A successful Banker, Bharathi quit her job in Mumbai and started laying the foundation for Bharani, an organisation helping young girls excel in sports and now, especially in Hockey.
Life at an orphanage could get very tough. Some of the girls at these orphanages, like Dolly have lost their father, but still have their mothers. The women cannot leave their daughters alone while they are at work, and hence leave them at the orphanage.
Weekends bring hope and happiness, when these girls get to spend a day with their mothers, go back home and even go to the market sometimes. And then there are girls like Kaberi, who have neither of their parents. Her eyes fill, and her heart beats in anticipation as she watches her friends go home with their mothers on weekends, wishing she had someone to take her out as well, to give her the warmth and love that she can only find at ‘home’.
Bharani is working relentlessly to give these girls a chance in life, to educate them, train them and make them independent so that they are not forced into early marriage and life in poverty.
“These girls come from villages in the outskirts of the city. Their mothers work as maids, ragpickers or labourers. They get neither education nor opportunities to escape the vicious cycle of poverty. In fact, they are seen as a liability, a burden, and married off at tender ages. We admit them to municipal schools, take special classes to help them keep up with studies and train them in self defence and sports. We also conduct workshops and competitions to nurture and encourage their talent,” says Bharati, co-founder of Bharani.
Around 12-years ago, Bharati returned to the city of Kolkata to immerse her late mother’s ashes. The extreme poverty children in certain parts of her own city lived in moved her. She made up her mind to come back and do something about it. This was how Bharati quit her job as a successful banker in Mumbai and started laying the foundation for Bharani.
Her friend Paramjeet also joined her soon.
It started with us taking these kids out for a day, to watch a movie, or to just have good food. The children were mostly starving. To them, a full, nutritious meal is a luxury. They were just looking for a good opportunity to learn, to be able to do something in life. Later, we also started taking them to watch cricket matches and to meet accomplished people in different fields. It surprised us to see just how much these kids were capable of doing with a little bit of motivation,” Bharati continues.
The challenges were many. Not all parents were welcoming, not everyone wanted to allow their daughters to become independent. But what started off as a venture with 5 children from one village went on to include 100+ children from the same village.
Today Bharani has may more villages and pockets under its wings and has already given the state many representatives at national sports.
Why they are raising funds:
Bharani has hired a national level coach to train its girls in hockey. These immensely talented girls are at a crucial point, where they can either be trained further to take up Hockey as a career and play for India on International platforms, or be forced back to their old lives, treated as a burden to their mothers and living in poverty and uncertainty.
“The girls presently practice for around 2-3 hours everyday in the morning, with the existing equipment. They are keen on putting in many more hours of practice, if given a chance. With this much training, they are already making their state proud at the Nationals. Can you imagine what they can do if they are trained further and given better equipment?” Bharathi proudly explains.
Bharani wishes to purchase better equipment and offer the girls training in the evening as well.
How you can help
A bunch of teenage girls are waiting eagerly, back in the orphanages and rural pockets of Kolkata. They fear, every minute of their life: After bringing fame to their state at the national level hockey matches, they are not willing to go back to being no more than a burden to their parents, or to the orphanage administration. Their eyes gleam bright with dreams of a tomorrow as a player on International grounds. Without sufficient funds, these dreams would shatter, and the efforts of a decade would get wasted.
Your contribution can make Chak De India a real life story for each of these girls!