Every time we think of literacy, we think of a child who needs to go to school. The children who are helped by the Rotary India Literacy Mission are the poorest of the poor and the most disadvantaged — children of commercial sex workers, beggars, AIDS patients, prisoners… children who are often beaten, abused and maimed.
Over 45,000 such children had been sent back to school, when it was decided to give these children a face and create a mascot. The mascots such as the Amul girl or Air India’s Maharajah are well known. And hence the Asha and Kiran mascots were created.
At the launch of the mascots during the South Asia Summit, PDG Rekha Shetty, the National Chair for Child Development, asked, “Where is Asha? She is missing. Maybe she is on the streets begging. Maybe she is working in a match factory. Maybe she is in a brothel. When we call her, she does not answer; maybe this is because her legs are tied and her mouth is gagged.”
And so, the Asha mascot was launched. An eight-year old girl with a gap-toothed smile and pink ribbons in her hair. Kiran, her brother, is a twin. “Both born on August 15,” says RILM Chair Shekhar Mehta. The launch was followed by a song and dance by 50 school children, who reinforced the message of Asha. Rotary Club of Velachery President Prabha Padmanabhan organised this.
To send a child back to school today costs Rs 2,100. These two mascots will speak for the Rotary India literacy movement and will appear on merchandise such as tee-shirts, school books, water bottles and coffee mugs, diaries, pen or pencil sets, etc. Order a replica of Asha or Kiran made by the underprivileged children at firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Cheques can be sent to Asha Kiran in the name of “RSAS A/C Literacy Mission” to Rotary India Literacy Mission, Skyline House, 145 Sarat Bose Road, Kolkata – 700 026.
‘Dress me up’ Asha and Kiran dolls
In keeping with the latest toys which children love worldwide, Asha and Kiran are Transformer dolls with an Indian touch and a difference. Asha and Kiran, both 8, are twins, out of school and about to be transformed by being sent back to school. They probably work at a roadside eatery for a wage. They can be transformed and dressed up by the child who owns them. Both are made of fully washable cloth.
Picture by K Vishwanathan