Surekha Balkrishna Shetage -- Habitat for Humanity Int'l 1

Surekha Balkrishna Shetage

Surekha Balkrishna Shetage, her sister Narmada Balkrishna Shetage and her 18-year-old nephew Sunny Vilas Shetage are a tight-knit, supportive family. They would like to have the security of a home of their own.

They currently live with two of Surekha’s brothers and their families in a home where they feel like outsiders. Surekha, Narmada and Sunny cook and eat in a shed behind the house. They sleep in the room belonging to Surekha’s absent elder brother, Sunny’s father.

Surekha runs a government-sponsored kindergarten and health care program for children and expectant mothers. Her sister Narmada has a vegetable stall near the Malvali train station. Sunny helps his aunt with the vegetable business when he is on school holidays. He hopes to continue his education beyond the 12th standard. He has lived with his aunts since he was very young. Sunny’s parents and two brothers live with his mother’s family.

At the one-room Boraj village kindergarten, 30 barefoot children ages 3 to 6 years old sit cross-legged on the floor on top of long parallel floor cloths. They spring to their feet when Surekha calls them to order in Marathi, the native language of the state of Maharashtra. “Good morning, children,” she says. Thirty piping voices answer, “Good morning, Madam.”

Counting games, songs with hand motions and story time keep the eager youngsters busy. Surekha has one assistant, but mothers and fathers drop by to visit and take part in the activities.

Surekha’s self-help group has recently started cooking and serving two meals a day at the kindergarten. It is a money-making venture for the group; the government furnishes the ingredients for meals and pays 18 paise* for each child served. Meals are delivered to the home when children are absent. Surekha keeps growth records of young children in the village. She provides nutrition training and food supplements for pregnant women and babies and dispenses medicine for children’s common illnesses.

As part of her job, Surekha makes five home visits a day, checking into the health and home environment of her students. Though she has no children of her own, her life is devoted to the next generation.

*100 paise equal one rupee