It was a momentous day for 14 Asha students as they met with New Zealand Prime Minister the Rt Hon’ble Mr John Key. Speaking before an assembled gathering, the Prime Minster described the special connection between New Zealand and India, saying ‘we hope to expand the relationship in many ways. I acknowledge Asha and the kids that are here today. I understand the work that you do and the great steps you are making to help young people in India.’
His words were echoed by HE Ms Jan Henderson, New Zealand High Commissioner to India. Ms Henderson said that it is ‘a passion for all of us to help kids who are from disadvantaged backgrounds to make successful and confident individuals.’ This vision of improving the lives of children from the slums was shared by Asha Founder Director Dr Kiran Martin. Recognizing the achievements of the students present, Dr Martin said that ‘now they stand before us as the first in their families, villages and slum communities to step into the world of higher education.’
Dr Martin also paid tribute to the partnership between Asha and New Zealand that is now in its 20th year. The High Commission in Delhi has given Asha ongoing support in our higher education initiative and Asha has been the recipient of New Zealand government funding through our longstanding partner TEAR Fund New Zealand. Dr Martin said she hoped to meet with the Prime Minister again on her upcoming visit to New Zealand to speak about helping Asha to achieve its dream of sending thousands of children from the slums to University.
The Prime Minister then had an extremely congenial interaction with the Asha children in which he spoke to them about their experiences. The children described the challenges they had faced in their lives and how Asha had helped them on every part of their journey to higher education.
The warm relationship between India and New Zealand was then perfectly symbolised in a boisterous exhibition cricket match between the Asha students and the Prime Minister. The children were delighted to have playing with them also, former New Zealand cricket captain Mr Stephen Fleming. All the Asha students had a chance to bat and they held their own very well against the Prime Minister and the cricket star. Usha, from Ekta Vihar slum colony had the best shots, hitting all three balls bowled to her by the Prime Minister. Mr Key was enjoying himself so much he did not want the game to end. After the match he complimented all the children on how well they played.
All the children were presented with gifts on the occasion and Asha also received a donation of cricket equipment for the other children of our slum centres.