What drives us to want to change things? What makes us want to help others? Is it a moment that inspires us or something that we witness? For everyone it is different things and for Raju Agrawal, the founder and CEO of OneProsper International, a not-for-profit organisation based in Canada and San Francisco it was a visit to India.
Where he encountered a young girl who wasn’t in school. When he asked her why she wasn’t at school, she said that she had to look after her baby brother, so her mother could work. This chance meeting made Agrawal realise the different challenges that girls have to face before they can even get to school; and that for many it is not just the money for schooling, because for girls, it is about having the time to go to school, when from poor, vulnerable families.
Agrawal’s journey led him to the Thar Desert, one of India’s poorest regions, where female literacy is low and a place where women, and girls walk 5-7 hours a day to collect water! It was here that he set up OneProsper, with a mission to empower girls from low income families through education.
The organisation selects the most impoverished families who have two girls per family and provides each girl with bicycles, school supplies, and tuition for one year. Crucially, OnePropser also empowers women to grow crops for family nutrition and to generate an income. As this then enables these women to fund their daughters’ education.
Along with an education, the Charity provides each family with a biosand filter along with clean water, by building a ‘taanka,’ which collects rainwater – a taanka can provide a family with clean water for seven months; as water borne diseases plague the children here, who drink dirty water.
Agrawal’s organisation has changed lives and so far has sponsored 260 girls, where each girl is attending school rather than walking hours to collect water.
The girls and their families have clean water and nutritious food. Like this heart-warming story of Gita’s, who used to go with her mother to collect water in the searing heat; where at times, Gita and her siblings would face heat stroke and stomach pains because they were drinking dirty water, living in a basic shelter made from tree branches and four poles.
Gita was not able to attend school, but now through OnePropser, Gita’s life has changed. Today, her life is filled with books, attends school daily and thanks to a brand new rainwater harvesting tank and bio sand filter, she no longer has to walk hours to collect water. Gita’s mother too has found work and is building a new home made of bricks. Gita and her family are more confident about their future.
But like everything and everyone in the world right now, the global-Covid 19 pandemic has had a major impact on the lives of the families here in the Thar Desert, who are facing a food crisis. Thankfully, help has come via OneProsper who has provided all the 260 beneficiary families with COVID relief kits, which has been a huge relief to the people.
Take, Vimla, her husband has not been able to work for two months, which has depleted their savings and were living on handouts from their neighbours. Vimla had no money to buy groceries and her life was dependent on others, who were also suffering. OneProsper’s kit has been a lifeline.
OneProsper has so many positive stories to tell about the lives it has empowered, where its work is holistic and powerful. It is actively changing the culture in this region, from one where girls and women are not valued to enabling the locals to recognise the importance of the girls and women.