Lauren Holman, Summer 2015

Final Paragraph about Maitri

My time at Maitri was so invaluable because I was able to share my education with people who could really benefit from it. I worked with women and young adults to improve their English and better understand their rights. The experience was rewarding because I got to see dedicated and motived people improving themselves. I also treasure having met the widows in Vrindavan and seeing the homes that Maitri makes possible for them. It is heart warming and empowering to see women dance, chant, and enjoy life after hearing of the inhumane crimes that they have been victim to. I learned more than just what it is like to work at an NGO from Maitri. I learned how to be a more compassionate person and I have had my eyes opened to some of the most beautiful aspects of India.


Rebecca Miah, Emory University, Summer 2015

Ten weeks ago I was sitting on the floor of my bedroom playing Tetris with everything that needed to be stuffed into my suitcase for India, worrying about the bugs, the beggars, the dirt, the danger. I would never have imagined that today I would be returning to the United States with more clarity on the strength of my inner power. Never did I think I would be able to haggle for a better price on a scarf, never did I think I would be able to stand my ground when change was miscounted, never did I think I could endure the sweltering heat of New Delhi in the summer. But not only did I learn about my personal strength, being in India this summer interning for Maitri, I’ve gained a better understanding of my career goals as well. I wanted to work for a nonprofit humanitarian organization that served the needs of survivors of domestic and sexual violence. I hoped to one day establish my own such agency that not only served physical and legal needs but also mental health through esteem-building workshops. To better understand the needs of women, I needed to understand their plight and therefore understand their lives, understand their position in society, in their homes. Thus came about my project to better understand the perspectives of married men towards sexual violence and their opinions of marriage. Maitri has helped me get one step closer to my goal of becoming a resource for women in need and understanding what it takes to address sensitive issues like domestic and sexual violence. Not only that, I am most grateful to Maitri for giving me perspective on the inner workings of a nonprofit organization, the central crux being a passion for your work. I’ve met some of the strongest women at Maitri; women who live to challenge the ingrained beliefs of patriarchy, women who have a piercing voice against the notion that a woman should be silent. But what I’ve found to be most touching at Maitri is that it is truly a family. Whether it is eating lunch together or catching the newest Bollywood movie in theaters, Maitri is held together by a thread of love and support. And I feel honored to be able to say that I too am connected by this thread, forever connected to some of the greatest people who are working everyday to provide all with identity, dignity, and respect.


Brok Dixon, University of Utah, Summer 2015

Internship Experience: Interning at Maitri has been such a great experience. From my first day in the office I was welcomed with open hands and warm hearts. Maitri has become my second family. I learned so much from this experience that I do not believe I could find anywhere else in the world. From working in the office to working at multiple different project sites, I truly believe that I have made a difference with the work I have done while in India and when I leave the organization in the coming weeks. Working at the project Maitrigram, I feel The knowledge and experience I have gained while at Maitri will help me place a career in the social work field. I would like to thank Maitri India for all the opportunities I have been given and I hope the very best for the organization.


Jade Fisher, University of Utah – January 2015 – April 2015

Interning with Maitri has allowed me to get to know another culture and to meet a lot of amazing people. The work Maitri engages in is focused on trying to End Violence Against Women at all life stages. From the afterschool programme that encourages young girls to stay in school and get an education, to the vocational training programmes focused on assisting women in becoming economically empowered, to the legal counselling available for survivors of domestic violence and gender sensitization trainings, to the support and empowerment of Abandoned Widow Mothers of Vrindavan- each programme is meant to empower women. At times the need can seem overwhelming and it is easy to see how this could lead to discouragement- but being able to work each day with a dedicated group of people is inspiring and supportive. I am grateful for the opportunity this internship has given me to work with people who are truly making a difference.


Sara Ference

Sept – Dec 2012

I am currently ajunior in the Health, Society and Policy program at the University of Utah. I came to Maitri with the hope of gleaning an understanding of public health initiatives and experiencing the Indian NGO culture firsthand. I came away with much more. On the plane to Delhi, I sat next to a well-traveled businessman who had been to India a number of times. When I told him I was coming to Delhi for a few months, he raised his eyebrows in surprise, as if to say, what are you going to Delhi for? He said this: “There are many beautiful places in the world. Delhi is different. In Delhi, you have to go looking for the beauty. It will be hard, but you’ll find it.”


At Maitri, you don’t have to go looking for beauty. Maitri is working among the beautiful every single day, making a simple but powerful impact in the lives of people who need it most.Maitri has taught me that amid the chaos and poverty,you will find beauty beyond description. My favorite experiences as an intern were the simple ones: meeting the humble people of Delhi at Maitri’s health camps, spending time with the lovely widows in Vrindavan and teaching the kids in the Children’s Tutorial Center. It was in these experiences that I came to know and love India and her people.I feel very fortunate to have been a part of Maitri. It was one of the richest experiences of my life.


Anjali Thakur

September – December 2014

Maitri through its various projects like promoting respect and dignity for the widows of Vrindavan, empowerment of women at the risk of domestic violence provides a development of an individual (woman) as a whole. Maitri provides home to the destitute widows, provide education, health care to children and women. For a proper understanding of the process of empowerment Maitri presents all the relevant inter-linked elements to women.


Just after completing my Masters degree in Gender Studies from Ambedkar University, Delhi I wanted to engage myself in social work. My career interests are in conducting workshops and researches, interning with Maitri has facilitated experience in both of these fields to me. After interning for 3 months with Maitri it has given me an opportunity to look at things from a different viewpoint.


My experience with Maitri was more than I could have expected. It allowed me the freedom to develop personally and professionally. Working for Maitri helped me use the knowledge I’ve acquired over the past two years as a student. Maitri helped me to look into the ground realities of our society and gave me the opportunity to get in touch with people directly. It has been an invaluable experience for me which will help me for my further professional growth. I will always be thankful for this incredible opportunity by Maitri to serve the people of India.


I also want to thank the entire staff of Maitri for taking the time to share their expertise and information of Maitri’s projects. It was through these times that I felt I was able to learn and grow the most in developing my skills over the course of my internship. The staff was most responsive to my requests and always made me feel like a full-time member of the group.


Katie Naylor

Sept – Dec 2012

In agreement with the many Maitri interns who have come before me, I can unreservedly say that my time at Maitri has proven to be an exceptional experience. I have been overwhelmed by the passion that drives this organization as they reach out to help the most vulnerable populations in India. I am grateful for the experiences that I had teaching in the Children’s Tutorial Center, visiting future seamstresses at the Vocational Center, assisting in registering rickshaw pullers for government benefits, talking with the widows of Vrindavan about their life experiences, and attending health camps to spread awareness about HIV/Aids and at-risk behaviors.


In addition, I have gained valuable administrative experience by working on organizational policies, refining job descriptions, helping with the volunteers program, preparing presentations and reports, and working on the quarterly newsletter. Interning at Maitri has also given me the wonderful opportunity to travel throughout India, to experience the culture, and to learn to love the people of this country. I have grown professionally and personally as I have applied my educational skills and associated with some of the best people I have ever met. I have appreciated the laughter, the friendships, the celebrations and the accomplishments along with the heartaches, insights, frustrations, and realities of this humanitarian work. I know that India, Maitri, and the people I have come to love and respect will remain a part of me forever.


Katrina Robertson

I’ve enjoyed being able to do a variety of things in the office, all of which have enhanced my skills as a professional and academic. Writing projects have included grant roposals for fund raising, cover letters and project summaries, quarterly reports and newsletters. Other tasks have included reviewing the content and layout for the website, creating PowerPoint presentations for Maitri’s ‘Count On Me’ campaign, and researching a writing a case study on the problems of aging in India.


I’ve enjoyed being able to visit and work at most of Maitri’s projects. I was fortunate enough to go to Vrindavan to meet the widows and see where Maitri’s Aging Resource Center will be. I also was able to visit the ICTC testing center and a health camp for project Awaaz, which were emotional experiences, because I’m very passionate in raising awareness about HIV/AIDS and helping those who are victims of the virus.


Other projects I’ve really enjoyed are helping with Maitrigram which included seeing where the girls learn to sew and tutoring the children downstairs. The project we have worked on that I’ve been the most excited about is Maitri’s ‘Count on me’ campaign to end violence against women. It is a pledge campaign with the goal of collecting 1 million signatures of individuals promising to never ‘commit, allow or encourage violence against women’. The signatures will be submitted to the UN Secretary General and the President of India on Women’s Day, 8 March 2014. It’s been really rewarding to witness the project progress and be involved in something so important.


At the beginning of my stay in India we did field work researching on how to address the target market and made decisions on what content should be on the actual pledge. Afterwards we were able to launch the campaign online and do more field work collecting individual pledges. We gave presentations on the Campaign at Amity University and Delhi Public School to collect pledges and also collect contact information students who want to help move the campaign forward. The best thing about being involved with this project is that I can continue to help Maitri collect signatures from home, and look forward to seeing the campaign progress even further.


Andrew Jasumback

May – July 2012

My summer goals after graduation were to engage in service, travel, and improve my resume. Having just recently graduated from the University of Utah with a Bachelors degree in Biology last spring, I managed to do all those things with my MAITRI internship. My career interests are in public health and international development. Interning with MAITRI India has facilitated experience in both of these areas as well as giving me the most rewarding experience of my life.


Some of my fondest memories in India apart from traveling to exotic and foreign locations, seeing strange and unusual flora and fauna, and being submerged in a different culture, were working with India’s most vulnerable populations in the New Delhi area. MAITRI has established many projects and programs to help build respect and dignity for the underprivileged populations in India. The project I took the most joy in, was teaching the children from the slum neighborhoods in the Children’s Tutorial Centre. Whether it was one‐on‐one tutoring or teaching the whole class (K‐10) about Environmental Studies, Math, or English my ability to communicate with children has immensely improved. I think I learned just as much from the kids as they learned from me. It was great to see so many children interested in math and science and to hear about what they wanted to be when they grow up. It was inspiring and motivating to see children from the slums accessing extracurricular tutoring to achieve their dreams.


Another project that I was involved in was Project Awaaz. After seeing the need for such a programme on my visit to the rickshaw slums I was quite moved. Many of the men there were seeking medical attention from the volunteers doctor that was treating them. It’s hard to imagine working so far away from your family for an extended period without contact, let alone living under those conditions with an illness or injury. I was humbled to see so many smiles and laughs upon our visit and how a simple thing such as Aspirin can make their day. It was a heartwarming and humbling experience to visit and hear the stories of the rickshaw‐pullers. My experience at Project Awaaz has had a profound impact on me and enriched my overall experience with MAITRI.


My time with MAITRI came at a very opportune moment in my life, of which I am very grateful of. The MAITRI staff and team were amazing at helping the other interns and I adjust to the culture. I will miss them dearly and can’t thank them enough for not only their impact in my life, but their impact on the thousands of Indians they serve.


Kaitie Jowers

Stand by me

All of it is real. It isn’t just something I read about anymore; there are real problems in this world. It’s my friends. It’s my co-workers. It’s the children I tutor. It’s my housekeeper. It’s my neighbors.


Women come into Maitri daily to seek help for abuse they’ve suffered; the children I tutor are way too skinny; the families I walk past on the way to work are living underneath highway overpasses; the children that stop my auto rickshaw to beg for money dig through the garbage piles for food. The “real” world is pressing down on me everywhere I turn. My smallness and inability to do anything significant is pressing down even harder.


Maitri showed and taught me things that I will never be able to forget. My internship has permeated every part of my life. I am now more aware of the problems of the world, more open to new ideas, and more grateful for what I have. Maitri deals with very real problems and very real people, and I was fortunate enough to work with the amazing people that make real change happen.


I am grateful for the incredible opportunity I had to live in New Delhi and be an intern for Maitri. I am most grateful for the eye-opening knowledge I gained and the life-changing lessons I learned. Yes, it was hard and challenging some days to live away from home and work in a new environment. But I would not trade my time with Maitri for anything. It was by far the best thing I’ve ever done in my life.



May – July 2012

Since I recently completed my B.A. in Political Science, this summer was a crucial time for me to experience interning with Maitri. I am continually impressed by the scope of Maitri’s work, which ranges from educating migrants about HIV/AIDS to providing healthcare and nutritious meals to abandoned, elderly widows. My colleagues at Maitri are very inspirational; I’ve never met this many people before who are so dedicated to giving back to their communities. My exposure to this spirit of public service will be invaluable to me as I begin my career in international development.


I spent a good amount of time as an intern with Maitri in the office researching the organization’s various projects, and writing material about them for grant proposals and web content. I also had fun and felt rewarded during my time teaching at the Children’s Tutorial Centre. Education is incredibly important for children’s development (and for society and humankind), and I’m happy I was able to participate in this aspect of Maitri’s work.


Visiting some of Maitri’s project sites significantly impacted me. Seeing Maitri’s health camps for rickshaw‐pullers demonstrated the importance of Maitri’s work. My respect for Maitri and its misson was deepened even further when I went to visit the widow mothers in Vrindivan and the young women learning vocational skills at Maitrigram. I also felt the power of Maitri’s outreach in the office, as the Maitri staff provided counseling and support to domestic violence victims.


Maitri is dedicated to promoting human dignity and loving kindness. These values are reflected in the organization’s office environment, where I was immediately welcomed in as a member of the family. I will miss India and the new friends I made here.


Rabia Mahmood

May – July 2012

Upon coming to India from the United States, I don’t think a lot of students know exactly what to expect. Being South Asian myself, I thought I had a good idea of what was in store for me at Maitri—however the experience went well beyond my expectations. Studying Psychology and Gender &Health at the University of Michigan, I spend a lot of time with my head in the books, with my coursework focusing on HIV/AIDS and reproductive social justice—however, books only halfway prepared me from what I was about to see here. It has been a once in a lifetime experience here at Maitri. One where I have had so many opportunities and resources placed in front of me that I am sad to go. My experiences here have not only played a huge role in advancing my career goals, but also personally affected me and helped me gain a lot of insight into my own lifestyle and perspective.


Specifically speaking, I had the chance to visit and work with the students at the Maitrigram, young girls from nearby slums who arelearning to stitch. It really was such a humbling experience. I got to sit with girls who were so similar to me in age and chat with them about marriage, family, and religion- the whole time thinking how we are so comparable, yet live in completely different worlds. I sat with Prabah Ma’am, the instructor at Maitrigram who takes multiple bus transfers every morning to teach the girls, and took up a piece of fabric and needle for myself—thinking, I’d get some vocational training of my own. 30 minutes later I was struggling to get the stitches right and wanted to give up. Just that single feeling gave me so much insight to what vulnerable populations in India might feel like, how they work hard towards things that might help them succeed- all the while wondering if it will even be worth it in the end. The stitching classes at Maitrigram offered me such a unique opportunity to interact with young girls in India—despite that they are living in the slums, these girls still have some of the cutest jokes, warmest smiles, and beautiful laughs in all of Delhi.


Another opportunity I had at Maitri was at the ICTC center, where Rajrani Ma’am and Laxmi Ma’am offered HIV testing and counseling on a daily basis. This was especially interesting for me to see because of my academic interests in HIV/AIDS. After studying the epidemiology of the virus, all sorts of symptoms, and numerous global prevention strategies I was most looking forward to Spending my time in the ICTC Center. However, like I said—no amount of books could have prepared me for what I’d see at Maitri, and on my first day on the job in the testing clinic we had a women and her brother both come in and test positive for HIV. I sat and watched her Expressionless face as she was counseled on how to keep from spreading the virus to her two children. And as I watched her stare at the ground occasionally nodding without much expression, my heart broke at the thought of how marginalized people with HIV/AIDS are not only in India, but all over the world. The experiences here at Maitri have offered me so much practical knowledge about my studies, steering away from numbers and treatments and more towards empathy and tact. In addition, working at Maitri has given me the drive to continue my studies and work towards health equity for the global HIV/AIDS epidemic.


Having the opportunity to come to India has been such a blessing. The staff here at Maitri has been so generous in offering me any resource that may further my studies and I have a huge amount of gratitude and respect for all the people I have met these past 5 weeks. From introducing me to tiny children in the Children’s Tutorial Centre beneath the main office to allowing me the opportunity to see the beautiful mountains in Dharamsala for the Domestic Violence Awareness Workshop—I can honestly say I have made the most of my 5 weeks here and look forward to spending the rest of my summer consolidating my research and creating a better bank of knowledge about HIV/AIDS at the University of Michigan.


A special thank you to Winnie Ma’am & General Sir, Sonal, Anita, Rajrani, Piyali, Deepika, and my fellow interns Andrew, Ashely, Anna, and Nandini—I have learned so much from each and every one of you and it has shifted my perspective on so many things I never truly understood. The Maitri cause is honestly one of the most genuine NGO’s I have experienced and it has truly been an honor getting the chance to be a part of the Maitri family!


Annie Hollernhost

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world” – Mahatma Gandhi

When I walked into the Hinckley Institute of Politics last fall, I was looking for an experience that would change my life. Looking at a year off before enrolling in a graduate program had me wondering how I could use that time to make a difference in the world. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into.


Working with Maitri changed me in the most unexpected ways. I’ve been exposed to the real issues of India as well as the challenges faced by institutions working to combat them. I have also learned to think about life from a new perspective. Upon interacting with vulnerable populations, such as outcast widows, migrant workers, and slum children, I have learned a great deal about what is important in life. They have opened my eyes to just how little we actually need to survive. Maya Angelou said, “we need much less than we think we need.” Who am I to complain about the little things, when there are people living with so much less. Whats more, the children, who have never known any life outside of the slums, continue to brighten the landscape with their smiles and laughter. For the rest of my life, when I find myself complaining for wishing for things that I don’t have, I hope their faces will come to my mind.


Thank you Maitri, for the opportunities you have given me here in India. They will stay with me everyday.


Jacob Storrs

Feb – Apr 2012

Working for Maitri as an intern has been, well, an experience. Honestly, I did not quite know what to expect. I flew from my home to what to me, was a new land, or a different one, with its own set of customs and traditions. I took up residence and began work as an intern with an NGO, Maitri. Never before had I worked with an NGO. However, I have been fortunate. My experience at Maitri and in India has both proven very beneficial. My supervisor and the management have been extremely helpful and understanding. The staff at Maitri have been a real treat to work with and get to know. I always found everyone willing to lend their assistance when I needed it, no matter the reason whether regarding work or acclimating to my surroundings. My sincere thanks to everyone with whom I associated during my stay here! I consider my experience valuable and a prodigious advantage to both my personal life and professional career.


Specifically regarding the internship, one of the reasons I found it so rewarding are the projects in which Maitri is engaged. One of these projects in which I was able to provide assistance was Project Jeevan, which focuses on providing assistance to destitute widows in Vrindavan. I was able to visit the project site and help distribute an afternoon meal and participate during a health camp. The activities alone cannot describe the occasion, and I find myself truly tested to summon the words in order to describe these efforts adequately. I saw first-hand what these women face over and over on a daily basis, a sight that for me was heart-wrenching. Something changed for me that day, and it was humbling to have been a part in caring for these women.


Another project with which I enjoyed involving myself was project Maitrigram. At first, I must admit, I was a bit timid, to be surrounded by so many children. I don’t know Hindi so it caused me to hesitate in efforts to assist them as a tutor. After all, how could I teach them if I was unable to communicate with them? However, this quickly subsided and I was able to learn about the children who attended the tutoring sessions. As the days passed, it became second nature to care for these children, getting to know them and learn about things they did and liked. I was impressed with the knowledge each possesses. They find themselves at their own levels in school, but they come to a little basement every day to augment their studies from school. They are intelligent and eager to learn more and it shows. Maitri is providing essential assistance, seeking to empower the children to have more opportunities in the future. I have grown to love these children, and hope Maitri continues finding new ways to improve their educational opportunities.


Of course during my time here I took a stab at learning a little regarding India and its culture. Though I spent the majority of my time in the Delhi region, I am indebted to my colleagues who helped me learn a little and understand better things such as dance, dress, cuisine, etc., even religion, and their strong ties to certain regional locations. It was interesting to learn of some of the recent history which has influenced India. I say interesting because after visiting the National Museum I suddenly felt overwhelmed by the magnitude of history India represents: several thousand years. Influenced by different groups of people each possessing their own culture, traditions, and religious beliefs. And these cultures and traditions have extensive influences, even in the lives of people today. I was amazed to glimpse all these different people living and working together, respecting their differences while maintaining their own identity. It only added upon my respect and admiration for this country and its people. Briefly speaking, for me, these are the types of things with which my experience here was filled.


An experience unlike any other, and I am grateful the opportunity was presented to me. Thank you Sonal, Winnie, and General for your assistance and guidance. I am very impressed with the work you are doing and thank you for granting me a chance to be a part of it, even for such a short time. I will treasure it, and it will play a significant role as I find the future path my steps will take.


Sarah Patton

Sep – Nov 2011

One day a man walking along the beach when he noticed a boy picking something up and gently throwing it into the ocean. Approaching the boy, he asked, what are you doing? The youth replied, throwing starfish back into he ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they’ll die. Son, the man said, don’t you realize there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference! After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf. Then, smiling at the man, he said I made a difference for that one.I attend the University of Utah and am majoring in Nursing. Through my university, I was given the opportunity to intern for Maitri. Interning with Maitri for four month has taught me that one individual can make a difference and that kindness is the language which is universally understood.


Project Jeevan hooked me to Maitri but is only one shade of Maitri’s colorful spectrum. Seven projects ranging from slum health camps to giving aid to widows living in the holy city of Vrindavan to teaching young girls self empowerment, are all run by Maitri. I was given the opportunity to visit the holy city of Vrindavan and visit the widows living in one of Maitri’s ashrams. Immediately after arriving to the ashram, we were given buckets of food and ladled a nutritious mid-day meal onto each of the widows plates. Though the language barrier prevented us from talking, it seemed our smiles and interest in these destitute widows brought a sparkle to their eyes. This experience clearly portrays the impressive impact which Maitri creates, as their altruistic ideas turn quickly into action with the widows of Vrindavan, with the executives and staff working hard to elevate the health & dignity of these deserving widows. I love Maitri’s “Just Do It” mentality & that weekly health care is an option for any one of these admirable women, each with their own story to tell.


I am so grateful for my time spent here and the friendships that have been built. Through the graciousness of the Singhs’, and Maitri’s staff, I have received an irreplaceable education! I was welcomed with warm arms and am proud to call Maitri a part of my family.



June – July 2011

As a Social Work student I thought I’ve seen and known reality but 30 days of interning with Maitri has given me an opportunity to look at things from a different perspective. I am reminded of how unstable life can be and how fast reality can take an ugly turn. I feel really fortunate that I got this opportunity to experience what Maitri fights for every single day. It has definitely widened every aspect of my understanding of reality.


I especially am grateful that i got to be a part of the TSF workshop. It was a very challenging and a learning experience for me as a student and today i can say that it has definitely taught me so much and that i understand things better. It has encouraged me to raise my voice and question rather than to be a mute listener and accept things as they are.


Vrindavan again was an experience of its own. To me it was a place where sorrow of the widows was so deep that the whole place echoed with their voices of pain and tears.It is heart breaking that such a place should even exist. The place cannot hide the brutality and cruelty of mankind but at the same time I also saw and deeply appreciate the few hands that tries to make a difference.


One of the things i enjoyed doing most at Maitri was joining the kids for tuition in the afternoons. I think the tuition centre provides a great opportunity for the underprivileged children to explore their talents. It provides them with what they need most but lacks at home – space. Space to grow, play and learn.


These few days with Maitri has been wonderful. As a student I have learned so much and am taking back so much more with me. I’ve come to understand better the society that we live in and the people in it. wherever I go there will always be some discrimination or injustice of some kind but Maitri has only rejuvenated my decision to chose social work as a career and I thank Maitri for that.


Brooke Littlewood

Feb – April 2011

My name is Brooke Littlewood. I am 20 years old and double majoring in Political Science and International Affairs at the University of Utah. I plan to graduate in the spring of 2012. I am from a small town at the very tip of Utah called Richmond. Being from a small town in the country, I have always dreamed of traveling the world. I never imagined myself in such a busily, crazy and wonderful place as India. When I was accepted as an intern for Maitri in India, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. The smells, sounds, and scenery of India have been incredible to be a part of. Working for Maitri has been a wonderful opportunity for me because this is a job that I see myself doing in the future. I have long wanted to work for a non-profit organization and be able to help the underprivileged communities. That is exactly what I have had the privilege of doing while working with Maitri. Helping feed the widows, the conferences on domestic violence, health camps, and best of all working with the underprivileged children from the slums. These kids are so incredible as we work with them on learning English and math. They always want to be the first to get their math problems that they can work on. I worked mainly with two girls in the school, Mahima and Riya, and they impressed me every day on how much they knew. It continues to surprise me how fast these kids learn, especially English. I don’t know if I would have really understood how hard it is to learn such a different language. I have taken classes in French and am Somewhat fluent in being able to pick up what’s going on in a conversation, but trying to learn Hindi was incredibly hard for me. I have learned a couple of words while over here, but not that much and it makes me look in awe at these wonderful kids who are able to speak even in broken English, which is way better than my Hindi.


The last couple of weeks that I was at Maitri, they started a new program for these kids. They would each receive a small snack a couple times a week, and they have to eat it at the school. A lot of these kids, especially the girls, want to take it home to give to their moms, who in turn give it to the boys in the family. I have learned a lot about this part of the culture with domestic violence projects and such that show how in general, they feel like everything should go to the boys. It is such a great program that Maitri has started, especially for these girls who probably don’t get much food or nutrition due to this fact. It has been such a wonderful experience to really get into the field for some of these projects, knowing that even though it might not seem like that big of a deal, it really is a huge impact from what these underprivileged people know. Being able to work with Maitri as well as living in India has really made a big impact on my life. I feel like I have learned so much while working with the wonderful staff in the Maitri office. I will always be grateful for this incredible opportunity to serve the people of India.


Scott Allred

Feb – April 2011

My name is Scott Allred. I am originally from Portland Oregon but have been living, working, schooling, and playing in Salt Lake City Utah for the past two years. I am finishing up an International Studies degree with an emphasis in humanitarian and development work. My internship at Maitri was a fantastic hands on learning experience. I spent most of my time writing reports, analyzing data, and developing training modules for project Samvedana. The majority of the remainder of my time was spent doing what I loved most, tutoring children. India has many natural treasures but its children are by far the greatest. I have never met so many children who are so eager to learn and to enjoy life. Nothing could ever replace the experience of walking down the streets and alleyways of Delhi hearing the voices of these amazing kids shouting my name and seeing them come running to me just to say hi and shake my hand.


I wish I could summarize the rest of my experience here in India but that is impossible to do. That would be like trying to summarize India itself. It can’t be done. India is such a diverse bundle of amazing, intertwining contradictions that it cannot be fully described in a few sentences. It would take years even to just experience all that India is. Even then it would still manage to continue to surprise you. Its history is deep, rich, and ever present. Somehow the new and the old coexist here and live right next door to the far out. The colors, tastes, smells, sights, and sounds are inexhaustible. India is like a microcosm of existence in which past, present, and future are tangible things. The rich and developed live next to the poor and backward. Elephants and camels walk the same roads as buses and cars. India has stretched, challenged, enlightened, and forever changed me. How can one forget the hundreds of destitute humanity lying on the road across from the comfortable apartment in which you live? How can the embrace of a marginalized widow after you serve her food be forgotten? What can compare with the hospitality of those who have nothing, but yet still manage to give you everything? Nothing. Regardless of where I end up in life this experience has been priceless.


Chelsea Harris

May – Jul 2010

After a two month internship with Maitri, I am now in my senior year at Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island, where I find myself reflecting on the experiences I had and the lives I encountered in India, made all the more poignant by the lingering taste of the country’s mangos and chai.


Maitri’s mission – to improve the health, gender equality, and educational opportunities of India’s vulnerable populations, specifically women and migrants, through holistic programs –speaks to my passion for improved female health and community empowerment as means to sustainable poverty alleviation. Prior to the internship at Maitri, my background in the health and development sectors – both in and out of the classroom –had been primarily research- and policy-based. Therefore, Maitri was the perfect segue into the field, exposing me to the human dimension of grassroots work. As an intern, my role was to strengthen Maitri’s proposal and grant writing through the preparation of several full grant applications. My time in Delhi also corresponded with the launch of Project Jeevan in Vrindavan, so I was fortunate to assist with related preparations.


After graduating in spring 2011 with a B.A. in International Relations, I hope to work in the field for several years before earning a Master of Public Health degree and perhaps a Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology. The time at Maitri gave me the opportunity to experience this type of work firsthand and reaffirmed my dedication to a future career in global health. I know for certain that I will return to India, whether to work, travel, visit close friends, or satiate my constant cravings for chai.


Jeevan Moses

May – Aug 2010

My name is Jeevan Moses. I am 23 years old and live in Salt Lake City, Utah. Both of my parents are from the state of Andhra Pradesh, India. They came to the United States in the 1970s and my older sister and me were both born in Utah. I am currently an undergraduate at the University of Utah double majoring in Anthropology and International Studies. I plan on graduating in the Spring of 2011 and hope to one day be a Foreign Service Officer for the U.S. Department of State.


As a little kid growing up, I used to always tell my parents that I wanted to settle in India and do something great there. This childhood fantasy became something more when I lived in India for two years as a missionary for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. During that time, I fell completely in love with the country and its people. It also saddened me to see that such a culturally rich land had so many people suffering through poverty, disease, and social injustice. I remember that after those two years of missionary service were over I dreamed of nothing more than coming back and making some sort of difference. Less than a year later, I was interning at Maitri.


If anyone were to ask me what the best time of my life was, I would have no hesitation in saying the Summer of 2010. The three months I spent as an intern for Maitri were a dream come true. The appreciation and gratitude I have for this experience is something I can definitely not express in words. Expecting to come to India and give something back, I ended up leaving with far more than I came with because of Maitri. I am confident that the projects I was able to assist with are laying the foundations for extraordinary changes in the country of India. As a missionary I was never able to see the living conditions of populations such as widows, children living in slums, victims of domestic violence, and even rickshaw pullers to the extent that I did working in Maitri.


If I could say which projects taught me the most, they would be Project Jeevan, Project Awaaz and the tutoring aspect of Maitrigram. The name alone was enough to make Project Jeevan one of my favorites. Having the opportunity to go to Vrindavan on multiple occasions and help with the groundwork of Project Jeevan was eye opening. I was excited to see that we were doing something to improve the lives of these women who deserve rights and recognition in Indian society. Project Awaaz was the project I did the most writing for and, as such, is the project I feel I learned the most about. Before coming to India, I never thought about the quality of life of rickshaw pullers and migrant populations. Going to areas like Paharganj and Karol Bagh and listening to the rickshaw pullers helped me see them as people working hard to survive. I am grateful that Maitri is literally giving a voice to this underrepresented group of individuals. Tutoring as part of Maitrigram was, without a doubt, the most fun part of any day at Maitri. Being with such remarkable children, who mostly lived in nearby slums, helped me know that India has a bright future. No matter what their economic status may have been, all of these children had so much love to give and instantly made me feel that what I was doing was right.


Along with the people we interacted with in various projects, every member of the Maitri staff had a tremendous impact in my life and I will never forget all they did to make my time in India unforgettable, as well as make me a better person. Some of my most memorable experiences in Maitri were just sitting in the office talking with my office family. I miss them dearly and will never forget them. Maitri changed my life in many ways. I know that the work I did for them was miniscule compared to what they gave to me. I hope that Maitri will continue to bless the lives of others and that their efforts will expand and eventually reach the entire country.


Sunil Bhambri

May – Aug 2010

My name is Sunil Bhambri. I am 22 years old and completed my undergraduate degree in Marketing with a minor in Economics from the University of Utah in May 2010. Both of my parents grew up in India and I have had the opportunity to visit India in the past. Maitri gave me a new perspective of India that was culturally rich, educational, and life changing. I relished the chance to experience and admire India from working in the social sector and being as immersed in the culture as possible.


The summer of 2010 was easily one of the most rewarding summers of my life. I learned a great deal about the NGO sector and was fortunate to see the operations of one that has great advisors located internationally and is directed by dedicated individuals. Maitri provided the opportunity to develop professional skill sets. Applying marketing in a real world setting gave me a chance to learn how to manage online marketing measures such as social media, website development, and learn about various programs and challenges. I had the opportunity to work on research studies to help support projects and enhance communication efforts with means such as slideshows. One of my favorite experiences was tutoring children who were from the surrounding area. Many age groups of children came to get some extra assistance in subjects like math and English. Tutoring was a rewarding experience and interacting with the children was a fun and amazing opportunity.


I cannot say enough about how humbled I was to witness how selfless and caring everyone involved with Maitri was. The Singhs made every effort to ensure that as interns we were learning a great deal about India and gave us every opportunity to experience and immerse in the culture. The office environment was incredibly positive and the entire staff was welcoming, easy to work with, and passionately driven to improve the communities Maitri with which Maitri worked. My fellow interns Jeevan, Chelsea, Jill, Viraj, and Hannah were great and added tremendously to the value of the experience.


Having witnessed an organization like Maitri, it is clear that the social sector of India is progressing and is capable of accomplishing amazing feats. I will never forget being present for the launch of Project Jeevan in the religious town of Vrindavan where many widows began receiving a nutritious meal and daily supplements that will enhance their quality of life and instill the love Maitri was showing. Going to Paharganj and meeting Rickshaw pullers who were the beneficiaries of health camps and services from Maitri proved that organizations exist that do not overlook marginalized populations in India. Another quality of Maitri’s that I will never forget was when victims of domestic violence would end of in the office because they had no place else to turn and the staff and the directors would give their full attention to remedy the situation as best as they could.


Maitri did not simply give me a place to develop professional skills by working on projects, nor did it simply enhance my understanding and appreciation of India; Maitri changed my perspective on how and why to help people. Truth be told, one cannot complete an internship with Maitri without becoming a better and more caring person. To all the people I worked with this summer and especially to the Singhs for creating such a wonderful opportunity, aap ki sahaita ke liye aur aap ne jo sab kuch kiya, us ke liye bahut dhanyavad.


James Eagan

May – Aug 2009

My experience at Maitri was certainly memorable. I looked forward to every morning with the kids. They were my neighbors, and they became my friends. Nearly every morning, I was greeted by one of the youngest children, Akosh. He would jump on my back and unceasingly climb across my head and shoulders without little regard for my comfort. I look back on this ritual as a microcosm of my experience. It was not always pleasant, but more often than not, it was endearing and enjoyable. I can’t avoid a deep sense of nostalgia when I reflect on those mornings. This sense attends reflections on my time with the friends I made doing public health work as well. The people at Maitri were very good to me.


Perhaps the most memorable single moment of my time there came on an office trip to the Northwest. The Singhs were kind enough to invite my fellow interns and I along on a visit to the Harmandir Sahib in Amritsar. I had always planned to see the Golden Temple, but I never imagined such a special visit. Not only were we able to enjoy the spectacular beauty of the temple lit up at night, but we also enjoyed participating in the changing of the Chanani and the cleaning of the inner-chamber. I was lucky enough to assist in the carrying of the Adi Granth in its chariot. Thanks to the Singhs, I feel a personal intimacy with the Guru Granth Sahib and the tall, muscular Sikhs whom I carried the chariot with.


The excitement and wonder of experiences like the ones I had in Amritsar combined with learning experiences helping with health clinics, tutoring students, or working with the children made for an incredible summer. My time at Maitri greatly increased my already deep-rooted love of India. It also increased my appreciation of and my motivation to be a part of a solution to the challenges its people face.


Katie Calvert

May – Aug 2009

My experience with Maitri was a once in a lifetime opportunity and one that I will never forget. India is the most amazing country — so colorful, so diverse, so boisterous yet so reverent all at the same time. The awe-inspiring temples, the hippie painted freight trucks, the wandering cows and countless lost dogs, the beautiful traditional sahrie dress, the sacred ashrahms, the delicious Indian cuisine, the echoing calls of the fruit sellers as they weave their way up and down the streets, and the amazing bargain shopping — I will never forget it and always miss it.


I will forever be grateful for the opportunity I had to intern at Maitri. My absolute favorite part was getting to know the little children that gathered in the basement everyday so that for that hour or two they could feel like they were a part of something. They would line up outside the door just waiting for the moment they could run in, slip off their shoes, and sing, play, and dance with us. Their little faces still melt my heart and I can still hear the sound of their voices “Katie Ma’am! Katie Ma’am!” as they run up and hug me. They are the most loving little children and want nothing more than to be loved in return. Spending time teaching them simple English words and phrases and how to sing English songs was, I will admit, sometimes very taxing on my patience, but also the highlight of my day. It was so rewarding to hear one of them that couldn’t speak one word of English when they walked in, to run out the door that same day shouting “See you tomorrow!” as they smiled and waved.


Through Maitiri, I learned a great deal about the vulnerable populations in India. Before visiting India, I knew little about the problems with domestic violence and did not understand the details of how the HIV/AIDS epidemic is spreading so rampantly among the population. Through helping research, write, and edit proposals, along with the text for the website — I learned more about the health issues that India is facing today and the steps that need to be taken to help get them under control. It starts with baby steps and gradually, it will begin to make waves. Although my time at Maitri was only short, I helped with those baby steps and I can see that Maitri is continiuing to accomplish great things everyday and make a difference in the lives of those it touches. I wish I could be there to see the growth that this NGO has made working from the very heart of the slums. I met some amazing people, made some lifelong friends, and shared some incredible experiences that I will always remember and forever treasure.


Wanting More

“I was just 13 when I left Nepal and came to Delhi to find work. I had to struggle a lot when I first came here, because I did not have a place to stay and was in need of a job. Now, I would like to stop pulling rickshaws because it is very dangerous and a lot of hard work for very little money. I have other ambitions. I would like to start my own cycle rickshaw repair shop but in order to accomplish this I need 5,000 rupees. Because of my meager earnings it is very difficult for me to save that much money. Almost all of my money goes in taking care of my basic necessities. As a rickshaw puller, I am very scared of police officers. They do not protect, as police should. They are a constant threat to me and other rickshaw pullers. I fear that if I ever enter a no parking zone by mistake or run a red light, the police officers will destroy my rickshaw and physically assault me.”


Birkha has dreams beyond his situation, and does not give up on his ambitions though they seem out of reach. As a rickshaw puller he puts himself at risk every day in order to make a living, and lacks the resources to find support or protection.


Mohammad Meri Hasan

Looking for a Better Life

“I left my home at the age of 13. I had no dream for my future; I just wanted to save myself from the barbarity of my school-master. I just wanted to find safety. I was very desperate, and nobody helped me so I stole money from my parents to buy a train ticket. When I reached Delhi, I was eager to start my life again and needed to begin working immediately, so I started pulling a rickshaw within 15 to 20 days. Since then, I have been attacked and beaten several times by customers and police officers, and I have been admitted to the hospital for many other problems I have had as well. Because of my injuries, I have only been able to make even half the money that I used to before, and it has been a great stress on me. I no longer want to be a rickshaw puller but I need the money to feed my family. My elder daughter has grown up and as a father I need money for her wedding.”


Mohommad’s story epitomizes the frustration and danger many rickshaw pullers have felt and continue to experience in their lives. Out of desperation he fled to find safety but is still at risk, and even denies himself proper medical attention in order to feed his family.


Anil Nayar

No Other Option

“When I was younger I used to make enough money but I spent all of my savings paying medical bills for my younger brother who had throat cancer. The medical bills became overwhelming and I had no choice to but to find other ways to make money. I came to Delhi to earn more so that I could take care of my family in Mumbai. Here I can make 5,000 rupees a month, and then visit every 3 months. I spend about 3,000 rupees in a month and try to save the rest for my family. At night, I sleep on the floor of my rickshaw, or on the ground under it. I have to work very hard and try not to spend money to be sure that I save enough for my family. When I have health problems, I feel stressed because as I have no money to pay for my medical care and neither can I work to earn more. This is a constant threat.”


After his brother fell ill and his job did not make enough to pay the bills, Anil had to leave his family to make money elsewhere. He makes constant sacrifices, including his own comfort and safety. Stress is a major threat to many rickshaw pullers, and can cause severe medical problems.



A Severe Accident

Mr. Santosh Kumar Soni, a 50 year old Rickshaw Puller met with an accident near ZakirHussain Park in Ranchi, India on 26th September 2013. He was riding the rickshaw with a passenger in it when a van crashed into the rickshaw from behind. The passenger was thrown out onto the road side and Mr. Santosh rolled down the street with the rickshaw on top of him. Santosh was severely injured, hurting different parts of his body including his chest. He was then taken by the Police to Rajendra Institute of Medical Sciences (RIMS) for treatment where the hospital authority charged him Rs. 400 for an X-ray and other medicines.


The garage owner informed Maitri about this incident two days after the accident saying that Mr. Santosh needed immediate treatment and expressed that Maitri could help intervene. On visiting the garage, the Maitri team found Mr. Santosh in severe pain. He had deep cuts on his leg and a swelling in his chest. Seeing his need for treatment, the Maitri team took him to K. C. Roy Memorial Hospital where he was given medical aid. The doctor informed us that he had no internal injuries besides cuts, swellings and body pain. Maitri provided him with necessary medication he needed which is helping him on his road to recovery.


Rickshaw pullers have a very dangerous profession in which they are at risk each day. Despite this, the pay is usually very little, and most cannot pay for the medical expenses that come with the job. For Santosh, his accident was debilitating, but he could not afford treatment and there are no other resources or support available for rickshaw pullers in these situations. Luckily Maitri was contacted in time to help Santosh with his medical treatment and bills.



Stand by me

Manish is a 22 years old Rickshaw Puller. He came to Delhi from Katihar District in Bihar to earn a living after he got married at the young age of 19. In September 2013 Manish attended Awareness Camp organized by Maitri in FarashKhana. During the counselling session on HIV/AIDS and STIs, he shared his concern about his risky sexual behaviours with multiple partners on GB Road, a famous red light area in Delhi. Furthermore, he showed interest in undergoing an HIV test as he was never able to get one done before due to lack of awareness. Upon his request, a Maitri Outreach Worker took Manish to the nearby Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) to get him tested.


Unfortunately, test results found that Manish had contracted HIV. On hearing this, Manish was overwhelmed with depression, losing all hope. He knew his situation was dire and required immediate intervention. Maitri conducted follow-up care for Manish and referred him for post-test counselling at Maitri’s ICTC after which Manish’s mental Health greatly improved. Manish was also able to get registered at an Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) Centre for further care. Upon registration, Manish underwent the vital processes of CD4 counting, X-Rays, and ultra-sounds.


It took only 15 days since Manish’ diagnosis for him to begin treatment at the ART Centre. With the proper medication and Health Care, Manish is now leading a healthy life.


With gratitude in his heart for access to care and treatment, Manish is confident and determined to lead a “normal” life.


Meet-GunjanMeet Gunjan – From unskilled and unemployed to now serving customers in a busy cafe

Until around half a year ago, Gunjan, a 19 years old girl living in the slum area of R.K. Puram in the South of Delhi, has been pursuing her bachelor’s degree with no real prospect of a stable future. A programme made possible through the help of Maitri in close collaboration with Teach India, an initiative by the Times Group, brought new possibilities that could change her life for good.


Seven months ago, Gunjan enrolled in the English-speaking programme. Over a period of three months, among other teenage girls and young women who finished their basic education, she took part in many intense trainings and classes that provided a sound knowledge and skill of the English language that is compulsory for many potential jobs.


After the successful completion of this programme and with the remarkable support of Teach India she was able to find a decent job within a very short period of time. Even though her family was not entirely convinced that working would be the right way to go for her, she decided to make this step. For four months now, she’s been working in a café where most of the customers demand English-speaking personnel. As an additional challenge, there are frequent situations where she is the only staff member in the entire café, meaning she has to take of every task along the process of serving the customers.


Due to her fast learning curve and the strong support of her boss, Gunjan was able to advance from the role of a team member to the merchandiser. She even plans to continue working harder in order to become a brew master, which would be the next level. From her salary, which is mainly completely dedicated to increase her family’s income, she delightfully purchased a new phone and a few nice dresses.


Beside a fixed salary and many personal growths, Gunjan now enjoys an increased self-confidence, one of the most important developments within that period in time. Without the intense programme and the support of so many different people being involved, she hardly could’ve achieved. She wants to keep this development going and continue her education by completing her bachelor’s degree. All in all, she is so grateful for everything that was provided to her, ‘I’m happy now’, she sums up.


Shanana, Age 19

Rising Above

Shahana comes from a large family of 11 children where her father does not support education for women. She found it difficult to pursue her education, and many times wondered if she should give up. Even though she didn’t have her father’s support, her mother encouraged her to come to Maitrigram classes. Shahana is very motivated to succeed and to learn, and attended class regularly while studying hard. She passed the first level at Maitrigram after only seven months and has already enrolled in the second level of classes. “Even if I do not have support from my family to find work in the future, I am happy that I have at least gained the skills to help stitch my family’s clothing”, she says.


Despite the disapproval Shahana receives from her father, she continues to feed her aspirations and her education. She understands the importance of studying and working hard, and continues to persevere and achieve.


Rekha, Age 19

Dreaming Above and Beyond

Rekha comes from an impoverished family in the Nehru Ekta Camp slum in New Delhi, where she lives together with her parents, three sisters, and one brother. Since her father works all day as a driver and her mother is unwell, Rekha shoulders most of the household responsibilities. The constant pressure to run the household while taking care of her mother and siblings has made it difficult to pursue her education. Rekha is determined to study, succeed, and become financially independent. But these things are difficult to achieve without the proper support. Her drive to learn and grow brought her to Maitrigram, where she has been taking sewing lessons for the past five months, while taking non-regular college courses. She is learning practical skills to expand her economic options and continuing her education as well. Rekha is proud of the basic skills she has gained at Maitrigram and is excited to learn to sew more intricate things like Women’s suits. Rekha appreciates being able to sew clothes for her family and dreams of opening her own tailoring boutique in the future.


Rekha has a lot of responsibility having to look after her siblings and mother, which is a task that is both time-consuming and requires a lot of energy. With these kinds of obligations, it is difficult to pursue one’s own ambitions. Rekha works hard to fulfil her family duties, while also learning new skills that can benefit her economically as well as give her more opportunities.



Working towards a brighter future

Dipti is 11 years old and in class six at the Government S.V. R.K. Puram Public School in New Delhi, India. Her father is a private service man and her mother, a housewife.


Due to the low wages that Dipti’s father earns she is unable to receive the supportive education she needs and is a first generation learner with no coaching available at home.


Dipti has been attending Maitri’s Tutorial Centre for the past six months and aspires to be a doctor someday. Her hobbies include singing, drawing, and studying. She looks forward to coming to Maitri each day for help with her school work and especially likes the Nutrifit snack she regularly receives. Since coming to the Tutorial Centre, Dipti has improved in her English, Math, and Hindi skills.


Dipti’s life is one that is all too common among many underprivileged young girls in India. Despite it or perhaps because of it she anticipates striving hard to fulfil her dreams.


Mahima Majhi, Age 11

A Space for Learning

“I study in the 6th class and have been a part of Maitri for four years. I have a younger brother and two older sisters. My father works as a security guard and my mother as a cook in nearby places. I feel that Maitri has given me the self-confidence and the skills to speak in front of people. I learned this from taking part in some cultural activities. I used to get very nervous but the teachers at Maitri have helped me a lot. The teachers also helped me improve my reading skills and tackle subjects that I find difficult in school. It’s nice because at my school the teacher does not have time to help all the students. I’m lucky that Maitri provides me with an environment to study because I don’t have that at home because our house is very full and active, and my parents both work a lot. Someday, I want to become a doctor. I know that it will be difficult but because of my hard work, I know I can do it!”


With a busy family life and an overcrowded school, it can be difficult for a student to devote the proper time and attention to schoolwork. Without the proper influence and encouragement in these situations it is easy to fall behind or even give up all together. Mahima utilizes the services offered by Maitri to get the extra help with her schoolwork to give her the chance to succeed.


Jamuna Dassi, Age 70

A Shameful Existence

“I was barely 7 years old when I was made to marry a man who was 15 years older than me; he died only a few years after we were married. As a child Widow, I returned to my parental home and lived with my mother for 13 years. I was so young and was already a shame to myself and my family. I felt humiliated living there with a shaven head and was oftencompelled to beg for my food. To flee away from this indignity I left Bengal and moved to RadhaKund, Mathura to be among other Widows. Finally, I was away from the disgrace I felt from my family and community and found others like me and felt some purpose in life. I believe that by being in the service of Krishna, I will cleanse my past karma and be reborn with a better fate. In RadhaKund I begged for money for 40 years and I worked as a domestic help which was no less humiliating for me. I have no other choice. I appreciate Maitri, which has given me and other Widows respect and dignity. I am so grateful that I do not have to spend my last years as a beggar and can die in peace.”


A tragic story of the immense shame many widows encounter from their families and communities, and Jamuna was only a child when she became a widow. Suddenly faced with great stigma and humiliation from those around her, she left to find a place where she could regain some of her dignity in religious service. Unfortunately, the compensation for religious service is menial, and cannot completely support any livelihood.


Lakshmi Upadhaya, 50 Years

From Tragedy to Violence

“My parents married me off when I was very young and had my first child at age 15. My husband was a daily wage laborer and an alcoholic. Our family was very poor and my husband died early. After my sons got married, they and their families did not treat me well and I was often left to starve. I suffered many indignities because of my situation, most of which were by my very own family. When they started beating me, I left my home because I could not bear the dishonor shown towards me by my own sons and my daughter-in-laws. Family is supposed to help and support one another, but my family saw me as a grave burden. I came to Vrindavan 4 years ago and have stayed in dilapidated hovels ever since. To survive, I worked as a domestic help and am forced to beg at times for food. I do not have my family’s contact details and do not want to be in touch with them after how they treated me when I needed them most.”


Lakshmi’s testimony shows how family can become disdainful and even violent towards widows after their husbands’ passing. Rather than help the widow through this life-changing event, often the family treats the widow as a burden. Unfortunately this attitude can lead to violence and abuse, and cuts off a widow from her once close family. For Lakshmi, she fled and cut ties with her abusive family, and has to support herself.



DhanwantiDhanwanti – at last she found her happiness

Dhanwanti was a brideat fifteen and a widow at eighteen years of age. After three years of their marriage, her husband succumbed to malaria leaving behind Dhanwanti and their two- year-old daughter and four-month-old son.


Illiterate and unskilled, Dhanwanti was economically dependent on her husband. After her husband’s death, she had no other choice but to return to her parents along with her two children.

Dhanwanti’s life revolved around raising her two children. Her only goal in life was to see her children married and settled. She placed their happiness above her own. Her family was very accommodating and supported Dhanwanti in every possible way.


Finally, when her children came of age, Dhanwantimanaged to choose suitable partners for them and funded both the weddings. Once her children had left the nest, she found herself lonely and purposeless.


Fifteen years back, she decided to come to Vrindavan and devote rest of her life in pursuit of spirituality and peace. In Vrindavan, she rented a small room for a minimal amount and spent most of her time visiting temples in Vrindavan and singing devotional songs.


However, as years passed by the room rent kept increasing beyond her means. Thankfully, in 2013, Maitri India welcomed her to MaitriGhar , a home for elderly and widow women. “This is a home for me where I can rest, keep my belongings safely, avail facilities like clean bedcovers, fan, filter water, hot water, clean bathroom etc. which otherwise I couldn’t afford.


Dhanwanti and hundred other widows living in the home also are provided with nutritious mid-day-meal, cotton sarees, and regular health check up.


Today, at the age of sixty-five, Dhanwantifinally lives for her own happiness. She chooses to live in Varindavan as she draws immense joy and happiness in visiting temples and singing bhajans (devotional songs). MaitriGhar has made it possible for her to continue to enjoy her stay in Varindavanand live comfortably, for which she is very grateful.


Parvathi Rani, 78 Years

Becoming a Burden

“I was married at the tender age of 11. My husband was an alcoholic, a gambler and a womanizer. He did not support us financially. Life was very difficult with him, but was bad without him as well. When my husband died, he left me with the responsibility of taking care of our children. When my son got married, he and my daughter-in-law treated me with utmost disrespect, beat me, and gave me no food. I feared for my life. Hence, with great difficulty I left to find somewhere where I could find safety.” – Parvathi Rana, 78 years old


As her life unraveled, Parvathi continued to care for her children after her husband’s death, but once they found spouses of their own, she had outlived her usefulness in their eyes and had become a burden. The fear of violence by one’s own children, even after having raised them and cared for them, becomes a tragic reality for many widows.



MayaMaya, a young mother of two had to face the humiliation of her husband re-marrying someone else after eight years of their marriage.


Maya’s parents had married her off when she was barely in her teens. She never went to school and never learnt any skills that could help her become self-reliant. She was completely dependent on her husband who was a farmer. She helped her husband in farming.


After her husband re-married, he forced Maya and her children to leave the house. Maya, having no other choice, sought help from her paternal family. With the help of relatives and hard work, Maya raised her two children and eventually got them married.


“After my children got married, I felt I have fulfilled my duties as a mother”, she says.


Often in Indian culture, once daughters are married, it is considered disgraceful for parents to live with their daughter’s family. Maya was certain she didn’t want to face any more social humiliation than what she has already suffered. So she decided to come to RadhaKund in 2013.


RadhaKundis a small town in Uttar Pradesh state of India well known for its religious relevance and countless temples. Individuals distressed and dissatisfied with their lives often come here as pilgrims in pursuit of spirituality. A large number, 15,000 of them are widows, most of them disowned and abandoned by their family live in pathetic and pitiable living conditions in Varindavan and RadhaKund.


Similar fate waited Maya whens she arrived in RadhaKund. But having no other choice she stayed back and lived on generosity of the temple goers and earned less than a dollar per day from singing devotional songs in temples.


Thanks to Maitri India, sixty five-year-old Maya doesn’t have to live in a sub standard living conditions anymore. She is warmly welcomed to MaitriGhar, a home for elderly women and widows. Here, she is respected not humiliated, cared for not turned away, safe not vulnerable and valued not shamed.


“ I am happy I have a comfortable place to live and people who care for me as their own. I also have friends in other women. Sometimes, after mid-day-meal we sit under cool breeze of fan and hear each other’s stories, some of them hilarious ones”, she laughs.


The commendable strength of Shakti Dassi

Sixty-year-old Shakti Dassi, an abandoned widow took refuge in RadhaKund, a small town well known as a holy place in Uttar Pradesh, India, about fourteen years ago. Having no other choice she survived by begging in and around the temples ofRadhaKund, until Maitri India came to her rescue.


Shakti, meaning strength, is a jovial soul who has endured much humiliation, derision, and physical and verbal abuse with extraordinary grace and courage. The fact that she has lived through last one decade without any care or support from her family members speaks much about the determination and grit she posses.


Life of a destitute surely was not what she had hoped for her greying years. However, after her husband became ill and passed away, her two sons and daughters, all married by then, went on to live separately. Shakti had hoped that her children would take good care of her instead they made her feel ‘unnecessary inconvenience’ and ‘a burden’.


Her brief stay with her youngest son and daughter-in-law was emotionally very painful for Shakti. “I was treated less than human and not given food sometimes”, she says. One day, when she entered kitchen to cook for herself her daughter-in-law became furious and slapped her.


She didn’t have any support in her son as well as he would always find a reason to rebuke and abuse her. At times, he would come home drunk and physically assault Shakti. One day, he hit her so badly that her head started bleeding. “That day, I decided to break away from my children”, she says.


Dejected that the children she gave birth to and raised with such difficulty had completely abandoned her, she decided to move to RadhaKund.


In Radhkund, she rented a bedin Dharmshala, a cheap and unhygienic motel room that often accommodates multiple beds in a large hall, and begged all day to raise enough money to pay towards her rent and food. “At first, I felt very sad and ashamed to beg but I didn’t have a choice”, she says. Begging wasn’t easy and enough, some days she had to go hungry.


Three years back, Maitri India’s project Jeevan reached out to Shakti. The project provided her with nutritious mid-day-meals everyday along with hundreds of other abandoned widows of RadhaKund. Shakti received regular health check ups, treatment and essential items such as soap, shampoo, blanket and saree etc.


In May 2015, Maitri India inaugurated MaitriGhar, a safe home for abandoned widows in RadhaKund where about sixty abandoned widows like Shakti have come to live. Ever since Shakti moved in to MaitriGhar, she is much healthier and happier. She busies herself in connecting to other widows, singing hymns and visiting temple for daily devotion.


“I am so grateful for free and clean accommodation in MaitriGhar”, she adds, “ and I am happy I don’t have to beg anymore”.




Chhachi was married at fifteen to a married man who was thrice her age. Her husband’s first wife was not able to bear children, for that reason he had married the second time. Chhachi had to face massive pressure from her husband and her relatives to bear children.


Year after year, Chhachi failed to get pregnant. And gradually, the pressure to have children died down. In 2007, her husband passed away due to old age. After her husband’s death, Chhachi didn’t have anyone to turn to for support.


She then decided to live in an Ashram in Varindavan, a city known for temples and religious relevance in Uttar Pradesh, India. She used to run errands for the Ashram and get food and shelter. As she progressed in age, she found even the simplestof task very daunting.


Thanks to Maitri India’s MaitriGhar, a home for elderly and widow women, Chhachi stopped working in the Ashram and came to live in MaitriGhar.


Seventy seven-year-old Chhachi is happy to live in a comfortable home where she no longer has to run errands for food and shelter. She is provided with essential facilities and nutritious mid-day-meals.


It is natural for elderly widows living in MaitriGhar to have health issues and complains. MaitriGhar networks with local hospital and doctors to provide routine tests and treatment to the widow mothers. So far Chhachi has been in good health.


In Maitri India, we are very grateful to all our supporters who enable us to house and care for hundred destitute and elderly widows [link to donation page for this project] like Chhachi in MaitriGhar.


Savitra Dassi

Enduring Heights

Savitra Dassi has weathered the pressures of life especially after the death of her husband. Though she has three daughters and one son, she has been living in RadhaKund for the last 30 years due to the humiliation, abuse and terror she faced at the hands of her son. She could not even live with her daughters because of the Indian patriarchal and cultural belief that a married woman may not support her parents financially. Despite this reality, Savitra does try to visit her daughters occasionally.


Hungry and destitute, Savitra’s faith in Krishna brought her to RadhaKund where she believes that if she prays devotedly to him here she will not be born with the same unfortunate fate in her next birth.


Now Savitra lives under the shelter of Maitri where she is regularly provided with a mid-day meal, nutritional supplements and other basic necessities. Since coming to her aid, Savitra’s physical and mental health has drastically improved.


Left alone to fend for herself, Savitra gingerly navigates life alone in Radhakund with the sustainable support from Maitri to make ends meet and stay afloat.


Kalli Kunda

Surrounded by people who loveand care

Seventy seven-year-old KalliKundacherished her husband’s companionship from the age of fourteen as she was married at a very young age. But after her husband’s death about seventeen years ago, Kallifelt very lonely and dejected. Abandoned by her own children, she wandered the streets of Radhakund living on whatever she gathered from begging each day.


Kalli’s husband used to work at a shop that made brass utensils and earned a meager income. They had three sons and one daughter. Since their family was extremely impoverished, her teenaged sons began working as daily wagers in a hotel to support the family. The family barely made ends meet.


Things turned bad to worse for Kalli after her husband passed away. Her sons didn’t give her food to eat and many times, she was forced to beg for food from the neighbors. With nobody willing to support her or take care of her, she came to RadhaKundand has been here for about twelve years. RadhaKund is a small town in Uttar Pradesh, India known as a holy place where widows come in pursuit of spirituality and peace.


In RadhaKund, life was still a struggle and far from being peaceful. She rented a small room with no electricity and lived on the generosity of the temple goers.


Maitri India first noticed the plight of widows in RadhaKund and Vrindavan in 2010. Since then, Maitri India has reached out to thousands of widows with basic necessities like nutritious ready-to-eat meals, blankets, soaps and medical aids.


For last few months, KalliKundahas been coming for the mid-day-meals provided by MaitriGhar, a safe home for abandoned widows in Radhakund. Maitri team also provides her regular health check ups and essential items like soap, shampoo, blankets and sarees.


At first, Kalli spoke very softly and interacted very little with the project team or other widows in MaitriGhar but after some time she opened up to the team and shared her needs with them. On her request, the project decided to provide her one-liter milk everyday, which she fetches everyday when she comes for mid-day-meal. Now she loves to stay back after lunch, chat a bit with other widows, and take a little nap in MaitriGhar before heading to her rented room.


“Thanks to Maitri, atleast I get one square meal everyday and do not have to go hungry”, she says.


Maitri India is working towards expanding the facility of MaitriGhar toaccommodate more destitute women. When the project staff assured her a place in MaitriGhar after the expansion work is complete she smiled and said, “Yes, I would love to come and live here”.


Now, Kalli doesn’t feel lonely as she has friends in other widows and she can always turn to Maitri India team whenever in need without feeling obligated. In MaitriGhar, she is surrounded by the warmth of family and friends. Though she speaks very little, her ease and comfort in being in MaitriGhar shows the freedom and acceptance she has experienced in MaitriGhar.



Harsh, Age 10, son of Mr. and Mrs. Balvinder (Both of them succumbed to HIV) was first tested positive for HIV at the Delhi Cantonment Hospital, (Maitri’s ICTC Centre) New Delhi on the 4th of September 2014. On the same day, he was taken to Aids Health Care Foundation where a confirmation test was done. The test confirmed that he was HIV positive after which the child’s CD4 count was taken (777). Soon after he was given his first Anti Retroviral Treatment redness and rashes were seen on the boy’s body, and were assumed to be a normal reaction to the medicine given. How ever, within the next few days, the patient had adverse effects including emaciation and flared ulcers both internally and externally.

On 17th of September 2014, the treatment still did not show any positive effect and the child’s health deteriorated with pus filled ulcers. The child was then taken back to the Aids Health Care Foundation on the 18th of September 2014 when they changed the medication given to the boy. On the 19th of September no change in symptoms was seen and the child remained in a critical condition. On the19th of September 2014, upon request of the boy’s aunt, Maitri intervened and admitted the child in Lott Carry Care Home in Tilak Nagar. The child was admitted there on the 19th of September 2014 and was treated for a period of three weeks during which Maitri provided financial aid for the child’s treatment and maintained a daily follow up on his progress. On 22nd September 2014 the child started showing minor improvement as his eyes partially opened and gradually showed increased progress in his overall health condition. Harsh was was discharged from Lott Carry Care Home on the 3rd October 2014 and will be receiving necessary continued treated along with a monthly ration allowance by the Lott Carry Care Home, indefinitely.

Ram Kumar

Devastating Diagnosis

“Ram Kumar (name changed) is a frail 30 year old salesman who came to live in Delhi about twenty years ago. After a prolonged bout of swine flu, he experienced problems with fluid in his lungs. Some of his symptoms were alarming, and concerned medical professionals as well as his family. He was referred to Maitri’s ICTC for HIV testing by his doctor. Here, Kumar was administered a free HIV test, and some information on HIV, AIDS, and other sexually transmitted infections. His test results came back definitive and he was found to be HIV positive. Medical staff immediately suggested his family be tested, and Kumar’s wife was also found to be HIV positive. This discovery was devastating for the already impoverished couple, who are responsible for the care of their son and Kumar’s younger siblings. They do not have access to many resources and were unaware of the prevalence of HIV as well as preventative measures against it. After receiving further confirmation of Kumar’s HIV test, he began receiving Anti-Retroviral Treatment for his condition. Maitri conducts regular follow ups and is happy to report that Kumar’s condition has improved.” – The ICTC Team

Unfortunately Ram’s situation is not completely uncommon. With a lack of information dissemination and resources in poorer regions, HIV/AIDS and other STIs continue to be a problem among impoverished persons who cannot afford treatment. Regular testing and health checks are needed so that people are aware of the dangers and risks of HIV/AIDS before it is too late.


Difficult Decisions

Rajesh (name has been changed) is 25 years old and works in the Indian Army. He got married two years ago to Hema (name has been changed). Due to an unfavorable health condition that his wife had they both underwent an HIV test. The test results showed that Hema was HIV positive. Mr. Rajesh’ status was found to be negative. During counseling sessions, she revealed that she was raped by her uncle before she got married and was sure that she must have been infected with the HIV virus through her uncle. Mr. Rajesh does not want to leave her or get divorced; however, due to family pressure he prepared himself for a second marriage in order to have a child. This however was not possible because as per the Indian Army guidelines, he cannot be allowed a second marriage unless he divorces his first wife. Mr Rajesh was now looking for psycho-social support and counseling to help fix the situation. Maitri understood his challenge and provided him the support and counseling he desired. Ultimately, Maitri was able to facilitate their access to an expert team of doctors with whom they would receive proper guidance, treatment, and observation while Rajesh and Hema attempted to have children. This way the risk of transferring HIV to the baby during delivery would be minimized.

Becoming HIV positive is not only a life-changing event, but can severely limit one’s activities and choices. Without the proper resources and access, choices become even more limited. Mr. and Mrs. Rajesh were able to receive the proper information and counseling to help them make some very difficult decisions, rather than having to make an uninformed and possibly dangerous decision.

Saying no to Violence and Abuse

Pooja suffered abuse and violence at the hands of her husband and his family. Her fault: giving birth to a girl child. Her husband wanted a son. Fearing for the life of the girl child, Pooja’s parents came and took the child with them.

Three years later she gave birth to a boy. She hoped this would appease her husband. However, her husband now had a new reason to abuse her. He started demanding for dowry. Five years into marriage, Pooja was completely controlled by her husband. At his whims and fancy, he would drop Pooja and children at her parents and would not take them home for months.

While Pooja lived with her parents she came in contact with Maitri’s community project and joined the women’s group (Mahila Panchayat). This helped her come out of the isolation and interact with other women. She then opened up about her situation. When her husband came to pick her up again, Maitri stood with Pooja and got written consent from him and his family declaring that they will be responsible if any harm is caused to her. However, after some months of returning to with her husband he again turned violent and Pooja fled to her parent’s house.

Maitri helped her approach the Delhi Commission for Women. Pooja and her husband were counseled and her husband was given clear warning about violence and reminded of his responsibility as a husband and a father. This was a turning point for Pooja. Recently, Maitri did another follow up call with Pooja and found that she is doing well. Her husband has stopped being violent. He has even got a job and is able to take care of his family. All this was possible because Pooja was empowered and supported to say no to violence.


Dangerous Realization

“I grew up in an abusive household, and because of this I didn’t know what a normal relationship looked like. At 19, I thought that I had finally escaped my abusive past and met my Prince Charming. The first month seemed okay. It appeared to me that I was living in a bubble of happiness and I genuinely thought that he was a good person. Looking back now, I can see that there were warning signs as there were a few instances where he was short tempered & controlling. However I shook those off because of the high regard my friends had for him.

A few months into our marriage, things turned to violence. There was never an apology or any recognition of the abuse. We both just walked around as though it had never happened. Even worse, he always threatened me if I ever tried to talk to my friends or family about what I was going through. Over the years, abusive incidents that were emotional, physical and sexual in nature began to occur with greater frequency. Also, he did not allow me to continue my education or seek employment outside home. I found the entire experience incredibly dehumanizing.

The greatest blessing was being able to finally access my passport without his knowledge. This gave me the opportunity to escape after 6 years of waiting. I was finally free and reached out to Maitri for counseling & legal support. Since then I have rebuilt my life and I am proud of how far I have come and what I have achieved.

Domestic violence is a dangerous and complicated issue, and for this survivor was an everyday reality. It can be difficult to find support or even just talk about. This survivor was eventually able to flee and find the resources and support necessary to help rebuild one’s life after such a traumatizing experience.


Fighting the odds

Rekha (Name changed) met Sanjeev in May 2011 through a common friend. Later that year, Sanjeev asked for her hand in marriage.

Rekha got married to Sanjeev in April 2012. One year later, she gave birth to a baby boy. To this day she still remembers when she discovered that her husband had suddenly taken their child and hid him somewhere. Petrified by this sudden turn of events she made several desperate attempts to find her baby and even reach out to her husband’s family in hope of some reconciliation. Unfortunately, her husband had no intention to make amends and neither did his family make any efforts to contact her.

Rekha was overwhelmed with fear that her husband, who was a heavy drinker along with his sister may have caused great harm to the new born baby. On having such apprehensions Rekha reached out to police officials to investigate the matter on several occasions and other authorities to seek immediate help. To her dismay, she received relief from nowhere.

After failed attempts with the police, under the guidance of Maitri, Rekha filed a petition under Section 12 of the Protection of The Women From Domestic Violence Act 2005 in the District court for custody of an infant child (60 Days Old) who has been forcefully separated from the Mother. Since her husband and his family did not appear in court she was able to then file a writ petition (formal written order petition) before the Hon’ble Delhi High Court. The Court passed the order in favour of Rekha through which she gained custody of her baby. An order was also passed to file a case against all the accused persons; however the police did not take any due course of action.
The victory of Rekha represents a triumph for all mothers in such dire situations. Despite stark opposition from her husband and his family, she stood her ground with the help of her family and fought all odds to be reunited her newborn child.


Home is where the hurt is

Shweta got married on the 13th of March 2013. Contrary to traditional Indian culture, she singlehandedly bore all the wedding expenses. Before the wedding, Shweta and her family were given the impression by her husband and his family that he was a professional engineer, earning high wages each month. It was only later that Shweta came to know that her husband did not even pass the 10th grade and was working in a small company, earning a meager amount. At the time of the wedding Shweta had a fixed deposit of Rs. 50,000/- in her name. One week into the marriage, her husband and his family forced her to break the amount. When she refused, they threaten to throw her out the house. Shweta never imagined that her husband and his family would trap her in vicious cycle of mental torture and violence for her money. As the greed and abuse escalated she reached out to her parents for help. In spite of hearing this, Shweta’s parents did not come to her aid and asked her to try to settle the matter by herself. They clearly expressed that they did not want to get involved in the matter and that if she came back to her parental home they would not allow her in.

Few months on, still trying to heal her broken spirit, her husband threatened her by saying that if she would not satisfy him sexually every day he would resort to having extra marital relationships with other women. Each time she would refuse to give in to his needs, he would physically assault her. Shweta endured the abuse and often tried to reason with her husband peacefully. In response, he would shout, throw things and tear her clothes so violently that she strongly believed her life was in danger.

In November 2013, Shweta’s husband and his family threw her out of her matrimonial home. Following this event Shweta approached Maitri for legal guidance and was able to file a petition under Section 12 of the Protection of The Women from Domestic Violence Act 2005, in the District court for a protection order. The Hon’ble Court passed the order in favour of Shweta and granted her protection.

Shweta’s experience tells a story of rejection and cruelty in the face of abuse but, above all, of human resilience to push through despite the odds.