In August of 2014, I was contacted by the neighbor of a long-time family friend who was interested in supporting Khusi Hona. Her name is Pushpa Ramji, and she is of Indian heritage and living in Calgary, Canada. She was planning to visit India in 2015 and wanted to know what she could do to support our cause.
We discussed plans for Pushpa to invite friends and colleagues to an Indian dinner at her home, where she could share her plans to visit India and to support and visit an orphanage while there. The responses to her invitations were so overwhelming that she had to organize two dinners, even people that couldn’t make it made donations! Pushpa raised $3000 to sponsor and support one of the Khusi Hona projects. She asked for me to organize the best use of the funds, and we decided to support a project in Goa, India – not far from my South Asia base in Goa.
Bethesda Life Centre of Goa is the newest addition to the group of organizations we support across South Asia and is home to 97 children in three separate homes: 36 young boys in one home, 24 older boys in another, and a girls’ home housing all 37 girls. The organization provides for 78 of the children go to local schools, with 18 in high school, and two in college. There are 22 the children who receive remedial education at the center, which has a strong focus on education as a tool to empower the children to grow and break the cycle of poverty.
Bethesda Life Centre also hosts an excellent program for people living with HIV/AIDS in the community. The program has a support group and administers food rations and medicines for the group members, many of whom are ostracized by the community. Another exciting initiative provides small business training and loans to help community members empower themselves and create a steady stream of revenue. At present, the program has given 37 families access to these small business loans.
A week before our guests arrived, I met with the directors of Bethesda Life Centre to discuss how to best utilize the funds that Pushpa and friends had so generously raised. We decided that the funds would support hiring two tutors for one year who will focus on English language and mathematics. We are confident that enhancing the children’s skills in these areas will propel them in both formal and non-formal education.
Pushpa and her friend Surekha Bhatt, with whom she traveled to India, arrived in Goa in February. The directors of the Bethesda Life Centre, Archangel and Terrence, welcomed us and gave us a tour of their beautiful facility. The center is simple and spotless, adorned with coconut palms and nestled right next to a rice paddy.
The children had just returned from school, and the home was buzzing with young smiling faces, all preparing for lunch and tutoring. They were incredibly well-mannered and looked sincerely interested in their after-school studies, except when I distracted them with talk of the local football (soccer) team. After tea we were able to visit the girls’ home. Following our greeting by a crowd of polite and happy young ladies, I asked the group what their favorite subjects were, and all at once we heard “Math!” and “English!” and “Science!”
As we said our goodbyes to the children, I was overwhelmed at the thought of the fact that what started as a generous offer to sponsor some school supplies had turned into two full-time tutors who would give these precious children the opportunity to excel at their studies. Whether they study to be engineers or writers or learn to participate in a craft or trade, the extra attention they will now receive at the center will give them an opportunity to be the best they can be at whatever it is they decide to do.
Giving almost 100 children this opportunity was easy. It was two dinners. But the funny thing is, those two dinners will most definitely have a ripple effect on this little community and beyond.
So a big FEEL HAPPY thank you to Pushpa Pamji, Surekha Bhatt and to all of your friends and colleagues in Canada for your donations and time spent visiting one of our projects. We are humbled by your generosity and sincere hearts for the children of South Asia.
I often have people interested in offering support in a creative way. The power of sharing your vision with friends and colleagues is more than raising funds for a project, because you might even create an informed group of ambassadors that empower the lives of almost 100 children — all beginning with a simple, heartfelt gesture.
Note from the Author – Matthew van Rooyen, Founder & Director of Khusi Hona: I know the title of this blog is a little bold and maybe even a bit ostentatious, but affecting a community in this way is nothing less than changing the world for the kids involved. Never underestimate the power of a small act and remember our favorite Khusi Hona quote by Mother Theresa – who once said, “We cannot all do great things, but we can do small things with great love.” At Khusi Hona we don’t pretend that we will bring an end to the struggles of orphans around the world but by making one small thing happen with great love can make all the difference to one orphan, or perhaps one orphanage at a time.