Poonam Kumari is a lively 15-year-old, who belongs to Saidpur village of the Tankuppa block in Gaya district. She was once a very timid, shy girl who lacked confidence. Poonam, second out of the three siblings, had been to school once where she somehow completed Grade III but had to discontinue her education due to limited financial resources. This forced her to take up household chores along with her mother. Occupied with household work, she lost two precious years of her childhood and the freedom to enjoy learning with peers.

However, with support from CARE India’s Pragati project that caters to the needs of out-of-school children through its non-residential training centres in Bihar (Prayas Kendras), Poonam could see her dream of going to school into reality. She got an opportunity to interact with one of the volunteers, Kanti Kumari, who was on home visits back then. Kanti contacted and reached out to those parents and community members, whose daughters dropped out of school. Poonam was hesitant to join Grade III and her parents too thought she was too old to go back to school. It was Kanti who convinced Poonam to attend school and receive formal education.

Poonam is grateful to project Pragati and its volunteers at Prayas Kendras who ensured that she resumes her education. “There was a time when I used to walk behind people, as I was scared, but today I am a more confident girl, everyone now follows me, as they know I excel in studies and sports”, the Grade VI student says.

Kanti, who is also Poonam’s teacher, says, ‘’She is a bright student and in a short span of time, she has picked up on sports and is also performing well academically.’’Poonam is also trying her hand to learn leadership skills that help young women like her to shape their lives and help them achieve their goals. Inculcating leadership skills has proven to work wonders for women, especially young women, as they make them agential and lets them have some control over the choices that they make. Poonam aspires to become a teacher and shape many more lives, just the way her teacher did.

GEP Team Bihar