The wonderful story of Anju’s journey from a life of poverty in Asha’s Tigri slum to a smart executive at an Australian corporate firm.
Anju is another young post-graduate from Asha’s Tigri Slum community. She narrates her story in her own words tracing her journey from the dark, narrow lanes of Tigri to a better life through education and aspiration to fulfill her dreams.
“I was born in Tigri in the year 1998. My father had migrated to the city from the neighbouring state of UP in search of a better life almost thirty years back. However, the struggle for livelihood in a megacity forced him to settle in a one-room shanty in Tigri in South West Delhi. My family consisted of my three siblings- my elder sister, elder brother, one younger sister, and my parents. Our house was too small to accommodate all of us, and there was a relentless struggle for existence. All our household activities had to be done in that small 6-yard room. The roof was made of plastic sheets and other discarded items. Water would seep through the plastic sheets during the rainy season and flood our house, washing away whatever little belongings we had. There was a public toilet nearby, which was the only option for our family, but I felt very unsafe and uncomfortable, especially in the evening. The financial challenge for our family was also enormous. My father could not find any proper job when he came to Delhi and worked part-time to earn his living. Having so many mouths to feed with only one source of income and that too inconsistent was a big challenge. After some years, he learnt Auto driving and started driving a rented auto, but the financial struggle continued. The condition of Tigri in my childhood was also awful, with heaps of filth, garbage, waterlogging with clogged drains, and pigs and other animals roaming around, making living conditions worse. The harsh conditions of acute poverty made me sad, lonely, and depressed.
As I was negotiating the harsh terrains of my early childhood years, I contacted Asha. This completely changed my life’s journey.
My siblings and I had their childhood medical interventions at Asha, including complete immunization as per the WHO schedule, growth monitoring and supplementation, and treatment of infections as Asha provided access to good quality medical care at the doorstep not only to my family but to the entire community at Tigri. I still have fond memories of visiting the Asha clinic at Tigri, clutching my mother’s hands.
When I was in class IV, I formally entered Asha as a member of the Children Group- Bal Mandal. Although I had developed a liking for the place and the Asha team members due to my visit to the clinics, becoming a member of Bal Mandal was a different experience. There were so many activities for all of us, new friends, reading books, educational infotainment, and life skills learning, which was incredible. All my sadness and helplessness in my challenging situations seemed to reduce. Along with all the activities, Asha taught us values that inculcated and sharpened human qualities in us and enabled us to become good human beings.
Moreover, the Asha values built a protective ring, helped curb the negative influence of the environment we lived in, and helped create positivity and hope. Even today, when I face any challenging situation in my life, I think of the values I had learnt at Asha and come out of it in much better condition. Values like Gratitude, Compassion, Non-Violence, Affirmation, and others are eternal gifts that stay and guide your life forever. As a member of Bal Mandal, I not only learned new skills in an environment that was filled with fun, love, and care, but more importantly, I found a new purpose that gave me direction in my life’s journey. Asha centre became my second home, where I came straight after school and participated in all the activities. I also completed my homework and other school assignments with the help of Asha team members and senior students and developed an interest in my studies. Asha ensured the right environment to develop my personality, provided the infrastructure for my growth and development, and generated confidence in my ability to prosper and flourish in life. I became more involved with the Bal Mandal and was elected its President, which was a proud moment. After joining Asha, I improved in my studies and scored consistently high marks on my school exams.
After passing my secondary school exams with good grades, I chose Liberal Arts for my school leaving boards. Asha helped me with supplementary study materials, question banks, sample test papers, and regular mock tests to support my preparation for the final school-leaving board exams. The senior students conducted classes and cleared the concepts. Asha ensured that my preparation for the final school-leaving board exams was thorough, and I felt confident in getting good results. I appeared for my Boards and secured 79% marks which were quite good.
Along with my studies, I attended English and Computer classes at Asha, which helped me develop proficiency in the language and pick up computer skills. I also learned a lot from International visitors when they came to Asha. I got the opportunity to meet and interact with them which gave me good exposure and enhanced my confidence. I now realize that these experiences which Asha gave me are so invaluable and life-changing. Interacting with International visitors and Asha’s English classes helped me during my internship tenure in Foreign embassies, which built a solid foundation for my future career.
However, my parents were quite reluctant to let me study further. There were financial problems, and my father did not want to “waste money” on educating me. Also, he thought that going to college alone was not very safe and firmly decided that I should stay at home and prepare for marriage. I could see that my dreams of higher education were almost over, and I broke down from inside! However, the Asha team never gave up. The team leader and other team members regularly visited my house multiple times and explained the benefits of education for a better future. Also, if I have the power of a good education, I can develop a career that will take the family out of poverty and also give them respect and dignity. They also assured my parents that Asha would cover the financial expenses, including my college fees and transportation. Assured by Asha’s support and looking at my determination, my father finally relented, and the doors for college education were opened. I cannot express how I felt at the game-changing moment of my life. Asha helped me with the college admission process, including filling up applications, course selection, college search, and other procedures. Finally, I got admission to BA(Political Science Hons.) at Delhi University, and a new journey in my life started. I cannot begin to express how thrilled I was.
I also became Asha’s student Ambassador and helped my junior students progress in life, Paying it Forward as Asha teaches us all to do.
Asha gave me the opportunity to do an internship at the prestigious British High Commission. I got the chance to work in their Political, Media, and Counselling department, which was a great learning experience working in an international workplace. The stipend I received from my internship helped me pay my second-year university fees. I got my second Internship opportunity at the Embassy of Norway in their Visa department, which gave me exposure to visa processes and documentation. Even students from affluent and upper-middle-class families do not get such life-changing opportunities that Asha gave me!
During the final year of my graduation, I got a part-time job as Visa Assistant at the Embassy of Denmark. As my university hours were in the evening, I could simultaneously work and complete my studies. I completed my graduation with a First Division and was so happy.
Subsequently, I enrolled myself in a Masters Programme in Political Science at the School of Open Learning at Delhi University.
At the beginning of 2022, I got a job offer from Discover Matrix Pvt Ltd, an Australian Immigration consultancy firm, to open up opportunities to Indian students for overseas studies. I accepted the offer, and I am delighted at my new workplace. I got this opportunity because of Asha’s Internship Programme, which gave me the experience of working in the best Embassies in critical functional areas.
I always participate in Asha activities, including conducting classes for junior students and community welfare programmes as part of Asha’s “Pay it Forward” ideology. In the end, I would like to express my gratitude to Dr Kiran Ma’am and the Asha team for transforming my life through education and giving me the best opportunities to excel in life and move out of the cycle of poverty.