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2Q23 Newsletter - Fresh Updates from the Field

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Tracking our program's growth in Delhi

At the start of 2022, we faced a difficult strategic question: do we expand our reach to other geographic areas or do we focus on growing within the area in Jammu where we had run operations for several years? We had finally settled on scholarships as our main project, and we knew we wanted to scale our operations. But the answer to the question of where was far from obvious. There are advantages to growing within the same area: we had built a network of schools and scholars in Jammu, we had learned a thing or two about local conditions and regulations, and our number of applicants was growing organically. But there are other reasons to grow beyond the geographic area that you know - it allows you to bring your model and impact to new areas and communities, it grows and diversifies your network, and it brings a host of new learning opportunities.

So after spending a considerable amount of time assessing different locations, we decided to launch a pilot project in Delhi. We had already built up a considerable network there over the years, and we knew that there was a high demand for girls’ scholarships in the sprawling urban capital of India. We were fortunate to find exactly the right person to help us build the operations there. Sadiya Siddiqui. Sadiya applied for a position with education: access through the Teach for India portal, a network we have leveraged a number of times. Sadiya studied microbiology, and is pursuing a graduate degree in healthcare management. She also spent three years with Teach for India, is incredibly passionate about girls’ education, and has launched a number of social impact projects in the past. She immediately got to work helping build a vision for the pilot in Delhi, and helping us turn that vision into a reality.

In our first year of operations in Delhi, we received 36 applications and selected 20 girls for scholarships.These girls belongs to different communities around the city (i.e., Sangam Vihar, Azadpur, Malviya Nagar, and Masjid Mod), but most of them are originally migrants from Bengal, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar. All of the girls selected are studying in government schools, so they normally don’t have to pay fees for school. However, there are a number of “hidden” costs they face in obtaining a quality education. So we worked with Sadiya to identify a package of items and services that we thought could help. The chart below shows the amount per scholarship we are providing as well as a breakdown of how we calculated this amount.

The girls’ parents come from difficult financial backgrounds, working as auto rickshaw drivers, vegetable cart vendors, and other similar jobs. During site visits we have taken over the last year, we have heard from them about the types of issues that they face on a daily basis: threats of domestic violence, alcoholism in their communities, unsafe routes to school, harassment, recurring medical issues, malnutrition, and so many others. But we also saw the gratitude of the girls and their parents, some of whom seemed to be putting everything they had into the prospect of education.

These stories and so many others inspired us to convert our pilot project in Delhi to a new permanent site. In order to grow the project, we also decided to bring on a new team member. Soni Girsay is pursuing a Post Graduate Diploma in Management, and like Sadiya, has a fervent passion for making a difference in the lives of young girls through education. She has worked with Sadiya on managing the growing operations in Delhi. And two of the areas they have been focusing on recently are computer literacy classes and expanding into new communities.

For the former, Sadiya and Soni identified a number of potential institutions running cost-effective programs. They eventually settled on Avsar Education, and 14 of the scholars in Delhi opted to take the three-month course they offer in basic computer skills. We worked with the girls to design a co-payment scheme, where education: access contributes some amount and the rest is paid from the scholarship that the girls are already receiving. This is part of our focus on helping our scholars build career and life skills.

The second area of focus has been identifying new communities to work in. Masood, a new scholar selected in 2023, comes from one such community. She is a refugee from Afghanistan, and lives with her family in the Malviya Nagar Delhi community. Since her family has refugee status only, they don’t have proper work documents and have been struggling to find work. Her parents were grateful when Sadiya and Soni identified their daughter as a potential scholarship recipient.

As our operations in Delhi continue to grow, the question is what’s next? And we are very clear on that point. Our goal is to grow our Delhi cohort of scholars to 100 girls this year. In addition, we want to continue to find opportunities to help the girls outside of pure financial support. The computer literacy classes are only the first step in that direction. We are looking forward to building on our successes over the past year, and supporting our passionate and driven team to make Delhi a new center for impact.

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