In the summer of 1991, a few students including V. J. P. Srivatsav, Deepak Gupta, and Sandeep Pandey got together to think of ways in which they could play a role in the development of India, the country of their origin. These young people shared the belief that education is a critical requisite and an effective catalyst for social and economic change in India. Basic education became the agenda for the action group that emerged from this gathering. The group was named Asha to represent the hope that had brought these individuals together and the hope that they aimed to bring into the lives of children in India. In that summer of 1991, Asha was born at the University of California in Berkeley. (For more information please visit www.ashanet.org)
Asha Parivar came into existence with its education program for the children from economically backward families in 2003. Classes in the initial days were held on platform numbers 8 and 9 at Charbagh Railway station, Lucknow. The program was started by Sri Swadeep Singh, who is a journalist by profession. Gradually, this program came to be taken to a few slums in and around Lucknow. These slums are Nadwa, situated on the bank of the river Gomti, in front of Mankameshwar Temple; Gandhinagar in Gomtinagar, located next to Lohia Hospital; Noubasta in Madiaon; Janki Plaza, opposite Jankipuram. For about a year the program was run under the aegis of ‘Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan’. Prior to this, it was basically an informal education program in all the centers run by Asha Parivar. But association with Sarva Shikhsha Abhiyan necessitated that children are sent to recognized schools. Today Asha Parivar is sending 160 children to several recognized and well known private schools like, Prerna, Unity Mission, Nav Srijan, Triloki Singh Inter College. Some children are going to government schools also. The Parivar is looking after their homework after the school.
Asha Parivar not just arranges education of the under privileged children, it also takes care of the health problems of these children and of their family members. Among other supports, Parivar tries to help their parents to receive certain benefits from various govt welfare schemes, like, arranging fare-priced vegetables, houses for low income earners, and the like.
In 2006, Kanpur chapter of Asha started “Apna Ghar” for the children of migratory workers working in the brick kiln. Today there are 12 children who are staying and studying there. The hands that once used to get burnt in kilns are now using pen and computer trying to paint their dreams. Side by side in “Apna School” which is meant for the children of these migrated brick kiln workers provide the mid-day meals to 500 children.
Thus far it has been a purposeful and productive journey, thanks to the generous support received from well meaning community members. It is their help in various forms which could transform tears to smiles for the children, and Asha Parivar is making every effort to make these children worthy and caring citizens.