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India-bound UW Students Will Help 20 Abandoned Girls Enroll in School

December 10, 2009
People looking at a map
University of Wyoming professor Bonnie Zare, seated, points out a map of India to students who will travel there during winter break. Standing, from left, are Thomas Lennon, Wilson; Erin Olsen, Gillette; Danee Hunzie, Kemmerer; Grant Walsh-Haines, Cody; Laura Jean Wespetal, Racine, Wis; Mary Centrella, Cody; and Skylar Kunce, Laramie.

A brighter future is in store for 20 neglected girls in India who will be able to attend school with help from a team of University of Wyoming students who will visit there during winter break.

Students in Professor Bonnie Zare's women's studies course "India: Social Justice in Culture and Practice" have raised funds to support Aarti Home (, a boarding school that helps disadvantaged children. Established in 1992, the home sometimes cannot take in more children due to lack of funds.

Zare says the 80 girls and 20 boys at Aarti Home are not orphans, but their parents have been unable to feed and care for them.

"These children face early marriage, physical labor and exploitation," she says. "They have no opportunity to attend school. Aarti's goal is to educate these neglected kids, build their confidence and thus substantially change their futures."

This fall, the UW students conducted numerous events to achieve their goal to raise $1,500 for the children.

"They were thrilled at the response from Wyoming residents. They have now gathered more than $6,000 -- enough for the school to accept 20 new children," Zare says.

"We were trying to spread the word that it's easier than you think to help the kind of children seen in the film ‘Slumdog Millionaire,'" says participant and ASUW Vice President Danee Hunzie of Kemmerer. "It takes only $1 a day to keep a child in school and away from grinding labor with no potential to advance."

Counselor education student Erin Olsen of Gillette says, "In India less than one half of rural children ages 6-14 attend school. It is so inspiring to know that one person's vision to build a school can make a difference and help poverty-stricken people see the value of educating girls."

While in India, the UW students will attend lectures and visit with non-governmental organizations that are improving equality for women and children and aiding people living with AIDS.

To support the effort, donations (made out to the India Student Association) may be sent Zare at the Women's Studies Program, Ross Hall 100, Department 4297, 1000 E. University Avenue, Laramie, WY, 82071.

UW students who will travel to India, accompanied by Zare and UW alumna Jessica Bryski, are:

Cody -- Grant Walsh-Haines
Gillette -- Erin Olsen
Jackson -- Mary Centrella
Kemmerer -- Danee Hunzie
Laramie -- Skylar Kunce
Racine, Wis. -- Laura Wespetal
Wilson -- Thomas Lennon

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