Learning opportunity; Andover High twins aim to help teach children in India

The Andover Townsman

For twin sisters Arya and Diya Anand, it’s simply a matter of recognizing their good fortune and wanting others to have the same.

The 15-year-old Andover High School sophomores are leading a fundraising campaign to help children in India receive an education, something they said they’re fortunate to have given to them.

That’s not the case in India, where millions of people every year leave their villages in search of seasonal jobs, taking their families with them for up to eight months at a time. As a result, children are pulled away from their schools, friends and communities — stripping them of the chance to learn.

“The kids have nowhere to stay and go to school,” Diya Anand said.

In 2010, the sisters had the opportunity to witness the harsh realities and living conditions in India when they visited the country on vacation.

“People are all over the streets begging for food and money,” Arya Anand said. “It’s shocking to see that what they have, basically nothing, compared to what we have.”

The sisters hope to change that through their work with the American India Foundation Light a LAMP (Learning And Migration Program). The initiative aims to give children In India affected by migration the resources they need to attend local schools and provide them with stable home and educational environments as well as safe and structured care within residential hostels or boarding schools.

Since LAMP began in 2003, more than 280,000 children in India have been educated — at a cost of just $50 annually per student.

A few months ago, the Anand sisters joined a fundraising campaign organized through the local chapter of the American India Foundation. They led the charge, collecting $3,500 apiece, nearly one-third of the $22,000-plus raised by the group.

The twins said they found success simply by asking.

“We wrote an email explaining what the campaign was about and why we were involved to our friends, grandparents, other relatives and retailers,” Arya Anand said. “We asked them for donations and to pass on the message.”

Their mother, Archana Jauhar-Anand, credited her daughters for their diligence, saying they developed a strategy and followed through on it, sending reminder emails or thank-you notes that often led to more donations coming in.

“It was a learning process,” she said. “More than anything, when they stepped up, people were supporting them. They thought, ‘If we don’t help these girls, they won’t want to do something like this again.’ They just found a passion for it.”

Now, the young women are taking things a step further as part of a global campaign involving high school and college students as well as young professionals worldwide. The goal is to raise $250,000 — enough money to educate 50,000 children of Indian migrant workers for one year. The campaign began Oct. 15 and runs through Dec. 3.

The twins have been busy working to get local youths to join them in the effort. They have taken the cause to the high school, asking their friends and different student-run organizations if they’re interested in taking part.

“I feel that people should join because it’s an extremely good cause,” Diya Anand said. “It’s important for people to give back to other people and know what’s going on around the world.”

Archana Jauhar-Anand and her husband, Rajnish, couldn’t be more thrilled.

“It’s always been very important to my husband and I to teach the girls that there’s a world much bigger than themselves,” their mother said.

For more information, or to take part in the American India Foundation Light a LAMP campaign, visit www.My.AIF.org/LightaLAMP.

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