Educationg Children of
Perceived as a curse rather than a misfortune, it is an unending cycle of deprivation and consequences that last for many decades. Faced with this reality the Loomba Foundation took it upon itself to fund the education of children of widows who were financially deprived. The mission was to transform lives not only of the window but their families as a whole.
According to the 2011 census, when India’s population was 121 crore there were as many as 5.6 crore widowed women completely outnumbering men. This gives a fair idea that by this time, that is 2023, the number must have dramatically increased given that India is fast approaching to be a country with the largest population in the world.
While in the urban areas, widows had some financial support, those coming from rural segments do not have any support system or any tangible means to take care of themselves or their children, leave alone educating them. Tradition and society do not encourage remarriage be it in rural or urban areas and in any case to find a life partner is not easy considering that widowhood is considered a stigma.
This leaves them at the mercy of others and closes almost all options. On the employment front, if rural women have very limited options, in the urban areas, they find it difficult to cope with pressures of a job because of the blow Destiny has inflicted upon them.
Though there are laws created for the betterment of widows, these do not get the desired results. Apart from not being fairly represented, it takes years for them to get the justice they deserve.
They also get a raw deal at the hands of their relatives who often deprive them of their due in case she inherits her husband’s assets. Half of the cases regarding inheritance or property disputes don’t even get registered because of the stigma that widowhood brings.
Absence of financial support adversely affects the lives of their children and takes a toll on their education. In majority of cases, the kids are forced to take up menial and odd jobs to supplement the family income.
Perceived as a curse rather than a misfortune, it is an unending cycle of deprivation and consequences that last for many decades. Faced with this reality the Loomba Foundation took it upon itself to fund the education of children of widows who were financially deprived. The mission was to transform lives not only of the widows but their families as a whole.
It was in 1999 that the Loomba Foundation launched the Delhi State Programme funding 49 girls and 51 boys up to secondary graduation as also facilitate those who wanted to go for higher studies. The programme was inaugurated by the Foundation in India on 30th of March 1999 by the then Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee. This was but a baby step of an ambitious programme which was to target funding the education of at least 100 children from all over India. This is a need based programme irrespective of caste, creed, religion or gender.
This unbiased approach not only helped educate needy children but also gave them the confidence to face the world as also make them feel wanted.
Following their selection, the Foundation opens a bank account in the joint names of the mother and the child, and automatically transfers the scholarship sum into that account each month. Each Loomba scholar is guaranteed a funding of Rs. 500 per month for at least a five-year period. No payments are made to any third parties or mediators. This guarantees transparency as also facilitates the money directly reaching those who need it.
In the same spirit, the Loomba Foundation’s programme launched a programme on humanitarian ground in January 2001 when the cyclone devastated homes in the state of Odisha. The natural disaster had resulted in thousands of deaths leaving many kids orphaned. Three weeks later another disaster struck, this time in Gujarat: the earthquake in Bhuj killings some several thousand people and injuring lakhs. It also ravaged homes.
The Loomba Foundation was quick to respond through its programme to educate 50 children from Bhuj and 50 from Ahmedabad and surrounding areas. This programme was launched on 5th November 2001 by Edward Marsden, the then chairman of the British Council in India.
This followed many more initiatives: On 18th January 2002, India’s then Finance Minister, Yashwant Sinha, launched the Rajasthan State Programme to educate 100 children of poor widows; the same year in July, the Punjab State Programme started with 100 students, this being one of four launched in 2003; the Andhra Pradesh State Programme with 100 Loomba scholars was launched on 5th of January; in July of that year, 66 girls and 34 boys in the State of Haryana became Loomba scholars and on 8th September, the Uttarakhand Pradesh programme for 110 scholars was launched. The last leg was handpicking 100 scholars: a programme inaugurated by the then Deputy Prime Minister of India, Shri L.K. Advani in the State of Arunachal Pradesh in the far north-east of the country.
The Loomba Foundation also partnered with the Sriram Welfare Foundation to deliver a jointly funded programme in the State of Tamil Nadu for 200 beneficiaries,which was launched on 13th January 2004. It was at the end of that year, on 26th of December that tsunami struck, with devastating consequences for the entire region. The worst affected area in India was the Tamil Nadu district of Nagapattinam, where more than 6,000 fatalities were reported.
True to its grain, the Loomba Foundation responded by establishing an extended scholarship programme in the State for a further 500 girls and boys, mainly kids of fishermen, who had been orphaned.
The year of 2005 saw the introduction of six more State programmes in Chhattisgarh, Jammu and Kashmir, West Bengal, Maharashtra, Uttar Pradesh and Madhya Pradesh. This was followed by programmes for 100 children each in the States of Assam, Bihar, Goa, Himachal Pradesh, Jharkhand, Karnataka, Kerala, Manipur, Meghalaya, Mizoram, Nagaland, Sikkim and Tripura, bringing the total number of Loomba scholars to 3,610.
The Loomba Foundation supported 18 students of widows selected from different states of India for higher studies too. It financed their education for a four year B.Tech Degree Course absolutely free of cost from Lakshmi Narain College of Technology in Bhopal. Thanks to this aid, these students are now gainfully employed and leading a life of self respect and dignity: exactly the way the Loomba Foundation had envisioned.
Having achieved their target of educating 100 children of poor widows in each of India’s 28 states, the Loomba Foundation broadened its outreach programme. To date, more than 10,000 children of poor widows have received Loomba scholarships for at least five years at a stretch, directly impacting and transforming the lives of 60,000 people in their families. Today, the original Loomba scholars have completed their education and started building their careers on a rock solid foundation.
The Loomba Foundation’s Education Programme would not have been possible without the generous support of our partners and donors, with individual benefactors including Shamin and Shiraz Lalji, Sheetal and Ricky Kapoor, Martin Ciupa, Sir Richard Branson, Briyesh Nayyar among others, organizations including Sriram Welfare Foundation, the Hinduja Foundation and Rotary India Literacy Mission, and corporate partners including BT and Mellon Group Europe. The Loomba Foundation has always been blessed “with help to those who seek for it” and with dedicated team efforts and true intentions reached success by transforming so many lives over the years.