Written by Puja Mahato, College student, Kolkata India. (edited by Christine Paradinas Girl2B Co-Founder and president)
Photo above Puja at going away party with Geeta the Girl2B project Director
My name is Puja, I am 19 years old and just completed my 1st year of university at Gokhale memorial girls college pursuing communicative english. The real reason I am writing today is because I officially arrived in the US as a student in the Community College initiative program, CCIP, which is sponsored by the US Department of State. I am now studying at Scottsdale Community College
My going away party at the Girl2B Home in Kolkata with my “sisters”
I have to take this opportunity now to write about what I achieved as it all seems like a dream come true and tomorrow is my first day of class. I took one big leap of faith!
How did this dream start? In the village where I am from, children can go to government schools, but the reality is many children, especially girls don’t get the chance or if they do it is for a very short time. Most of the parents won’t send their girls to school as they think it’s a waste of time and money. The reason behind this thinking is “The girl is going to get married so it’s ok not to get her an education”! You can imagine I think this is ridiculous.
I do have a father but he hasn’t lived with us or supported us from the day I was born. It’s my mother who took care of me and it was her idea of sending me to an all girls hostel at the age of 3 as she felt she had no option and she DID believe in education. If she sent me, then she would be able to get a job and support herself and I could study. She was only 24 years old. That was 16 years ago!
The home I was sent to live in has since closed, but at the time I started my education and made friends for life, it was a dream come true. When the organization closed I was in my 10th grade and only had three months left for my final exam. I had nowhere to live (as my mom lived in the home where she worked as a cook) and we could not afford the fees for the final exams. I was in great danger as I did not know where to go, whom to go to, what to do?!
Puja center bottom & friends – we believe EDUCATION IS POWER
It was then that I realized that Girl2B was continuing the education of many of the girls from the same home and I knew the founders Alfonso and Christine from their days of visiting us many years ago. I contacted them and they helped me in every possible way to complete my education, find a place to live and support me during this difficult time. I refer to it as my …..”One big leap of faith”. Girl2B not only helped me graduate high school but they even sponsored my higher education and I got admission in a great college in Kolkata “Gokhale memorial girls college “.
I soon came to know about the CCIP program which is sponsored by the USA government. It offers students from all around the world the opportunity to study one year in the US. In fields like Early childhood education, Media, Business Administration, Agriculture, Tourism and hospitality, Engineering and technology. I was always fascinated by Media and wanted to take up journalism as my career. I applied for it on June 30th, 2016 and that was the day that changed my life. In December, I got selected and was asked to sit for the TOEIC exam(Test of English for international students). I just could not believe what was happening! My score was the highest among the thirteen other participants from Kolkata and I was selected as one of 4 students to represent Kolkata in Arizona. Then it was a race to get my passport, medical check up and visa and my 26 hour journey began!
My mom, well what can I say, she is very tense, but she knows this is my golden opportunity and she is so proud of me.
Puja with her new classmates from around the world!
Last but not the least I want to thank Alfonso and Christine for believing in me and supporting me through Girl2B. At the very least they are the pillars who supported me throughout my Journey. Which I think might have just begun.
I believe “Success is not how high you climb, but how you make a positive difference to the world and this I plan to do”