Penned by board member Ms.Alo Pal

Her accent had a sweet clipped authenticity as opposed to mine, though French is the second language I learnt right from kindergarten. It has been 30 years since my graduation and 3 years since her Masters and we both raced our minds fetching the right vocabulary as we exchanged pleasantries. Thus far I had spoken in French at Sharana only when interacting with donors and a few volunteers but my conversation with Sathiyapriya must count among the sweetest. Today she works at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) and has a steady handsome income. Her ailing mother Lakshmi is happy and her wish to see her four daughters educated and well-established has finally manifested.

Ten years back Sathiyapriya’s mother fell seriously ill and three years later her husband collapsed outside their home and died of a massive heart attack, this was within a week of the passing of his own mother and in the midst of post-death rituals.

Sathiya and her older sister had been beneficiaries of Sharana under our Back-to-School program when Sathiya was in 3rd standard and her sister in 5th standard. With their mother incapacitated and their father no more the family was reduced to penury, hunger, and deprivation. By this time Lakshmi’s oldest daughter was married and the one after was wedded a few months after she lost her husband and her son-in-law pitched in to help run the household. But Lakshmi was staring at years of hopeless scarcity. She and her husband both dreamt of educating their girls and making them self-sufficient, productive human beings but circumstances and fate had other plans.

Mr. Ravianand, our Back-To-School program manager, helped the younger siblings through their studies, motivating them not to give up after their 10th and 12th and opt for vocational training courses even though financially they were most likely to see an immediate alleviation of their state. The girls were good students, valued education and it was important that they realised their potential. The girls instead started a tuition centre in their home and taught French and English to the children in the neighborhood even as they pursued their studies. This contributed in a small though not insignificant way to the family situation.

Today Sathiya’s older sister has completed her B.Sc. and a diploma in speech therapy and works at Indira Gandhi Medical College, and Sathiya was persuaded to not only complete her B. A French but complete her Masters as well. The Job with TCS has brought her much happiness, confidence, and an enhanced standard of living.

But then, I am tasked to not only tell a story but to also make an evaluation of the quality and effectiveness of an intervention by Sharana via these case studies and I am forced to probe into sensitive, poignant, and sometimes even dark spaces to grasp a pre-intervention scenario. When I asked Sathiya to qualify what Sharana meant to her and her family when her father passed away so suddenly, she fell silent. Insensitive as it might seem I tried to prompt her with situations I had heard from scores of stories over the years, but that made her even more quiet. She had gone back to those times but she couldn’t speak instead as I gazed into her eyes, I saw them well up in tears.

I did not need to learn more.

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