The World Has Forgotten Them, But I Haven’t. Have You?
What would your life be like if you had to sleep every night a few steps from a public water spout? This is where poor street people come to bathe and wash dishes. Or what if you lived near a sewer hole?
When I was a child, my sister nearly fell into a smelly sewer hole that went far underground. She held on by white-knuckled fingertips until my father raced from our home not far away to pull her out.
I lived this way for most of my childhood. Many today in India still do.
Extreme poverty is nothing new in India.
Urban slums like those in Calcutta, where I grew up, still ‘raise’ countless children who know nothing but hunger, filth, crime, desperation, and broken families. They grow up being written off by higher castes, not given opportunities, and living in conditions that would make most people sick.
How Extreme Poverty Infects Generations
When everyone lives like this, how does it affect a city? It affects every generation. It affects the day to day life, and the long term health of the community.
That’s why in Calcutta today you’ll see skinny hungry children, and skinny hungry elderly people. You’ll see disabled people who can barely move fending for themselves on the streets. You’ll see grown men, young and old, pulling rickshaws for 12/14 hours a day and barely surviving on their wages.
Because they can barely sustain their own lives and those of their children, these men often can’t support their old aged parents or relatives. That’s one reason so many elderly and disabled get abandoned. It’s not always because people don’t care. Sometimes, they simply can’t afford to care.
For the same reason, if a kid gets sick with a disease like tuberculosis or thalassemia and all the complications those lead to if left untreated, their parents have nowhere to turn.
Because I grew up in this, I know it through my entire being. I didn’t just see it while on holiday. I lived it. I know the smells, the sounds, and the feeling of an always empty stomach.
And that’s why today, I’ve made it my life mission to help the people living in the place I grew up. My work for Remedia has two major branches:
Meeting Immediate Needs
Changing Long Term Outlooks
Meeting Immediate Needs – Survival and Community
To meet immediate needs, we have three charities – one for children, one for the disabled, and one for the aged.
Our work with children covers everything – education, disease treatment, nourishment, and medical help. Whatever they need to have a chance at a better life, we try and provide.
We get them extra school help and supplies if their regular schools don’t help them (which is common if they’re in lower castes).
We help them get blood transfusions and treatments for diseases that would otherwise cripple their futures.
We help kids with autism learn and grow in ways they respond to. We help blind kids and those suffering with cerebral palsy and so on.
For the disabled and the elderly we have two separate charities, but both have a similar mission – keep people alive who have been abandoned or forgotten because they were too hard to care for. We give them food, teach them crafts, and give them a safe place to come and make new friends.
Changing Long Term Outlooks
Immediate needs are about saving lives. We simply want to keep people alive. But that’s not enough. We also want to remake the whole society that continues to produce this kind of suffering.
The E3 Job Growth program takes young people ages 14-30 who want something better out of life, and gives them a chance to get there. We teach job skills, life skills, public speaking skills, hygiene, and so much more to help young people who want better jobs.
We’ve helped dozens of young people get placed in jobs like hotel work, which is so much better than the backbreaking work of pulling rickshaws. Plus, it has a future. But to get there, they need help with their self-presentation and much more. And we need relationships with people in the business community to give our trainees their first chance at these better jobs.
E3 stands for Education, Empowerment, and Employability. And that’s what we’re starting to do for young men and women in Calcutta. As our program grows, we hope to expand it to other cities.
Lastly, we have a program that teaches young women how to protect themselves. Ayesha Noor, a 3-time gold medalist in karate, teaches karate to girls aged 8-20. India remains a very unsafe place for young women, and Ayesha’s first goal is to empower them with skills to defend themselves, because often no one else will.
Her second goal is to give them self-confidence that will spread to the other areas of their lives. Many of the girls in Ayesha’s karate classes are also in our E3 and children’s programs. So while we have five branches to our work, they are connected and have one central mission – to lift up the extreme poor from every generation.
If we weren’t there, many of these kids, young people, disabled, and aged people would starve, wither, have no hope for the future, and in some cases just die alone.
Do You Want to Help the People of India?
You’ve seen a bit of what I do in India, and why I do it. But these kids, women, disabled, and elderly need your help.
I would greatly appreciate your partnership with Remedia Trust.
If you’d like to learn more, you can visit the Remedia Trust website. Here are two ways you can take action:
Thank you for reading about this part of my life that is more important than any other.