Walmart, Mothers and a place for girls in India

Last week I was shocked to get a tweet from my friend Candace. In it she warned me: I’ve nominated you for Mother of the Year.

My reaction was two-fold.

A heart overwhelmed that someone out there thought I was doing a great job with my two sons.

India boys explore

A brain that reminded me that these names we put on things really don’t matter that much.

Don’t get me wrong I applaud what Walmart is doing.  In allowing everyday moms to vote for the women in their lives that they admire or think are making a difference/doing a great job the company is really saying we’re all great mothers who should be celebrated.  In fact, before Candace nominated me, I had seconded (or thirded?) a nomination for a different Heather. Do I think Heather is a “better mother” than other moms I know, not at all. I just think she has shown tremendous strength and love and fortitude during a really tough time and I wanted her to know she had my admiration for it.

There’s another reason I’m happy about my nomination.

Ever since I was in  India I’ve been trying to find the right time to share something with you.

Kids in India

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned this but I don’t believe in coincidences. I believe that everything (from where you decide to grab a coffee today to who you chat with on Twitter) happens for a reason. I’ve seen too many things in my life be born out of a seemingly random set of circumstances for that to not be true. But I’ll let you judge for yourself.

Here are the facts:

When I was in Mombasa, Kenya wondering where and how I was going to maneuver around massive India with Ish and the kids for six weeks when I had yet to buy a guidebook, I met an Indian family from London by the pool. They offered to send me some suggestions.

Mombasa Friends

They were strangers for about 5 minutes. Now they are phenomenal friends.

What followed was the introduction to a friend of theirs in Delhi. He, over email, introduced me to two of his friends Prashant Yadav (who runs Liberty India and would eventually personally set up my entire six week adventure) and Sanjay Verghese.

When we were in India, I insisted on meeting Sanjay to say “thanks.” He works at the Imperial hotel in Delhi. An institution in its own right and I though he’d be a great source of information for a story about the hotel one day. He was a great source but during our conversation I found a better story.

BoysSanjay, along with his wife Sheeba and his incredible in-laws are raising 50 boys whose parents can’t help them as much as they’d like. Some of the kids were homeless. Some of them were simply one mouth too many for a family to feed.

Sanjay is not rich. He just believes (as does his family) that where there are children who need help – and India has so many of them – he must help them.

Because of his tireless efforts – and I mean tireless – these kids have a roof over their heads, access to an education, health care and people who love and care for them.  Their successes keep coming. Boys who arrived at the home with nothing but the clothes on their backs now brag about educational awards and skills they’ve developed. They speak of jobs they’ve secured and how they in turn have gone on to either help other children and/or their families back home.  They’ve left the streets and found the other side. 50 boys.


The simple things become extraordinary when you finally find your place in the world

Can you imagine all that is required to raise them? I have only two sons and the way they leave me drained at the end of any given day when trying to nurture their physical and emotional needs is something I know a lot of parents can relate to. I often offer kudos to single moms or moms of more than two. But can you imagine parenting 50 BOYS?

There are joys for sure but there are also heartbreaks.

Recent news that one of the boys who has been in Sanjay’s care for years – a son to him – has cancer and that there’s little that can be done to help him explains the sadness in Verghese’s eyes as he tells me about his work. He doesn’t just care for these kids. He loves them. All 50. Every. Single. One.

And what does a father of 52 (He has a son and a daughter of his own as well.)  think about in the rare moments where he has a moment to think of something other than how he will continue to clothe, feed, educate and support his children? The girls he can’t help…yet.


One of the 20 girls who could immediately benefit from our help

The laws in India require that boys and girls homes of the nature that Sanjay has be kept separate. It means that while he has been caring for the boys he couldn’t help the girls unless he had a separate facility.

And so he started building one.


About 20 girls are already lined up and getting some assistance from him even though the building has yet to be completed.

72 children.

Did I mention that he is not rich?

The land has been purchased but the building itself has to wait until he has enough funds. He estimates that he would need about $60,000 to get it done properly. He is committed to seeing it happen.

Why? Because young girls on the streets of India have even more at stake than young boys. Prostitution, young pregnancies, disease all lurk in those dark alleys at night. Getting a girl off the street is like saving a future family.

Why am I telling you this?

Because when Candace told me about the thousands of dollars worth of  prizing for  Walmart’s mother of the year award I thought only of Sanjay and those kids. If I won any of that money, Ashray Bhavan is where I’d send it. I don’t care about the #MOTY label but I do believe in the power of money to do a lot of good in this world. And I believe in Sanjay.

I sincerely doubt I have a shot at winning this contest but there is a chance here to raise awareness of Ashray Bhavan and so I’m asking you to help however you can.

1. You could vote with your mouse and your comments here

2. You could open your wallet and donate  here

3. Or you could share this post anywhere and everywhere so that more people know that they can help too

I hope that either you or Walmart or some mysterious benefactor will help me help Sanjay and his family help these kids.

That’s a lot of helping but if we can do it I think it would create something truly worth celebrating.

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{ 11 comments… add one }

Thornbury3 May 23, 2012, 7:09 PM

I think I said “wow” 7 times while reading this. Personally, I believe all Heathers are pretty darn amazing. And Sanjay? Wow. See, I said it again. I travelled through India many years ago and I can imagine the incredible people and places you’re seeing. I hope BOTH Heathers win. xo Lisa Thornbury


Heather May 25, 2012, 5:45 PM

Such a fan of the “other” Heather and Sanjay too. Such amazing people.


Amy May 23, 2012, 7:56 PM

What a story! This is why we travel. I’m posting and donating!


Heather May 25, 2012, 5:44 PM

You rock Rosen!


Torviewtoronto May 24, 2012, 5:14 PM

lovely post and story, thank you for sharing about the wonderful people out there helping the world
will be voting for you in hope that these children will benefit
nice to see your site and meet you kind regards Akheela


Heather May 25, 2012, 5:44 PM

Thanks so much. I really hope someone out there will read it and help them.


Kerrie Hansler May 24, 2012, 6:45 PM

An amazing story.  Thank you for sharing a beautiful example of the importance of how money can truly make a difference.  Thank you.


Heather May 25, 2012, 5:43 PM

Kerrie, Thank you. It would make such a difference.


Emiel van den Boomen May 28, 2012, 5:27 AM

Impressive story and I so much value you getting the story out there Heather! You have my vote for sure.
As you know we will be in Delhi for a couple of days end of July. Do you think we could help with special things that we can bring from our home? I would also love to write about the project to share their story even further. 


Cecilia May 30, 2012, 9:27 PM

Hello Heather! I can’t believe I just came across your blog now. What an adventure! I can’t stop reading. Good luck on the rest of your journey before returning home (I’m from Toronto too) and good luck on MOTY! Sanjay needs it!


karen Lee June 11, 2012, 3:38 PM

Oh Heather, you are making a difference. WOW. I will definitely share this story!!


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