Winter Newsletter 2021
Year 2 Sponsorships Exceed Year 1!
Dear Mariam Society Members, Thanks to the generous sharing of our work with your community, we are thrilled to share that despite the challenges of COVID-19, the Mariam Society exceeded 2020's sponsorships in 2021! In Year 1 (2020), we were able to send 58 girls to school through the generosity of our members, some of them sponsoring two or more girls. However, through word of mouth promotion by our Society, we have now reached 65 sponsorships in Year 2 (2021)! Let's always remember, every new sponsorship means a girl who would otherwise not be able to attend school, now gets to continue her education even during one of the worst crisis of our lifetime. THANK YOU to all our new Society Members, and especially those who have continued to share our amazing work with friends, family & colleagues.
A Hybrid "Return to School"
In our Fall 2020 Newsletter, we shared how your sponsorships are helping our girls purchase cellphones for mobile learning during COVID-19 lockdowns. WhatsApp and YouTube lessons give them online access to their teachers and classes. As India's vaccine rollout gains momentum, limited in-person learning in schools has commenced. In villages the government of India has put in place disinfection processes, and mandates for social distancing in class. Watch Nandini share her experience with returning to school part-time.
Sadly, Nandini is the exception amongst our sponsored girls. In many remote rural villages where our girls live, proper sanitation processes are inadequate, so parents are holding-off on sending their daughters back into the classroom. Until vaccination is widespread, our girls will continue to do their best with remote group-learning.
The reality of the pandemic in poor rural communities is that social distancing and mask wearing is not feasible for daily life. Families live in tiny homes in very close proximity to neighbours. Access to masks is limited and many question their effectiveness. Most villagers manage by trusting their neighbours won't travel out of village into cities where infection is highest.
Girls' Education set back "10 years"
We've learned from our our on-the-ground partner Grameen Foundation India, that the pandemic has had a significant negative impact on the education of girls throughout India.
Momentum gained in keeping girls in school through government programs and others such as Mariam Society's Bursaries, has been lost. The longer girls stay out of school, the less likely they are to return. The pandemic has financially crippled the poor. Families desperate for income to meet basic daily needs will lean on income from children who can work, and their education is sure to be sacrificed.
Our work dear friends, is now more important than ever. We know from our on-the-ground partner, that our girls continue their studies at this time, only because of your support. We will continue to keep you up to date on how things progress. We remain hopeful that as vaccines reach these communities a focus on education and its importance will also return.
A Mother's Resilience - Savitha's Story
The women of rural Indian villages have some of the most difficult lives anywhere in the world, and COVID-19 has made it worse.
Many of our girls are being raised in single-family households led by single-mothers or grandmothers. These women have lived through incomprehensible hardships including becoming widows at a young age, domestic abuse, and oftentimes abandonment.
Nevertheless, these women are fiercely resilient, forging new paths to improve their lives and the lives of their children. Working with the Grameen Foundation, they are increasingly financially literate, have started to save when possible, and recognize the importance of investing in education for the empowerment of their daughters, even in the most challenging of times. Thanks to your sponsorships they now have the means.
Watch Savitha, mother to Nandini, tell her story of loss and hope to our on-the-ground coordinator, Samita.
Mariam Ambassador & Community Advocate - Aryan Raj
Aryan Raj’s passion for helping others, especially children, arose at a young age. Born in Canada to Indian immigrant parents, he would frequently visit India, to see relatives and to stay in touch with his roots.
It was during these visits that he started to notice the stark differences and question how one could improve the lives of countless children having to fend for themselves due to poverty; what tools could these children use to help themselves and, in turn, their community in the future. Being a problem-solver from a very young age, he saw that education was a key contributor in empowering and enabling these children to have a brighter future.
True to his beliefs, Raj has volunteered and organized fundraisers for numerous educational and non-profit organizations in India from the age of 14. One such endeavour was raising substantial funds for UMANG, a school for differently-abled children in Rajasthan, India. Witnessing first-hand, when delivering the funds in-person, the appreciation and difference such work makes is what has fuelled his commitment for years. Another rewarding experience for Raj was being able to sponsor primary education for 33 children in Gujarat for an entire year. To date, he maintains a personal commitment to run food-drives and clothing-drives on each visit to India, catered especially towards oft-overlooked communities. A lesser known anecdote from his trek to Nepal was distributing school supplies to several children he met in local villages on his way up to Everest Basecamp.
When Nabeela, a Mariam Society ambassador, reached out to Raj regarding their programs, it was a no-brainer. Mariam Society has had a clear plan for their programs since its inception. Their support not only allows these girls to receive an education, but also offsets the financial obligations that they are burdened with otherwise. In doing so, this organization sets itself apart in striving to resolve the root of the problem which appealed to Raj as it closely aligns with his outlook on social outreach.
“Life’s most persistent and urgent question is, ‘What are you doing for others?’” MLK Jr.