Can we make a difference?
A few stories of children in our programs in India…
Do you sometimes wonder: what do the orphan sponsorship program and our Sahaya Walks event really mean for the children in India and our other programs? Is my contribution really making a difference there?
Because many of the children have experienced a lot of hardship, trauma and suffering, most have difficulty expressing their emotions and memories. In 2009, I asked some of the children who had been part of our program at READ for at least several years to try to write down, and share with all of us their thoughts, their happy and sad memories, and whether we affected their life. I’ve known these kids personally and have taken them on trips to the beach. With some of them, I’ve walked, hand in hand, through the local market or to a local temple….rather simple things that most of us take for granted as ordinary things.
As I was receiving the letters, some of them touched me very deeply and brought tears to my eyes. They were a lot more than I had ever expected, and explained a lot of my experiences during my trips….their need and gratefulness for our affection. I am sharing some of their stories below. Please note that even though they don’t mention it, some of these children are also HIV-infected and were suffering from severe symptoms of AIDS before we were able to improve their health by helping them get access to HIV medications (ART= antiretroviral therapy) thanks to your support. For reasons of privacy, their names and some names of sponsors that are mentioned have been abbreviated.
Koen Van Rompay (founder, Sahaya International)
Dear Koen, A. and A.,
How are you? I am fine. In my family there were four members, but my father died when I was at the age of three and my sister at the age of five. Now there are only three members and my mother goes daily for cashewnut processing work to look after our needs. My elder sister is a differently abled child and to see for her medical expenses my mother used to work a lot.
My mother prepared for us food and she would be in fasting for many days due do the insufficient amount of money. The food was also not sufficient for us. If sometimes I ask my mother for some more quantity of food she used to share her food with me. At that time I feel so depressed and ask my mother the reason for the unstable life of us and about the problem we face in life, she used to say that I am the only soul earning money in our family and as your father is not with us, the total family is depending upon my income so I have to satisfy your needs and also the studies of you, so better you kindly adjust with this living condition. At that time I feel the absence of my father and think of how important the role of a father in a family is. Whenever I see my friends and neighbors family happily going along with their father to temple, cinema etc., I have a feeling that if my father was alive I would have also enjoyed my life with him; my mother realized my feelings and to help me overcome depression she will take me to the nearby temple in the village.
At the time of Diwali, and other functions we won’t be having new dresses to wear. Our neighbors children used to wear new dresses and burst crackers, this will make me so depressed and when I ask my mother about the new dresses her reply will be the same that their father is earning money and he bought them new dress but in our family only I am earning and that itself is not sufficient for us to look after our basic needs, and we will not be going out at this time of occasions. At that time I was missing my father’s presence a lot. Even when I used to play with my friends they criticize me. When the childrens near by home used to play with their parents, I feel a lot. I was not even using proper note books for my studies. My mother used to get only one or two note books. I have gotten many scoldings from my school teachers and if I go and said this to my mother she says “With my income alone how can I satisfy all the needs of you” and by saying these words she cries and at that moment I just console my mother by saying these words “Whenever you get money at that time you purchase and give me the note books”. The classmates of me bring different varieties of food items for lunch like poori, Pongal, idly etc., I too like eating these types of different food items but when I express this to my mother she replies me “They are rich people they can eat different food items but we are not like them we are struggling for one day food”. We are not rich, we are poor ones we can have only rice. The words uttered by my mother make me to be depressed a lot about the absence of my father. This was the situation of me when I didn’t get any support from READ through the means of sponsor.
When I got support from READ, I was very happy, my family itself was totally happy. I got desk, notebooks, School uniform for my studies and I was very happy in attending the sponsor meeting and to see many children. I was taken for tours to temples and the beach by the organization, and this was entirely a new experience for me I enjoyed a lot. Even I would have not enjoyed a lot with my father like this if he was alive. I am thankful for you and Selvam sir for the timely help.
When I pray to god I usually have a habit of praying for all your well-being and health. We want you both in our life without you there is no life for us. My entire family is happy now and I pray to god to give a long life for you to help many children like me to come up in their life.
I am P. writing this letter to you.
How are you and your family members? Hope all are fine. I am also fine.
My father died at my small age itself. I grew up with my mother. I and my elder sister were residing in the same place with my mother .When I was studying eighth standard my mother attempted to commit suicide. She drank poison and went to hang herself from the fan; fortunately I entered into the room and saw my mother going to hang at that moment, I called over my uncle and saved my mother. She was admitted in the hospital for treatment then I went to grandmother house at Ayyur and after discharge from the hospital my mother went to Vallam and at that night itself she committed by hanging herself from the fan. I felt as an orphan at that moment. My mother had looked after me very well, she was very affectionate to me. Her death made me depressed a lot. I felt always lonely. Then I was taken care by my grandmother.
When I was studying VIII standard I received help from READ through the friends of Koen sir. I am very much thankful for your help. I faced so many problems in my life. I was not happy in my life at all. I usually had a dull and angry face. I was not happy even in the sponsor meeting because my character had become like that. My happiest moment would be at my school only with my friends, other then that I was not having any happy moment. Now it is all better.
My favorite game is carom that I play well. I am taking my ART tablet properly. I scored good marks in my first internal exam. I am now studying XII standard. I am preparing well for my board exam.
Convey my regards to Marge, Ramin, Dara, Becca and Eilis. I want Becca, Dara and Eilis to be a friend of me but I have not seen them, waiting eagerly to see them all which will be the next happiest moment of me. I like Ramin daddy a lot and I was happy when I met him during his visit.
This is V. writing this letter to you.
I am fine. How are you and your family members. Convey my regards to them. I am studying second standard now I am going to school properly and doing my studies well. I am taking my ART tablets properly. My mother takes care of me very well. She looks after each and every needs of me and plays the dual role of both a mother and a father. I like my mother a lot at the same time in some occasions I miss my father’s presence because he expired when I was at the small age itself.
When I used to see other childrens along with their father going to temple and to the near by shops I miss my father a lot. If my father was alive he would have been going for work and my mother would have got some more time to look after me. Now as she is going to work I am residing in my grandmother home and I miss my mother a lot and she too miss me a lot. This situation happened because my father was died. If he was alive my mother will be near me always.
I am thankful for the timely help provided by Hope Walks by means of READ. I and my mother are getting medical expenses every month and their support makes us happy.
P. V. (7 years old)