the kiran anjali project.

I was lucky enough to attend an event earlier this month to benefit The [amazing] Kiran Anjali Project.  It was inspiring to hear about the work this organization is doing to assist young girls at The Wings School in India.  The girls receive a free high-quality education, including arts and tae kwon do, and two nutritious meals a day.
Co-founders, Linda Floyd and Sheryl Hoye, became friends while living in Hyderabad, India in 2008. They met Grace Rajkumar, a woman working with abused women with a dream of opening a school for girls.  And so began a journey to better the lives of girls.  Linda and Sheryl share a passion for women’s issues and a desire to make a difference in the lives of those less fortunate. Naming their foundation after their daughters, their mission is to support the eduction of disadvantaged children. 
As I listened to the stories of girls born in India and the challenges they face everyday, I was reminded of the simple gifts I was given.  Given freely and without question.  I was valued.  I was safe.  I was educated.  Every child should be able to say the same.  I am honored to call Linda Floyd a friendShe kindly shared more about The Wings School and her experience with The Kiran Anjali Project. 

What took your family to India?
My husband was working at Microsoft at the time and we were offered the opportunity to relocate to Hyderabad for 2 years.

What was your impression of women in India and how the Indian culture viewed their roles?
Most Indian women lead what we would consider to be traditional roles as wives and mothers. The majority of women go to live with their in-laws once they are married where they are expected to serve and care for their mother and father-in-law. India is a country of extremes. On one end are the small minority of very well educated women who work in professions that are respected and that earn them a good living. On the other end are very poor, uneducated women who are forced into sex work. These women are considered “bad” and beneath contempt.

How did you meet Grace and why did she want to start a school?
My husband was working and my kids were all enrolled in an international school so I had a lot of time on my hands. The local expatriate group had started a committee to vet local nonprofits for possible volunteer opportunities for their members. I accompanied my friend Sheryl who was going to interview Grace Rajkumar. Grace runs a small charity that provides aid to abused and exploited women. I ended up volunteering with Grace and was so impressed by her. When I heard about her dream of opening a school for the area’s poorest girls I decided to help her make the dream a reality.

What were the challenges of getting The Wings School started?
Not much is easy in India but opening a school was certainly much easier than it would have been here in the U.S. We found a suitable building in a village that is at a nexus of public transit routes and we had it renovated. Grace promoted the school through village leaders. I helped to get supplies. Grace’s husband retired from his job as head teacher at one of the city’s most prestigious private schools and came onboard as the principal. Soon families started coming to have their daughters write the entrance exams.

What are the requirements for admittance into The Wings School?
The girls need to come from families that earn about $2 a day or less. The families need to be supportive of their daughter’s education and the girls themselves have to demonstrate aptitude and an eagerness to learn.

Would these girls be in school if they did not attend The Wings School?
The average girl in India receives only four years of education so most of the older girls at the school would likely be sold by their families to work as domestic servants if they were not at Wings.

The girls eat two meals a day at school at no cost to them. Why is this important?
Most girls from poor families in India are malnourished. They receive little more than rice for most meals and are often fed less than their brothers. A hungry child cannot learn so offering the girls breakfast and lunch is essential for their health and academic performance. These meals also provide an incentive for their families to keep them in school. The fact that the school itself is free and the girls also get fed means that families are less apt to sell their daughters.

Along with a rigorous curriculum, the girls take many arts classes and tae kwon do.  Why were these disciplines included?
Grace’s vision was for the girls to receive a well-rounded education so that includes the arts. Many of the girls come from families where there is desperate poverty, alcohol abuse and domestic violence. The art, dance and music classes allow the girls to express themselves and unburden their stresses.

Many of the women Grace works with are abused by their husband and/or in-laws. This is sadly the norm amongst the poor in India. Additionally, due to the widespread abortion of female fetuses, India now faces a huge gender imbalance. This has resulted in increasing incidences of sexual assault. Grace wanted all the girls to be confident in their ability to defend themselves. All girls learn Tae-kwon-do and many compete successfully in competitions.

How are your children involved in The Kiran Anjali Project?
I don’t push my kids to get involved in any way. All my kids were at the opening of the school and helped out at that stage. Back in the U.S. my daughter’s Girl Scout troop has raised funds and collected books for Wings.

How can others get involved to effect change?
When I found myself listening to Grace and her dreams of opening a school I thought about how life gives you opportunities. You can either ignore these or grab them and do something. Other people may not have the chance to open a school but we all have chances to make the world a better place. Just do it.

How can parents involve their children?
There are plenty of great ways for families to do volunteer work together. A couple of months ago my oldest son and I prepared and served dinner at a men’s shelter. This was something he wanted to do with me – I didn’t force him. Go with your kids’ interests and don’t make it a chore.

Want to do more?

Read Half the Sky. An amazing book. 
"Deeply felt, pragmatic and inspirational, Half the Sky is essential reading for every global citizen."

{Logo and pictures courtesy of the KAP and The Wings School}

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