Andrew Dawson, Editor-in-Chief |
According to Dr. Malhotra and his wife Mrs. Drake, the main goal of the Ninash Foundation is to help others that are disadvantaged by social, economic, and cultural factors. Through the Ninash Foundation, they have built four schools for economically disadvantaged children and promoted the importance of literacy in remote villages in India that were mostly illiterate. “My heart beats for India and its children because I want everyone to be literate in these villages,” said Dr. Malhotra.
Because of the remarkable work done by the Ninash Foundation, the mayors from Oneonta, NY and Dundlod, Rajasthan started the new Millennium by declaring these two as Sister Cities. Then in 2001, former SUNY Oneonta President Dr. Alan Donovan traveled to Dundlod to read Oneonta’s proclamation at a ceremony attended by children, teachers, and members of the Dundlod community. Dr. Donovan also accepted a similar proclamation from the mayor of Dundlod and sent the very first email (EVER) from Dundlod to our mayor in Oneonta.
After interviewing Dr. Malhotra and Mrs. Drake about the Foundation, they enlightened me on the cultural differences between schools in America and in India. In India, since theater is a core part of India’s Cultural Heritage, it has become central to their schools’ curriculum. Students are encouraged to write, design, and act out their own plays. One year when Dr. Malhotra and Mrs. Drake visited Dundlod, the village came together and created a festival for their arrival. During the celebrations, the students performed a play they had written about the impact of the Ninash Foundation. The theme was how no one in the village would give them education until the Ninash Foundation gave them this opportunity. Dr. Malhotra and Mrs. Drake remember this moment very vividly.
The play depicts the female students as characters seeking an education. The students would go to the principals of schools across the area and ask them if they could enroll into their school. The students asked one principal if they could and that principal said no, you don’t belong here. Then, they asked another principal if they could go to their school and the response was the same. Eventually, the actresses found a table that said the “Ninash Foundation”. They asked the actors playing Dr. Malhotra and Mrs. Drake if they could go to their school to receive an education. The actors representing Dr. Malhotra and Mrs. Drake stood up and said, “of course” and then took their hands and walked off the stage. Mrs. Drake said, “That was one of the most emotional moments of my life.”
At present, the Ninash Foundation isn’t building new schools because their focus is to maintain their existing four schools and help these villages with other needs. In 2001, Mrs. Drake started a goat program in Dundlod, Rajasthan for the poorest families in the community. This program began when the principal of their school in Dundlod told Mrs. Drake that they were worried about a female student because she was not eating enough at home. Mrs. Drake visited the family and was taken aback when she saw their living condition. Their house was in the poorest section of the village. It had only two rooms and one bed. The girl was being raised by a widowed mother with five children and there wasn’t enough money to feed the family.
Mrs. Drake considered short-term options to help the family. However, she decided to purchase the family a goat as a sustainable option. The goat would provide them with milk, cheese, yogurt, and meat when it would ultimately pass away. The following year when Mrs. Drake visited the village of Dundlod, she was delighted to see that the goat was very healthy and provided the family with more food than they could have imagined. Furthermore, the goat had given birth to a baby. Currently the family had two goats! Seeing that the family was helped greatly, Mrs. Drake decided to continue providing goats to other poor members of the village. Due to the sister city connection, Oneonta’s elementary schools even started a fundraiser where each classroom would raise enough money for one goat and Mrs. Drake would donate these goats to the poor families. By 2022, with the help of generous donors and the city of Oneonta elementary schools, a total of 352 goats had been donated. At present, the goat giving program has expanded to three villages. The goats reproduce every year while providing the families with milk, cheese, butter, and yogurt. Now there are over 1000 goats as a result. Now every time Mrs. Drake visits Dundlod, the children and members of the village call her Bakri Rani which in English translates to Goat Princess.
Dr. Malhotra and Mrs. Drake along with the entire Ninash Foundation team have done a remarkable job for the villages of Dundlod and Mahapura in Rajasthan, and Kuran and Sagbara in Gujarat. They have built one school in each of these villages, taught the children the importance of literacy, helped thousands of students receive an education and had aided them economically by providing food, clean water, and shelter. Now in their 26th year, many graduates have attended college and have professional jobs of their choice.
The Ninash Foundation is a 501©3 organization which is still raising money to help these impoverished children in India to receive the best education possible. If you would like to donate to the Ninash Foundation, please visit their website at www.ninash.org