Equip Low Income Parents. Empower the Future of India

Story of Kanchan didi: The fight to fulfill aspirations
This is Kanchan didi. She is 32 years old. She has trouble breathing and has fought through Tuberculosis, twice. She hasn't been to school herself. But she wants to send her three daughters to school so they may fulfill their innate potential. 

"Have you ever had trouble reading the name of a medicine given to your child by a doctor? Or had trouble reading a text message sent by your father, brother or your husband?" asks Kanchan didi.
 
"I have trouble doing this every day. My father had drinking problems because of which I couldn't study. I want Aditi, my daughter, to be independent and live on her own terms. And that's why I send her to school every day." says Kanchan didi.

                                           Aditi - the future of India

One would assume with such fierce support from her mother, Aditi would do well in school. But Aditi, a student of 3rd grade is one of the 97% students in her class who cannot read simple sentences.

To complicate the matter further, she, like 72% of students Meraki works with, is Anemic.  She gets tired very quickly and is unable to concentrate in class. Thus, falling far behind with each passing class.

The Unsettling Truth
Aditi will struggle to fulfill her innate potential; if the status quo persists.

In fact - 2 out 3 children you will see on the street today, in India, will not fulfill their potential. The status quo manifests itself in the same news, year on year, in India:
  • 1 in 2 children can't read a 2nd grade text when in 5th grade - thus drastically limiting their career options
  • 2 out of 3 children in India have anemia - which consequently hinders their growth and development
Read more about their struggle here. 

Shared Burden of Disadvantaged Families:
Like Aditi, children at risk of the poorest outcomes in learning, health and behavior experience a pile up, a cumulative burden, of poverty, neglect, abuse and healthcare issues. This burden becomes insurmountable for parents, like Kanchan didi, from low socio-economic, educational background. Therefore, there's a need to build individual capacities of families and communities to cope with these issues for the sake of their future and children.
 
Here's where Meraki comes in. 
 
Meraki aims to equip parents to transform their children's lives. It aims to solve for the intergenerational burden that disadvantaged families carry. 
 
Read more about how we intend to do this here. 

Who are we?
In late 2015, Ghazal and Seemant re-connected over their collective experience of teaching under-privileged children at Teach For India. While they reminisced about their struggles of teaching students considerably below grade level and tough school administrators a constant dread still nagged them: students across India were not learning and their parents were still not getting the support they deserved. 

This was crucial as children spend more time at home than at school, without any guidance. The entire developmental process, by not educating, enabling or empowering parents was sidelining the most powerful ally in the future of India. Thus Meraki came to fruition.
 
Over the period of last eight months, Meraki, has worked with over 200 parents in urban slums of Delhi NCR. Over the next one year, Meraki will work with 1000 families to ensure that their children are put on a different life path.

Through Meraki we want to restore the belief of parents that no matter where they come from and how much they earn, their hopes and aspirations for their children are worthy of being pursued.

How Can You Help? 
You can help in multiple ways, two of them are outlined below. 

1. Funds: No amount is too small. It is your intent and the action attached to it that matters. We have, in order to help you make informed decision and to select a cause, shared with you the breakdown of the costs. In case of any questions/queries please reach out to us here. We promise to come back to you within 24 hours.
 
a) Help Parents in helping their children read:
To empower a child to read at grade level this year, donate 650 Rs.
To empower 10 children to read at grade level this year, donate 6500 Rs.
To empower 100 children to read at grade level this year, donate 65,000 Rs.
 
b) Help Parents keep their children healthy:
To keep a child healthy for 1 year, donate 500 Rs.
To keep 10 children healthy for 1 year, donate 5000 Rs 
To keep 100 children healthy for 1 year, donate 50000 Rs
 
c) Help Parents never depend on Meraki or your donations again:
To empower one parent, donate 650 Rs. 
To empower 10 parents, donate 6500 Rs.
To empower 100 parents, donate 65000 Rs. 
 
2. Skill and Time: If you or your organization, would like to support us with your skills and time please drop us a note here.

If you believe in what we do, please share this story with your friends and relatives. This is as much an awareness campaign as it is a fund raiser.

Ask for an update
27th January 2018
THE POWER OF PARENT ENGAGEMENT
BY SAGRA ALVARADO ON JANUARY 24, 2018 10:48 AM
(from Harvard Graduate School of Education (HGSE), News and Events)

https://www.gse.harvard.edu/news/18/01/power-parent-engagement

Alum Ghazal Gulati's nonprofit equips parents in India with skills and strategies to help guide their children to academic success.

Ghazal Gulati, Ed.M.’15, is dedicated to improving student wellbeing and achievement in India, one parent at a time.While national governments, schools, and local leaders can provide resources to enhance educational opportunities for students, Gulati realized there is one frequently overlooked stakeholder — parents.

“We have to help parents understand what their stake is in the game,” says Gulati, co-founder and full-time COO of Meraki, a nonprofit based in the Delhi area that aims to ensure that parents have a voice in their children’s education, providing them with the tools necessary to help their children do well in school. Meraki’s mission: “Equipping parents. Empowering the future.”

Gulati first noticed that not all children had the same educational opportunities when she was a child and her family moved to Delhi as a result of the escalating violence in their native Kashmir. She became aware that, due to her parents’ professional degrees and their general awareness of the importance of education, she was provided more academic and economic advantages than many children in her new city.

“It is not fair that some children are born into families with educational backgrounds geared toward academic success while others are left to their own devices to figure the education system,” Gulati says, noting that in order to create a more equitable environment, parents first need to be made aware that there are things they can do to aid their children’s learning. “All parents have high aspirations for their children, the only difference amongst parents is their education levels.”

While at HGSE, Gulati learned about the issue of “supply and demand” in the Indian education system in Professor Fernando Reimers’ course on educational policy. “The government can supply the schools, the teachers, but no one is looking at the demand side of the equation and how to trigger parent engagement, so the schools are carrying the burden,” says Gulati.

This is a problem that Meraki is meeting head-on by recruiting parents to participate in its offerings through their children’s schools. The fellowship program lasts four months and focuses first on parents with children enrolled in kindergarten and the first grade because, Gulati explains, brain development during this time is crucial and needs to be addressed in the beginning phases of students’ education.

Using curriculum provided by the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard, leaders guide parents through bi-weekly workshops that focus on reducing stress, improving the responsiveness of relationships, and building core life skills. Following each workshop, parent and child must work together on four assigned activities in which they develop skills and strategies that will help lead them to academic success.

The hope is that, as fellowship alumni, parents will become leaders in their communities, passing on to others what they learned in the Meraki workshops. This past year, the organization has worked with 900 parents in several under-resourced communities in South Delhi achieving more than 70 percent retention of parents in each workshop.
As Meraki grows, Gulati is grateful for the lessons learned at HGSE that she was able to apply to the endeavour, particularly one she took from a leadership course taught by Professor Monica Higgins.

“Spend enough time understanding the context. In Professor Higgins’ class we analyzed case studies about so many good ideas that failed because they failed to understand the other stakeholders in the ecosystem,” says Gulati, explaining that during the launch of Meraki, her team spent six to eight months interviewing parents, schools, teachers, and principals across India to understand the challenges of the communities.

As “you don’t act alone in the ecosystem,” this lesson is vital, she says. “Our goal is to build a movement of parent leaders working across sectors to mobilize systemic change at the community level on issues of child development.”


Photo: Ghazal Gulati (left) conducts a Meraki parent workshop. 

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Keep up the good work Meraki!

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