wonderful to see so many people recognizing the efforts of Sahasra Deepika, because that means our message of girls education is being heard more and more each day. President Sarva Rajendra shared her thoughts on the past few months, and how such great opportunities mean great things for Sahasra Deepika and the futures of so many young women. During the past three months, I’ve been blessed with the opportunity to bring Sahasra Deepika’s story to a wider audience. Beginning with an interview on WUSA9, followed by feature articles in Washington Family Magazine and Loudoun Times-Mirror, I was able to share our mission of enlightening and empowering girls through education. Topping this off was being selected for Loudoun Business Journal’s 20 Women to Watch in 2015 list, and as one of the four women on the cover of their 100 Women issue. At the photo shoot and at the launch party, I felt truly humbled to be included in such an amazing community of women. They are leaders and trailblazers in their respective fields, and the spirit of service is woven through their lives. Our discussions quickly moved towards how we could collaborate and find areas of connection to encourage girls to become educated, confident women. Whether the girls in need are from Loudoun County, one of the wealthiest counties in the United States, or from Bangalore, India, they all deserve the chance to realize their potential. First Lady Michelle Obama said, “When you walk through that open door of opportunity, you...

Meet Suma

This week, we’re introducing you to Suma, one of our Sahasra Deepika graduates. Suma came to Sahasra Deepika when she was five-years-old. She gained brothers, sisters and a new family.   Suma says school was a bit difficult, especially 10th standard. But with the encouragement of Mathali (Sahasra Deepika co-founder Mrs. Ramakrishna), Suma completed 10th standard as well as pre-university. Suma is now enrolled in secretarial school and hopes to become a secretary or stenographer. “I’m proud to say that I am daughter of Sahasra Deepika.”...
International Women’s Day: Be the light for a girl in need

International Women’s Day: Be the light for a girl in need

Isaac Newton said “if I have seen further than others, it is by standing upon the shoulders of giants.” Newton recognized that all of his tremendous achievements would have been impossible without the hard work of the great scientists and thinkers who had come before him. Progress in science, as in society, is essentially incremental – an upward trend with great leaps from time to time, building upon the work of the past. Think for a moment about all of the giants whose shoulders you stand upon, the women in your life who paved the way for you, who encouraged you and made it possible for you to reach for your highest potential. Maybe it was your grandmother, mother, or another family member? Or perhaps it was a total stranger – a coach, teacher, or mentor, who encouraged you to go further than you ever dreamed possible. Now imagine for a moment that you are a girl in a poor family in India, growing up in a slum, or perhaps in a village. Your parents do the best they can for you and send you to school. They love you and want the best for you, but they cannot see any further than their life of unending menial labor. You attend school and maybe dream, for a time, of a better life. But along the way, something happens. You are asked to leave school and help support the family while your brother continues on, because his education is valued more than yours – simply because you are a girl. Your father abandons you and your mother cannot cope. A...

Snehotsava: Festival of Love

Recently, two young women from a nearby community held a fundraiser for Sahasra Deepika called Snehotsava, which means festival of love. What a beautiful fundraiser we had! pic.twitter.com/FnsTRDeowz — Sahasra Deepika (@SahasraDeepika) February 14, 2015 The program took place in an amphitheater in the Classic Orchards community in Bangalore. Several people in the community regularly volunteer at Sahasra Deepika, including trustees Vaishali Khandekar, Arun Kumar PR,and Rajalakshmi Natarajan. Here’s the program from Snehotsava pic.twitter.com/UD7RPYHuLQ — Sahasra Deepika (@SahasraDeepika) February 14, 2015 Anjali, 16, who has taught dance to the girls at Sahasra Deepika before, and her friend Veda came up with the idea for the program. Anjali and Veda came up with Snehotsava, a fundraiser for SD which means Festival of Love. pic.twitter.com/7c9mmx2qG6 — Sahasra Deepika (@SahasraDeepika) February 14, 2015 It began with lighting of the lamp by Sahasra Deepika founders T.V. and Vijaya Ramakrishna. A group of senior girls from Sahasra Deepika performed a dance, Aiyigiri Nandini, to open the show. Lighting of the lamp by Sahasra Deepika founders T.V. and Vijaya Ramakrishna pic.twitter.com/j9L4RlhmZO — Sahasra Deepika (@SahasraDeepika) February 14, 2015 Senior girls from SD perfrom Aiyigiri Nandini pic.twitter.com/jM6tmFhTNd — Sahasra Deepika (@SahasraDeepika) February 14, 2015 The program was entrancing. The dancers, all extremely talented young women, performed Kathak and Bharatnatyam styles of classical Indian dance. A highlight was the Bharatnatyam-Kathak Jugalbandi, choreographed by Anjali and Veda. Anjali and Veda choreographed the Bharatnatyam-Kathak Jugalbandi pic.twitter.com/tt6LD6EVOh — Sahasra Deepika (@SahasraDeepika) February 14, 2015 We also enjoyed two other dancers, Priyanka and Subhashini, who had amazing expressions on her face as she told the story of Krishna. Priyanka and Subhashini pic.twitter.com/cbt88AF7km — Sahasra Deepika (@SahasraDeepika) February 14,...
6th Annual Spelling Bee Contest

6th Annual Spelling Bee Contest

Sahasra Deepika’s 6th Annual Spelling Bee, featuring 92 finalists from 23 Kannada medium, government high schools, was held on January 24, 2015 at Bharatiya Vidya Bhavan in Bangalore. Archana, a student from S.V. Krishna Iyer Government High School, won the contest after 15 rounds of competition, by spelling “decipher.” Thanks to the leadership of Salma Khader, Program Coordinator, Sahasra Deepika trustees and staff, and the volunteers from Societe Generale in Bangalore, the event was our biggest and most successful to date. The program was moderated by Dr. G. Sridhar of Deeksha Network, and presided over by Chief Guest Justice Ram Mohan Reddy of the Karnataka High Court. Throughout the school year, volunteers and staff visit participating high schools around Bangalore, focusing on 9th standard students. The children are tutored in English, and the top students from each school are represented at the Spelling Bee. This year’s top 3 winners, Archana, Bindu Shree and Sandhya (from Honnagana Hatti High School), won laptops. Archana also won a college scholarship. Many thanks to all who made this year’s program possible!...

2014: A Year in Review

2014 was a year of milestones and setbacks for the cause of girls’ education. The tragic kidnapping of schoolgirls in Nigeria and the massacre of innocent children at a school in Peshawar were huge, devastating setbacks. But the recognition of children’s rights by the Nobel Peace Prize committee, the continued increase in female and youth literacy rates, and the First Lady’s push for community-based education solutions were signs of greater awareness of the plight of millions of children worldwide. This year, the world continued to recognize the right to an education, the right to not work during one’s childhood, and the right to live free from fear of gender-based violence. Through it all, Sahasra Deepika has remained a beacon of hope and a safe haven for girls who had no chance for an education. Sahasra Deepika Insitute is a place where their talents can be recognized and celebrated and their dreams can become a reality. Here are a few of the highlights of 2014, in which we celebrated 16 years of service to children in need. February 8: 5th Annual Spelling Bee Contest Students from 14 high schools around Bangalore gathered for Sahasra Deepika’s annual spelling bee contest, a culmination of our Outreach Program. The event was a grand success! April: SD student graduates This year, Bhavya, a girl who has been at Sahasra Deepika for 13 years, graduated. She is now enrolled at a junior college in Bangalore, studying computer science. August: SD grads join engineering college Two students from the class of 2012, Divya and Sharana, finished pre-university college and joined Vemana Institute of Technology. They are Sahasra Deepika’s first graduates to join engineering...