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Teen from Mumbai's red-light district still needs help

November 25, 2013 18:17 IST

Teen from Mumbai's red-light district still needs help

Shweta Katti, a girl from Mumbai

Shweta Katti, a girl from Mumbai’s red-light district, who was able to come to the United States to study on a full scholarship at Bard College in upstate New York, still needs help.

The scholarship is for tuition -- about $28,000 a year -- but at the EduCare Benefit Night held at Chutney Manor in Monmouth Junction, New Jersey, November 16, Shweta, 18, said she still has to raise funds for room, board and personal expenses.

Naresh Jain, founder of EduCare, said Shweta’s immediate need is to buy winter clothes. EduCare gave her an honorarium and Jain took her for shopping for warm clothes, but a suitable winter jacket was not found.

Jain has also arranged for a cell phone with unlimited access for one month. Shweta’s earlier telephone plan was for 250 minutes a month, for $25.

“We are raising money for her through our Web site. We will continue to help her,” Jain said.

Shweta said she has funds to continue the education for a year, thanks to the media coverage, but once media coverage ends, the help may also end.

“We will make sure it will not happen,” Jain said.

Bard College, a small private college, is 90 miles from New York City. Katti, 18, is studying psychology and plans to go back to India after graduation to help women in need. There are not many Indians in the college. Only 16 students are in her class.

At the EduCare event, which raised more than $40,000 for EduCare’s projects in India and the US, Shweta spoke about the struggle she endured to achieve her dream of education abroad.

New Jersey Assemblyman Upendra Chivukula presented a State of New Jersey Resolution to the EduCare management recognising its devotion and work for education.  ‘Education is the greatest equaliser,’ he said, citing his own experience.

The non-profit EduCare Foundation was started by Jain and three of his friends in 1994 after a Jain monk told them to do something for India’s children.

It has provided educational assistance to over 20,000 children, including scholarships, books, uniforms, desks, blackboards and computers.

It supports children in 11 schools in nine Indian states. EduCare volunteers work with a committee of three teachers in each school.

The foundation also supports Bal Vidya Niketan in Allahabad, where 60 children of sex workers, widows and divorcees get school supplies and uniforms every year.

Last year, EduCare started an educational assistance programme in a pre-school in Piscataway, New Jersey, for computer education to nine needy children and has added 8 children this year in Perth Amboy.

It also has a youth leadership programme to train high school students in community service leadership.

At the event, Arvind Shah from the Ratna Nidhi Charitable Trust of Mumbai screened a documentary that showed the impact of 30 scholarships sponsored by EduCare on the lives of the children of the victims of the November 2008 terrorist attacks.

Dr Subhash Jain displayed slides of the hardship children have to endure every day from their dunes and villages to attend the Bal Academy located in Khichan in the tribal areas of Rajasthan.

Drs Shantilal and Chandrakanta Lunia also screened a documentary on a school for 50 hearing and speech impaired children that was completed last August in Barwaha, Madhya Pradesh.

“The presentations were eye opener for many,” Jain said. “They did not know that such situation existed in many parts of India. Food and transportation are the two problems faced by many students in rural areas. If we could bring help in these two areas, things would dramatically change.”

The event included a peacock dance by the Educare’s youth ambassador Avani Jain of the Rutgers University’s classical dance team; dances by the students of the Creations Dance Academy; a fashion show; and songs by Rosemary Loar, a veteran of six Broadway shows.

The programme also honoured youth leaders including Shweta, Avani and Priya Jain.

MUST READ: The scholar who grew up in Mumbai's red light area

Image: Shweta Katti, second from left, at the EduCare event
Photographs: Courtesy: