When we lived in South India whole families of shepherds and their hundreds of sheep would occasionally descend on the open fields near our neighborhood. Theirs was a cowboy-life sleeping under the stars or in makeshift tents and cooking on open fires. Since shepherd parents are generally illiterate, I often wondered if their children running around these temporary encampments ever attended school.
That's why the story of a Hindu girl named Prema (25) is so remarkable. She grew up in a low-caste, shepherd family but was able to finish grade-school despite an accident that left her blind in one eye at the age of 8. If that was not noteworthy enough, she went on to complete her Bachelors degree with the support of donors to South Asia Access' scholarship fund. She then began a Master Degree in Social Work with a focus on special needs children!
But during Prema's first year in the MSW program her father was diagnosed with cancer. They sold their sheep and goats to pay his medical bills but he died within months. The family was already dirt poor. Now Prema, her widowed mother, and siblings were faced with severe deprivation. South Asia Access donors once again stepped in and provided a scholarship to help Prema complete her MSW.
Prema now teaches at a special needs school and earns an income that's helping her family out of poverty. Her mother and village could not be prouder and neither could we!