A young eight-year-old Ashweetha Shetty found her first student in her mother when she helped her mother to simply write her name. She says it was the first time that she felt useful for this world.
The divide between urban and rural areas is not just a demarcation for maps. If you look closely, you will see a huge gorge running between them and Ashweetha Shetty managed to climb out of that gorge.
Her family rolls beedis for a living and she chose education to live. She grew up in a small district in Tamil Nadu-Tirunelveli. She found her first companion in a book, was an autobiography on Hellen Keller and found her first success in a gold medal for her Bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. But these are just the pillars that Shetty had built and achieved for what was to come ahead in her future.
She managed to win the Young Indian Fellowship during the final year of her graduation. She knew about the struggles of living in a rural area, not having financial support, and the colossal amount of courage required to even think about taking up an opportunity as a girl.
She jokingly says that she applied for a fellowship program that was 1600 km away from her village just to avoid getting married. Camouflaging a grim reality of a girl’s life with her humour.
She moved to Delhi and was introduced to a completely alien setting. This fellowship was a once in a lifetime opportunity and Ashweetha was well aware of that fact. And so begins her journey of transformation, her conquering of societal barriers and her staying sane when she is faced with random questions like – How can a person like you speak in English?
She completed her fellowship and landed a job at Sughavazhu Healthcare as a content developer. This looks like a happy ending of her story but it’s not- as Ashweetha was nowhere done achieving her dreams. She quit her job and went back to her village to sow the seeds of her organization: The Bodhi Tree Foundation
Bodhi Tree is a Non Profit and a brainchild of Ashweetha and her friends. She founded it with the basic purpose of supporting rural students. She wanted to give back what she was fortunate enough to receive – opportunities.
They conduct workshops and training programs for students to guide them in the right direction and help them to achieve their dreams. Ashweetha dived back in the gorge to help students like her so that their dreams are not buried in beedis and poverty.
She is currently working towards fundraising for her organization to empower the rural youth and make them self sufficient. Ashweetha says that she never wants to remain an exception and she never will because she is an example – an example of a girl under the Bodhi tree.