The Mumbai-based Ashadeep Association is essentially the incredible result of its founder, Dr. Adelheid Hüffer’s initiative, dedication and love. Set up in 1976, the organisation has grown to 7 centres today – from 25 students in 1976 to 600 students today, reaching up to 1,000 including mothers and people who rely on their medical support.
“Ashadeep,” which means to bring from darkness to light, focus their mission on assisting children of single, widowed, bedridden parents, by providing much needed support to both parents and children; by working with them to inculcate teachings and lessons crucial to improving their respective lives.
The organisation’s core work is to provide supplementary educational support to its benefitting students. In other words, they provide additional study assistance to enhance and secure what is already being taught at their respective schools. As I went around their Andheri-based centre, I saw the children all ears in various study sessions. Study sessions are conducted across a wide field of subjects which include academic subjects, computer education, tailoring, food and nutrition, dance, music and art. Working just as closely with adults, most often single mothers, the Association works in supporting their current living and mental conditions, developing within them the strength to be able to better support their own family through education, support, and encouragement in re-entering society and the workforce.
Ashadeep is a much needed helping hand – constantly present, skilled and devoted. Whilst focusing on building educational standards which work towards a better future, they provide much needed assistance in the present. From daily meals for the children (which, as I sadly learnt, for many are their only meals for the day), school supplies like uniforms, notebooks and bags, health check-ups and medical attention, the organisation’s support is targeted towards basics that families living below the poverty line cannot make a priority. As I went through a file that the organisation maintains, I learnt that most families had a monthly income of a mere Rs. 5,000; with most mothers being domestic workers and most fathers vegetable vendors, watchmen and the like.
What I also found interesting is that they mend second-hand clothes which have been donated to them, and provide their beneficiaries with 2 sets of new clothes a year. The clothes are mended by their own students, who are learning tailoring as a vocational skill. Thus meeting two objectives with the same action!
Their mission states, “We at Ashadeep count it as a blessing and a privilege to be able to render loving service to all in need.” And I saw this in the heart-rendering stories that their team shared with me – from a lady who used to go house-to-house to collect rice-water (rice-water is the water that remains after cooking rice. It is full of starch. One usually pours this water down the drain once the rice is cooked) to feed her children; to a mother-of-four who got no help nor support from her alcoholic husband. Ashadeep strives to bring a Ray of Hope such mothers and fathers who are left to bring up children on their own.
With the tough love and the dedicated work ethic of the late founder, Dr. Adelheid Hüffer fuelling and inspiring the spirits of the workers and volunteers for the past nearly 40 years, Ashadeep continues to work with an incredible driving force and complete commitment to ensure that they provide the necessary support to families to give them a chance at a better life.