Pushpa and her sister were orphans living on the streets of Mumbai in 2001. Their parents passed away due to tuberculosis. They had little hope, and a bleak future…at best. Instead, today Pushpa is working in Human Resources in Intel, Goregaon!
So how did this happen? In our busy lives, with homes, hobbies and families, who has time to help two abandoned orphans? Well, inspiringly, it was precisely such a person who came to their aid – a 39-year-old mother of two!
Like any of us, Sharada has her own set of hobbies – reading, music and painting and a life at home with her kids. Her son Jonah is 17 years old and has recently appeared for his 12th standard Board exams. Daughter, Jennifer, is 11 years old and a student of 7th standard.
A shelter for poor and destitute girls in Mumbai, Sharanam was set up in the year 2000, by Sharada along with her husband Nirmal, and since then they have rescued, supported, uplifted and utterly transformed hundreds of lives.
Speaking to The Better India about what inspired her, she says – “Right from my school days, I wanted to do something for the betterment of girls in our society. The inequality faced by us was very disturbing to me.”
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She originally thought becoming a teacher would be enough to change how people think. But she soon realised that wouldn’t do. Teachers only had a small window of time in which they were relevant. As soon as the class bell would ring, another teacher would replace her, and students would forget all that she had strived to impress unto them.
So after she completed her teacher training course, she went to work at an NGO that dealt with slum people. The Community Outreach Program (CORP) is a 40-year-old organisation primarily involved in community development for women, children and senior citizens across Mumbai.
Here, Sharada was made aware of the real conditions that women on the streets survived every day, and it made her desire to help only stronger. She decided to open a home for younger girls, as she came to understand the utter despair they lived in.
Luckily, she found a financier in a junior volunteer of CORP, who shared the same mindset. And so it began.
There were challenges from all sides in the initial years. The shelter is housed in a residential building and residents were critical of the socio-economic-cultural background of the girls.
Also, handling children during their ‘rebellious’ teenage years was an added headache. But they persevered.
Today, Sharanam helps girls realise their full potential. They are allowed to explore their areas of interest instead of being dictated certain career choices. Hence, it has its girls involved in a plethora of professions from nursing to beauticians to the hotel industry.
Sharada attributes Sharanam’s success to the success of the girls it houses. Some of them had joined them at age 3 or 5. They have now grown into self-sufficient, independent women capable of fending for their own!
After completing her college, Sonam went onto do a professional nursing course and now works as a nurse at Guru Nanak Hospital. Neelam works in an office. They have rented their own apartment where they live together with their mother.
When asked how Sharada manages to look after her children and the NGO, she replies that though it is challenging, the girls in the shelter are like sisters and they all felt like a big family.