Friday, December 12, 2008

Yashodha from Louisiana

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. ~Mother Teresa

As a child I would spend a lot of summer's at my grandma's home. Amma, as I affectionately called her lived in a village in North India that did not have any electricity. As soon as it would get dark, my cousins and I would sit with Amma by a lantern and she would tell us stories.

Most of these stories were about Krishna (a Hindu God) - the Krishna who was "natkhat" (rambunctious) and surrounded by gopis, the Krishna who Radha secretly loved, the Krishna who imparted wisdom to Arjun during the battle of Kurukshetra and the Krishna who saved his people from a murderous dictator.

But none of these stories fascinated me as much as that of Yashodha, the foster mother who saved Krishna (or Bal Gopal as the young Krishna was called), gave him love and shelter, spoilt him like a mother and made him realize his full potential.

That brings me to the story of my friend Caroline. A woman from Louisiana who went to India to find a child her friend was sponsoring through the Christian Children's Fund. Determined to prove it a hoax she landed in Orissa. Not only did she meet the child (who had every single letter written to him by his sponsor), she discovered the staggering statistics of orphans in India. (25 million orphans in the system, 3000 get adopted every year).

Appalled by what she saw - these kids had barely a roof, no medical help, barely any food and no one to love them or hug them. They were the lowest of the lows - the Untouchables. Caroline decided to become Yashodha to these Bal Gopals.

She came back to the US and started an organization that would build world class orphanages in India. Daunting as that task seems to most of us, she read international and UN mandated briefs, applied for licenses, worked through bureaucratic nightmares and the organization now owns six orphanages in Orissa and Jharkhand in India. Since then they are going through the process of upgrading these orphanages.

The model is to have 20 houses per campus with 10 kids in each house. Every house has a house mother. The house mother is hired from the underprivileged as well, hence empowering the woman. The kids get proper nutrition, an English school education, a stable environment and someone to call "mom". Two orphanages have already been upgraded to this model and Caroline and the organization is always improving on the model. She encourages every one to visit the kids.

In this season of giving please visit her website. It doesn't take much to transform a child's life.

1 comment:

sgm said...

Wow, while you had told me about the organization, I did not know the history about how Caroline had come to learn about the situation for orphans in India in the first place. What a beautiful story of enlightenment!