Although I have travelled a lot, I must confess that India was never in my travelling wish list. However, I was interested in knowing first-hand about the projects that Children Are the Future (CAF) were supporting in that country. That is why, when one of the members of CAF offered the opportunity to join a field trip to see the work the NGO does there and share their experience, I did not hesitate for a second. This is how I ended up embarking on a flight to Chennai, Tamil Nadu in February 2013. During two weeks, we witnessed the progress of the projects that CAF supports in this Southern State of India, visiting the children and families that benefit from CAF’s support.
At the end of my trip, and after sharing some days with one of CAF’s local partners in India, See Trust, I had the opportunity to visit and meet in person Chittra in the village where she lives. Behind each family that CAF supports there is a personal story, most often so hard that it is difficult to believe and assimilate. The reality of these women, alone with their children, are so terrible that when you have them in front of you and you hear the story from them, as it was my case, you only have three options: escape this reality, be a simple witness of it, or commit to change it.
I will never forget Chittra, the emotion and, at the same time, the feeling of helplessness that her gestures, her face, her words expressed. Even if I could only understand her words after the translation into English from Tamil, I could feel them. Chittra is an admirable woman and a fighter that has decided to face the horror to go on and start a new life with her children with the help and sponsoring of CAF. The tenderness and admiration in the eyes of her son when he was looking at his mother telling us her story, gives all sense to the work that CAF is doing and merits all our support and commitment. Now I can see how Chittra has managed to improve her life and that of her children, with the help of CAF, other women in her same situation, and most of all her work, strength and determination. Thanks to this, her children go to school and have a promising future next to their mother.
Sometimes we have to think that even if we can do little or nothing in front of such terrible realities. But, as Mother Theresa would say, “We know only too well that what we are doing is nothing more than a drop in the ocean. But if the drop were not there, the ocean would be missing something”
“A SMALL ACT FOR A HUGE RESULT”
It is wonderful when life gives you everything; a nice home, a good job, health, friends, projects you can realise; difficult when you learn that for a lot of people the cards haven’t been distributed the same way…
Me and my wife Linda decided to travel to the South of India with CAF to visit real poor people (that means those who have to live with less than 1 euro a day!!!). Hard to imagine for us indeed! Some fathers get so discouraged and depressed they leave the huge burden on their wife’s shoulders;
That is why we accepted to sponsor a little girl, Sattya, who lives in a small familiar childrens’ home we visited in Tamil Nadu, on the Indian Ocean. For 25 euro a month, she gets a nice education, is properly fed and nicely dressed.
Sattya writes us very regularly, adding some recent pictures of her wonderful smile and sparkling eyes. Visibly happy, no doubt!
Michel :” When I visited her last time, she showed me very proudly her schoolbooks and was very happy doing some mathematic exercises with me, calling me ‘Uncle’ in a natural way. No doubt that the very small financial gift means a huge change to her former miserable life. We are convinced, as the other members of CAF, that education is the only way to get people and especially women in India, out of the vicious circle of misery”
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When we ask “how many children do you have?” she spontaneously replies “13!”. By reading the surprise in our eyes, she adds “well, I only have 7 baby goats, 6 are already adults”. With a big smile on our face, we clarify that we were rather keen to know more about her offspring.
Nayagi is a charming 36-year old South Indian lady from a village in Tamil Nadu. She comes to our monitoring session with a delicately-tainted coloured sari, long black satin hair combed behind the head, and a very sweet and candid smile. By looking at her, you would never guess the hardship she had to endure in life. Luckily, her only daughter, Puila, is doing well and currently attends the 2nd standard grade. Nayagi’s old mother also lives under the same roof, in a little house built after the Tsunami hit the Tamil Nadu’s coasts in 2004 and nearby a peaceful river punctuated by fishing boats.
In 2013 Nayagi got 14.500 rupees (approximately 210 Euro) from a sponsor through CAF to buy 4 adult goats, a 3-year insurance on them, and the fees for the doctor when needed. These goats represent an asset for her in case of need, helping her to complement her meagre monthly revenues from her work as a cleaner in a hospital for 6000 Rs/month (85 Euro) and from the 1000 Rs (14 Euro) monthly widow pension given irregularly by the government. The education only for her daughter costs 3.500 Rs/year together with 500 Rs/month for the transport.
And the goats proved to be extremely useful when, in 2014, a flood caused by the nearby river inundated her house and forced her to disburse 7.500 Rs for several trucks of sand. She sold some of her goats (only males she declares, females are too important for breeding new babies!) and managed quickly to extinguish the debt. In addition, Nayagi was also able to reimburse 60% of the credit she had received into a revolving fund managed by the Women Federation she belongs to, so that other women can be helped in case of need.
This is only one of some examples of CAF-funded Family Micro-Business projects – when we see Nayagi in the field calling her goats, and only her goats approaching her quickly – we cannot stop thinking how small amounts of money can greatly help some marginalised people in India. Come to see with your own eyes! CAF yearly field trips are open to anybody who is interested in learning more about the incommensurate needs of the marginalised people of our difficult but still beautiful world.