Who we are
"Hi there! I'm Sarina Zaparde–founder and CEO of Dress To Learn. I'm originally from South Brunswick, New Jersey, but I live in Boston right now for school. I'm a full-time student at Boston University and concurrently lead, organize, and fundraise for Dress To Learn. Dress To Learn is, and will continue to be, my life-long passion project. What drives me most is the ability to make a tangible impact on girls' lives, especially by enabling them to return to school—something I've always had the privilege of having."
Dress To Learn was a product of experiencing, first-hand, the jarring consequences of absolute poverty.
Dress To Learn was founded after my 13th annual trip to India to visit family in my ancestral village of Paras in Maharashtra, India. My dad and I, jet-lagged, were taking a morning walk around his childhood neighborhood. As we were walking, I noticed many boys dressed in school uniforms walking down the side of the dirt road. On the other hand, I saw girls were at home, in shacks, cleaning and cooking. Curious about their living situation, I asked my dad why there was such a sharp contrast between the two. He encouraged me to ask around and I stumbled across a few surprising phenomena.
In the past few years, there has been a trend in droughts in Maharashtra and other parts of central India. Because these people live in land-locked areas and, therefore, rely almost exclusively on agriculture for financial stability, these droughts left farmers penniless and unable to support their families. As a result, mass suicides took place across India by farmers, leaving wives widowed and children orphaned. As a result, most of the girls I was talking to were orphans supporting their own livelihoods.
Girls are often coerced into getting married young and are considered domestic instruments, rather than human beings with academic and professional potential. As a result, they are subjected to work at their in-laws, rather than getting a basic education which could provide them with literacy, a career, and possibly financial freedom.
Especially in these rural areas, these girls are often the targets of human trafficking as they are often unchaperoned and impoverished, surrounded by people who are just barely making ends meet.
Most girls were not attending school because they could not afford a school uniform. If they were to purchase one, they would have to sacrifice essential resources, rendering school inaccessible.
These phenomena helped me reach an impactful conclusion:
Providing girls with school uniforms could enable them to rise above the ramifications of misogyny, crime, and poverty in rural areas.
Thus, Dress To Learn was founded to serve this purpose.