oversees four shelters. The first was the Calcutta Creche and Night Shelter. A second shelter was established to work with the untouchables, members of the lowest caste, to help the mothers supplement their income through education and training and to provide health care. The third shelter is for girls ages five to 18 and enables them to go to school and learn computer skills and creative arts; the fourth shelter, for girls 18 to 23 years old, prepares them to be productive and independent women who are able to support themselves. According to New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, “India is the center of the 21st-century slave trade. This country almost certainly has the largest number of human-trafficking victims in the world today.” Globally as many as 1.2 million children are trafficked annually, according to UNICEF. Basu recently received the “Making a Difference” award for her groundbreaking work from Children’s Hope India at a ceremony in New York City. The speaker noted that Mother Teresa’s work in Calcutta has been an inspiration for her. She met Mother Teresa twice while working at a shelter and at a prayer meeting and was awed by her compassion for people. In 2009, Basu’s work was recognized by the Dalai Lama. In the next decade, the activist hopes to set up an HIV/AIDS hospital and a home for boys to detract them from a life of drug dealing and running prostitutes. PBS plans to air a documentary in November that will highlight New Light’s work.
Urmi Basu with students Anna Soukenik ’12,, Ju ulia Tvardovskaya ’12, Sarah Spech ’12, Katie Wiino ovicch ’13, Jacqueline Schmidt ’13, Jacqueline Sutton-N Nicholson ’12, Tim Barry ’12, Nathaniel Klein ’12 and Randy Keller ’12
Ashton Conwell ’15 and Madeline Miller ’16
FESTIVAL OF LIGHT M
iddle and Upper School students at Gilmour Academy held a Diwali Festival of Light in the fall to benefit the New Light Shelters. They learned to wrap a sari and had henna dye applied to their skin. For a week, they were steeped in India’s culture, exploring dances, creating an Indian art project and learning a Hindu prayer. The proceeds from the week’s activities were given to New Light, which offers shelter, educational opportunities and healthcare for women and children in India who have been exploited. The students selected New Light after hearing executive director and founder Urmi Basu speak to the Gilmour faculty and students about her work in Calcutta. Diwali, one of the most celebrated festivals in India, honors Lord Rama. When the king returned to his people after defeating an evil foe, they lit lamps and burst firecrackers to ward off evil spirits and shared sweets and gifts with family and friends.
Published on Jun 28, 2012