“I’m so excited,” Rajan Kaur Saini, founder of Buddha’s Smile School said. “I want to tell everyone how Gunja recently won first prize in her school’s art competition and was selected the best student in art for the whole school.”
Gunja attended BSS for many years and is now one of their middle school students. While middle school students are still cared for by BSS and sponsored by BSS donors, they attend a government-run middle school.
“Winning this prize has given Gunja more confidence and she has become even more dedicated to learning and showing other BSS students how it’s possible to progress,” Rajan said.
This is the first education hurdle many kids from BSS need to manage, moving from the more cloistered BSS environment out into the world of a government school. Rajan and her team monitor every child. They’re taken to school each day in a BSS bus, call into BSS to have a meal and their homework checked and at the same time have their frame of mind assessed.
“Gunja always tells us she is so proud to be a student of BSS,” Rajan said. “She is a number one star, in my opinion, an example of what can be achieved by the poor Dalit children.”
Gunja lives in a leper community on the outskirts of Varanasi, India. Buddha’s Smile School currently looks after 35 children from this community.
“I discovered her community in 2006,” Rajan said “A leper woman who knocked on the school gate asked me to visit the community and asked if the children could be given an opportunity to attend school at BSS. No one cares or pays attention to them, she told me, because they are the children of lepers.”
Gunja was among the first batch of children BSS took and she has always wanted to become an artist one day, Rajan says.
“Today we can see the huge changes she has made,” Rajan said. “Her hidden talents are shining through and Gunja can finally see that it might be possible for her to live her dream. She may truly become an ARTIST one day.”
Gunja is now in 6th grade. She is intelligent, vital and, as Rajan says, “she knows the value of herself and is a proud young girl.”
However, in her government school Gunja cannot tell anyone she comes from a leper community. “So this is another reason the girl’s dormitory we are building will be so helpful. It will keep Gunja and the other girls safe for the future,” Rajan said.