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Pune, June,2014 : In keeping with Protsahan’s aim of providing a safe and empathetic environment where issues that affect adolescent girls in urban slums are openly addressed, Protsahan’s Pune chapter kick started a series of workshops addressing child marriage on 29th June.
In the interactive session, students confronted big questions about the ethics and effects of child marriage. They found answers in their small and simplified personal objections, which nonetheless resonate with the more widely- recognized arguments. Thus for instance, when asked why girls should not be married at an early age, they responded with statements like “she would not know everything”, “she will have to wear kumkum”, “she will have to do a lot of work and cook food for many,” “she will have to go away from her mother”, resonating with objections about forced maturity in child brides. Or, when asked what such a child would miss out on, they responded, “playing,” “studying,” “fulfilling her dreams,” “dressing up”, echoing scholarly objections about the opportunity cost, lack of over-all development and decrease in human resource.

“शादी का मतलब कुम-कुम”

(Marriage to me is kumkum) – An 11 year old girl from the slums of Pune

After class, when one of the girls’ tear-filled eyes led to a one-on-one discussion, it was discovered that adults in her family had already begun considering the logistics of her marriage. To this little girl, child marriage was a very real prospect, not just an issue one reads, analyzes and discusses.

It is here that the paradox of this delicate issue can be understood. While academics bicker, governments frame (or don’t frame) policy and the activist youth protests, the child herself, the very subject of the issue, is left out of the equation.  However, the girls’ naïve and concise, but accurate understanding of the problem, and the anxiety that first-hand experience brings, indicates whose ideas should really matter.

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Vartika Gupta, an art-based therapy practiotioner who consults for Protsahan at Pune in a candid discussion with the girls in the Karve Nagar Basti on Child Marriage. The responses the young girls came up with were innocently astonishing.



Recognizing this, we at Protsahan encouraged our students to express their opinions, using story-telling, theatre, film-making, photography and art, all of which will be part of future workshops on the topic. To culminate this one artistically, the girls designed a poster, symbolically marked with tears in the child bride’s eyes.

 

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With more sessions to come, there’s more to learn and more to create.

Navishti Das
With inputs from Vartika Gupta

Quote  —  Posted: July 10, 2014 in Uncategorized


Girls at Protsahan never shy away from a challenge, for their stories always start at extremely complex, difficult points – social rejection and isolation, abuse, discrimination, familial pressures, poverty – but nonetheless, their plot lines are designed to move towards happy endings. For when you’re rewriting your own destiny, with hands held by some of country’s best young people, you are sure to blossom into into some fine young women.

Volunteering at Protsahan makes you responsible for these little authors who are re-writing their own destinies. We are looking for volunteers/ volunteer organizations/ CSR arms of corporates who are skilled at photography, filmmaking, creative arts to come teach Protsahan children and to document Protsahan’s work. You could also support us financially. Financial contributions go a long way to train our girls on citizen media and filmmaking, embroidery and mehndi art and other artistic pursuits which they use to explore their horizons, as well as use these creative forms of expression to empower themselves with a creative skill. Protsahan then gives the children the freedom to make use of these newly learned skills to express themselves. Thus as a volunteer, you become a facilitator to the change the kids want to bring in her own life.

Nandini, learning basic photography and citizen journalism from Sanoop, a young volunteer photographer at #Protsahan.

Nandini, learning basic photography and citizen journalism from Sanoop, a young volunteer photographer at #Protsahan, who otherwise is an IT professional in Gurgaon.

But even as you work on building their self-esteem, IQ, world view and skills, you too will be drawn out of your comfort zone and confront difficult realities, question the notions you hold and be compelled to think out of the box. For instance, Ramit, one of the volunteers, always places himself in their shoes before teaching the kids something and as a result sometimes ends up saying something entirely different from what he originally intended, due to the change in perspective. The best part about being a volunteer however, has to be the sheer warmth you’re greeted with every time you walk into the street school, surrounded by kids who are eager to learn and love you enough to ask when you’ll be coming next.

Ramit, a young IT professional volunteers his time at Protsahan every Saturday!

Ramit, a young IT professional volunteers his time at Protsahan every Saturday!

The freedom that is given to kids at Protsahan also extends to volunteers, who are expected to be as creative as possible, and hey, if you’ve got a crazy idea, pitch it! Moreover, the system is completely transparent, and your efforts will always be recognized (Yes, there will be a letter of recommendation if you want one). The transparency at Protsahan with everyday’s work being shared through their online & digital platforms (Twitter & Facebook) make the process truly engaging!

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Sumit, a young vibrant youngster, working at Xerox, volunteers his Saturdays to teach the little ones at Protsahan on what it takes to be a world citizen!

If you’re a worker bee in the corporate world, take a break from your boss on a weekend and come feed your soul. If you’re a student, get off the couch this summer break and make a change in a life that’ll last forever! For more information, visit http://protsahan.co.in/internships

Come understand the courage it takes Manisha to raise her arm and volunteer an answer in class, she is the same girl that was denied admission to a government school because they thought her IQ was below par. Come and marvel at Kiran’s confidence, she is the kid who always wanted to learn English, and just last week had addressed a SAARC summit with her views on child marriage. Come and take a privileged look into Fatima’s songbook and quick is she at Abacus calculations, she is the same girl whose family wanted to marry her off at 11. Come and commend Anju for being the most well groomed student, a trait she picked up after grooming sessions at Protsahan and seeing the simple yet neatly dressed volunteer didis and bhaiyas that subtly influenced her!

Manisha (center, in blue) reads out and discusses a scene before enacting it with her group of girls at Protsahan.

Manisha (center, in blue) reads out and discusses a scene before enacting it with her group of girls at Protsahan. Extreme right, stands confident Anju!

Come, capture our children’s stories as short films for us. Come, volunteer. Come, teach them things that you know best. If you have knowledge, let them light their candles from it.

Come be part of a story that’s greater than yours alone.

 

Quote  —  Posted: June 11, 2014 in Uncategorized


After getting a little lost, I nervously waited in front of the landmark given to me and worried about what was expected of me. But soon enough two little girls came to pick me up and I could swear I’d seen them somewhere, but then again, probably not. Khushboo and Fatima effortlessly put me at ease as one explained directions and the other giggled at my pathetic jokes. And just like that, we were friends. On entering the classroom, I was welcomed by a room full of familiar faces. Really, where had I seen them before? And then I understood. The website. [www.protsahan.co.in] The first thing I learnt about Protsahan is that unlike other such organizations, it wasn’t far-removed from the people it worked with. Here, every child was a celebrity enough to be featured on their website. The logic of working with a small number was to positively affect the lives of children in the long run as opposed to a token donation or a single workshop that left them less than empowered. As Sonal (Founder CEO at Protsahan) put it, the aim was to make each of them a ‘superstar’.

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Group learnings and community consultations by peer leaders. Teamwork and acceptance is primary goal of all sessions.

It was obvious that my arrival had created a flurry in class (Hey, so maybe I’m a celebrity too?). ‘What was her name again?’ And then I received a chit – Lovebisti. Yup, definitely the best version so far, gonna keep that one. The actual discussion in class however, was a more serious one – problems faced by women. I wondered how much of the issue 12 year old girls could understand, but my brain was forced to shut up, as they not only recognized the various issues but even narrated personal incidents. I realized that these were not average, cocooned children and so distancing them from uncomfortable discussions was incorrect. Rather what was required was a frank conversation so that they are better equipped to deal with issues like sexual abuse, female foeticide and child marriage, if ever confronted by them. Therefore, they understood good touch-bad touch and even knew how to file an FIR. Later I realised, most of Protsahan’s fabulous volunteers came through the twitter brigade. I believe this is fascinating…using a social media site to talk about a issue #Protsahan works on each day and each night and involves young people across #Delhi and #India with complete transparency, with its Founder tweeting live updates and everyday happenings, sometimes even how the basic donations are spent and even a call for more volunteers for their children. It is through this medium that a brilliant array of volunteering teams is created at Protsahan and the young children and girls get maximum exposure to hundreds of learning tools from a basket of such different volunteers from all walks of life!

So even though its a small charity training home which provides a safe learning space for young and little girls to bloom beautifully into dignified adolescence its everyday work is fabulously transparent on Twitter and Facebook! Here is another example after my class!

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Protsahan girls praying beautifully. Somedays its the gayatri mantra, some days it is Our Father Who Art in Heaven..some more days, they meditate on Yanni songs. Religion I learnt, at Protsahan is of, ‘HAPPINESS.

Protsahan’s approach of using art to combat women’s and children’s issues however is what truly sets them apart. This is visible in the daily routine of meditating to music, creative storytelling and workshops on photography and art. This allows the children to creatively express their grouses, opinions and solutions to problems that are all around them, and become the agents of their own emancipation. The most impressive example of this is the short film on open defecation, which was fully scripted and acted in by the children, called ‘Cleanliness is Godliness’ : See it on Youtube! 

The drops of paint on the floor, the ‘filmmaker’ badge pinned to the board and the Madhubani bookmark given to me, are evidence of Protsahan’s spirit of encouraging expression and empowerment through art.  It was the manifestation of their aim to remove the prefix of ‘at risk’ to their identity, and replace it with photographer, artist and filmmaker.

 

Superstars indeed.

 

Navishti [aka Lovebisti :)]

Changemaker Intern @Protsahan

June-Aug 2014.

Image  —  Posted: June 8, 2014 in Uncategorized

CINEMA FOR A GREATER CAUSE

Posted: January 29, 2014 in Uncategorized

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“Stories are the way human beings understand and communicate our deepest values”, Marshall Ganz

Across the world, storytelling has been used as an effective means of social change. Tales of great leaders have inspired many more in bringing a revolution.  Cinema for years has been used as a mass medium of storytelling, spreading information and building awareness about social issues. The art of storytelling through Cinema has helped many change makers in imparting a message effectively. Cinema is a unique form because it is able to transcend illiteracy; therefore it can be easily viewed and digested by everyone, regardless of age or education.  Film is an amazingly powerful medium to bring people face to face with issues they won’t experience.

At Protsahan, we take pride in being able to touch sensitive social issues with the help of film making. Social issues portrayed in a motion picture’s narrative can resonate with audiences and generate discussion around these issues. This discussion, or discourse, can help construct new ways of thinking and talking about social issues or it can perpetuate the manner in which these issues are already being discussed. The process of film making helps embed a message in the minds of the young ones and gives them a sense of accomplishment and confidence, along with the message being effectively embedded in their minds.  In 2013, Protsahan partnered with UNICEF in their initiative “Say No to Open Defecation”. Protsahan conducted workshops across its centres and encouraged the kids to tell their stories and experiences about Open Defecation through short movies. The films were then made by our kids. The girls took care of every minute detail including script writing, acting, shooting, directing, visualising, editing, all by themselves. The film was made possible with the help of many volunteer photographers and film makers.

Protsahan has also partnered with many such initiatives and through innovative approaches of art, digital stories, photography technology and cinema, conveyed topics which are considered a taboo.

On 17th January 2014, CII along with India@75 and Yi (Young Indians) celebrated the Art, Literature and Sports Day of the National Volunteering Week. National Volunteer Week is about inspiring, recognizing and encouraging people to seek out imaginative ways to engage in their communities. It’s about demonstrating to the nation that by working together, we have the fortitude to meet our challenges and accomplish our goals.  For the first time in India, an attempt is being made to have a volunteering week and celebrate a National Volunteering Week & National Volunteering Day across the country by people from different walks of life jointly by India@75 &Young Indians (Yi). The NVW is an exercise to generate awareness and promote volunteerism in the country.

To commemorate the week, Protsahan screened 2 films made by our kids on Open Defecation in their own communities. The screening was held across all centres of Protsahan in Delhi. The parents and many others from their community were invited to watch the movie and get the message. The screening was done in the open as the message concerns a large section of the society who do not have access to clean and functional toilets. Hence, the venues were strategically selected to attract local vendors, rickshaw walas, homeless in and around the area.

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Through the movie screening, we reached around 800 people who viewed the film across all screening locations. Out of these, 180-200 people were our kids and their family. The screening served a dual purpose of exhibiting the work of the kids along with sending across an important yet ignored message. Open defecation is the common cause of many illnesses and also the most common amongst Indians.    

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The parents of the girls were surprised to see the films and could hardly believe that their own girls could make movies on such important issues. Nishu’s mother felt proud as she said “मुझे यकीन नहीं होता कि ये फ़िल्म मेरी बेटी ने बनाई है।  मेरी बेटी इतनी बड़ी बड़ी बाते करने लगी है और खुद ही इतने आचे विषय पर फ़िल्म बनाना सीख गयी”. (I can’t believe that this film is made by daughter. My daughter talks about such big things and made a film herself on such an important issue”). The girls were delighted and proud of themselves. Fatima’s mothers also confessed, “आपने हमारे बच्चों कि ज़िन्दगी बदल दी, आप का बोहोत बोहोत आभार है”, (You have changed the lives of our kids. We are extremely grateful to you). The girls were delighted and proud of themselves. 

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Volunteers bring along with them specialisation and diversity. Due to fewer vested interests, volunteers show credibility and objectivity. Enriched with new ideas and experience from different fields, Volunteers share constructive criticism and feedback. 

Protsahan requests everyone to volunteer and give back to their communities in any way possible. We call out for professionals with electronic gadgets like laptops, iPads, Kindle to come and introduce our kids to new technologies and keeping them up-to-date so that they become at par with the other kids their age. 


24th January is observed as the National Girl Child Day. Due to lack of stringent rules and their implementation in India, India has the highest Violence Against Children cases. The child sex ratio in the last census was 914 against 1000 males, the lowest recorded since independence.

Protsahan has been working for the upliftment of Girl Child for the last 4 years, introducing them to the world outside their immediate surroundings, seeding new ideas in their minds and channelizing their thoughts towards creation. Creative education has helped us devise new channels of expressions for the girls, who have faced abuse and live with a scarred soul. The young adolescent girls now express their thoughts freely and preserve their innocence.

Today, we celebrated National Girl Child Day at Protsahan. A workshop was organised for the girls by our Criminologist Latvia Lamba, who taught them about Rights of a Gild Child. Latvia engaged the girls in conversations, sharing their experiences where they have been denied of their rights and finding a solution for the same.

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The girls were taught about dignity and equality and how they are less than none through art and craft. Art helps us establish the message in the minds of the girls in a creative way, where they put in their own thoughts in the creation. The girls with the help of their teachers Preeti and Sonia, learnt how to make cup bunnies and butterflies, depicting freedom.

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The girls wrote their learnings from the workshop on the cups, in the form of one liners, explaining the importance of the girl child in their families. These girls aged 4 years to 9 years, who have never been exposed to the world outside and seek all the love and protection from their parents and siblings. With the same realm of thought, the tiny tots in their cute way wrote sentences like:

Image“अगर लडकी ना होगी, तो भैया के हाथ मे राख़ी कौ बन्धेगा?”

(Who will tie the rakhi to the brother if there are no girls?)

Protsahan makes all efforts to preserve this priceless innocence and nurture these girls into strong, independent women.


Anshu

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Anshu is a very bright young adolescent girl who began coming to Protsahan in 2010. By early 2013, she had learnt Kalamkari (an ancient Indian traditional art form) and has beautifully picked up the Warli and Madhubani art forms. She comes from a family where her father is a rag picker and her mother works in an iron factory. One of five children (3 sisters and 2 brothers), she also takes care of domestic work at home and cooks food for everyone. But in the last 3 years, has barely missed her classes at Protsahan. She eagerly looks forward to her time at Protsahan because “main ghar par bore ho jati hu and yahan aa kar bahut kuch karne ko milta hai” (I get bored at home and there are a lot of things to do here). 

Anshu is closer to her father and listens to him more. She loves her community teacher at Protsahan a lot and shares her stories with her. She likes drawing and loves eating mangoes. Initially when Anshu was enrolled here at Protsahan, she would stay quiet and not talk to the other teachers and children. Gradually she started opening up through Warli and Madhubani design sessions and now all of the girls are her friends. She loves playing ludo and wants to become a famous Kalamkari artist. After the 10 month bridge course at Protsahan, we admitted her to a nearby government school. She is brilliant in studies and recently scored 92% in her school this year.

Inspired by all the paintings done by her teachers at Protsahan, Anshu now wants to become a painter, go to college and see the world outside. She wants to explore new places, meet new people and have a brand new life for herself. Anshu wants to draw inspiration for her paintings from the world she sees.

We wish Anshu explores the world, lives life on her own terms and uses painting to express herself

Human Rights: Too Much To Ask For?

Posted: December 10, 2013 in Uncategorized

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As we stand in 2013, going ahead towards another year full of promises of progress, we can’t help but stop and reflect back on the disparity created in the society and how it has changed our outlook towards people.

40 million children below that age of 15 are suffering from child abuse and neglect. There are approximately  246 million child laborers worldwide. Throughout history, women have been denied the knowledge, means, and freedom to act in the best interest of themselves and their children. And we call children the future of our world.

Hillary Rodham Clinton talked about Women’s Rights are Human Rights in 1995. Clinton exhibited an incredible amount of emotion in order to evoke empathy from the audience. She appealed to their emotions by relating issues facing women all over the world. The list of atrocities she gave which breach basic human rights also lend strongly to her pathos argument: (courtesy Wikipedia)

“- It is a violation of human rights when babies are denied food, or drowned, or suffocated, or their spines broken, simply because they are born girls.
- It is a violation of human rights when women and girls are sold into the slavery of prostitution for human greed — and the kinds of reasons that are used to justify this practice should no longer be tolerated.
- It is a violation of human rights when individual women are raped in their own communities and when thousands of women are subjected to rape as a tactic or prize of war.
- It is a violation of human rights when a leading cause of death worldwide among women ages 14 to 44 is the violence they are subjected to in their own homes by their own relatives.
- It is a violation of human rights when young girls are brutalized by the painful and degrading practice of genital mutilation. 
- It is a violation of human rights when women are denied the right to plan their own families, and that includes being forced to have abortions or being sterilized against their will”.

 With similar emotions, PROTSAHAN was started 3 years back, helping protect the rights of little girls in a small village in the heart of the Capital of India. The girls were neglected, abused and mistreated. This was the reality of their life. Absolutely no exposure to the outside world, these girls accepted this as the way of life and continued to live. The local schools were not well equipped to handle such harsh situations and barely imparted basic education.

When we first started, even though education at Protsahan was free of cost, there was a resistance we faced. People did not trust us and refused to send their kids. But as we kept working in the area with schools and individual children, we started getting response. Many girls recommended their friends and we brought them to the school.

Because the girls had gone through difficult circumstances, it was important to channelize their emotions in a direction where it can be used productively. A platform had to be provided for the girls to express their anger, guilt, sadness, happiness. Hence, Protsahan started using the innovative approaches of Design, Art, Digital Stories, Photography, Technology & Cinema to foster Creative Education and Sustainable Livelihoods. The mission being “Encouraging Skills Development & Creative Education through DESIGN THINKING at the bottomest of pyramid”.

In the last 3 years, we have touched the lives of about a 3000 little girls and boys from urban slums/ red light areas/ construction sites/streets. Most children we work with are sexually abused or under the influence of drugs. We work with CREATIVE EDUCATION to mainstream them. We also run women empowerment and skill based initiatives for their mothers/exploited women in urban slums, where their exploitation is maximum.

It has been a fulfilling process for Team Protsahan and with bigger dreams, we aim to completely Stop Child Abuse and equip these girls to change the lives of many more girls, empowering them to fight for their rights.

 


Aanchal

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The little bundle of joy, Aanchal is the naughtiest of the lot at Protsahan. And it’s not hard to figure out when she has a mischief on her mind. Her smiles gives it away.

The Happy Face of Protsahan, Aanchal loves studies and also loves irritating her teachers. She loves English and wants to become an English teacher when she grows up. Aanchal has been in Protsahan for the last 6 months and is loving it. She enjoys painting and has picked up Warli in hardly any span of time. Aanchal is an active participant of the workshops conducted at Protsahan and wishes for the film making workshop to happen regularly.

A little lost in the beginning, Aanchal started painting Warli and used painting as a medium to express her thoughts. Her paintings are a reflection of her frame of mind and her colors are the hue of her mood. She has often dreamt of going to the mountains and wet her feet in the rivers passing by.  In many of her paintings, she tries to capture the snow covered peaks. Since the time Aanchal has been painting and doing other workshops at Protsahan, she has become calmer, confident, with an improved sense of communication. She now gathers her thoughts and then frames a sentence to speak. The film making workshop helped Aanchal organize her thoughts, contribute in the script, follow a thought flow and understand  what emotion is to be captured.

No one knows this as yet, but Aanchal really loves to eat Hingoli and Satmola. She always carries a packet in her pocket. We all know what to give her on her next birthday.

We really hope Aanchal discovers her true self without losing her charm and aura.


Fatima

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Fatima stands true to her name, captivating, charming. When you walk into Protsahan, it is usually hard to ignore Fatima all chirpy and vibrant. Fatima spreads across energy that cheers up everyone.

14 year old Fatima tries to come to Protsahan everyday despite going to school, working at a house nearby, working at her own house and taking her of her siblings. Though usually late in class, Fatima does manage to catch up in her studies. Due to financial situations, her family can’t afford proper meals for the kids. Hence, once in a while, Fatima ends up nibbling the class chalk.

Unlike other students at Protsahan, Fatima does not like drawing or painting as much and has never been forced to pursue the same either. English is her favorite subject and she has an inclination towards photography and film making. Fatima is Protsahan’s dancer and she regularly requests the teachers at Protsahan to put on some music as she can’t do that home. To welcome a delegate of Australian Embassy Judges at Protsahan, Fatima prepared a dance performance and taught the same to all our girls. Her favourite dance form is kathak and insists Protsahan organizes for kathak classes.

Fatima believes in her little dreams and gives in her best to fulfill them. The belief is so big, failure does not exist for her. She once met a lawyer and since that day, dreams to become one herself.

But the big question that her friends at Protsahan always ask her still remains unanswered, “Fatima didi ko gussa kyun aata hai? (why does Fatima get angry)”.

Fatima learning Film Making at Protsahan :-)

Fatima learning Film Making at Protsahan :-)


Soni

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“Iske gaalon me to tube light hai. Dekho kaise chamakte hai jab vo jasti hai” (Her cheeks have tube light in them. See how they light up whenever she laughs). Soni’s friends get excited when asked what do they love about Soni. They say she always laughs and there is never a dull moment in her life.

Soni lives with her parents, 2 brothers and a sister in Delhi. She has been studying at Protsahan for 3 years and says she eagerly waits for afternoon to come to Protsahan. Drawing being her area of interest, she makes beautiful Madhubani and Warli paintings and also teaches her peers. Soni loves making paper mache. With the bridge course at Protsahan, Soni is now one of the smartest girls in her school and scored 84% in her annual exams last year.

With great joy comes trouble, Soni’s brother does not allow her to come to Protsahan and wishes to marry her off at an early age. But Soni, the strong willed, often explains to him how Protsahan has helped her develop as a person and she aims to achieve a lot in her life. With great difficulties, Soni comes to Protsahan everyday and makes the most of her time here. 

Soni dreams of becoming a teacher and teach her kids with love and care. She does not believe in scolding or hitting the kids as she understands that it’s better to set an example for the kids that they look upto than to force them.

Her most memorable moments at Protsahan were her picnic outings with her Protsahan friends. Soni, the curious child loves going to new places and trying new things. Her happiest moment was when she featured in a photograph in the newspaper with Sachin Tendulkar. 

We hope Soni spreads her light wherever she goes and becomes the compassionate teacher.