Blossom Bus Update: Hemlata’s Story
India was hit hard by a second wave of Covid in 2021. Schools closed in late April, with cases soaring in both urban and rural areas. This past year saw 270 million students in India out of school for over a year due to Covid related school closures in 2020 and 2021. Students from lower income families suffered the most with lack of access to online learning and other at home learning resources.
Schools in Haryana, where Blossom Bus operates, finally started reopening at 50% capacity in mid July. It was crucial that we resume bus operations promptly, to ensure that those who wanted to be in school would be able to get there. Currently, Blossom Bus serves 565 girls including 40 young women enrolled in college. All students are attending school on a rotation basis, (50% capacity each day) to allow for social distancing measures in class. Even through tremendous challenges faced throughout the pandemic, we saw students and their families remain committed to educational goals and we are happy to report that there were no Blossom Bus dropouts during the second wave. We hope to support the young women and girls that ride BB even in the event of further school closures and lockdowns, to ensure that access to education is always an option.
We are so happy to partner with Kapadia Foundation in expanding Blossom Bus to College students. Staff on the ground in India recently had the opportunity to meet with some of the students who are a part of this program. Many of these girls are the first in their families and communities to get an education, graduate high school, let alone go on to pursue tertiary education and careers. They are driven young women who are inspiring change in their friends, sisters and communities. Hemlata is one of the students riding the Blossom Bus into her second year of college.
Hemlata is 19 years old, pursing her Bachelor of Arts from a women’s college in Palwal, Haryana. Neither of Hemlata’s parents went to school. Her father Omveer, is a farmer and her mother Chandra Dev takes care of the home. She has two brothers, her older brother is a police constable and her younger one is studying in grade 12.
Hemlata helps her father in the fields during the days while she hasn’t been able to attend school. She says she enjoys the work and no one else in the family is able to help out as her elder brother is employed and her younger brother is focused on studies. Her mother is unable to stand as she has a bad leg. Hemlata finds time for schoolwork at night, when she says there’s no disturbance and she can focus on her work in peace.
Hemlata says in the beginning, it was hard to convince her parents that she wanted to go to college. Her father was surprised that she wanted to pursue higher education, but when she pointed to other girls she knew who were going to college he agreed to consider. She said ultimately it was her brother who convinced her father to let her go to college. “Now he has full confidence in me and is excited to see me setting an example for other girls in the family.”
She said she is the first girl in her family to get so far with her studies and that she hopes to become a high level police officer and then help her village. “My father said ‘I am giving you an opportunity to do something for yourself and it’s now in your hands to make me proud or let me down.’ My father’s words mean a lot to me and I want to prove myself by doing well in my exams and with my studies.”
We are honored to support girls like Hemlata in breaking down barriers and reaching for their dreams. In these challenging times, thank you for supporting Blossom Bus and Lotus Outreach.
Thank you to White Lotus Trust India staff member Sabrina Fawcett for collecting this story.