STORIES FROM OUR FORMER CHILDREN’S HOMES
Here is a small selection of the many positive developments amongst our teenager during their time at the Back to Life Children's Homes. Numerous of our former students have seized their opportunity to earn a school degree and go off into tertiary education or professional life.
The three oldest successfully passed their final school exams
In 2012, we were more than happy to announce that three of our longtime protégés have completed their school education. After twelve years of schooling, Poonam (18), Aatish (19) and Vikash (19) all passed their final examinations at the "Little Flower School" in May 2012. While Aatish and Vikash passed at the first attempt, unfortunately, Poonam initially failed in one of the exams and had to repeat the test again in July. Yet, with the help of extra tutoring she easily mastered it this time.
The three high school graduates then prepared for their university entrance tests, which can be very demanding. Gladly, it all worked out fine. Poonam qualified for the Benares Hindu University (BHU), whilst Vikash and Aatish were admitted to the local Mahatma Gandhi College in Benares. Poonam started studying Indian history, Vikash English and another foreign language., and Aatish entered into a business administration course. Back to Life continued supporting them during their studies, by funding their tuition fees, living expenses, and pocket money. We were very grateful indeed for the long-term sponsors who helped us looking after those three over the years. All of them were able to escape their fate as street children and took up tertiary education in order to qualify for a profession they have freely chosen themselves.
PARTICIPATING IN THE ASIAN YOUTH FESTIVAL
In January 2012, some of our teenagers received the chance to display their talents at the Asian Youth Festival. Archana (13), Moni (11), Sumitra (12), Devid (12), Poonam (13), Swati (12), Anita (13) and Sonu (16) and nine other girls from our Children's Rights Program traveled for one week to Kolkata (700 km away), to represent their state Uttar Pradesh with dance, singing and music performances. This year the event was held under the theme “Consciousness of Oneness” and convened 384 young people from 18 Indian states and its neighbouring countries Nepal, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka. The girls and boys all came from the poorest and most disadvantaged parts of society. The invitation, under the patronage of Mother Theresa's "Young Men's Welfare Society", was issued back in November and since then our children had been rehearsing for the event. Unfortunately, our longtime dance and Kathak teacher, Mata Prasadji, fell ill but the children appointed one of them, Sonu, as their teacher and choreographer. When their big day finally arrived, they travelled to Kolkata with the overnight train, which was quite an adventure for all of them. The head of the Children's Home and a social worker accompanied the group.
When they arrived in Kolkata, they went straight to their accommodation, the "Children Foundation School”, which served as a bed and breakfast for the occasion. The school yard was used as a venue for games, arts, and sport competitions, as well as courses to develop vocal and dance skills. At the welcome ceremony the children were allowed to choose between different dance and singing classes, which were led by world-famous artists. Sonu was fortunate enough to be taught a full two hours by the famous Kathak master, Asim Bandhu Bhattacharyya. He was absolutely thrilled. On the evening of 23 January the actual event was kicked-off at the Kala Mandir Event Center. Following the opening address by the Governor of West Bengal, it was time for the first few groups to perform the traditional dances from their regions. On the last evening of the festival, it was our children’s turn to perform! The lively and charming dance performance titled "Raadha kaise njale" left a lasting impression on the audience and was rewarded with thunderous applause.
In addition to the festival, the children enjoyed a dense but exciting schedule, which featured a colourful program of culture and entertainment. There were many highlights, including the visit of the famous temples Kali an Ramakrishna, the children’s first time ever metro ride, a zoo visit, and the child-friendly museum Science City, as well as the Nicco leisure park, where they were treated to their first roller coaster ride. After one week it was time to say goodbye to their new friends taking home a wealth of unforgettable moments. Of course, when the children arrived – both happy and exhausted – they were welcomed with overwhelming curiosity. For days, Sonu, Moni, Sumitra, Devid, Poonam, Swati, Anita and Archana shared stories from their adventure.
FROM HIGH SCHOOL TO UNIVERSITY AND BEYOND
In 2015, again, we were pleased that some of our teenagers successfully finished High School and were ready for the next step on their path to independence.
Meera: After successfully completing 12th grade at the Little Flower School in Benares, Meera was admitted into the Benares Hindu University. She enrolled into a Bachelor of Arts in philosophy. In her freshman year at university, a lot of things were still new to her, but she enjoyed studying – in particular, staying in a dorm together with her friends Soni and Manju.
Ramesh: It was mostly social issues that interested Ramesh. Therefore, after graduating from the Little Flower School, it was clear that he would pursue a Bachelor of Arts at the Indira Gandhi National Open University, a distance learning institution. His dream was to become a social worker.
Guddu: Also Guddu finished his High School degree at the Little Flower School with success and decided to go to university. His choice fell on a Bachelor of Business Administration degree at the Kashi Institute of Medical Science, a private college. After this, he was already interested in a MBA, hoping this would help him to get a good job in a company. He shared a room with his buddy Ramesh.
Suraj: Unfortunately, Suraj did not pass her tests at the Little Flower School. Yet, he did not burry his head, but rolled up his sleeves and started studying even harder, so he would pass the repetition exams in December. His goal was to enrol into a Bachelor of Commerce degree in order get into a public service role.
Aatish and Vikas: Around the same time, the two boys completed their university degrees graduating from the Mahatma Gandhi Kashi Vidyapith Varanasi University. Aatish earned a Bachelor of Commerce and Vikas was awarded a Bachelor of Arts. Both were now preparing for professional life. Of course, the Back to Life team was at their side during the application process.
LALU ON COURSE FOR SUCCESS (2015)
Already at a very young age he was struck by misfortune: Lalu’s father died tragically before he had a chance to really get to know him and his mother died only a few years later of tuberculosis. Back to Life took care of the sweet, bright, and honest boy for many years. Once he almost quit his education and wanted to leave the Children's Home to work for family members in an unqualified job. Luckily, we were able to convince him to stay with us and complete his schooling first.
Meanwhile, he had grown into a handsome young man who was very mature for his 19 years. He was voted "boy of the month” by the other children in the Children’s Home, which proves how popular he was among them. This came as no surprise, as he had an extremely positive attitude, strong will, a good work ethic, and a great sense of responsibility. After finishing 10th grade, he enrolled at a vocational college, the Saint Sai Industrial Training Institute, in Benares. Every day he got on his bike to get to class quickly. He coped well with both the theoretical and the practical part of the course and made big plans for the future. He wanted to work as a technical assistant at the Ministry of Railways. We were so proud of Lalu's commitment and determination. Lalu was pleased too, "thanks to Back to Life's support, I can build my own future. That's great. Many Thanks!”