Enabling future leaders with Christel House
Her journey began at Christel House in Bangalore, India, a school run by the namesake nonprofit in India and supported by The PVH Foundation since 2015. The school focuses on transforming the lives of impoverished children through a holistic model focused on the ‘whole child’. It offers a wide range of support for more than 860 students, from K-12 education, character development, and healthcare to family assistance, university scholarships, and job placement.
As a kindergartener, securing a place at the school meant a lot for Divya and her mother, a single parent. She would receive not just a quality education but also two full meals each day – all while spending her time in an environment where children are encouraged to dream, imagine and experiment. “Christel House meant my mom could focus on her job without worrying about where tomorrow’s meals would come from or how to keep me safe and occupied all day without any help,” she reminisces.
Full of possibilities
Divya also credits Christel House with giving her life a clear pathway – and opening her eyes to countless possibilities. “Every teacher was kind and friendly. Everyone encouraged us to push ourselves, dream big and learn. We were fed. We were allowed to be kids. We were taken care of,” she says.
The meals, the support – it all adds up for children like Divya and their families. Despite India’s rise as a global economic power, the country continues to grapple with widescale poverty and illiteracy. Christel House offers a chance at building a life full of possibilities for hundreds of children every year, giving them the education and support they need to pursue their dreams.
Divya graduated from Christel House in 2017 and is now 21 years old and a college sophomore. But her dream of becoming an astronaut began early: first with a love for math, then a passion for physics and, finally, an obsession with black holes. She credits her science teacher Mr. Rajasekhar for pushing her. She read journals in whatever time she could spare and participated in every math and physics competition she could. When she graduated in 2017, choosing engineering was easy. “I want to work at NASA but the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) is my first choice. I see the potential here in India. There is so much we can do to improve our country. And Christel House made sure we understood the importance of taking care of ourselves and our communities,” she explains.
Community service was part of the curriculum at school, from simple actions like the students cleaning their own classrooms and learning to be accountable for their space to community projects and helping others. “I spent the last three years of my time at Christel House on the student council. That really helped me learn about leadership, social responsibility and how to balance it all. That experience opened my eyes and gave me the motivation to pursue my dream with confidence,” she says, her voice brimming with enthusiasm and respect.
This sense of social responsibility has stayed with Divya. Even today, despite a full workload at college and a job as a tutor, she continues to make time to participate in rallies for issues such as road safety, teaching orphans English, and visiting the elderly.
She fondly remembers one particular piece of advice from her science teacher as her driving light: “He always told me… whenever I fail, I should not be disappointed. I should just get up and fight harder.”
The next generation
In 2018, PVH associate volunteers had the chance to meet the latest cohort of inspiring Christel House scholars. Among them was Soumya, a young woman following in Divya’s footsteps by running for the student council.
PVH volunteers helped teachers coordinate the polling process for the election – from issuing ballot sheets to helping count the votes. Soumya won and was proudly declared the class president. It is a role she is proud of serving because of the opportunities that her schooling has provided. “It has completely transformed my life. I have been able to recognize and work on many of my talents. All of my teachers have encouraged and motivated me,” she says.
Soumya now has her sights set on studying for a B.Sc. course in Agriculture at one of India’s best colleges and then a role as a civil servant in the Indian Administrative Service. Her ambition and gratitude are clear as she reflects on her journey, “I am the only girl who has been educated in my family and this is because of Christel House. Christel House has given me an opportunity to reach my goal.”
Being able to contribute to an organization that recognizes and nurtures the potential of students like Divya and Soumya is something we’re proud of at PVH. Learn more about our work with Christel House in our 2018 CR Report.