AUSTIN, Texas — In India, it is common to see children hard at work. It is rare to see children on the streets whiling away time on social media or playing with one another. Instead, they hold the burden of working for a living on their small shoulders. Holding their families close to their hearts, many children abandon their education and their safety in exchange for a meager allowance. Today, there are more than 10 million Indian children who drop out of school to work. Without education, especially in today’s world of an increasing need for high-level skills, vicious poverty cycles could continue dragging innocent families into its grasp. With a total of more than 1 billion people below the poverty line in India, generational poverty is exacerbated tenfold, with no end in sight.
But all is not lost – Diya Ghar is an organization that acknowledges this wholeheartedly and has carried out incredible strides for the education of the local community of children in Bangalore. The Borgen Project spoke with Mrs. Saraswati Padmanabhan, the incredible woman behind this organization. Mrs. Padmanabhan provided detailed answers surrounding the social progress of the Diya Ghar organization.
To first address the organization’s cause, it is vital to understand what exactly the organization does. Diya Ghar is a gradually expanding school network in Bangalore that supports the children of migrant laborers through preschool education, nutrition and aid. By providing costless medical treatment, clothing and footwear, not only are the children’s needs taken care of, but also their capacity for education. Through learning centers, they receive standard Montessori education courses, such as math, English and more.
The founder of Diya Ghar, Mrs. Padmanabhan, grew up in Chennai, a bustling city in India that never ceased to teem with people. As a child, her parents often took her to children’s homes, distributing sweets and delicacies to share small pieces of joy with them. As she grew up, she observed her parents tirelessly supporting the education of children, regardless of their socioeconomic status.
When Ms. Padmanabhan got her first job in Mumbai, she carried on her parents’ tradition, volunteering with street children – and later, with children of prisoners in her next job in California, she explained in the interview. After completing her MBA there, Ms. Padmanabhan returned to Bangalore to counsel children through an NGO – and later went on to create her own. She started Diya Ghar in 2016 after she saw so many children playing alone, unattended, in construction sites in the middle of the day – their parents hard at work to earn wages. The foundation of Diya Ghar aims to ensure that these children have a safe place to grow.
Mrs. Padmanabhan recalls the significant impact that the organization has created, explaining that this is what she cherishes the most about it. As the years progressed, Diya Ghar went from teaching 30 precious children to more than 3,000, each of them eager to learn. Several alumni of the program have gone on to complete higher levels of education, passing their classes with flying colors. Furthermore, the parents of these children are very happy – the idea that their children finally received the education that they believed to be impossible was miraculous. Diya Ghar was able to promote a state of hopefulness within these hardworking communities. These children were finally in a safe space, enjoying their childhood and flourishing.
Diya Ghar would not have been able to create such an astounding impact on communities in India without the leap of faith that Mrs. Padmanabhan decided to take. She believes that each person on the Earth is called to be a changemaker. “Change is inevitable everywhere,” she says, “and either it will happen to us or we are the ones who make it.” Mrs. Padmanabhan recalls how she used to volunteer for years before starting Diya Ghar, nurturing her experience with her communities before starting something brand new. In order to be a changemaker, it is necessary to be proactive – start small, be sensitive to the change required locally, and be courageous. In the end, it’s necessary to take a leap of faith to accomplish things instead of waiting for everything to fall into place.
By actively observing what her community lacked for years, Mrs. Padmanabhan dedicated her time to making sure it was given back to them through this organization. Diya Ghar has impacted people in astounding ways, changing the world one class at a time. With kind, diligent changemakers such as her working tirelessly to help within their countries, disadvantaged populations get a fighting chance to succeed and pull themselves out of poverty.
– Divya Shankar