We’re starting a new series under our Social Causes category starting today. Today I’m happy to have one of our Write Tribe members share about an NGO she works with in Mumbai.
Children’s Future India
Miss. Miss. This is the last one! I look up from my papers. She repeats: – This is the last one. I see pride in her eyes, and also sadness? And I have no idea what she is talking about: – What do you mean, the last one, Meena? – This is the last book only. And then I see the book in her hands: Cairo Jim, On the trail to Chacha Muchos. And I get it.
The last one. You see, Meena has now read every single book in our small NGO library. She is proud of it but I can also feel her anxiety. Now, what is she going to do? What is she going to read? Because she is a reader, you know. Whenever I see her, she has a book with her. I look into her eyes, and I know there is only one solution: Our library has to grow.
Some years ago, who could have imagined that I would sit on the floor in a shabby slum-hut in Mumbai, and look into the eyes of a ten year old book lover called Meena. And that getting books for her, would feel like one of the most important tasks in my life.
You see, in 2012, I moved with my family from the windy west coast of Norway to bustling Mumbai. Even before I came, my plan was to use some of my blank days to do something useful for others. How could I have known that it would turn out to be one of the most useful and meaningful things I have ever done – for myself. It has completely changed my life – for the better.
When I first arrived, I started to explore NGO-possibilities. I participated in handing out food in some of the worst slum-areas in Mumbai and I was a volunteer at an orphanage for children saved from a life on the streets. Every time I was crying my eyes out on the way home. For the first time in my life I felt exposed to endless human sufferings.
I ended up searching for an NGO which could offer a feeling of hope and development. And I think to me, the greatest hope is found in education. I believe that every child shall have the right to go to school, and I believe that education can be a vital tool to strengthen the possibility they have to make a better life for themselves. And then I found Children’s Future India (CFI), and I discovered that they are linked to an organization in Norway, providing sponsors to some of the children. I contacted them, and yes – they were interested in giving me a chance. So, there I was – their new potato in the Mumbai unit office. Every week since late Autumn 2012 I have been going there for 1-2 days. I help in the office when needed and I run a help-with- homework class for around 20 children, mainly with focus on Basic English skills. Interacting with them is my absolute favorite part of the work, and it is inspiring to see when they are improving. I have also been involved in other activities, like self-help groups for women.
The core area for CFI is the education area. Around 6000 children are secured education under the Education Sponsorship Programme. Apart from assistance in the form of education, the families can apply for support for other basic necessities like healthcare, nutrition and food security. It makes an impression on me to listen to parents telling that they would most probably have taken their kids out of school and put to work if they hadn’t received this support.
In 2013 we established a small library with English books, a big success – and we have been increasing the number of books and added some games as well, to the joy of book-lover Meena and the other children. I felt so happy – seeing their unbelievable surprise and happiness of being allowed to take a book home and read it, it was like a small treasure for them, and they guarded their selected books in the best possible way. The other day, a boy came and told me that his grades had gone up, and he though himself it was because he is reading so many books now. Oh what a glorious moment. There is hope.
So, here I am, so far away from the windy mountains and fjords of Norway – on a straw mat in the Mumbai slum, and I feel great! I feel blessed and grateful and I love how we can see hope and count the success stories even though they are tiny and might not make it to the newspapers or the history books. For Meena and the others, there is that hope though. There is hope. There has to be.
~ Eli E Zachariadis