As the bitter cold winter set in Northern India this year, Maitri India purchased warm woolen blankets and shawls for the destitute widows in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh. This was made possible because of our generous donors who not only donated to our project on GlobalGiving, but also supported us by spreading the word about it. The months of January and February are particularly cold in Vrindavan, which made our project a timely one. We excitedly watched as our project grew from its first donation, to becoming a permanent partner with GlobalGiving – it is really encouraging to know that so many people around the world support our project and believe in our cause.
Our primary goal was for the widowed women to use the blankets to stay warm during the cold season, so we ordered 400 custom-made woolen blankets with Maitri India’s logo sewn on so that the widows would not sell these blankets. We also bought 500 warm shawls that we distributed to the widows.
Most of the widows we work with have little or no source of income besides singing hymns at local temples. With little or no family support, many widows live a solitary existence in Vrindavan, where they rely on donations and resort to begging to survive. Many of them struggle to make ends to meet in order pay rent to live in hovels where there is no electricity or water. Needless to say, buying a blanket or warm clothing to keep herself warm is probably not even an option for an elderly widow begging on the streets of Vrindavan. With this in mind, the Maitri team distributed the shawls and blankets in two trips to Vrindavan.
It is quite something to see the smiles lighting up the widows’ care-worn faces as they received their own blankets and shawls, knowing that somebody cares about them. We hope that our GlobalGiving donors can visit our project if they ever visit India.
I was married at the young age of seven. Needless to say, I did not even understand the meaning marriage at such a young age. However, my parents were poor and wanted me to be settled in marriage early. My husband was 15 years older than myself and he died only a few years after we were married. We did not have any children, so I returned to live with my mother for 13 more years. Then I moved to Radha Kund (Vrindavan) to be among other widows. I cleaned homes and begged for money for forty years.
It was a very difficult lifestyle, so when I heard about Maitri India, I approached them for support and today I am in their care. Maitri has provided a safe haven and a place where I can regain my dignity and respect. I am so grateful to be here and I appreciate the work that Maitri does so that I do not have to spend my last years as a beggar.