We just returned from visiting the crèches (daycare centers) and Needlbagh School run by Ashraya in and around Bangalore India. Although this was our third trip to India, the poverty in which so many children live was again depressing and overwhelming.
Our spirits did not begin to lift until we went to the crèche for children of migrant construction workers. One has to remember to put everything in a totally different context to realize how vast the gifts of the crèche are to the children who are fortunate enough to attend. A day in the care of a crèche means a safe place, early educational training, a daily glass of milk (20% of the daily construction workers’ wage of $1.00), monthly medical attention, lunch and access to running water. Clothing is often provided so that children can participate. Some of the children never step outside of the labor camp where the crèche is located and where their families live in barebones shelter until the building project is completed and they must move on.
The goal of Ashraya is to give these children a real chance of a better life by working with their parents to emphasize the importance of sending their children to school no matter how many times they move. The lucky ones go on to Needlbagh, Ashraya’s residential school a few hours outside of Bangalore. It was there we met children who have come from the crèches and are now finishing their 10th year of school. The school’s record is amazing, continually surpassing local school’s scholastic achievements!
Our admiration is endless for the staff and programs put into place by Ashraya. They are so outstanding that the co-founder, Nomita Chandy, just received one of the highest honors in India for her work. It is so important that we help Mrs. Chandy and her staff by funding her efforts that will change the course of these children’s lives.
There was one little 4-year-old girl who will particularly remain in our minds forever. Without exaggerating, she could have been our granddaughter’s twin - if not for her skin tone. When our Mia saw her picture, she said, “That looks like me.”
They may each have huge brown eyes, a lovely round face and the shyness evident in their smile, but the difference in their daily lives and the prospects for their futures are as dissimilar as night is to day. We can only hope that through Ashraya’s effort and the generosity of caring grandparents around the world that this little girl and others like her will have the opportunity to emerge from a life of abject poverty. The opportunity is there; we just have to help Ashraya give it to them.