Ninety percent of every dollar AI raises through fund-raising efforts, such as its 15th anniversary gala on Monday, October 12, at the New York Athletic Club, goes directly to the field, whether (increasingly) in support of the Social Capital Credits (SoCCs) programs AI is currently implementing in India, Ghana, Costa Rica, Kenya, and the U.S., or as grants to carefully vetted projects.
While SoCCS have the potential to reach many more people in multiple locations and, as such, have moved to the core of the AI program (two such programs being the self-help groups for women in Ahmedabad and the resource center for girls, also in Ahmedabad), Asia Initiatives does continue to support a number of smaller grassroots programs that year after year create a ripple effect from the individuals whose lives they transform.
Take Ashta no Kai (ANK) – India, an Asia Initiatives partner since 2006, which works toward improving the economic status of rural women and promoting the education of the girl child. Thanks to this initiative over the past 8 years (such as ANK’s Bicycle Bank and Scholarships), 950 girls in the Pune district have stayed in school; 550 plus have gone on to pursue studies beyond high school. Village girls are now working in fields such as accounting, automobile engineering, and IT. Girls are developing self-confidence and becoming aware of their options. Early marriages, once the norm, are fewer.
And it goes beyond schoolbooks. In response to an increase in violent crime against women, ANK initiated karate classes in 2012 for girls, grades 7 to 9, to give them the capacity and confidence to fight back in situations like assault and rape. In ANK’s Kishori Mandals (adolescent girls clubs), 25-30 adolescent girls meet weekly to discuss topics not covered in school (legal rights, sexuality, personal hygiene, nutrition, health, sanitation). Kishor Mandals (adolescent boys clubs) promote activities that attempt to break down gender stereotypes.
Then there’s the soccer team. Slum Children Sports and Talent Development Society (SCSTEDS) has been an AI partner since 2005. The accolades have been pouring in for SCSTEDS, a soccer club formed in 2000 in Chennai (India) by slum dwellers to keep their children in school, out of crime, and on track. The Hindu (9/11/2011) called the program “a tool” for bringing about social change in slum children. Education is an integral part of the program, and children who don’t go to school don’t play. SCSTEDS opened a night school for the children; gratifyingly, drop-out rates are falling.
An AI grant supports a month-long training camp for 30 team members, both girls and boys. It isn’t just about uniforms and equipment. It’s a matter of sustenance: two eggs, one carton of milk, and one pack of bread. Per child. Per day.
Buy a ticket. Come to the gala. Be inspired. Make a pledge. Every dollar contributed creates an opportunity for someone, somewhere. For details, and to purchase tickets, please visit http://www.asiainitiativesgala.org
– by Anne Papantonio, Board Member