Renita Zaparde visited India with her family in the winter of 2012. She traveled through rural villages, and in one, met a small group of school girls walking by. That’s when Renita met Kusum: a 13-year-old orphan who walked three miles to school every day. Kusum lost her father when she was six; unable to pay his farm debt, her father had committed suicide. Two years later, her mother became severely ill and passed away due to lack of medical care. On the day her mother died, Kusum knew she was going to be a nurse—come hell or high water.
Kusum moved to her grandmother’s home in a neighboring village. She helped her grandmother cook, wash clothes, and fetch water from the village well. After walking over six miles everyday under the scorching sun, Kusum barely had any time or energy to complete her homework. Many times, Kusum was on the brink of relinquishing her education—and her dream.
Renita knew she had to act. She had to help Kusum. After returning to New Jersey, Renita fundraised at her school, and on her next visit to India, gave Kusum a bicycle. Now, Kusum has more time to complete her schoolwork and focus on her education.
Renita realized that there were many girls like Kusum that she could help stay in school, and Pedal2Prosperity got rolling!