Educating a girl child means educating an entire village. You are doing a great service by supporting girls’ education in this remote hamlet,” said RI Director A S Venkatesh to the members of RC Sambalpur Central, RID 3261, after inaugurating a water tank and toilet blocks in a school in April this year. “Set short-term goals which can be easy to achieve and you can execute more meaningful projects benefitting larger communities. Focus on communities’ needs while designing projects,” he added.
Navaprabhat Kanya Gurukul is a school for girls at Nuapali, a village 140km from Sambalpur, Odisha. The club has constructed 10 toilets and bathrooms, group handwash stations and an exclusive MHM room equipping it with an incinerator, a sanitary pad dispenser and a bed, in this school, and a 100,000 litre-capacity water tank to cater to the school’s needs and for the entire village. A solar panel is also set up in the school campus as power supply is erratic in this region. RC Kiel Eider, RID 1890, Germany, is the international partner.
The village and its surrounding area were once infested with Naxals. The region still lacks infrastructure and basic facilities such as toilets at homes. “We barely drink water,” says one of the students. The villagers can access the toilets and hand wash facilities in the school now, says the club’s project contact Pradip Lath.
Set short-term goals which can be easy to achieve and you can execute more meaningful projects benefitting larger communities.
– A S Venkatesh, RI Director
The Gurukul spread over 105 acres is managed by a trust headed by Bhagabandev Acharya who initially set up a residential school for boys in 2000. Girl students were admitted as day scholars 12 years later. The students’ education is funded through contributions from philanthropists. Fifteen students are admitted annually. The school offers education from Class 6 to graduation with Sanskrit as the medium of instruction.
“For the last five years our students have won gold medals in BA stream and our Class 10 students are among the state toppers every year. Eight former students are pursuing PhD,” smiles Acharya.
The girls’ school was a recent addition, begun in 2018 with the help of his German acquaintances whom he had met at the Ashram’s headquarters in Meerut. “They were interested in the school and have visited us here several times. A German girl was enrolled in our school two years ago but had to leave when Covid struck,” he says. His association with Rotary began when he met Ranjit Singh Hura, president of RC Sambalpur, on a flight from Delhi. “I briefed him about the construction of the girls’ school and the German connection, and he assured help with our infrastructure.” When Hura put forth the idea in the district, RC Sambalpur Central offered its support.
Presently, 100 boys and 30 girls are studying here. “With the enhanced facilities, we will be enrolling more girls this year,” he says.
Lath owes the completion of this project to DRFC Deepak Mehta, PDG Shambhu Jagatrambika and the then DG F C Mohanty. “We had applied for a GG in 2020 and our application got rejected as the ‘training’ part was missing. Then the Covid second wave happened and grant sanctions were prioritised for medical support,” he says. The grant was eventually sanctioned in May 2021. “All of us were jubilant as this is our first global grant in the last 15 years,” smiles Mehta.
The total cost of the project was $81,000 of which the German club contributed $41,000 and RID 1890 donated $21,000 from its DDF.
“Our club was keen on supporting this project from the very beginning,” says Dirk Axel Koch, president, RC Kiel-Eider. He, along with three members of his club, were at Nuapali for the inaugural, and seemed very much at home at the school. “I have visited here several times and have been regularly in touch with Acharya for this project. It is a pleasure to see children imbibing Vedic traditions,” smiles Koch.
“We are very happy to work on this project with Rotary India and now to be able to witness its fruition. Here is to you girls, go out into the world, and make it better,” said Bettina Frank, a member of the German club, to the group of girls present at the inaugural.