There's always a back story
You know a bit about the Charity I oversee, called For One Child of India (FOCI for short) but I don’t often tell people just what inspired me to get started on this grand plan. Starting a charity was never on my bucket list, and I bet you can even guess that I am a procrastinator and I hate paperwork!!! Well, this Charity stuff involves a LOT of paperwork; to create the program, and to maintain it each year. Reports and deadlines…. my two favorite things…. mmmmmm, no.
So, what in the world possessed me to get into this then? Well, here is the back story……
I visited Tamil Nadu, India in 2013. I met a man named Andrew and his wife. They both had gone to school only through the 3rd grade. To earn money, they went out to land owners’ fields to cut sugar cane with hand knives. They were paid only as much as they could harvest and they did not work every day, rather only when the landowner wanted them. I remember Andrew showing me (We couldn’t speak each other’s languages back then) how he bends at the waste and cuts the canes and lays them across his feet, then inches a bit farther to cut the next canes, all while staying bent over. Eventually, when he’d cut enough canes, he tied them in a bundle with the softer reeds from the tops of two more canes. Oh, my back hurt just watching him and I thought surely, I’d starve if I had that job.
They did not complain because they didn’t get to work every day. They just worked when they could. When they did work, they made about 2.00 per day. Andrew and his wife had two sons. They were beautiful children, in first and third grade. It was a cold slap in the face on the day I realized that I was watching their future play out right before my eyes. These boys would become “Coolie workers” too. Some days when Andrew didn’t work, he’d spend hours laying on the ground trying to rub the knots out of his aching back. There is no money for a chiropractor or massage therapist in this life. I saw the choices they had to make. I wanted to make sure that these boys did not have to live this same life of struggle.
This life was not a rare situation in Eleyankanni, it was a daily reality for most.
So, I created FOCI. FOCI means *many focal points or *any point of focus. While we have a single goal, it is true that we focus on many children. When I witness this pain and need, my mind doesn’t wander to a wonderful education system, it sticks on the hope and trust in the eyes of all of those little kids in the program, and I remember the pleading of parents who have come to know that I stand at the gate of admission to a program that could change their child’s life. This Charity is singular in its mission to help children out of poverty through education, but it is the many children in need who remain our points of focus.
Education is really the only way out of this poverty. But for poor families, it is expensive. So, I asked family and friends for help to sponsor these kids’ education. Then I fell down the paperwork rabbit hole…. but it was worth it.
Our philosophy became “go big or go home!”
We are not aiming to help a child get just one more year of school…… the difference between a third-grade education and a fourth-grade education won’t change your economic future much. We set our sights high! Let’s take these kids into a program that will help them finish High School, and even pay a bit toward college.
FOCI’s philosophy is that a little support for just one year is really not enough to make a change in their circumstances, so when we take a child into the FOCI program, I promise them that we will help them through graduation, they just need to focus on school, work hard and progress each year.
I don’t know what I was thinking when I first made that promise, what if people didn’t want to help that much? what if their circumstances changed and they couldn’t continue sponsoring? Well, a friend chided me, “Come on girl, have faith! You think You are the reason for the success? It’s much bigger than you! Just trust and keep going!” So, I did, and it seems like it was the right thing to say, as we continue to grow, help more kids, and see success!
$7.00 PER MONTH pays for the tuition of a little child and $25 per month pays for the tuition of a young adult who is almost ready to go out into the world!
Every penny that is donated to FOCI goes to the children. No money is used toward administrative costs, I “sponsor” the organization itself, because I know that most donors want their money to go to the cause, not be used for paper or stamps!
Anyone who knows me or has heard me speak about FOCI knows how much it means to me and knows that I have a hundred stories about the village and the children and the hope and the blessings, but I don’t have time to tell you all of that now. I just want you to know that I see Andrew and his wife each year, and his boys are still in school, thanks to a few generous FOCI Sponsors. And he cries when he thanks me, and the boys do too. And I do too, as I realize how such a small effort on my part could be seen as so monumental to them. And I am grateful too, for the generosity and concern of the sponsors and donors who have faith and hope in children they have not yet met…. but maybe someday will.