Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Sometimes we get lucky

Recently, when we were distributing our care packages for our Project Food and More effort at the HIV clinic, a girl walked up to us and asked for some help.

Sowmya lives near the clinic with her parents in a one-room rented house, and her dad takes day labor jobs in the area. He's got chronic back pain so can't always work.

Anyway, we asked her what she needed. Sowmya said that she needed money for her school fees for this year. She started in 12th grade (PUC 2) in the science curriculum (one of the most difficult in the Indian education system) this year and seriously wants to become an engineer. Her family had no money to pay her tuition this year, which was Rs. 7000 (US$140). She gets a discount because of her caste and low income status.

We help a lot of really great kids, and when someone like Sowmya comes out of the blue for help, it's a real treat for us. She needs assistance (we saw her one-room house, small but clean, and this is where she studies), speaks almost fluent English, is an excellent student, and is polite and quite pleasant to talk to.

She's clear with her intent -- we said to her, "engineering jobs aren't that easy to get these days." She responded, "I know. But I want to try."

Sowmya's parents, Dilappa and Rathna
Who paid her fees last year? She said that her brother helped her, who is in the police force up north, but he had family issues this year so couldn't help out.

She showed us her grades from last year. She did quite well and certainly has the potential to excel. All of these factors told us that yes, this girl sure could use the help and would make excellent use of our support.

Dad got some great free treatment for his back from one of our directors in India, who is a doctor. And Sowmya's now in school and studying hard. She paid Rs. 4000 for her school fees and used Rs. 2800 for her textbooks. If you'd like to contribute to her education, she'll need to pay the balance of Rs. 3000 (US$60) in a few months.

We'll keep you posted on Sowmya's progress during the year!

Sunday, July 14, 2013

We should all be like Kumari

Recently, a friend of Kumari said this about her: "She helps everybody and anybody. When I ran away from home and came to the street, Kumari watched over me. She made me sleep with her children on the sidewalk so that the men wouldn't bother me."
"I ask you one thing: do not tire of giving, but do not give your leftovers. Give until it hurts, until you feel the pain. If we worry too much about ourselves, we won't have time for others." --Mother Teresa 
We met Kumari in 2005 on the streets of Mysore, where she lived with her three kids. It took a year before she trusted us, but after that, she's become our most reliable and helpful street mother. She has helped us with the other mothers (keeping them in line, encouraging them to let us help their kids) and has referred other destitute kids to us. And, even though they were on the street for years, Kumari did the best she could with her kids.

Rachamma, Kumari, Prema, Sumitra, friend, Venkatesh in 2005.
When she was a little girl, Kumari also lived on the street with her mom Rachamma and her siblings. She understands the hardships and dangers of living on the street and has always told us she just does not want her kids to grow up like that. She was the first street mom to ask us to find shelter for her kids and get them off the street, and then she convinced the other street moms to let us put their kids into a residential school.

Giving Venkatesh a bath when they lived on the street, 2005.
One night in 2006, when we were on the street, Kumari asked us for money for her kids' dinner. We gave her 40 rupees, thinking that there were four of them, so 10 rupees each. She took 10 rupees and gave us back the 30 rupees, explaining "I can get rice from somebody but I just have to buy some sambar from the hotel (restaurant)."

To earn money, Kumari strings up and sold jasmine leis (malas) during the flower season, which lasts for about five months out of the year. In the off season, she cleans garlic for her friend, a street vendor, or sells vegetables.

Selling flowers, 2007. 
Selling flowers, 2007.
On another night in 2006, when one of our staff was about to walk to the children's ward at the hospital (quite a hike) where one of our other girls was admitted, Kumari had Prema, her oldest girl, to go with her so that she would not walk alone in the dark.

Peeling garlic, 2007.
Kumari with her oldest son, Venkatesh, in 2007. They are very close.
She lost an older son and her first husband a few years before we met her.
In mid-2007, we helped Kumari rent a house in a slum area where some of her friends live. She has lived there since and is very happy not to have to sleep on the street anymore.

Kumari at her house with her kids and neighborhood friends, 2007.
Kumari's second husband died in mid-2008 from tuberculosis. He was a difficult patient and preferred to drink rather than take his medication. We all tried to get him to continue his medication, but he refused and eventually died. Kumari contracted TB from him and was cured of it (she took her medication correctly), but suffered significant lung damage from the disease.

Kumari has a bulla (large air sac) in her lung and in 2012 her pulmonologist recommended a portable oxygen concentrator, which she uses at night at home when she sleeps. In early 2013, after several trips to the emergency room, the doctor also recommended a nebulizer for her because she was having problems properly using her inhaler. These life-saving treatments are helping to keep her alive, as the doctor said, the bulla is "like a time bomb, waiting to go off."

Kumari with her oxygen, 2010.

In mid-2010, when her street friend Shanti died, Kumari called us to come to the street because we had to take her friend's four children, who had nowhere else to go. Of course we did, and Suma, Manjula, Renuka, and Manu are now happy, healthy, and thriving at Karunya Mane.

Little Manu (2nd from bottom) with Mohan (bottom),
Kumari's youngest child, and their friends at Karunya Mane in 2012.
Kumari understands her health condition and she is careful. She visits her kids once a month at Karunya Mane and calls them every Sunday. Her kids are doing well and are growing up nicely. Venkatesh is at home with mom, and he helps with the household chores because she cannot exert herself physically.

Rachamma, Prema, Sumitra, Mohan, Kumari, 2012.
Kumari has just a second grade education, and her son recently taught her to write her name in Kannada. Yet, this woman with little to her name is known by everyone in her community as someone who will help others as she can, with food and temporary shelter in her small house. She's an example for all of us to follow.

If you'd like to help Kumari, her ongoing monthly expenses are as follows:
  • medication $24 (Rs. 1200)
  • rent $7 (Rs. 350)
  • electricity bill from oxygen concentrator $10 (Rs. 500)
  • monthly pocket money $16 (Rs. 800)

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Friday, July 12, 2013

Raju C.

Raju C. came to Karunya Mane in May 2010 and has been with us since. We met Raju on the streets of Mysore, where his mom came to beg each day.

Raju and mom lived in a one-room rented house in a nearby village. Raju's dad is alive but rarely visits the family, leaving mom to fend for herself.

Raju in early 2010
Raju in 2012 dressed up as B.R. Ambedkar for the school's "fancy dress" day.
This year, Raju is in 2nd grade this year at Deepa Primary School. He's a good little boy!

If you'd like to sponsor Raju, please see our website at Sponsor an Operation Shanti kid!