I believe I can fly!
Asha is a seventeen-year-old Adivasi girl. She left school before completing 11th grade. Most of her time she used to spent helping her mother at home or her father in the fields. The skatepark has turned her life upside down.
It all started in June 2015 when we had our first summer camp. Vivek, a Teach for India fellow from Delhi offered daily English lessons to everyone interested. And Asha attended. She came every day and learnt impressively well. She was truly engaged and she had a lot of fun. At the end of the four weeks we’ve asked Asha if she wanted to learn English properly and if she was ready to go to England to do so. Asha just smiled and nodded. She saw her chance and today she says: “These days everyone needs to know English. It is used for any job you do.”
At that time we didn’t know what we’ve started. When we first came to ask her parents for permission to take her abroad we were astonished to hear a clear cut no. We felt like providing a once-in-a-lifetime chance for their daughter – and we couldn’t understand the “no” at all. Today things look different. Obviously, the parents had to say no. How could they let their daughter go “videsh” (abroad), when they don’t even know what abroad is? How would they know? These people hardly go beyond the village borders … All they saw was that they would lose their daughter. It took eight months of constant follow ups and a dozen people to convince Asha’s parents. Even the Maharaj of Panna made an appearance at their doorsteps.
It was a long, long difficult process. And one we started to think would never get anywhere. What kept us going was Asha’s strong will and persistence to explore. She used to say to her father, “I am too young to get married. I want to study. It’s important, because without good education I will end up working as a laborer, too. If I study, I can find a good job.” Asha’s mother understood much faster. She said, “ The villagers would ask us how we could think of sending our daughter abroad. Aren’t we scared? Yes, we are, but our daughter convinced us to let her go. She kept telling us: “Let me go. If I do well, I can achieve something in life!”
During these eight months Asha’s life has changed. She advanced to the “eldest daughter of the skatepark” and truly became a role model for many other girls. She is the keeper of the locks and keys of the boxes where all our skateboards, paints, books are kept. Everyday, at non school hours when the other kids are free from school, she comes to the park, cleans the bamboo house and opens the boxes for everyone. She has taken ownership and responsibility.
When she’s on the skateboard, she feels like flying. “I feel the clouds are within my reach,” she says. Her activities at the skatepark go far beyond skateboarding; she does anything and everything she feels like. Sometimes she is painting or reading a book. She practices English with other kids or they are just laughing about day-to-day issues. Asha is always ready to take the first step. She gains respect and love over and over again. Everyone feels that she really deserves it.
Now with her parents and her papers ready, the passport process has begun. As we shared Asha’s story, a friend of Ulrike, Sylvia Korsak who invited Asha to stay with her in the UK and attend an English learning course.
With start and end planned. All we needed to do was to get her to UK. Her passport has come. Asha’s flight tickets and visa fees is all crowdfunded. She will even have a some pocket money for her stay in UK. All her costs in the UK will be covered by Sylvia.
It’s a long road Asha has decided to take. She will manage and she will grow walking down her path. And she certainly will encourage other girls in her village to live their dreams.