This is the fascinating story of Asha graduate Priyanka from Ekta Vihar, who carved out a unique path for herself through Asha’s support, is rewriting her own as well as her family’s destiny and reaching new milestones in her career.
In the beginning- I was born in Ekta Vihar, very near to the Asha headquarters, and privy to many success stories of Asha’s developmental interventions for the slum communities. My family settled in Ekta Vihar in the year 1993. I am proud to say that both my parents are graduates which is rare to find in our communities. My mother was a member of Asha’s Mahila Mandal (Ladies Group) and actively participated in the activities. She was also very caring and encouraged our development. Some of my childhood medical interventions including immunization were done at the Asha clinic in Ekta Vihar. I still remember that my mother told me about meeting with Dr Kiran which had a big positive impact on her. My family did not realize that my mother had a lot of anxiety and suffered from depression. However, within a short time, she became very sick and terminally ill. She started becoming unstable and could not take care of her family. She even stopped eating and remained confined to bed. My father who had a stable job with the Paramilitary forces, had to leave his job to take care of the family. He opened a small grocery shop in the area. This became the main source of our family income. Finally, when I was just four years old, I lost my mother. After this incident, my father became cold-hearted and indifferent. He performed his duties as a provider of the family but remained emotionally distant from us. As a result of this shock, my entire world came crumbling down and I felt that I had lost everything. I felt sad, depressed and cried continuously. I had been admitted to a nearby government school but the school did not interest me. Although my father took care of me, I did not get the emotional support from him that I badly needed after I lost my mother.
One day, Asha Team Leader Rani came to my house. My mother in her last days had requested my father as well as Rani to take care of me at Asha. Although I was initially very reluctant, she tenderly explained to me that I must fulfil my mother’s last wish. My father also supported her idea and the next day, I came to Asha.
This was the beginning of my new life and the start of a relationship that not only made me what I am today but created a lifelong and inseparable bond between the Asha family and me. My father married another woman in two years. I have a good relationship with my stepmother and we both are very comfortable with each other. I have no hesitation to say that Asha played a very important role in creating that bonding with my stepmother. She also joined Asha’s Mahila Mandal as a member.
When I stepped into the Asha centre for the first time, I saw the place buzzing with so many activities. The children were reading story books, playing with fun-filled intelligent games, college students were taking classes, patients were being treated, and a lot more. Asha team members took care of everybody and attended to every problem with zeal and enthusiasm. Temporarily, I forgot my sadness and started observing everything with curiosity and bewilderment. I never realized when it happened that Asha became the centre of my existence and a place to realize my dreams.
I joined Asha’s Bal Mandal team- the forum for young children and slowly started participating in all the activities. Most importantly, I diverted myself from my sadness and melancholy and got involved in learning constructive life skills. My interest in studies also developed and I gradually started going to school with a lot of enthusiasm. My school teachers noticed the changes in me and appreciated my behaviour. The Asha centre became my second home, and the Asha team became my family. Immediately after my school, I would come to the Asha centre and joined in various activities. I met children of my age there and some of them became my lifelong friends. The Team Leader and other team members acted as our guardians and taught us life skills. There was something magical about the place as we laughed and cried, sometimes even fought, shared our food, joys and sorrows. Most importantly, I learned Asha values which became an integral part of my existence. I was on the road to becoming a better human being. The values like Gratitude, Compassion, Non-Violence, Affirmation, Power of touch and others which we learnt and regularly practised at Asha helped me improve my relationship with my stepmother and created positivity in the environment. Asha’s influence in my life also helped to reduce the impact of the negative forces prevalent in the community and created the path for my growth. Asha gave me the care and emotional support which I had lost because of my mother’s death.
Priyanka at my home
The story of life continued and I was making good progress in my physical as well as mental development with Asha’s support. I got good results in my secondary board exams. I became part of Asha’s Higher Education programme and intensified my preparation for the crucial class 12 boards. Along with my school classes, Asha gave me model test papers, supplementary textbooks and other academic support to strengthen my preparation. The senior students conducted classes at the Asha centre to clear the concepts and remove doubts. Also, there were mock tests that helped acclimatize to the real-time exam environment. Most importantly, studying at the Asha centre helped me to concentrate and also discuss problems with my fellow students. At my home, there was a shortage of space as well as a lot of noise and other distractions in the surroundings, and this affected my studies. I secured 80% in class XII board exams which opened the doors of higher education for me.
Priyanka outside her college at Delhi University
When my father heard about my results, he was happy but had some apprehensions as well. He feared that travelling alone by public transport to get to my college everyday was not very safe. Moreover, he had a financial crunch at that point and worried about the payment of college fees and other expenses. However, as always, Asha again came to my rescue. Asha’s team leader came to my house repeatedly and explained to my father the importance of tertiary education and how it will change my life. She also told him to have confidence in my ability to protect myself while travelling to college. She further said that Asha would provide financial support to take care of my fees and other expenses. My father had a lot of faith in Asha. This convinced him and finally, the doors to my college education were opened. Asha helped me with the entire college admission process including the search for college and subject choices. Finally, I was selected for a BA program in Political Science Honors at Maitreyi College of the prestigious Delhi University. The next phase of my journey
Internship at the NZ High Commission
I would like to mention one incident here. In my community, the thought processes were regressive and conservative. My neighbours would complain about my clothes, my style and other personal habits to my father. This was very demoralizing. However, the Asha team always encouraged me and told my family not to encourage them. With time, my community also understood me and my acceptance increased. My association with Asha and participation in various activities had a big role to play in this.
My college studies progressed and I adjusted to the environment and made new friends. I also worked as a Student Ambassador at Asha and helped junior students with their academic lessons, motivating and counselling them. I was quite popular with the young children of my community and enjoyed their company.
Along with my college studies, I got Internship opportunities from Asha which built the foundation for a strong career. My first Internship was with the prestigious New Zealand High Commission which gave me exposure to working in an International, multicultural work environment. My second Internship was with a Seven Star hotel which taught me corporate culture, professional ethics and helped to develop my understanding of working in a professional set-up. My third internship was with a Financial Corporate F1F9 based out of Gurugram which helped me understand the functioning of a Financial Services company. Along with my graduation, Asha’s Internship opportunities in the best of organizations gave a direction to my life and provided the right platform for my professional growth.
After completing my graduation, I was preparing for exams to secure a stable government job. One day, I got a call from Dr Kiran Ma’am who told me about a three-year apprentice opportunity with renowned British banking and financial services firm Barclays, headquartered in London with diverse business interests globally. She advised me to try and face the interview which will be good exposure, even if I am not selected. With Dr Kiran Ma’am’s blessings, I appeared for the rigorous interview at Barclay’s office. After several rounds of tests, interviews and psychometric assessments spread over two days, I was selected for the apprenticeship. I could never imagine that coming from a Liberal Arts background, I would make it to the top banking company. Dr Kiran Ma’am’s faith in me and her advice proved to be a game-changer in my life.
At her office in Barclays Bank
Along with my apprenticeship at Barclays, I was selected for a programme – a British Financial Accountancy course sponsored by Barclays. This was a prerequisite for securing permanent employment in the organization and for furthering my career as a finance professional. Simultaneously, I also enrolled myself in a postgraduate diploma in Management through a distance learning Programme at Delhi University.
To concentrate on my work along with my studies, and to reduce the travel time, I shifted my residence from my parent’s home in Ekta Vihar, to Noida, in rented accommodation near my office. After three years of hard work and studies, I completed my Apprenticeship at Barclays. I needed to complete 55-60% of the programme module of the Financial Accountancy course to get an employment opportunity. By the grace of God, and continuous support and encouragement from Dr Kiran, I successfully cleared more than 60% modules of the programme and got offers from three major Business Divisions of Barclays. I joined the company as a manager in a permanent post with a good salary and perquisites.
Since then, I have completed more than five years in the organization and have taken significant strides in my professional as well as personal journey. On the personal front, I got married a year ago. My husband is highly educated and is employed with an IT firm. We have recently purchased a 3-bedroom flat from our savings and a bank loan. I ensured that my younger step-siblings continued their education. I also have a dream to support my parents to build their own house.
I am still very connected to Asha and a proud member of the Asha Alumni Association. I can never forget Dr Kiran and the Asha family for helping me to bring light and beauty into my life when all I could see was darkness all around.
Now she is happily married to a lovely boy, and together they have bought their new home. Here she is: Mr and Mrs Maurya
Dr Kiran is like a mother to all of us, and I will work hard all my life to take forward her vision and passion to provide higher education and job opportunities to hundreds of young people from the slums.