Making Her Life Meaningful

Kiran’s mom (left) cries today when she thinks of all that her daughter has achieved.

Kiran Gangurde has always had a spark.

As a schoolgirl in Pune, India, Kiran shined in every class performance and beamed in every photo. She loved to dance and sing, and excelled in her classes — earning numerous academic awards. Our partner staff at Bharatiya Samaj Siva Kendra (BSSK) met Kiran when she was in the second grade. From the beginning, they write, “she had a spark in her personality.”

Today, Kiran is a poised 18-year-old college student with long dark hair, kind eyes that sparkle with intelligence and a warm, confident smile. “My life until now has been per my wish and I have been brought up in a free and healthy environment,” Kiran says. “I hope to have this for the rest of my life.”

But growing up the only daughter of a single mother with multiple health issues in a country where girls are valued less than boys, she knows that her life could have easily taken a different turn. When she was just a year old, her father abandoned his family — leaving Kiran and her mom with nothing. Unable to care for Kiran on her own, her mom approached her own parents — Kiran’s grandparents — for help.

“Initially everyone had sympathy for both of us,” Kiran says, “but no one talked of my schooling.”

Determined to educate her daughter, Kiran’s mom did everything she could to enroll her daughter in school — choosing a program where she could learn English. But her mom increasingly struggled to pay for her fees, books and uniforms, and without the intervention of two compassionate strangers, Kiran would have likely had to drop out in the second grade. Kiran’s spark could have gone out in that moment. As a school drop-out, she would not have the freedom to follow her dreams and choose a life that she wished for. Rather, her life would be consumed by the traditional burdens and responsibilities of a girl growing up poor and uneducated in the slums of Pune, India.

Growing up, Kiran loved to dance and sing — shining in every class performance.

But Kiran’s mom would not stand for that. She would not stand for her only daughter to lead a life like her own.

“My mom has always been under stress due to conservative traditions at home,” Kiran says of her mom, who cries today when she thinks of all that Kiran has achieved. “She could not take education or choose her partner on her own, and had to live life on other’s terms and conditions.”

Sick and struggling, with no family support, Kiran’s mom reached out to BSSK for help keeping Kiran in school. Upon hearing her story, a couple overseas immediately stepped up to sponsor Kiran. They, too, would not stand for this bright-eyed spark of a girl to drop out of school, and for the next eight years, they sent support every month for her to continue her studies. Throughout that time, Kiran regularly corresponded with them — sharing about her life and goals — and at 16 years old, Kiran had the rare opportunity to meet her sponsors in person when they took a family trip to India.

“I was happy to have them at my home and to meet my family,” says Kiran, who thanked them for helping her achieve the life she dreamed of.

“I told them it was only because of their support that I could take education,” she says.

Happy to see Kiran accomplishing her goals, her sponsors continued supporting her through 10th grade, when students in India graduate high school. Kiran passed her graduation exams with high marks, and quickly enrolled in a degree course to become a medical lab technician. Once she earns her diploma, Kiran hopes to set up her own lab and offer free medical services in the rural communities outside Pune.

Every year, Kiran’s sponsors provided funding for her books, uniform and supplies.

“I wish to go into villages and do free camps for sick people there,” she says. “The medical facilities are very insufficient in the villages.”

She also plans to help advocate for girls in her community. By telling her story, Kiran hopes more girls can receive the education — and the life —they deserve.

“I see young girls in the community getting married off and then they hardly have time for themselves,” she says. “The life they then live is not what they really deserve. It is not only important to advocate for girls, but also their parents to make them understand how important education is for their daughter’s bright future.”

Kiran is grateful for her own mom’s commitment to educating her, despite the challenges she faced. But both Kiran and her mom know that without Kiran’s sponsors, she would not have the life she deserves.

Without her sponsors, her mom says, “Kiran would not be where she stands today.”

When Kiran sees girls in her community, out of school and married at ages younger than she is now, she feels even more grateful to the generous couple who sponsored her year after year — keeping her future, and her spark, glowing bright.

“They had a big part to play,” she says, “in making my life meaningful.”

Robin Munro | Managing Editor


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