BOSTON–The New England chapter of American India Foundation (AIF) presented a fireside chat featuring two beneficiaries of its Learning and Migration Program (LAMP) this month. Hosted by AIF New England’s Council of Governors, Puspanjali Majhi and Himanshu Panda of Odisha, India, discussed their experiences with LAMP and the many benefits and opportunities they have derived from the program. LAMP provides access to quality education opportunities to children in areas of high migration.
Puspanjali is an undergraduate student from the village of Khaira, in Odisha. Himanshu is an Education Coordinator affiliated with LAMP, managing community engagement and school governance in Odisha in accord with India’s Right to Education Act.
Born into a landless, tribal family that regularly travelled up to 1000 kilometers (600 miles) to find work, Puspanjali helped with manual labor, including making bricks.
Through LAMP, she attended school for the first time at the age of ten. “We lived together in LAMP hostels,” she said. “Here I learned for the first time what friends and friendship means. LAMP program can help children realize their dreams, not just in my village but all over India.”
Puspanjali was a good student and did well in her exams. “The practice of regular study schedule before and after classes helped prepare and continue education in college,” she said. She plans to be a teacher after graduation.
Puspanjali and Himanshu’s visit coincides with AIF’s 2015 Light a Lamp campaign, an online crowd sourcing competition that raises funds for LAMP.
The New England Team including high school students belonging to AIF New England Youth Ambassadors (NEYA), and AIF New England Young Professionals (NE YP) raised over $28,000 through the campaign for LAMP. The top fundraisers from NEYA and NE YP were commended at the event.
High school junior Nikita Patel, who donated all gifts from her Arengetram to LAMP, felt that spreading the word among family and friends was the best way to bring awareness about AIF and its programs. Arya and Diya Anand raised funds and awareness by presenting AIF and LAMP program at their school clubs and at the South Asian societies at local Universities. Top fund raisers Maya and Priya Thakore said, “$50 educates one child for one year. Just by giving a little, we make a difference”.
LAMP consists of two primary interventions: education for children, through seasonal hostels and a learning enrichment program, and community-based advocacy through the national Right to Education Act of 2009. LAMP uses bridge classes to bring students up to their age appropriate learning levels. Children with learning deficiencies are given individual attention to accustom them to mainstream schooling. All students are provided regular, nutritious meals, practice good hygiene, learn life skills through educational games, and build ties to their communities. LAMP also forms village councils and trains community members to improve school management and planning, fostering trust between community leaders, parents, and families, and establishing community-wide ownership of education for their children.
The American India Foundation is committed to catalyzing social and economic change in India and building a lasting bridge between the United States and India through high-impact interventions in education, livelihoods, public health, and leadership development, with a particular emphasis on empowering girls and women to achieve gender equity. Working closely with local communities, AIF partners with NGOs to develop and test innovative solutions and with governments to create and scale sustainable impact. Founded in 2001, at the initiative of President Bill Clinton following a request from Prime Minister Vajpayee, AIF has impacted the lives of more than 2 million of India’s poor and aims to reach 5 million by 2018.