This weekend we lit a light to the education of young women in Kerala. Our Board Member Pushpinder and her husband Nathan hosted us for a beautiful dinner in their home in celebration of the Festival of Light. There was an abundance of delicious food and drink in a warm and welcoming atmosphere, and the highlight of the evening was a Kathak dance performance by seven young women in Farah Yasmeen Shaik's troupe Noorani Dance. This was particularly special as Farah had performed in a benefit for us 2 years ago, at a concert arranged by our mutual friend Jim Santi-Owen. Thank you to everyone who attended this very special evening of friendship and love. Thank you for investing in our students and allowing Blossom Projects to blaze bright.
This week was the International Day of the Girl. For us, at Blossom Projects, every day in The International Day of the Girl! Every day we re-commit, with our friends from around the world, to our students.
The girls and young women at BLOSSOM PROJECTS, just as other Dalit women, face 3 challenges:
#1: Sexual abuse from outside and inside their own communities, leaving them with trauma and low self-esteem.
#2: Families suffering from substance abuse and domestic violence, living in unsafe households.
#3: Isolation in small rural villages and communities in remote forest areas.
The value of educating girls is well-documented. The World Bank even reports that the only true solution to Climate Change is the education of girls, calling it The Girl Effect.
Our student Malu demonstrates The Girl Effect in motion. Malu, who has been with us since she was 13, is one of our stars, and has been a student leader and organizer. One year Malu’s parents wouldn’t giver her permission to attend our training, and she went on a Hunger Strike. This is a girl from a poor rural family, so denying herself nutrition in this way was a true health risk. This is how much she wanted an education. How much she valued what we offered. And it convinced her parents. Malu’s hunger strike has inspired other girls. When their parents also forbade them from returning to our trainings, they followed Malu’s example. This is The Girl Effect, in real life. This is the seriousness, the creativity, the passion, and the commitment I see in every one of our students.
Malu is now in university. She has organized her own education workshops for the children of her village, and has switched her major from Pre-Med to Social Work, because she is committing herself to improving life for young people in her community. Malu is The Girl Effect!
Thank you for believing in Blossom Projects, and for investing in a new generation of loal and global leaders. Thank you for investing in THE GIRL EFFECT!
This weekend was the birthday of our dear friend, colleague and English teacher, Archana. Archana was trained originally as a Nurse and then got certified as a Teacher. Her background allows her to both diagnose what her students need and then clearly guide them in learning. Noticing that many of our residential students need basic skills review, Archana created a unique student-centered curriculum all on her own, and has been leading our students in building strong foundations in learning. Archana brings creativity, resourcefulness and deep compassion to her work at our Academy. She is a slurs member of our team.
Join us for a Barefoot Bhangra, an evening of North Indian dancing, with a lesson by Vicki Virk of Dholrhythms Dance Company.
A benefit for BLOSSOM PROJECTS in Kerala, south India.
This space is handicap-accessible and the event is alcohol-free.
San Francisco Buddhist Center
37 Bartlett Street, near 21st and Valencia Streets
in San Francisco
Our first month of Blossom has been a success! We now have 10 girls living in community. They eat breakfast and dinner at their hostel and spend the day at our Academy, studying with the boy hostel students. The boys prepare and carry a tiffin lunch for the girls and everyone eats their midday meal together.
Our students are motivated. They study on their own and in groups, and they inspire the boys to be responsible and diligent. At the end of the week the students write their own newsletter, summarizing the week's activities. On Sunday the parents visit, bringing treats, bringing fruit and vegetables from their gardens. The parents tell us how proud they are of their children. How they shine. How newly confident and happy they seem.
Good news! Blossom opened its doors on July 3rd. Our plan was to pilot our new residential project with 5 girl students, but there was such a positive and enthusiastic response from families that we have decided to welcome 10 girls as our first "batch" in our very first 10- month program for girls. We are delighted! Thank you for believing in us and for making it happen. Look for more news in a few weeks, once Daya has returned from her month in the mountains on a silent meditation retreat. Thank you!!
There is one month till the launch of Blossom. Recently we hosted a public event to share our new Blossom website with our community. It was a festive gathering and an opportunity to share our vision of this new project with our community in Mavelikara.
Thank you SF Bay Area community for coming to our Indian Brunch at The New Delhi Restaurant this past weekend! This is the 4th brunch Chef Ranjan Dey and his crew has hosted for us. It was such a lovely chance for our supporters to meet one another, listen to beautiful live music, feast, enjoy wonderful prizes donated by our local sponsors, and toast to our students. Thank you for believing in us!
One Decade of Friendship
10 years ago I was invited to India for the first time. When I accepted the invitation, I had no idea that I was stepping into a whole new phase of my life, and that in 10 years time I would be part of a Kerala-based team, a team that is leading workshops for students in small villages, running our own Academy, operating our own hostel for boys who had dropped out of school, and about to open a second hostel for girls.
On that first trip in 2007, I led Communicative English workshops for Dalit students on a youth retreat. I was invited back the next year by my students, and so our project evolved. I established Jai Bhim International as a non-profit in the U.S., and we started connecting with supporters to fund our small educational projects. In December 2009, our team in Kerala offered the first of what would become our own annual 6-Day Communicative English camp. In 2010, our team started offering pop-up workshops in villages across Kerala throughout the year. In 2014, we launched Lokuttara Leadership Academy, our own alternative learning community. In 2015, we built and opened our boys' hostel. And now, in 2017...Blossom Project!
Since the beginning of our collaborations in Kerala, we had a vision of educating girls and boys together, giving girls the opportunity to express themselves with confidence, giving boys an opportunity to listen to and respect females as equal, and giving everyone an opportunity to collaborate and encourage the best in one another. There are a lot of obstacles to educating and empowering young women in India. There is a lot of heartbreak. And there is also a lot of joy. With Blossom Project our girl students will have a chance to live at our Academy full-time in community, and to be encouraged and supported as they develop their talents. They will be living cooperatively, meditating together, doing chores, and learning. And we expect to learn from them! With Blossom Project, we can truly say that our program is inclusive and preparing the next generation of global change-makers.
My heart is so full when I think of the community that has brought us to this point. Our Director in Kerala, Arun, who had a vision for a new kind of project in Kerala, and our resourceful and devoted team, doing everything from going door to door to meet new families, to cooking giant pots of food over coconut husk fires, to keeping accurate records of all of our program offerings. There are our eager and motivated students, their younger sisters and brothers who tag along, their proud parents witnessing their youngsters' transformations, and their neighbors who get inspired by our harmonious cooperation. There are my parents, my first teachers and the first and most loyal supporters of our projects in India, as well as their circle of friends who believed in me as a teenager and were our early investors. There are other loving members of my family, dear friends, sangha members near and far, colleagues, supporters, visionaries from the non-profit world, and local SF entrepreneurs, who have all generously invested in our projects, mentored us, and believed in us. All have stood with us as we dreamed. They are the wind under our wings.
We are delighted to welcome you to the Blossom Community. Follow our story here. And please stay in touch with us and tell us what inspires you about Blossom Project.
Thank you for believing in our students!
with gratitude, Dayamudra, Co-Founder and Mentor of Blossom Projects