Thousands Raised by Ithaca College Acting and Theatre Students to Help Women in India

By Emma Silen, March 30, 2016

Thousands Raised to Help Women in India by Ithaca College Acting and Theatre Students

Ithaca College acting and musical theatre students raised nearly $2,000 to help victims of domestic violence in India during the 5th annual Wheels 4 Women Benefit Cabaret.

The Jan. 31 benefit featured a selection of solos and group performances by talented senior students. In addition to the cabaret, an online auction raised $490. The auction featured tickets to popular Broadway shows such as “On Your Feet” and “Aladdin,” which features 2014 IC alumna Kathryn Allison.

Created by Kathleen Mulligan, associate professor in the Department of Theatre Arts, Wheels 4 Women provides auto rickshaws to rescue women and children from domestic violence situations quickly and discreetly. Auto rickshaws – which are akin to small, covered golf carts – are ubiquitous in India, where they are used primarily as taxis.

The program also trains women to drive the rickshaws, providing them with employment opportunities and avenues to reach financial independence. The cost to train each woman is about $150.

“There’s a long waiting list of women who would like to go through the training, and the money we raised will fund several more of them,” said Mulligan.

Some of the money raised will go towards a plan to offer loans to women who have gone through the training. The loans would be used to allow groups of women to start their own taxi business by purchasing an auto rickshaw.

“A lot of the women that we’re working with have difficulty getting a loan for themselves through a bank,” said Mulligan.

Mulligan was compelled to start the program after visiting the Sakhi Counseling Center in Kerala, India, in 2010, where she met with victims of domestic violence and learned about the challenges they face. The director of the shelter told her that what was most needed was a vehicle to help rescue victims of violence.

Hundreds of thousands of women report domestic violence each year in India, but experts believe the number of victims is likely much higher because of underreporting.

Since their first fundraiser in 2011, IC students have raised enough money to buy two auto rickshaws for the shelter and train nearly 20 drivers.

“I feel like I can set an example for my students that you can really make a difference in somebody’s life, and it doesn’t have to be some big huge project,” said Mulligan. “We have really talented students in the theatre department, and they volunteer a night of their time and we raise a lot of money for this important program.”