The Asmara Scholarship Fund was established by Hope is Life Foundation in memory of a beautiful child named Asmara, who touched the lives of many friends all over the world during the nine days she lived on this earth. She was named after the capital of Eritrea, a country whose people and culture her family loves dearly. An educational scholarship fund seemed to be an appropriate and lasting tribute to what Asmara’s parents represent in their faith and strong commitment to providing education and welfare for needy children.
The Fund is dedicated to providing scholarships for girls around the world, especially orphans who would otherwise not be able to attend school. The scholarships cover the cost of education for an entire academic year, and if necessary, also pay for transportation to school and lunch costs. To remain in the program, a girl must complete the school year with satisfactory grades and attendance.
With the establishment of this fund, Hope is Life promotes the equality of men and women in predominantly patriarchal societies. The education of girls will not only allow for sustainable economies but also elevate the status of women in their communities.
A note from Asmara’s mother, Lidia Rozdilsky:
“My name is Lidia. In 2006, I left the professional world to be a full-time mother and wife because I believe that the biggest contribution I can make to this world is to bring up emotionally and physically healthy children who need my full attention in their early years of development. My husband and I always wanted a bigger family and once our employment situation became stable, I gave birth to our first beautiful daughter Sophia, followed by her vivacious, bright sister Alexandra, both born in Bangkok, Thailand. Early in December of this year, our family was blessed with a third child named Asmara who was born in London, England. We named her after the capital of the State of Eritrea where we live. Asmara was an extremely alert baby, in perfect health, feeding and sleeping well, and filling her mother’s heart with joy every time I looked at her. Sadly, this joy was to be short-lived as Asmara passed away to medically-unknown reasons after living only nine days.
During the first days after my Angel was gone, the pain was physically and emotionally unbearable. I have always been someone who stood in amazement at the achievements of science and medicine, in particular. By the same token, my faith in its ability to resolve problems of physical nature was being tested, yet not shaken. Nevertheless, my understanding of the divine and the ability of the soul to transcend the material world which appears in every religion has sustained me in the hopes that one day I too will raise this daughter which was taken from me so early.
Another source of solace has been the quiet presence of the African women in our lives who have truly known sorrow and pain yet were willing to forget their own tribulations and lend me a shoulder to cry on, continuously and faithfully. But I have to admit it was hard at first to think that I too can turn around and do something for someone else in the midst of so much hurt because often one’s first reaction is to sit with the pain, as if life can go in reverse just for you…because you are somehow more special than the myriads of other people who too lose children. True to that; our human brain is an organizational tool, always looking for a logical reason as of why things happen the way they do and sometimes the inability to find one is even more painful than the occurrence itself.
My husband and I are very passionate about issues pertaining to socio-economic development. During my education, I had spent countless hours analyzing why this project failed or why that project produced the opposite from the desired effect on the people who were supposed to benefit. My humble opinion is that the most successful endeavors have been those which have called for the main participants’ unique skills, taking them slightly aback and pulling them out of their comfort zones and ego boundaries. This is why when Nat Yogachandra of Hope is Life Foundation asked me to lend Asmara’s name to Hope Is Life Foundation‘s latest project which will benefit orphan girls in third world countries, I agreed (albeit hesitantly at first) to help.
It is still hard to talk about Asmara. Yet, while one cannot control destiny, one can control one’s reaction to what is happening and turn the pain into an opportunity for growth. It is a daily struggle, indeed, but one that is worth fighting for the sake of my two living daughters, my husband, and me.
We met Nat on several occasions while in Thailand. One of the first things I noticed about him was his genuineness in everything he does, especially in his interactions with people he encounters. A Native of Sri Lanka, he rose to the highest ranks in the Kodak corporation and authored several books on management. But need I say that the crown-jewel of his and his wife Debbie’s achievements is their beautiful daughter Natascha who at age 13 founded Hope Is Life Foundation.
I have been told that upon seeing the devastating effects of the tsunami in South Asia in 2004 on TV, Natascha turned to her dad and said: daddy, isn’t there anything we can do for these people. And daddy did something for these people–by taking little Natascha to his native Sri Lanka where the whole family worked in providing for the basic needs of the victims. Upon founding the Hope Is Life Foundation, the Yogachandras have had many successful projects, including one in Vietnam where they provided funds for the basic needs of the HIV-positive girls at the Mai Tam Orphanage run by our dear friend F. John Toai. While the Yogachandras were shopping for a partner-organization in Ho Chi Minh City, I was amazed at the astuteness of their questions meant to ascertain both the needs and the sustainability of the proposed projects. It is important to say that ALL donations gathered by Hope Is Life Foundation are used directly to benefit the recipients. No salaries, no fees, no travel expenses, the Yogachandras do it all… out of pocket, to benefit the recipients. I am also very impressed by their approach of not simply providing food and shelter for those in need, although this certainly is important, but mainly focusing on long-term educational support which will enable the recipients to grow intellectually and gain marketable skills, moving them from dependency to self-sufficiency.
Each year, on Asmara’s birthday, the organization will expand the number of beneficiaries, in the hopes of including orphans from Tanzania and other parts of the world as well. Our family does not receive ANY of the donated help which is used for the purpose of the project entirely. If you feel compelled to benefit to this project, please visit the website of www.hopeislife.org and donate. Please mention Asmara Scholarship Fund.”