BOONE — In its second year, a Boone nonprofit is asking for the community’s help in fundraising to help support a school for girls in a village in Odisha, India.
Christine Dave serves as the founder and chairperson of the nonprofit EDGE — Education for Girls Empowerment. In an area of her home country that tends to favor the education of boys rather than girls, Dave said EDGE wants to create a safe and sustainable environment for these girls where they can become educated, equipped and empowered to live their own productive lives.
Around 40 girls — ages 11 through 17 — currently attend a day school on the property of the area boys residential school — Navaprabhat Kanya Gurukul. The day school started in 2011 and was co-started by Dave’s father.
The girls meet six days a week for about six hours each day. Most girls ride a bike to school — some traveling for up to 40 minutes one way. Often girls are riding bikes on highway streets or having to ride through monsoon-type weather.
“I think ‘Oh my gosh, if you can do this, you can do anything,’” Dave said. “They’re change makers, I just know it. They’re changing their part of the world.”
Dave said EDGE’s board plans to raise money to help fund a dorm building to enable the girls to live on the planned future campus of a residential school for girls.
Dave said she believes a dorm building to house 40 girls would cost around $30,000-$35,000. EDGE hopes to raise at least $20,000-$21,000 for the construction of the building.
A man local to the village in Odisha, India, is leading the charge to build the campus for the school, and Dave said it may cost around $800,000 in total to complete the campus. This work started last August. Dave said the campus could include dorms for the girls, a cafeteria, guest housing, security housing and a self-sustaining farm.
EDGE is hosting an event from 3 to 5 p.m. on June 15 at the Art of Living Retreat Center in Boone to help raise funds for the building of the dorm building. The event will feature Indian music, Bharatanatyam dance by performers from Birmingham, Ala., and Indian snacks. The event space, performances and snacks for the event were all donated, Dave said.
For event tickets, visit www.educationforgirlsempowerment.org/donations-1/fundraiser-tickets. Tickets can be purchased by June 13.
Attendees of the event will also be able to receive a book of short stories collected by Dave with the help of a local publisher. She travels to India for about four months each year, spending two of these months with the girls at the school. She last visited the school between November and March.
During her visit, Dave asked some of the girls about why they wanted an education, what they hope to do with their knowledge and what they think it means to be educated as a female. She said the answers she received were amazing and inspiring, and she compiled them into a book that will give the community a look into what their money would be supporting.
Girls at the school currently learn subjects such as math, science and political science through a state curriculum while also learning yoga and meditation skills. The girls also learn Sanskrit, their state language, the national language and English. Most girls go on to higher education to pursue bachelor’s degrees.
“They want to use their education to help their community, give other people education and do better in their lives,” Dave said.
Many of the girls are first-generation students as their parents have not had the ability to receive a formal education. Dave said the village where the school is located is a rural, tribal community that relies on farming. This can be a struggle for families as the community has dealt with a long-term drought. For this reason, Dave said the village supports the education of the girls and using the education to change future generations.
“They want them to go on and have employment opportunities and change that cycle of poverty,” Dave said. “I can see the impact of how it’s going to continue to change other generations in those families.”
While the village community may not be able to contribute much in monetary donations, Dave said locals volunteer time and effort in construction efforts. The local man spearheading the efforts has also connected with a group in Germany to support part of the construction as well as private donors in India, Dave said.
Since its inception, EDGE has raised approximately $8,000 to support the girl’s school. It has donated water bottles and backpacks, about $5,000 already to the construction of the campus, funding for professional development for a school teacher and additional uniforms for the girls. This is in addition to about $1,000 donated by a group Dave is a part of called Boone Moms — made up of about 10 local women — for the construction of the main gate to the girl’s school complex.
For more information on EDGE, visit www.educationforgirlsempowerment.org.