Below is a picture of Street Children sleeping on the streets of Mumbai with a few of their mothers, just a few streets down from my Mother and Father in Law's home.
My husband still has family in India; we try to return every year to see family. Our conscience weighs on us each time we go back. I see the Street Children, and I think "we need to do something," but each year I return home, overwhelmed by the task at hand, having done nothing, letting everyday living subdue my personal accountability, as is common in situations like this. My heart aches for these children, but my mind tells me I can't make a dent. My fear of not knowing how to help or where to start has always held me back. This year my husband and I have decided that there are no more excuses. The catalyst for us, was watching the movie Lion. It left a heaviness in our heart that we had never felt before. The intensity overwhelmed us to the degree that we had to act. We felt compelled, empowered.
Our new hope prompted us to start a group in our local community, Namaste for Compassion. Our mission is to partner with our local community and organizations who share our vision. We hope to empower and support Street Children in India, inspiring compassion in all who are touched with this purpose. Our group started our search to find a small organization which we could help; an organization which works to offer hope and change for the Street Children in India. Our search led us to Bal Pushpa Home in Mumbai, India.
Bal Pushpa Home was started by a woman named Sr. Dharma Rodrigues (far left in all white). She has made tireless efforts on behalf of orphans and semi-orphans and others whose families could not afford to care for them. Bal Pushpa has taken care of infants through adulthood, and offers children the ability to dream of more for their lives and pursue their desires, having helped many women become nurses, teachers, tailors, beauticians, and chefs.
What follows are the personal stories of women whose lives were given hope, love, a sense of belonging, and access to an education that they wouldn't have otherwise received if they hadn't crossed paths with Sr. Dharma. Without Bal Pushpa so many would still be in a state of despair, hungry, and on the streets. Here are a handful of the women she has helped.
Miss Bridget Castelino (far left next to Sr. Dharma)- Kindergarten Teacher & Care Taker
At a very young age I was abandoned and put in the Bal Pushpa Orphanage. Through the kindness of the good sisters I was educated, but as time passed, the dark clouds surrounded, and again I was left alone. A Good Samaritan directed me to Sr. Dharma, who took great care of me in my childhood. I was struck by polio and under my feet I still have terribly painful corns. I was taken to several doctors, but today I continue to limp. My life continues, and I try to courageously take one day at a time. I have faith in the future, and I am grateful to the good Lord and Sr. Dharma who has given me the Motherly Love of kindness and caring, and today I have a New Life. In return I have nothing to give, but I can teach the children what I have learned.
Since I am childless and alone, I have decided to help at Bal Pushpa. I've dedicated my life to help and take care of these children. In my
free time I take students and help them in their studies. I love music, I sing and dance with them, and teach them songs. They love to play games and run about. My day is filled, and I am very happy. It is a joy for me to give back what I have received from the good Lord and from Sr. Dharma, who was my guardian and gave me shelter, education, love, and care.
Mrs. Marie Fernandes- Tailoring and A Cook
When I was young, my mother put me in the orphanage, because she was very poor and could not afford to take care of me. Sr. Dharma has taken care of me. She settled me in marriage, but now I am a Widow and have an adopted daughter. So, to keep myself occupied I decided to spend my time with these children, and I cook for them. I thought this was my golden opportunity to help her and to reach out to the children.
I am happy to work as a helper, having the beautiful opportunity to help at Bal Pushpa Children's Home and to cook delicious food. I also work part time sewing their clothes and teaching them needle work. Today I am grateful and happy to give back what I received, especially love, concern, and care.
Mrs. Mary Rodrigues- Working As Computer Operator
When I was only three years old my Mother put me in the Bal Pushpa Orphanage. My mother was very poor and was not able to feed or educate me, so she handed me over to Sr. Dharma and took leave to take care of my little brother. I admire the beauty and humbleness of a tree. The hard work of Sr. Dharma who helps the plant (child) to grow and become an admirable (Tree) adult. In my life, I believe our sisters have been skillful gardeners, who have given proper upbringing to so many of us abandoned, poor, and needy children like me. I am proud and happy today because I completed my education.
I am deeply grateful to Sr. Dharma, who took great care of me, gave
me motherly love and tender care and always wanted to see a smile on my face. I never felt that I was in an orphanage. Sr. Dharma has helped me settle in marriage, and I am very happy. I have one son, Marcelino, studying in Std IX. I am working in an office as front desk executive - cum computer operator. During my weekends and time off, I go to visit the orphanage and the children and help them in their studies, teach them computers, and help with office work. I always admired the good word (Do What You Do Well). My deep love and gratitude goes to the good Lord, and I am very happy to give back in return what I received from my childhood until today. It's so good to hear Sr. Dharma say that she feels appreciated and proud to see her children whom the good Lord had gifted her many years ago, now helping her to fulfill her wish to take care of these children who are very precious and God’s Gift to her. We all live as a happy family.
Miss Kamal Luciana Kad- Staff Nurse working at Breach Candy Hospital, Mumbai
Childhood is always an important phase in one’s life. Spending most of my childhood in the orphanage and school is unforgettable and has assured me that I am going to be a citizen that one could be proud of. I am very grateful to Sr. Dharma and all the teachers who have given me a strong foundation for my future.
It gives me great joy to tell you that by God’s grace and blessings, after passing Std XII, I got admitted as a student in Nursing and passed my general nurses course. Today, I am a staff Nurse at Breach Candy Hospital. Whenever I get my holidays, I go to visit the children of Bal Pushpa, and if the children are sick then I give them medical attention and administer common day to day medicines required for the children.
A final note-
We cannot change the world, but if we can help even one child, that changes their whole life. All children are our children and all children are ourselves; it could have been any one of us born into their lives. If I or my children were in a dire situation, "I don't know where to start" or "I can't really help you," would leave us hopeless and defeated. So, I ask you to join me and our local faction, Namaste for Compassion, as we raise money to donate to the Bal Pushpa Home. They are most in need of funding for tuition and medical expenses for the Street Children who live in the home. Any additonal money raised will go towards material needs for the children and home. Thank you for your time, interest, and compassion.
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