Celebrating AAPI Heritage Month
Special Report–Sherlene Shanklin, WHAS11 Television ABC Louisville
Surekha Kulkarni and her husband moved their family from India in 1986 to Louisville to make sure her young son had every opportunity to be the best he could be. She tells me why she made the sacrifice. “We did not move here for money or fame or fortune we came here because of a school.” Her young son was in kindergarten and she had learned he was dyslexic needed additional educational instruction which the de Paul School in Louisville, Kentucky provided.
We felt it was not a choice really, so we moved a family of four. With no job, no way of knowing but the school was there. And it was actually a totally different experience for me. She says “After moving here, I have experienced so much! I’ve done so much.”
Kulkarni says a recession was going on and all the degrees and experience her husband had still did not help him get a job at first. She says “When he couldn’t get a job. We decided to buy a grocery store so that way we could get food.” They owned and operated the store for years at Oak and Swan Streets called the 828 with no previous experience. She goes on to say that the community embraced and supported them. “They just accepted me but They could not pronounce our names so they changed it I became Sue and Suhas became Sam. So Sue and Sam of the store.”
When not working in the store Kulkarni volunteered at the school. Kulkarni says “So my son started school from day one and we appreciate and let so grateful, I started working in library as a volunteer just a way to give back. That might be what started, my beginnings of volunteering career.”
Within three years, the family was on track which gave her the confidence to say you can do whatever you want. She went to India for a stay and decided to take a jewelry class in her free time. “So, I took this class and I enjoyed it so much that I haven’t stopped” Kulkarni says.
Then The Beaded Treasures Project was created. She volunteered with the Kentucky Refuge Ministries. Where she says, “I found that I really enjoyed it and loved teaching and connecting. It was amazing to see the transformation. Because in the beginning, these women came from various countries, like Iraq, and the Congo. All faced terrible ravages. They were traumatized.”
Beaded Treasures not only generated wealth but generated self-esteem, a sense of purpose and self-sufficiency. Kulkarni says “I saw that not only were they making jewelry, and selling it at the events, five of them started working full time, three of them started working on their education. Some had finished high school and some had a couple of years of college. One of them now has gone back to Nepal. To start a school because growing there was no school in her village.”
In 2019, Beaded Treasures became a part of Volunteers of America. “This was way more that I expected. Quite amazing like. I had somehow became a part of their transformation. Transformation from diffident to confident, and dependent to independent.
I wanted to know what she wanted to remember her by. She says “That I tried! I want people to know that if you just step out of your comfort zone there’s no stopping you. I’m the perfect example of that. We are the ones that hold ourselves back. And we can make a difference. Each one of us can make a difference. Look at me!”
Kulkarni has a new project “Empowering Beads”. It will be a pop-up shop this summer on the weekends in Norton Commons.
To see the television version of my story, click the link provided: