Over the past week or so I have been staying in Nagole, which is a suburb of the South Indian city Hyderabad, where our partner Center for Social Service (CSS) is located. While I have lived in Hyderabad before I was able to see a whole different side of the city, one which reminded me slightly more of living in rural India than the cosmopolitan Hi-Tech City.
In addition to spending time in one of my old stopping grounds, I was able to spend 5 days with the 25 girls that Commit2Change sponsors here at CSS. CSS is a very unique organization in its own right. It is run by Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi who created it after retiring. The organization has a total of 111 girls in their care between the ages of 5 and 20. In addition they also run a private English Medium School for their girls and the local community.
What amazes me about CSS is how driven the girls are there. In order for a girl to be accepted into CSS, they have three criteria: 1) They must be semi or full orphans 2) They must be economically disadvantaged and 3) They must have a zeal for education and betterment. This last one is perhaps the most important for, as Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi says “We are trying to get girls to stand on their own two feet and the best way to do this is through schooling.”
It is for this reason that during my visits to CSS, the girls were most often studying late into the evening after already having spent almost 10 hours in school. Something else shocking was the level of English the girls spoke. It is clear that the CSS School is working very nicely to ensure its students have a working understanding of the language. This is because Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi believes, perhaps rightfully so, that in order for the girls to be competitive in the job market they must understand English. It is no wonder then that most girls who “graduate” from CSS end up with good jobs all over the city.
However, by far the best moments during my visits were when I was able to witness reunions among families and their daughters. It is hard to get the image of a mother hugging her child for the first in years out of my head. I am so happy that Mrs. Vijaya Lakshmi and her home are there to take in these girls and care for them in a way their families could not.