Marie Avgeropoulos, one of the stars of popular American sci-fi TV series The 100, recently visited Food For Life Vrindavan’s Sandipani Muni School for underprivileged girls. Her visit marked the beginning of the #SheMustCount campaign, an initiative started and supported by the Lubert family and Without Exception Films in Los Angeles.
The campaign aims to raise funds to support the education of a thousand more girls at the three Sandipani Muni Schools in Vrindavan, Lord Krishna’s birthplace. Currently the schools provide free education, healthy meals and medical care for 1,500 girls from kindergarten to twelveth grade, but have a capacity for 3,000.
During her week-long visit, Marie spent her time trying to understand and document the problems underprivileged Brijabasi girls face. Her six-part documentary series on her experience will be released by Without Exception Films through an online campaign this month, and will premier during a series of fundraising events in Los Angeles starting with one hosted by Marie herself on June 15th.
Avgeropoulos was extremely moved by her visit and commented, “My experience in Vrindavan, India, with the FFLV girls was life-changing. I went into this project unsure of what to expect. I was quickly greeted with a very warm welcome by the amazing young girls at the FFLV schools and began an incredible journey and lasting friendships. They inspired me. They live in such a chaotic city, in complete poverty – but even with so many obstacles, they are so positive and thankful.”
Food For Life Vrindavana director Rupa Raghunath Das explains that without education, girls are married off as young as 14, giving birth to stunted and undernourished children, and unable to break the cycle of extreme poverty and suffering that has long gripped their families – many of their parents are sick, lame or dead, while some have committed suicide.
Marie plays tabla with the girls
“The school program is a pathway to transform each and every one of the students into confident, healthy and brilliant young women,” says Marie. “The schools equip them with the tools they need to become educated and therefore independent, and in the process end the cycle of child marriage and have a career.”
According to Rupa Raghunath, the Sandipani Muni Schools follow U.P. Board of Education standards in academics. The students also have kirtan every morning, and spiritual classes about Srila Prabhupada, Krishna conscious philosophy, and how to chant japa. Then there are lessons on martial arts, yoga, Bharatanatyam and Odissi dance, mridanga, harmonium, singing, embroidery and stitching.
Nearly 100 students have graduated in the last four years and gone on to university, after which they will be able to get good, well-paying jobs. Sandipani Muni also provides vocational training for girls who are not as academically disposed so that they can also have careers.
“Many of them have a chance to pull their whole family out of the slums of Vrindavana and the cycle of poverty and desperation,” Rupa Raghunath says.
Marie Avgeropoulos is inspired to make a difference. “Sponsorship is so important to save a girl’s life; for such a small price, it makes a huge impact,” she says. “I will never forget my experience in Vrindavan, and I feel so honoured and privileged to have had this opportunity. I will continue to follow and support the girls and FFLV.”
Oliver Trevena, producer and host of the popular celebrity chat show Young Hollywood, accompanied Marie on her visit and was also greatly impacted. “Going to Vrindavan, India, gave me a whole new sense of self and what is possible in the world,” he said. “The work this charity does and the environment it operates in resonated so much with me and made me feel truly grateful to be able to support and be a part of the work of Food For Life Vrindavan.”
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To book tickets for the screening and fundraiser of #SheMustCount in West Hollywood on June 15th, click here: https://fflvindia.ticketleap.com/shemustcount/
To find out more, follow the campaign #SheMustCount on Twitter @fflvIndia, Instagram – fflvIndia and Marie Avgeropoulos; also on Facebook – Food For Life Vrindavan.[ ffl ] [ ffl-vrindavan ] [ food-distribution ] [ food-for-life-vrindavan ] [ vrindavan ]