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Dreaming big and beating the odds

From a small hut in a tribal village in Araku Valley in Andhra Pradesh to an engineering degree to a job in the civic administration of Visakhapatnam, Lankapalli Sandhya Priyanka (29) has come a long way. On her journey, she has fought numerous odds — poverty, lack of a proper school, language barriers — to start a career and become an Assistant Civil Engineer at the Municipal Corporation in Visakhapatnam. Consistently, on this journey filled with hardships, she has shown exemplary grit and determination.

Born into a poor family, Sandhya is a first-generation learner, but that never stopped her from thinking about getting a college degree. Family circumstances made that dream seem uncertain. Earning a meagre income, her family struggled to make ends meet. Her father, a postman, was the sole earning member with a wife and two daughters to support. The situation grew worse when he passed away. And yet, Sandhya persevered. Her family’s financial constraints did not stop this gritty girl from chasing her dream to become an engineer.

A ray of hope came in the form of Project Nanhi Kali, which works to support girl children in the tribal areas of Araku. As Sandhya worked hard to complete her schooling, the Project Nanhi Kali Academic Support Centre in her village gave her additional tuitions after school hours. More help came in the form of supplies — a school bag, shoes, socks, notebooks, stationery, undergarments and even feminine hygiene material to help her attend school with dignity.

A studious girl, Sandhya attended her classes regularly. With the help of her teachers, she overcame all odds and even won awards. In Class 9, she won the Best Student Award, and in Class 10, she received the CMR Pratibha Award for excellent performance.

The turning point in Sandhya’s life came when she got admission to Nujiveedu Campus for IIIT (B Tech, Civil Engineering). But there was no end to her woes even here — language was a major hurdle for her, as she had studied in a Telugu medium school. Sandhya refused to give up, not letting the language barrier stand in her way. Her hard work and diligence ensured that she completed her B Tech degree. Looking back, she says, “I will always be grateful to Nanhi Kali for giving me the confidence to follow my dream of becoming an engineer.”

Today Sandhya is financially independent, with a job and a steady income of INR 30,000. She lives in Visakhapatnam and is helping her family build a home back in her village in Araku. Not one to rest on her laurels, she now aspires to become an IAS officer.

Her mother, Rukmini, is especially proud of her daughter’s achievement. She says, “We feel proud when her colleagues praise Sandhya for her hard work and sincerity. Education has played a crucial role in shaping her future, and it was Nanhi Kali that helped her achieve her dream.”

Sandhya’s story is an inspiration to other young women and a testament to how girl child education can help transform several lives.

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