(Originally published in India New England on September 15, 2015)
WALTHAM, MA—With as little as $200, Saheli, the non-profit organization that works against domestic violence and towards uplifting the lives of South Asian women and their families in New England, is making a big difference in the lives of many South Asian women under its Economic Empowerment Program funds.
On Friday, Sept. 18, Saheli is hosting a fundraiser gala at Westin Hotel in Waltham, MA. Approximately 400 members of the local community and business and community leaders and philanthropists are expected to attend the event. Massachusetts Treasurer and Receiver General Deborah B. Goldberg will also attend briefly to show her support to the South Asian organization.
Chaired by Pradip Tandon, Saheli’s Economic Empowerment Program funds are carefully distributed after a screening and interview process. Since September 2013, eighteen women have received varying levels of assistance ranging from a minimum $200 to a maximum of $3,300 per person. Women from India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh have been recipients of financial assistance.Saheli has also provided most needed support to gain vocational skills, obtain drivers education and licenses, buy computers and software to learn English, complete certifications and trainings, among other needs. Some women who had young children and were survivors of domestic violence also received help from Saheli. Their needs included rental deposits to move from a shelter to an apartment, invest in a small business, application fees for a VAWA visa, textbooks and winter clothes.
Here is a true of a Saheli aid recipient. Sujina (we have changed her name for privacy reasons) is an economic empowerment recipient who has greatly benefited from this fund. Sujina, a Registered Nurse with a 2013 Associates degree from Bunker Hill Community College, was pursuing a degree program at Salem State University when she contacted Saheli to ask for financial assistance. In past years, Sujina had been supported financially by her parents from Nepal. In the aftermath of the devastating earthquake, her parents suffered an economic downturn that severely curbed their ability to send her money. Even as she applied for a work permit with the USCIS to help with her expenses here, Sujina found herself struggling to meet the registration deadline at Salem State University.
Taking up a job, and saving enough money to complete her education would mean deferring a semester, and a setback for her career. To avoid delay in her graduation plans, and to prevent a further occurrence of debt on Sujina’s part, Saheli provided $3,300 to help this hardworking woman continue an uninterrupted study and career path for herself.
“Saheli gave me a hand to pursue my dream of being a nurse, so I could help others just like Saheli helped me,” says Sujina. “Saheli, which means friend, is more than just a name for an organization but it embodies its true meaning in people’s life. Saheli helped me when I was going through some financial issues. I am an international student from Nepal and was supported by my parents financially (as we can’t work with student visa), and due to recent earthquake in April my family among many other families were deeply affected by unexpected natural disaster. If Saheli was not there to help me, I would have had to drop out of school since I had no other sources to pay my school bills. I can’t express how thankful I am to Mr. Pradip Tandon and the team of Sahelis for the generosity of covering my semester fee to continue my education.”
Those attending the Saheli gala will also have a chance to see a live performance by Annette Philip, an Indian vocalist, pianist, composer and a recording artist, and her Women of the World band, an all-women music group born at Berklee College of Music.
To watch an interview with Philip, please click here.