Start small, go slowly
When we started this journey as For One Child of India, we said many times, "We will just start slowly. We are small and we will go slowly." For One Child of India had hoped to help about 10 children in this first year of existence.
We were in for a surprise! By the time we left for Tamil Nadu India, we were able to take $4000 with us to help a total of 37 children. Many of the children who received FOCI assistance were Elementary school age. We focused the majority of our efforts with children up to 6th Standard. We did also help a number of older children who are in Middle school and Secondary school. Some of the FOCI sponsors are responsible for creating the opportunity for 10th and 12th Standard students to take the government exams that are required for graduation! In India, no tuition payment means no chance to take the exams!
Our intention was to stagger the assistance by grade (Standard) so that all of our FOCI children did not reach the higher (and more expensive) grades at the same time.
By now you have gotten the message to shout the message of For One Child of India to anyone who will listen! Ironically, we needed to keep our mission as quiet as possible when we arrived in Eleanganny. Everyone in the village would benefit greatly from FOCI assistance, but we needed to choose the lucky 37 that we would be able to help. If word spread, we would not have been able to travel around with village without crowds of hopeful parents and children following after us, pleading for help. So this is what we did.....
Our Advisor and I quietly traveled around the village of Eleanganny with a clipboard and pen. We visited the homes of children that we had learned were living in the most difficult financial circumstances. We met with the parents and spoke to them about their lives and challenges. We heard many times about serious health problems that caused financial problems and prevented parents from working in the fields for daily wage. We heard about the underemployment that is a fact of life there. Hours of hard work each day bring in minimal pay. The average income of the families we helped was just $70 American dollars per month. The houses we visited were often small, single room, thatched roof buildings, with a hearth to cook on just outside the door. Many were is a state of serious disrepair. Clothes are washed on rocks near a river or other water source, and hung to dry on ropes strung between trees next to the house. We took notes at our meetings with the parents and mentioned that we may be able to help in a small way. We would have to see....
After the visits to the children's homes, we invited 37 children and their parents to come to a common place on Sunday afternoon to learn more about what was happening. We explained the program, What would be expected of them as a result of this help, we took pictures, helped the children write thank you letters to you, and saw many tears of joy. We heard laughter and the Tamil word for gratitude, "Nandri" "Mikka Nandri!" We explained that there are people on the other side of the world (that is you!) who are learning about their circumstances and who want to help them. We told them that they are more than lucky. They are Blessed because someone cares enough to help them.
During my visits to India, I often heard the people I met say that they imagined that there was unbelievable wealth in America. They have difficulty understanding that what we consider modest living is not affluence! But as I tell you about this trip, I realize that they are right. There is unbelievable richness here- not in money, but in concern and generosity. We are very rich in spirit. And because of that, the children we help through For One Child of India are blessed. God Bless you!