Dr Martin was invited by the School of Education at Queen’s University, Belfast to give a lecture on the topic “The Injustice of the Poor in Our Society”. In her talk Dr Martin spoke eloquently of the sustainable transformation that is taking place in the slums of Delhi – in the last 25 years more than 400,000 urban poor have benefited from the work of Asha. In the field of education the problems for slum dwellers are stark: Most slum children go to schools where teaching standards are low and classrooms are seriously under-equipped; subjects like English and computing skills that could lead to good jobs are barely taught; parental pressure to leave school and start work increases as children grow up, and the vast majority of young people leave school by the age of 16; there is a cultural resistance to education based on a belief that slum dwellers should not aspire to an education that is the privilege of the middle classes –for most, the prospect of a university education is an expensive pipedream. Asha is making a difference by resourcing schools and removing financial barriers to families, and by restoring a sense of human dignity and self-belief. Countless slum dwellers are now completing school and gaining entry to University and well paid jobs. The Asha approach is inspirational and is internationally regarded as best practice in breaking the cycle of deprivation.I am delighted to support the new Asha Programme for Schools in Ireland as a model for connecting our young people with their peers in India. I believe the Programme will promote understanding and a commitment to social justice that will be life enhancing in every sense for all participants. In our more global and technological world, I am also confident that the relationships established now can be sustained into the future and that new partnerships will flourish. Wallace High School, through its ethos and the legacy of our founder, Sir Richard Wallace, has a rich legacy of philanthropy and generosity of spirit. These qualities of concern for others were evident in the inspiring address made by Dr Kiran Martin when she visited our school and spoke in Assembly in 2013. To see actual and real improvement in the healthcare of children in the slums and the drive for education through the Asha organisation, under Dr Kiran Martin’s selfless leadership, was a defining moment for our school and for me personally. Inspired by the work of Asha, Wallace was fortunate to have three members of staff, Moyra Richardson, our team leader, Victoria Walsh and Liam Halferty, willing to organise and lead a team of senior students. It was a great privilege for me as the School’s Principal to join the team and see first hand the work of Asha in our time spent in New Delhi working in the sprawling, industrial slum of Mayapuri. Asha means Hope, our founder Sir Richard Wallace, famed for the provision of clean drinking water for the poor in his water fountains in Europe, Canada, Asia and South America, lived up to his own family’s coat of arms which read ” Esperance ” meaning hope. To see first hand the excellent work of the Asha organisation in October 2014 was life changing for our senior students and the staff and defined Hope in the modern world. Through the work of the dedicated and value driven staff of Asha, we saw the words of Nelson Mandela in action ” Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” It is our great privilege to support the work of Asha and to have seen first hand the immense value they add to the lives of children in the slums through the empowerment of mothers.
“As a school that was founded as a result of a charitable donation by Hugh Rainey in 1708, we wanted the heart of our Tercentenary celebrations to be based on the spirit of giving. The alliance with Asha in 2008 gave us the perfect opportunity to do this. Having taken three teams to Kusumpur slum colony in New Delhi over the past six years, we have met the first students who gained entry to university in 2008 and followed their inspirational progress. We have listened to their moving tributes to Asha for helping them achieve what had once seemed an impossible dream. We have witnessed their job prospects being enhanced through graduate mentorship programmes set up by Asha. Hugh Rainey’s vision of giving hope to the poor of Mid-Ulster through access to education was fully realised, therefore in the same way, the hope that Asha’s Higher Education Programme is extending to the young people in Delhi’s slum colonies will result in the same liberation from poverty and gradual transformation of lives. Rainey is proud to be playing a small part in this and we would unreservedly encourage other schools to become involved: the benefits to all are beyond question.”
“Since the year 2000 Methodist College has been associated with Asha in New Delhi and has linked with Kalkaji Colony, one of Asha’s 60 plus slums in the city. Our India Society is active in maintaining these links with Kalkaji and the relationship has been preserved, indeed strengthened, through our sending out groups of students and teachers on an eighteen months cycle to help with the on-going project.
“I believe that Asha is a project with a win – win situation for both givers and receivers. The dedication of the ASHA workers in Ireland is truly commendable and I have watched our students develop and grow over the last year of fundraising and preparing themselves for the Asha New Delhi adventure. I have no doubt the whole experience will be transformational for all involved and would recommend, wholeheartedly and without reservation, Asha to others.”