Growing up in Kovalam, India, Sakunthala Hanumanthapa has overcome many challenges to continue surfing and going to school.
With India still in the shadows of a caste society, the gap between the poor and wealthy is vast, leaving the less fortunate to live in slums without proper infrastructure and amongst heaps of garbage.
Saku’s family had to move from the small village where she was born, Karnataka, to Kovalam because of the severe poverty they were facing.
Most children are unable to receive a proper education because they are forced to work or are sold by their parents due to these conditions.
Although her father started drinking daily, a common practice for men in Kovalam, Saku wrote in her essay to the ISA, “Luckily my mother realizes the importance of education and allowed me to enroll in the SISP program.” Saku was unable to go to a local school because she did not know the local language. With the SISP program, Saku is now fluent and studying for the Seventh Standard States Exams.
Saku, with the help of the SISP project, Kovalam Surf Club and now the ISA Scholarship, is going against all odds to surf and go to school while having dreams of one day starting a career in fashion and beauty.
Saku is the only girl involved in the Kovalam Surf Club. Due to local traditional customs it is very difficult to bring a girl to the beach and teach her how to surf. Because of this, Saku is breaking boundaries and becoming a role model for other girls in the area.
Saku also helps her mother with a souvenir shop near the beach and even makes crafts to be sold there.
“Unfortunately I will never be able to go to university, because I missed so many years of school, but I do have a talent and interest in creative subjects,” Saku wrote in her essay to the ISA.
As an ISA Scholarship Winner, Saku plans to use the funds to pursue a dream of starting a career as a beautician.
The video below gives more insight on the Kovalam Surfclub and the living conditions of the area. In it you will see Saku and her brother Ramesh.