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.
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.
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.
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.
Sanjay, 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.
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.
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.
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.