"Every Child comes with a message...That God is not yet discouraged my man." -- Rabindranath Tagore 1861 - 1941
As with every trip to a truly economically devastated area, it is so difficult to see the children being forced to live the way they do. I mean, somewhere like India, you feel it more strongly with the adults as well--as wonderful as it is, India is multi layered--and imperfect--and their caste system prevents much upward mobility as we know it. You are born in the economic state you die in, and instead of doing more in this life to provide more for yourself and family, Hindi's do it for karma, and to come back in a better way in your next life.
But again, seeing the children is always the hardest part. The hardest part, yet there exists a funny duality of seeing their simple joy, unaware of what they lack. I always joke with friends with children in the US, that you buy them all these fancy toys and they want the plastic bottle/the carboard box/the thing you were just about to flatten and toss. Well the same rule applies in India but there is no expensive toy collecting dust on the kitchen counter. Everyday as we walked around there were children laughing and playing. Styrofoam trash became swords, bottles become bats, empty wagon backs become perfect surfaces for jacks (they especially love badminton with no nets) . Like all children they smile and cheer. But theyve just slept without heat. They've gone to the bathroom in the sewer on the street, and their family may or may not be willing or able to send them to school.
In 1991 Food For Life, a global organization, began feeding the widows in Vrindavan (a whole other severe social issue I won't attempt to address here). From there they grew into feeding kitchri to children (rice/beans/veg), and from there grew into the education of girls (read their whole history here). Since their first night class 10ish years ago, they have grown into a full time school for girls -- two of them actually -- that educate and feed 1400 girls from Vrindavan's most destitute families (a state I promise you can't wrap your head around sitting at your computer in a heated room with a full belly). Malnourished become strong and healthy. Girls that would never be given the chance to learn to read go to college.
The different arms this organization has added on to their central schooling system is unbelievable (education of older women, ways for them to make money, rehabilitation of cows, the list goes on), and all of it is funded by private donors. For something like $40 a month you can send a girl to school, feed her three meals a day, dress her in a uniform, possibly give money to her family so they can afford to not have her work, and contribute to a savings account that will give her some safety net when she eventually goes off to college.
Now I know we all see commercials on tv asking for monthly donations and it's impossible to know if the money is going where you want it to. What I can say from visiting this school is that this organization has their sh#t figured out. Like all people in India, Food For Life seems to embody the phrase "waste not want not." Oh, and they are opening another school in nearby Goverdon. A facility that will educate 1700 girls (class sizes average 30).
I'm already daydreaming about how and when I can get back there to volunteer (in fact a certain friend who gets her summers off and might read this, is part of my scheme to spend next summer there). In the meantime I think two less meals out a month would more than support a girl for her entire month. A staggering thought. I know it's difficult to feel attached to causes that are very far away and you haven't seen first hand. But it's rare that I'm as impressed with a group as I was with Food For Life Vrndavana, so I thought I would at least share. If nothing else, it's a reminder that like these children, we all have reasons to find joy in the world, and most likely many more than we account for every day.