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A Five Year Strategic Plan
In 2020 the College made a transition to a defensible five-year strategic plan to which annual plans and budgets are clearly aligned. It is now more important than ever before, that the College has detailed, explicit and transparent plans, processes and reporting. This is especially important now, because many of us who have taken this 34 year journey together in both in India and Australia need to begin the work of handing over the management and the many of the responsibilities for the program’s on-going progress to new and younger leaders.
Cyclone Recovery Efforts
In 2018 there was a devastating cyclone that destroyed many homes in many of the hills’ remote villages where the Grihini girls come from, as well as their means for employment. In 2019 we instituted a Go Fund Me Project which has continued into 2020 to assist villages recover and rebuild their villages. Grihini students provided physical efforts to support the villagers in the restoration and rebuilding of houses in some of the villages that were worst hit. The leadership and management of this restoration and rebuilding of these villages was led by the Jesuit PEAK Team and also involved the Grihini girls themselves, who, helped clean up the flattened houses in these villages and to cart building materials.
Increased Enrolment of Tribal Girls
The cyclone has had an ongoing impact on Grihini such that we now have an increased enrolment of illiterate young Tribal girls who has earlier been reluctant to join Grihini. For some time Grihini’s program has developed to a point that girls enrolled, unlike the initial years of the program have had some schooling, up to year 10. This is because their mothers and grandmothers who are Grihini graduates have ensured that their children attended school and gained a basic education in their villages. These new tribal families have had less engagement with Grihini to date, but they are now prepared to enrol their daughters due to their homelessness and an inability to feed and care for them. A major strength of our current program is that the Grihini staff have been able to rapidly adapt the planned program, re-focusing on the provision of basic literacy, to adjust to the different educational needs that new students present. We are also grateful to the Jesuit PEAK team whose have developed and sustained such trusting and caring relationships with the remote Dalit and Tribal villagers.
Impact of Coronavirus
2020 also imposed unexpected challenges due to the global Corona virus pandemic. This has meant that Grihini has had to comply with a self-isolation decree by the Indian Government and shut down its on-site program on 14 March 2020, sending the girls back to their villages. The staff have done this with the utmost care, providing each girl with packages of staple supplies of oil and rice etc., in order to ensure that their family did not starve during the extreme lock down the Indian Government imposed throughout the country. The staff have made several attempts to prepare the College to reopen and for the girls’ return, but until now the program has not been able to restart while the virus is still actively spreading. The College, with the support of the PEAK team, has also complied with an Indian Government edict to release foreign funds to ensure the well-being of the remote villages that are home to the Grihini girls during the virus lock down.
Continuance of the Program
We are convinced more than ever that the work that the Grihini Community College is very important. The proof of this is in the changed lives of women who have graduated, their families and their villages. When we have visited the villages in the past few years, we have been overwhelmed by the active leadership of the women graduates in their villages. We have been impressed at their willingness to do more to establish initiatives that will improve the quality of village life in terms of ensuring their children are successful in gaining a basic education and identifying schemes that will generate employment for the youth. Despite this success, there is still so much more that needs to be done and it is important that we remain focused on our core mission which is to provide this basic liberating education.
Upon reflection on the challenges we currently face, such as fundraising in times of general economic hardship and the difficulties in ensuring leadership and management succession,
our priority is to ensure the continuance of the basic literacy, social and personal awareness program that over its 34 years has enabled the education of more than 2,000 women in basic literacy, income generation, and social awareness, as well as coaching many to pass the government year 10 and 12 examinations. These outcomes provide pathways to further education and employment. but most importantly we believe that the impact has enhanced the well-being of the graduates, their families and their villages. These aspects of the basic program equip graduates with new options and choices in their lives and help them acquire self-respect. They develop respect, concern for those around them, together with a sense of responsibility to contribute to their community and making a positive difference to its wellbeing. We have considered options to develop extension programs in the 150 villages where our graduates live. For now, however, we need to acknowledge our limitations in personnel and financial resources and prioritise our commitment to our core mission.
The achievement of the Grihini program is only possible because of the dedication of the Indian team of staff past and present, and the many individual supporters who have generously provided financial security for the program for over 34 years. We are very dependent on, and appreciative of, our good relationship with the Australian Lutheran World Service who is both a safe repository for our funds raised and a safe channel for a smooth transfer of the annual budget to India and to whom we must account for our plan and financial management. ALWS have always been a rich source of encouragement, advice and support to the program.
In Australia, we have begun the process of establishing an Advisory Council as a local support-base for Grihini. We, who take responsibility for the Australian management of the program, need to involve others who may take on future leadership, and support the program in future fund raising as well as supporting the development of the program.