Making A Difference: Children’s Future India

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.

 

Eli Zachariadis writes a blog called ExpatLiv – In Exotic India. Connect with her on Twitter

 

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.

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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.

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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.

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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

 

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Author: Corinne Rodrigues

Lover of words | Self-acceptance blogger | Instructional designer| Book Reviewer| Blog Coach

23 thoughts

  1. Wow…what a wonderful way to make a difference in someone’s life and yours too Eli….wishing you many more achievements for the little kids. Good luck , Eli!

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  2. Thank you for sharing this story.

    Also, in case sending books can make some difference there, do tell me. I can’t be present there as a volunteer, and neither can I extend monetary help, but I can send books. They might not be much, but if they’d help drop me a mail or a reply.

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  3. Till two years before, I had some awesome moments with kids like Meena. The happiness they gave me was so immense… that I wanted to start an NGO with my friends… Long time dream… maybe one day it will happen!
    Kudos to you, for what you’re doing, esp leaving your home and coming to a new place and making a difference there. And may you continue doing this much more strongly. 🙂 You are an Inspiration! 🙂

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  4. As a book-lover, writer, and spouse of a librarian/archivist, I can’t agree with CFI’s mission any more strongly. What you are doing, Ms. Zachariadis, is extraordinary, uplifting, notable, and noble; thank you so much for sharing your story and CFI’s cause with us. I hope many others are inspired to follow your example of service to others. Bravo!

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  5. I’ve always been of the opinion that teaching is one of the most under-appreciated professions in India. It plays such a vital role in developing the future generation yet nobody gives teachers the due respect they deserve, in my opinion.
    What you are doing is amazing… I know it isn’t easy – heaven knows I could not do it myself.

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  6. How Wonderfully inspiring Eli! You are indeed making a difference in their lives.
    Those kids are indeed blessed to have you on their side.

    Thank you Corinne for featuring Eli and her work here. 🙂

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  7. Eli, There is hope for Meena and so many like her, thanks to you and other selfless people like you who dedicate their time and efforts for making the childrens’ lives happy and meaningful. You are an inspiration to us, hats off to you.

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  8. Eli’s selfless service inspires us to take active part in becoming a helping hand in uplifting our global society…Thanks a lot!
    Thanks to you Corinne for sharing it with us…

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  9. Wow a wonderful post…it feels so good when we see people around really working for something substantial and not just speaking out big words . Thanks for sharing this story .
    God bless and Good luck Eli .

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  10. So many lovely comments:-) That is so encouraging for me. Thank you so much to each of u – you make my day:-) And hugs to you Corinne, for letting me “on”. Wish you all a wonderful weekend:-)

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