Tuesday, 14 July 2020

OYA's Belie-chiever - Nisha Kirve's Story in her words..

My name is Nisha Kirve. I am 28 years old. I am thankful to Raheen Didi, because of their support and motivation & especially thankful to “OYA” to give me an opportunity to express my life story. I am happy to share my story & be a reason to motivate someone who wants to be motivated by it.

I was three years old & I was too naive to understand why my father & my grand-parents hit my mother daily. It was only a little later than I realized that the family needed my mother to give birth to a boy and were against the birth of a girl child. At that time my mother had two daughters, me being the eldest & my sister Deepali who was six months old. My father used to hit my mother on a regular basis whenever he was drunk. There came a point in our lives when my mother could not tolerate the pain and suffering that she had to go through daily and that is when she decided to leave that house and take us away from this monstrosity and we left at midnight, boarded a train and reached Mumbai.

Once we reached Mumbai, we had no clue about who we were & where we had to go. After some time, a lady approached my mother, she promised her a job and accommodation. My mother started working in a dance bar. At that time, a person met her & promised her that he will marry her and accept me and my sister. As he was from Rajasthan, he took us there too. After a couple of days, that person took me & handed me over to another person who was a stranger. He took me and left for Delhi via Agra and sent me to Mumbai again to his relative.

That relative (Lady) was staying in Mira Road & was working in the red-light area. There were 5-6 people in that house. They were taking advantage of me and I could not understand what exactly was happening with me. They were waiting to push me into this horrible and dark business of human trafficking as soon as I was mature enough. I shared my space with another girl who was already into this inhuman business. She was kind enough to help me to escape that hell. She gave me some amount for my traveling. The next morning I ran-away from Mira Road & I requested an auto driver to drop me at the railway station. From Mira road station I boarded the first train that arrived & I reached Mumbai Central.
I sat at the station from morning to noon, that’s when the police approached me and inquired about my family. They took me into their custody. Post complete inquiry the police handed me over into the safe hands of the members of Asha Sadan.

Asha Sadan was the turning point of my life. They have empowered me by giving me a good education and extra-curricular skills like computer courses, cooking, beauty course, tailoring, and embroidery. I graduated while I was in Asha Sadan. After graduation, I was recruited by Standard Chartered Bank through the reference of NAZ Foundation. I am thankful to them for making my career. After Asha Sadan, I started living in Omkar Satam Group Home, which became my maternal home. The founders – Satam Sir, Netra Ma’am, and Jaya Didi (Asha Sadan) arranged my wedding with all the rituals.  
Today, I am a happily married woman. My husband works for an event company. In this marriage, my husband is not only my partner for life but also that support system that has made my life beautiful & peaceful. He has filled my life with happiness that I had only dreamt of. We have been inspiring and supporting each other in life. Today I am the person that is happy and successful and that is because of the four important pillars of my life -Asha Sadan, NAZ Foundation, Omkar Satam group home & OYA. I am extremely grateful to everyone who helped me overcome my difficulties and led me into a life that is heading towards a brighter tomorrow. I hope my story touches your heart and inspires you to stand-up bravely and confidently when life knocks you down. This world is filled with a lot of darkness, but we must not forget that there is a light waiting for us at the end of this dark tunnel.

Tuesday, 16 June 2020

OYA's Belie-chiever - Gazala Khan's Story in her words..

My name is Gajala Khan. I'm 25 years old, married to a loving and caring husband and I also have one son who's name is Jed who is 2 years old now. Today, I feel blessed with my life. However, when I look back, my life felt terrible and painful. It was so difficult to survive back then. There was a lot of chaos and conflicts between my parents. When I was 7 years old my father took me and left home and we started living separately without mom and my other siblings. My dad used to misbehave with me and molested me. As a kid, I didn't clearly understand what was happening to me. All I knew was that I wanted it to stop and I felt fed up with my life back then. Later, on growing up I understood that whatever was happening with me was not right, so I started looking for help from somebody to remove me out from that situation. One year later, my father got married to another woman and asked me to call her "mom", which was extremely difficult to accept.
On the other hand, as there was no other option available for me then, I unwillingly had to accept her as my mom. I was trying my best to run away to start a new life somewhere else, but it was too difficult to do so. I shared my feelings with my neighbors, expecting help from their end but no one helped out. However, they all advised me to file a case against my dad. Hence, with the help of some kind people, I did file the case and my dad was thrown behind the bars. I was then shifted to a home called Asha Sadan for protection and shelter. 

That's where the new phase of my life began. I'm so thankful and grateful to Raheen Didi, my counselor from OYA, Jaya Didi, and all the staff members of Asha Sadan for the care which was rendered to me during my stay at Asha Sadan. I never imagined that I would be able to complete my education, but through the guidance of Jaya Didi and Raheen Didi, I completed my education. Their love, care, and support made me feel like a human being again. I slowly learned to love and respect myself and build my confidence. Currently, I'm working as a CDP Chef and I love my work and my life. Whatever I'm today, is all because of Asha Sadan and OYA foundation.

When I compare my past life with my life today, I feel happy and blessed for 'Today'. In my opinion, Asha Sadan and OYA Foundation have made me a better human by teaching me to stand stronger in any situation, face it, and overcome it. The one thing I learned from Asha Sadan and Raheen Didi is to accept whatever comes in my life as an opportunity and make that opportunity valuable by inspiring others with my story, to give them the same strength and hope that I needed to come out of a situation that once seemed impossible and see the light of a new day.

Under their caring and nurturing wings, I have learned to never give up and just keep moving forward in life. No amount of words used to thank Asha Sadan, Raheen Didi, and OYA foundation for what they have done for my life can measure up to how I actually feel. My prayers and blessings are always with you OYA as you are the ray of hope for many individuals who swam through troubled waters like me. Thank You!
- Gazala Khan 

Thursday, 21 May 2020

OYA's Belie-chiever - Ashrin Sheikh's Story in her words..

My name is Ashrin Sheikh.  I am 27 years old and I am OYA's Belie-chiever.  I want to express my heartfelt thanks to OYA and Raheen Didi.  Because of their support and motivation, I am able to write my story today and be a reason to motivate everyone.  Lots of love to OYA from me and my family.  

I was seven when my mother passed away. We were three sisters who no one was ready to care for.  But my maternal grandmother lovingly took the responsibility for handling all three of us.  She wanted to educate us, but she did not have enough means to send us to schools.  Due to which she put us in an NGO named Salaam Balak Trust, from where I completed my education till 10th Grade. However,  difficulties didn't seem to leave our side. While I was studying for the 10th Grade,  my grandmother was detected with Cancer. We could see this time through due to the timely help by Salaam Baalak Trust and Kalyani Didi for our education and treatment for our granny. I will always be grateful to her for that. 

After passing my 10th Grade,  Asha Sadan helped me through my further studies and became my home during that period. It was then,  that I gained plenty of opportunities to grow and learned various life-skills like cooking,  tailoring, various other skills, and chores. Raheen Didi of OYA visited us at Asha Sadan and was a great emotional support. She also noticed my ability to express through art and always kept providing me with great platforms to do so. Once,  during an Art-Based Therapeutic activity,  we were to draw out how we felt about our journey of emotional well- being with the OYA organization. And my expression of love for OYA then on that humble piece of paper became OYA's Logo. Raheen Didi's faith in my artistic skills has helped me believe in my abilities and pursue them further. 

Although, Asha Sadan, Jaya Didi and OYA helped me grow and were very supportive, being physically distant from my sisters and my grandmother lead me to feel a sense of emptiness that I could only fill on being united with them again. Hence, I made the decision to step out during my 14th grade, rented a place where we sisters and our grandmother could live together under one roof, and look after each other. Being together with my family filled my heart with happiness again. But, the financial challenges we faced to see this dream come true required me to take up jobs in Cafes while I was still trying to complete my education. It became very challenging to manage a job, education, and household responsibilities altogether at that tender age, fortunately, I completed my graduation. 

Even, while I had moved out of Asha Sadan where I had come in touch with OYA, Raheen Didi stayed in touch with me and continued to be my emotional support and source of encouragement. She saw that my art had never left me as I loved taking the responsibility of designing menus and boards for the cafes I worked at. She helped me do so in the field I cherished so much. She was instrumental in helping me get admission at IES College for a course in Interior Designing and in finding donors to help me pay my fees. 

Today, I am happily married. My husband is in the field of Event/Party Organising.  I am about to complete my course in interior Designing and looking forward to a long and happy married life where my husband is not only my partner for life but also a partner in work as I help him with decorations for events/ parties. After juggling through all the struggles,  today I could finally see all my dreams come through and it could have never been possible without Salam Balak, Asha Sadan and  OYA's help and support. I am very grateful to everyone in my life.  I wish OYA Heartiest Congratulations for completing 10 beautiful years of service to mankind and I wish for OYA to complete 100 years of bringing hope in the lives of many.

(*drawings in this post are done by Ashrin S)

Thursday, 27 February 2020

OYA’s ‘Belie-Chiever - Ashwini Shivekar's Story in her words..

‘Believe it … achieve it’, is the way I think about my life and work daily.
I am Ashwini Shivekar, a 26 years old OYA’s ‘Belie-Chiever’. Today I am glad, that I got this opportunity to write about my life, thanks to the OYA Foundation. This is a ‘wow moment’ and ‘a dream come true’ for me, not just because I would like my story to be told and heard, but because I would like to inspire every girl with my story and want them to go achieve their dreams.
I belong to a lower middle class family. My mother worked as a household maid and currently my father is an auto-rickshaw driver. I have two siblings. I completed my schooling from a BMC school (vernacular medium). I used to get a scholarship for my education from an NGO. I have been able to complete my education through scholarships alone as we faced financial difficulties. My mother was the only earning member of my family for a long time and my father stayed in the village for farming. My mother carried out all the financial responsibilities towards me and my siblings single-handedly. My mother came from a small village and could not complete her education. She could only study till the 3rd grade and got married at a very young age, after which her life has just been a series of constant struggles- Struggles for fulfilling the responsibilities of her family, for taking care of her children single-handedly, for attaining her rights, for almost everything. What got her through all her struggles was a strong desire to help her children complete their education and make them capable individuals who could achieve anything they dream of in life.

 Very often, you find the young generation looking up to an actor or a sportsperson as their idol in life. However, my idols have been the heroes in my real life rather than the ‘reel life’. The first one to play that role in my life has been my mother. My mother has always been my biggest source of motivation. She always teaches me to think big and motivate myself to win. The number of things she has done for me and my siblings are immeasurable. I remember, accompanying my mother to her work along with my siblings when I was about 9 -10 years old. She would clean utensils, wash clothes and cook food for other people at the same time have us around at work and look after us as it was out of question for her to leave us alone at home where we lived. I never felt ashamed of the work my mother did. She always taught us that no work was inferior or superior and that one must have love and respect towards their work. If one wants to survive in this competitive world, then one has to work hard and there are no shortcuts to success.
I was a bright student throughout my school and college. I worked hard and did well at school despite all obstacles. Complaining was never an option. As hard work always pays off, I always found help through scholarships to continue my studies. Throughout my schooling years, I took part in many cultural activities and social activities. I was always excited about my hobbies of dancing, singing, acting, and anchoring. The turning point of my life was when I changed my school in the 7th grade. I attended after-school classes, where I met with my second Idol and my role model- Raheen JJ- my didi, my teacher and my mentor. She came into my life like an Angel who helped me achieve every dream I ever dreamt of in my life. Some people come into your life as blessings and she has definitely been a blessing for me.

It was Raheen Didi who recognized the potential in me and gave me several opportunities to showcase my talent to the society. She gave my hobbies a purpose and helped me bloom with her guidance, love and care. When I was in the 9th grade, she had faith in my abilities and gave me the opportunity to anchor an important event on the occasion of Navratri for the very first time in my life, and that too in the presence of the Minister of Child and Women Health Care, who appreciated my abilities and felicitated me. That was a very proud moment for me and Raheen Didi. It was only because of her support that this was possible for me. She always encouraged me to do something extraordinary and creative that would help me explore myself. She was with me for about five years; but those five years meant the world to me and I enjoyed every bit of that time with her. She plays a major role in my life to help me achieve all my dreams and goals. She is not my biological mother, but our relationship is as special as that of a mother and daughter. She gave birth to the new phase of my life. Under her constant love and care, I grew from a sapling and became a beautiful plant. When I was studying in the 10th grade, Raheen Didi gave me an opportunity to be the voice of a female fetus in a mother’s womb in a short film made for spreading the social message of ‘Save the Girl Child’. I received such a wonderful opportunity only because of her. She has been a constant support in my life. She has always given me the courage to get out of my shell and try the things I never thought of doing. She has always been instrumental in building confidence in me with her powerful words- "Yes, you can do it". It’s only because of her, that today I believe in Miracles- I believe in the power of Intent.

After I completed my schooling, I opted for the Science Stream in college. Once, I completed my 12th grade, Raheen Didi suggested that I opt for Nursing, based on my potentials and interests. I completed my Nursing Degree from a renowned government college- G T Hospital. Today, I am a successful Registered Nurse. Since the past five years, I have been performing my duties as a nurse very sincerely and ethically and I enjoy helping each and every one of my patients by providing the care they need. My mom feels extremely proud of me that I completed my Nursing Degree and even own my own house today all because she made me so capable with her constant love and hard work.

I have faced many ups and downs in my life due to financial problems and due to the discouraging ways of the society, but I never felt discouraged or disappointed. I always reminded myself that if you want success in your life, then focus on the goals and not the obstacles, push yourself and rise up again day after day because no one else is going to do it for you but ‘You’! Grab every opportunity you get to make your future brighter and to change your destiny.

I just want to tell everyone that "Today might feel bad, Tomorrow may seem worse, but the day after tomorrow will be the best. So never let your failures get to you and give up. God has given equal opportunities to everyone. You just need to be aware of your abilities and potentials, accept the challenges that life throws at you and fight fiercely to achieve your dreams. You are the only artist of your own life. You can’t waste your precious life by waiting for somebody to come into your life and make your life more graceful and colorful. mold yourself, your behaviors, and your personality in such a manner that someday someone would be inspired by you and consider you their Role Model.
    Lastly, I would like to thank the entire team of OYA Foundation for the lovely opportunities they provided me with. It was a one-of-a-kind experience for me. Thank you OYA for all your support.

                    -Ashwini Shivekar

Monday, 13 January 2020


Sharing the Joy and Success.

No one has ever known life as being a smooth ride throughout. All of us at some point stumble across roadblocks, experience bumpy rides, drive into dead ends and lose our way while going through this journey called ‘LIFE’. What makes life easier and manageable when we stumble upon such crucial challenges in life is knowing that there is a hand out there which is ready to hold ours and walk us through our difficult times, that there are open and welcoming arms out there which will with its warm embrace make our troubles feel lighter and help us get back on our feet. ‘OPEN YOUR ARMS-OYA’ is an organization that lives up to its name and is not just a thought, but an actual lifeline that has been and continues to be that ray of hope at the end of a dark tunnel for several individuals since past 9 years.  
In its glorious 10th year, OYA fondly looks back at its journey so far where it has touched so many souls (through its Counselling, Remedial services and other programs) who in turn have touched the lives of the dedicated professionals of OYA. At this point, OYA feels like a proud parent when it sees its beneficiaries successfully surmounting the challenges and the pain life threw at them and standing strong through all the storms, seeing themselves through, only to come out stronger and more beautiful than ever. OYA is thrilled to share with all of you the success stories of its beneficiaries who dared to ... ‘BELIEVE IT AND ACHIEVE IT’ while they were face to face with life’s adversities. This core belief of OYA that if you can believe it, you can achieve it has been the driving force behind many a beaming hearts it was fortunate enough to touch. Be ready to be inspired every month while we share with you the magnificent journeys of our beneficiaries so far whom we would lovingly and proudly like to call OYA’s ‘BELIE-CHIEVERS’!

- Behroz Dumasia 
Special Educator & Mentor 
Open Your Arms Foundation 

Thursday, 7 April 2016

Conquering Hearts Through Love

A gentle smile, a listening ear and supporting words can do wonders. It works with everyone, even strangers. They were strangers to me and me to them. Months passed, and now they wait for me, though a handful of them, but yes, they do. It feels accepted when they ask when I am coming next. It gives a sense of achievement when they say “ Didi, aap se baat karke dil halka ho jaata hai.”
 “Aap jaisa humko samajhte ho doosre nahi samajhte, hum aapse sab kuchh share kar sakte hain.”
That’s the power of unconditional love and acceptance. A practice, though tough, eventually shows remarkable changes in people’s perception and behavior. The ideal of therapy is not just to help a person grow, but to maximize their potential, while providing them the necessary conditions for growth.
As a therapist and as a guide, I’ve come to the frightening conclusion that I can either be a tool of inspiration and growth, or a model of self pity and doubt. I can either, hurt or heal, facilitate the resolution of crisis or create one. I can either leave a person humanized or dehumanized. So spread love and learn to accept a person as they are, in their truest form. Trust them, respect them, support and guide them, and verily they will trust you and respect you back.

{Sharing my experience working with one of OYA's project - Project street children.}
- Shazia Khan
Counselling Psychologist

Friday, 25 March 2016

Play - Explore the Outside World

There exists a world outside classroom !

Yes, unfortunately in the modern world of game consoles and interactive toys, in pretext of learning with technology it’s easy to overlook the importance of outdoor play that has lot to offer.

A real big world does exist outside the classroom, and the possibilities are really endless.

With the current trend of rising health issues in children, it has never been more important to teach young children the value of being active outside the classrooms.

Outdoor plays not only teach children practical life skills, it offers tremendous amount of fun added with numerous health benefits.

Research studies have consistently shown that playing in an outdoor environment reduces stress while promoting psycho-socio-emotional skills, and even increasing attention spans. It's proved that outdoor play significantly reduces the symptoms of ADHD, a condition that now affects most of the school children.

Outdoor activities that a child can undertake is limited only by it's imagination. One of the best activities for promoting an interactive mind would be the nature journal.

Help your child explore a safe outdoor area to see the dynamic change in their development, as playing outdoors promotes self-confidence, fine motor skills, and balance. It also promotes self-reliance, increases flexibility, and improves overall coordination which is essential in healthy development of children.

Roopa Mohan
Executive Catalyst & Senior Counselor
OYA Foundation