Tannu, a bright and engaging 17-year old participant in the Wrigley Youth.Empowerment.Success (Y.E.S) program at Don Bosco in Chandigarh, India, stands out wherever she is—in a group, in the classroom, or on the athletic field. So it is surprising to learn about the many hardships she and her family have struggled to overcome over the years.
Because her parents came from very different backgrounds—her father was a Hindu from Nepal, her mother a Christian from a tribal area in eastern India—they defied convention and married outside of India’s arranged marriage system. As a result, they became social outcasts, living in poverty while Tannu was growing up. At one point, unable to find a job or get a loan, Tannu’s father sold his most prized possession, his watch, so that there was enough to eat and his children could go to school. Despite their illiteracy, Tannu remembers with emotion how much her parents emphasized their children’s education. “I owe everything to my parents. Despite their difficulties, they have made everything possible for me and my sister and brother and I will not forget this.”
Despite the fact that she gained her early education in a Hindi school—considered of lower quality in terms of instruction—she has excelled at her current public school. Last year, she was the top scoring 10th grader in the entire city of Chandigarh. In addition to her outstanding school work, she works in a catering business, enjoys dancing and singing, and plays team handball at the highest level. Recently her handball team came in third in the All-India Championships.
As successful as she continues to be, Tannu still confronts barriers in her life. Today, she’s getting some help in addressing those challenges, thanks to the Wrigley Y.E.S. program. Because of her Hindi school background, she has not had the opportunity to learn English with sufficient proficiency to continue her successful academic career or do well in the job market. Also, due to her family’s lack of resources, she has not been exposed to computers—another critical set of skills for getting ahead in school and the employment world.
While there are commercial schools in Chandigarh to learn English and IT skills, the cost is too high for Tannu’s parents, who still work as domestic workers. It is not only a matter of cost. Tannu says the Wrigley program courses in IT and English at Don Bosco are known to be of higher quality and use more effective methods than most of the commercial courses available. She wanted the best training she could find, and she got it.
When considering her future, Tannu talks about completing her schooling and getting a job where she can make a difference in people’s lives. But her real dream is to design her own house. “I want a place that is truly mine. When it is finished, my whole family will live there, and we will have the place we deserve.”