GURGAON, INDIA // When Ashok Yadav’s land in Shahjahanpur, Uttar Pradesh, was bought by a company that wanted to build a thermal plant, he was forced to move his family of eight to Delhi. As landless farmers, he and his 26-year-old son, Ravi, had few skills that would transfer to the city, but the countryside offered no more opportunity.
The family pays 12,000 rupees (Dh723) to rent two rooms, leaving another 12,000 earned between Mr Yadav and his son for other expenses. This includes cooking gas, which costs 1,300 rupees a cylinder, as well as food, clothing and transport expenses.
“We earn less and spend more, which is why we are grateful to Harmony House for taking in our daughters,” Mr Yadav, a gardener, said. Vasundhara, 14, Purti, 7, and his granddaughter, Julie, 5, study at the shelter.
For three months after they arrived in Gurgaon, the girls sat at home. Mr Yadav tried to enrol them in classes but most of the area schools are privately run. Government schools are free, but they are not in walking distance of Mr Yadav’s slum.
Harmony House changed all that. “They are so well taken care of, the food they eat, it is so nutritious that when they come home, they are not hungry for a long time. The burden to look after the girls is a lot less. I am grateful for that,” Mr Yadav said.
The girls sit together and study, helping each other out with their homework and assignments.
“I am uneducated,” Mr Yadav said. “My son has barely studied past Class 8 so we are of no help to these girls when it comes to education. I am glad they can take care of each other that way.”
Vasundhara wants to be a teacher one day “because I really like my teachers here”, she says. “They have taught me so much. Not just what is in my textbooks but all around, so much more.
“I have discussed this with my parents and they are fine with my plans but they want to finish my education at Harmony House first.”
Like the other older students at Harmony House, Vasundhara goes to a private school near by in the evenings, a minute’s walk away, which offers evening classes to the underprivileged children at the shelter.
The idea is that they get the bulk of their education at Harmony House and use the private school to formally endorse it, said Meghna Eidnani Maira, the manager of Harmony House.
Renting a second villa will not only help accommodate the growing number of children that seek Harmony House’s services, Ms Maira said, but will also provide more vocational courses for girls such as Vasundhara, whose parents may not be able to afford a college education for her in a few years.