College senior, 15, leaves her mark in India, Austin

JR Ortega By JR Ortega

Oct. 20, 2013 at 5:20 a.m.
Updated Oct. 21, 2013 at 5:21 a.m.

Manisha Verma, a 15-year-old Victoria resident, traveled to India to read to blind children.

Manisha Verma, a 15-year-old Victoria resident, traveled to India to read to blind children.

Limited resources didn't stop Manisha Verma from reaching goals - not in America, not even in India.

The Victoria native is only 15 but already a senior at St. Edward's University in Austin, pursuing a double major in communications and political science with a minor in women's studies.

Manisha is the younger sister of Natasha Verma, 19. Both graduated high school and attended college in their younger teens.

While Manisha's sister was making the finishing touches on an independent film in New York, Manisha was in New Delhi, India, improving programs for blind children at an orphanage.

"It was exciting and motivating," she said. "It was obviously a gratifying experience. It's good to use those resources you have to make such a big impact."

The opportunity came up with the nonprofit organization Global Health Foundation which Manisha learned about while volunteering with the Texas School for the Blind in Austin. Through her involvement, she was able to collect and donate $5,000 to a New Delhi-based blind school, she said.

While in India, she learned how the blind curriculum worked and operated. She was also able to donate braille books and other materials, school supplies, food, clothing and toys that aid blind students.

She also sponsored two blind children to help them meet the cost of their tuition and board.

"Knowledge is power, and I did not want their environment or lack of materials to hinder their ability to learn more," she said.

The experience led her to begin expanding her team of volunteers, with plans to travel throughout the U.S., India and Africa.

She also has started collecting more money for an all-girls orphanage in India.

Aside from her work with the blind, she is also ready to graduate and take her next step - law school.

She hopes to use her law degree to fight for women's rights issues.

But for now, her experience in India is enough to keep her heart fulfilled and her plate full.

"I went to New Delhi with a suitcase of braille books, magazines and teaching aids hoping to make an impact on their lives," she said. "But they made more of an impact on my life."



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