One of Sarva's principle projects is the maintenance of an EDUCATION FUND, which provides financial support to students excluded from state education, or normal integration in the wider community, due to their leprosy parentage, poverty, or social status.
This fund enables them to undertake schooling or vocational training, which would otherwise be utterly impossible for them due to the strength of prejudice against them. Sarva is thereby able to offer an opportunity for them to finally break the desperate cycle of destitution and disease for their impoverished families and communities.
One part of this enduring problem is that the children of parents with leprosy, even when in full health, are commonly denied access to state education in India, and are condemned to live out their entire lives as untouchable outcasts.
Sarva therefore works to provide such children with a standard of education and training that will afford them skills, qualifications and self-confidence that will dramatically change the course of their lives.
The Education Fund presently supports 30 girls and boys, with a commitment to add a minimum of 72 students to that number over the next five years. To date, Sarva has given almost £9,000 in such educational scholarships and bursaries.
Examples of Sarva's projects include the education of children in three slum schools through the use of puppetry. The colourful antics, interspersed with potent words of wisdom, keep every pair of dark eyes bewitched through hours of stories, songs and slapstick, whilst providing lessons in 'Values', such as Generosity and Kindness, Sobriety and Respect for Women; the benefits of Protecting the Environment and of attending to Personal Hygiene.
Through the generosity of its supporters, Sarva has been able to found the first library and educational games room in a hostel for children affected by leprosy.
Sarva has provided blowing-bubbles for much-needed speech therapy sessions in a Special School, which are also distributed amongst children deprived of education and social contact due to their families' infection with leprosy.
Sarva has provided educational material to an orphanage in India for Nepalese refugee children from the recent civil war, as well as for Nepalese girls rescued from the brothels of Mumbai.
Sarva is providing daily rations of milk and a multi-vitamin supplement to the most poorly nourished children of a mountain village school.
Impoverished families rarely educate their daughters. Sarva ensures that such girls are able to not only attend school, but aspire to become teachers, engineers and doctors, rather than just a child bride, who is regarded as a burden - even a curse - owing to the demands of dowry.
For those who are less academically inclined, Sarva provides an education in practical skills from which they will be able to independently earn a living. Some have chosen to study weaving, computer programming, engineering, office management, dress-making and tailoring. Sarva is committed to provide education for a further ten such impoverished girls from this particular community every year.
In addition, Sarva supports girls who show academic potential and interest through a Coaching Scheme aimed at helping their homework and improving their academic performance.
Pankas is a Nepalese boy whose hard-working, though desperately poor parents are unable to have him educated. Sarva has been able to secure him a place in one of the best schools in the district and is covering all expenses. Pankas is thriving, and is now able to aspire to vocations beyond the menial, seasonal labour on which he would have otherwise been dependant his whole life long.
Ram is another highly-intelligent Nepalese boy, whose father is a seasonal sherpa and noodlemaker, and is unable to have him educated. Sarva is ensuring that this young lad will be able to fulfil his potential. Ram had TB last year and yet still came top of the school in his end of year exams. He recently wrote to say, 'I am so happy! I am thankful because you help me in a great thing...'
Pratima's dream is to become a doctor. However, her parents have separated and she has been abandoned. A local school teacher has taken her in, to save her from destitution on the streets. Sarva is ensuring this highly intelligent and capable Nepalese girl receives the education that will enable her to pursue her vocation.
Sarva is supporting girls who have grown up in a hostel for children with leprosy parentage through a three and a half year nursing degree. This training is of particular importance to the charity's work, as it enables these girls to spread the knowledge of proper health care and hygiene to the ostracised communities from which they come. Such an education and professional training gives these young women previously unimagined choices as to their own futures, freeing them from the otherwise inevitable early marriage to a man who is equally affected by leprosy, or its stigma. Over the next five years, Sarva is committed to grant scholarships to at least 10 more nursing students of a leprosy background.
One of these trainee nurses, Shushila, has recently written to say:
'Thank you a lot. I must say words cannot express our family feelings and thanks for you supporting me, making my career safe. It was my Dad's dream. He was so tense in his last days regarding me. My Dad expired last July. He is no more, but I see my Dad in you, because you are fulfilling his dream to support me. You are my godfathers, who fulfilled his and my family's dream, to make it real.'
What your money will buy:
£1257 1 year's nursing training (three and a half year course)
£500 a 2-year mechanical apprenticeship
£200 a basic school library
£50-90 one year at a good, private school,
including all textbooks and uniforms
£5 1 pair of good school shoes.