Marion Richardson

Report of visit to the Veerni Institute- 01st November to 15th November 2015

Marion Richardson This was my second visit to the Veerni Institute as a volunteer within a two year period. Since my previous trip to Jodhpur, major changes had taken place. The Institute had become an independent entity no longer under the control and the auspices of the Maharaja's Trust Fund. In addition, Veerni had also been registered officially as an Indian based NGO with its own local Board of Directors.
A tremendous job was accomplished by Mahendra (Director), supported by his loyal team, comprising Parbhat Singh, Vimlesh and Siona, who together worked day and night to facilitate the smooth move from the old institute and school to the new building. My memories from 2 years back of the old hostel included scenes of overflowing toilets and blocked drains, a grubby and messy dining hall, unpleasant wardens taking care of the girls and a general feeling of dissatisfaction and even humiliation amongst the girls. Mahendra located a half constructed building that he immediately recognized as suitable for 70 girls and for about 4 months he kept his eye on the construction work to make sure it would all be completed by the start of the new school year. Together with his team he handled all the new purchases for the building including, beds, mattresses, linen, school uniforms and more. In addition he employed 2 outstanding matrons who are on duty 24/7 to take care of the girls in a professional and friendly manner.
This time, on entering the new Institute, I was immediately struck by the warm "family atmosphere" of the place. The girls are all incredibly happy and one can feel how relaxed and at ease they feel in their new surroundings. They have excellent facilities, plenty of showers, toilets and warm water, the washbasins always supplied with soap and towels, the dining hall is pleasant and the food nourishing and plentiful.
The two matrons, one young and one older, are in the building day and night. Theycare for each and every one of the girls in a motherly fashion, worrying about their health and wellbeing, assisting them with homework during the evening homework sessions. Medically the girls are monitored weekly by Vimlesh, the nurse, and if necessary are taken for further examinations and blood tests at the hospital or to a dentist for dental check-ups.
The girls' days are full, both with studies as well as with a variety of extra curriculum activities such as computer training, arts and crafts and sports afternoons. In addition they love to celebrate birthday parties and put on shows with lots of dancing and singing. I myself participated in the Diwali festival party where they excitedly dressed me up as a Rajasthani Princess and found all the necessary garb and jewelry to complete my costume.
One can feel the joy and confidence simply bubbling out of all these wonderful teenage girls who are proud to be The Veerni Girls.
All are determined to excel at school and express a desire to continue to higher education. All believe that this is their doorway to an independent life. All understand that they are in the process of being empowered so that they will be able to earn a living and be able to contribute to their families in the future.
The success of Veerni takes on many forms which are slowly making a significant impact on the surrounding society. Two days before I left Jodhpur Mahendra and Jacqueline were notified by the leading villagers in the village of Megwalon Ki Dhani that a decision had been taken to cancel all the Child Bride marriages of their Veerni girls. This is a new and incredibly important change in the mind set of these parents who now understand the importance of educating their daughters and the impact this can have on the futures of their families.
One of the aims of my visit was to discuss and brain storm about the future growth and development of VeerniSansthan. The village families as well as the young girls themselves are begging to be accepted, there is a waiting list of at least 100 youngsters who wish to start studying at the Institute. One of the possibilities might be to purchase land on which to build our own Institute designed to house between 150 and 200 girls. The new building might also have a special wing for Vocational Training. Together with Mahendra we drove out of the town on many occasions to see various plots of land and to discuss prices and purchase conditions.
If indeed this is going to be the way for Veernito develop and progress, then a suitable funder must be found to assist both with the purchase of property as well as to support the construction of a big and beautiful new building to house The Veerni Girls. I am immensely proud to be a part of Veerni Sansthan.

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