Our Founder, Sandhya says - “A chance defines you. All of us here have been lucky to be born in the circumstances of our birth – This chance of birth was what allowed us to be born as a woman, that enabled us to be educated, that empowered us to live a life with dignity and self respect. It is this chance that we were not part of a family where we were discriminated against because of our gender and ended up becoming a mere statistic of female infant mortality, deprived of basic education or maimed or killed due to domestic violence.
This is what I felt when I found Rani (name changed). It was a hot summer day in Kadapa in 1992 when I was horrified to find a 2-year-old girl abandoned on the street. Her father had left her to starve on the road after murdering her mother.
My overwhelming emotion became a larger concern and together with a few like-minded people, a ‘Home’ with the aim of providing love and care for abandoned and needy children was established. It started with 6 children in a rented house, and was registered as “Vijay Foundation Trust (Association)”. In 1996 we grew to 36 children and moved to Aarti Home, ‘our own place’ built in half an acre in the centre of town. The home is named after the first donor, my niece Aarti who died tragically at the age of 18.
As Aarti Home grew in numbers and strength, we began to realise the depth and enormity of the reasons behind the issue of abandonment and girls and resolved to work towards addressing the same.
Today, 30+ years later, Aarti Home has expanded into an umbrella organisation which addresses, plans and implements programs that empower women in society.”
Aarti started 31 years ago when our founder Sandhya found three year old Rani (Name changed) on the road side, abandoned by those who needed to nurture and care for her. Today, Rani is a confident young lady with a career in medicine. She is one amongst 6000+ children who found refuge at Aarti, a home for orphaned and abandoned children. Our pride are our alumni, confident young women, who are successfully managing medical, engineering and teaching careers along with a happy family life. This showed us how a little love, security and opportunity enables them to flower.
Aarti is also making efforts to improve the socio-economic status of women by training them in vocational skills (vocational training institute), helping them find jobs and start their own small enterprises by providing the necessary infrastructure and leveraging industry experts and trainers. The project aims to coach 225 women per year and either find placements for them in appropriate sectors or provide handholding support for self-employment/ entrepreneurial ventures.
From 2015 to 2017, Aarti has executed “Mana Bidda” (Our child), a project aimed at ending gender discrimination against girls and stopping female foeticide in order to improve the child sex ratio. The project was funded by the European Commission and executed in Kadapa District. As a result of Aarti’s work the child sex ratio increased from 918 to 935. Aarti’s efforts also decreased the school dropout rates drastically. From 2018 onwards Aarti has executed its next EU funded project called “Abhaya” to provide support to the women Human Rights Defenders.
School - objective / how it works :
Aarti Home runs a school named Aarti English Medium School with an aim to provide high class English medium education to needy children, most of them from zero literacy backgrounds. Today, 800 students from different socioeconomic backgrounds are being educated here. Our teachers visit different localities to identify students who are either dropouts, or unable to attend school due to their domestic situation. The parents of these students are encouraged to send their wards to school with the assurance that the entire educational expenses will be borne by Aarti. Aarti believes that the family is the best place for the child to grow up, hence admitting these children in Aarti Home was not an option. Family Based Care evolved from this thought, where a child will stay home and bond with his/her parents and the community, while Aarti takes care of the educational expenses like school fee, books and uniform, and food at school.
Challenges faced with the FBC children and solution being adopted
Parents of these students are daily wage earners like street performers (acrobats), rag pickers living in the slums. They leave for work early in the morning and there is no one at home to ensure that the children attend school. Instead the children succumb to undesirable habits like substance abuse, rag picking etc. Aarti sends transport to these localities to pick up these children and drop them back home. The teachers are also constantly monitoring the students, a process that sometimes takes up to four months to ensure regular attendance. This has yielded excellent results and the children are attending school regularly and faring well. As the word has spread about the success of this program, Aarti has started getting more requests for admissions. The programme which started on a pilot basis with 50 students has now increased to 640 students.
Home Based Care at Aarti
The concept of family and its values has always been the basis of Aarti' s initiatives, hence our Home Based Care was initiated to protect those family bonds, and instill a greater sense of belonging among the children and the parents. These children are offered help, not by uprooting them from the association of families but by empowering them with the mindfulness of education. They are supported through school enrolment, nutritious food, books and the drive to value it. The primary focus has been the retention and sustenance of the students’ interest by counselling their parents on values added by education.
Watch us on BBC Documentaries
As the world began to hear about the troubling discrimination against girls and women in India, filmmakers came across Aarti and decided to focus on the organisation's efforts in fighting against it