Guest blogger Melissa Foley volunteered at Asha Sadan, one of Commit2Change’s partner centers in India. Melissa gave up a high-paying career in the corporate world, selling all of her belongings in order to travel the world and volunteer with women, children, and animals in need. This is her perspective on Commit2Change, and why education for all women and girls matters.
Be the Change You Wish to See in the World
Each of us, no matter what country we come from, has a dark history of oppression and human rights challenges. What have we learned? What promises have we made to do better? What is our obligation to the rest of the world to protect the innocent?
In a global world with readily available information, those of us in the first world have no excuse for ignorance. Genocide, war, child slavery and sex trafficking, legalized rape, and infanticide are just a few of the horrors still occurring as we sit here today. What can we do? What can YOU do?
As an American, I am appalled at our historical intolerance of women and minorities. While we still have work to do, things have progressed through the heroic efforts of those brave pioneers fighting for equality.
However, as a citizen of the United States, I recognize how fortunate I am to have been born here. Although I am female, I have the right to an education, to vote and even drive a car. There are laws meant to protect women and children from abuse, oppression, and slavery, as well as to prevent a father from selling his daughter into marriage at the age of 12. Just a few simple liberties we rarely even take notice of, while our sisters and daughters abroad can only dream of such freedoms.
Helping the Women of the World
After spending my career as an executive riding the corporate hamster wheel, I recently asked myself: What can we do to support our fellow sisters of the world? What can I do to help give them a voice?
After trading everything I own for a backpack and the freedom to travel around the world volunteering for various non-governmental offices (NGOs) supporting women, children, and endangered wildlife, I found myself in India.
India has an unexplainable beauty amongst the chaos, corruption, and poverty. The spirit and kindness of the Indian people will forever touch your heart. At times it was impossible for me to imagine the dark side of a culture so complicated that a cow is considered more sacred than their girls.
As Westerners, it should never be our place to ever hold judgment against the cultural differences we don’t understand. But at what point do we question or object when an entire segment of a population is at risk, or worse—being oppressed? How can social change come about for the greater good of all a society?
Is it our responsibility to solve this dilemma? I personally believe we all have a responsibility to speak against the injustices of the world. Have we not learned from our own history? These people, these children deserve freedoms and opportunities. To not advocate for those being oppressed, makes us as guilty as those oppressing.
But how…how can one person make a difference?
Education. Educating our girls and women of the world. Every woman is your mother, every woman is your sister, every woman is your daughter, every woman is your friend. Education is the power that will set them free, and set us all free as a global family.
There has been amazing research and statistics of social movements throughout the world, showing the astounding economical, environmental, and social benefits of educating women. This is how each of us can make a difference. Support efforts that provide access to education to these girls—anything from collecting donated books, to sponsoring a child, a school, or even a village.
While in India, I had the experience of a lifetime—working with some of the most incredible people I have had the honor to meet. Asha Sadan is a humble orphanage in Mumbai, started by one of the oldest NGOs in India, The Maharashtra State Women's Council. A handful of extremely dedicated, very busy women run the facility. They not only provide full-time schooling to boys aged 5-10 and girls through the age of 18, they have an on-site nursery for the infants of many of these teenage girls, most of whom have lived a life of unspeakable horrors.
Through a well-established adoption program domestically and internationally, these young girls now have options for their future at their choosing, and always have access to an education. Educational programs are customized for each girl, depending on her interests and aptitudes, offering both academic and vocational training to ensure future success and opportunity. Once the girls leave Asha Sadan at 18, there is an established network of alumni to support with housing, job referrals, and love.
The Future in Our Children
Never before have I seen children so hungry for knowledge, so eager to learn, so grateful to be in school, as I do in third world countries. These are the lucky ones. They are the survivors, the ones who will have a chance at a better future because of programs like Asha Sadan and partner organizations like Commit2Change that are helping to create awareness and support.
To see the spirit of these young children and girls will change you forever. They have nothing and offer so much. They give so much love and joy even though they have been given so little themselves. All they need is a chance for the future and WE are the ones who have the ability to give it to them.
As you read this, it is my sincere hope you will find it in your heart to give these kids a chance and help a child at Asha Sadan. Together, we can make a big difference.