I can't believe it's been almost a year since I traveled to India to shoot Magho (Daughter) at Shanti Bhavan Children's Project in Tamil Nadu, India! As this year's 12th-graders near graduation, I've been thinking a lot about them and their classmates. The children who attend Shanti Bhavan's residential school (a partner of She's the First) come from families in the dalit, or "untouchable," caste. Had they not been chosen at age four to attend the boarding school, their lives would have been very similar to those of their parents: little to no education, marrying early and having children, working difficult manual labor, and living in poverty. But their lives will be very different - Shanti Bhavan provides top quality education and all of their graduates have gone on to attend top colleges! Shanti Bhavan's goal is that these young people will use their education to change their families' lives and end the cycle of poverty. After getting to know these kids, I have no doubt they will accomplish whatever they choose!
Prathiba: Prathiba will be graduating this June and is headed to college after scoring first class on her ISCE exams! She is HILARIOUS, curious and mischievous. I love when she's reacting to something ridiculous - she has the best scowl! Prathiba showed us all around SB and made us feel at home, even though we were only there for a few weeks. I am so proud of her and excited to hear about her transition to college life!
Vincea: Vincea, also a 2013 grad, has an amazing voice and leads the school's choir. She loves Justin Bieber (as most of the kids do!) and sang a duet of "What Dreams are Made Of" during last year's graduation festivities. I can't wait to see the videos from this year's ceremony to see what she performs!
Preetha: Preetha is completely delightful! She has an amazing voice (she sang Adele’s “Someone Like You” and blew me away!) and is also an athlete and artist - those photos of my henna? She did it for me :) Preetha is going into 11th grade this year.
Jancy: Jancy was the first girl that She's the First sponsored as an organization, so I was so excited to finally meet her in person! She has since gone on to college and is doing really well. Jancy has the most amazing facial expressions - she cannot hide what she's thinking and her look of skepticism is hilarious! She's also an amazing artist - her eye for color and pattern is truly stellar. I hope she continues into fashion design, as has long been her dream -- she would create beautiful graphic prints for clothing!
Maheshwari: Maheshwari is the star of our short film, Magho (Daughter). We attended her graduation last year and spent time with her mother at home in her village. She has an amazing story and was so gracious to share it with us. Even though she was nervous, she was immediately comfortable giving us intimate answers to our questions. She's determined to become a cardiologist, or a biologist, and take her mother with her wherever she goes. She's currently studying biochemistry and genetics in college. I'm so proud of her and so honored to have been able to share her story.
Pushpa: Pushpa is gregarious and hilarious. She's a 2010 grad of SB who came back last year to help out at graduation. She's graduating college this year - and recently accepted a position at Goldman Sachs! One of the members of SB's first-ever graduating class, she and her classmates are setting an amazing precedent for the kids coming up after them; Shanti Bhavan is like a family and when the older students succeed, it has an incredible impact on the younger students.
This, of course, is just a handful of the incredible students I met last year -- they are all on my mind because graduation 2013 is upon us!
We're putting together DVDs and information packets for screenings of Magho this fall at our campus chapters and anywhere else that would like to share Maheshwari's amazing story. If you'd like to host a screening, please email me at email@example.com - 100% of the proceeds from your fundraiser will go to sponsor girls at Shanti Bhavan.