I met Sneha about 5 years ago when she was about 5 years of age in the slum near Central in Kolkata. In the streets and in the Gandhi Welfare Center, I taught her English and Math and to sing silly songs. She and many other children along the years have been placed in various boarding schools throughout Kolkata. Though many kids could not handle the structured life in boarding school, Sneha is one of the few who has thrived. When I first met her, she had no formal education and spent part of her days pounding rusty nails to straighten them out. Now she is in class IV in an English Medium school and is among the top 5% in her class. It will be interesting to see how far she will go. I hope she will go far and she will as long as everyone around her provides support. Thank you to everyone out there who is helping to support her dream.
After having some time to rest and recover, I have been able to reflect on the ride from San Francisco to New York City. Along the way, I had some bad days riding in heat and humidity. Everyday, my muscles and joints hurt. At one point, both my knees were so fatigued, I thought I would have to abandon the ride or risk damaging them. There were also frustration with circumstances that were unexpected and unforeseen, but I managed to ride on and stayed focus.
Along the way, many people followed the ride on Facebook and provided encouragement and likes. When I finally got to New York City, the ride was never about me and what I can accomplished. It is about what people living in poverty can endure and accomplish each and everyday. I realized that even though it was difficult to cycle 2566 miles in 42 days (with 5 rest days included), I had the option to stop at any time if situations get to difficult physically or mentally and go to a more comfortable environment.
For the millions of people living in extreme poverty, they suffer also...everyday. The only difference is they don't have the option to give up. The suffering that I endured with aches and pains is nothing compared to the suffering of living in extreme poverty conditions. It is amazing that they can keep on going through all adversities of heat, monsoon, filth, hunger, sickness, and challenges for the children being placed in horrible situations (trafficking/abduction/drugs/alcohol). Each day they wake up. Each day they endure. And they do it all over again the next day...until they can't do it anymore. But giving up to be comfortable is never an option they are afforded.
I rode across America and endured some discomfort of aches and pains to bring awareness to the real hardships (aches and pains) for the millions of people living everyday in extreme poverty. The ride was always about them and never about me. What I did is nothing compared to what they accomplished everyday. Suffering for others is a wonderful sacrifice; a wonderful gift.
Our actions matter and I would hope that if anyone is reading this, you will take a step further to do something more for those in need (in extreme poverty) whenever possible.
The start of my awareness ride across America from San Francisco to NYC-United Nations is one week away. I am a bit skeptical in my attempt to bring awareness to people living in extreme poverty and to get people to care enough to take action. Our world is at such a crossroad in history with many divides and I am not sure how many people will care to listen and support the poor. I am hopeful at the same time and I will soon find out how my resolve and my faith in God and humanity will be tested.
On June 21st, I will begin a journey across America with hope.
The main purpose to cycle from San Francisco to New York City (United Nations) is to raise awareness for people living in extreme poverty around the world, but to also raise awareness for people living in poverty locally. At Faith-Hope-Love Foundation, we feel that education is a way for many who live in poverty an avenue to escape the shackles of hopelessness. At FHL, we provide for children living in extreme poverty an opportunity for boarding and education in hope they may move ahead in life. Many people living in extreme poverty are also living in homelessness along the footpath, under a bypass, and in slums. The definitions for extreme poverty and poverty are quite different, but the feelings of hopelessness are quite similar. For the children born into poverty, their futures are filled with obstacles and hardships that most people are not aware nor can comprehend.
Over 850 million people are living in extreme poverty throughout the world, mostly in India, Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Latin & South Americas. Over 350 million people are living in extreme poverty in India alone. The population of poor people living in India exceeds the population of people living in United States. Unlike the poor in America and the Western World, many of the extreme poor around the world are not afforded with proper social assistance and the education received is not adequate or not available. Many extreme poor children do not go to school and most are far behind academically and are illiterate.
Therefore, at Faith-Hope-Love Foundation, we plan to raise awareness and fund for those people living in poverty by cycling across America from San Francisco to Washington D.C. in 2017 with a message of awareness for the situations of those living in poverty and extreme poverty locally and internationally. We also want to show people who are interested in learning the stories of the poor and discuss with them on ways they can help. We feel that everyone should take responsibility to help the poor in the same manner that everyone is responsible to take care of our environment. We may not realize that poverty affects everyone and we may not realize how our actions affect the poor. As part of our plan to raise awareness during our ride, we hope to discuss with people simple ways they can help the poor. No individual can solve the issue of poverty, but we feel that if we can convince enough people and create a movement of selfless acts to help the poor, then perhaps we can solve this issue or at least make the lives of the poor a little bit better.
Cycling Route: Dates (June 21-August 9) 49 Days.
Pacifica to United Nations (3819.8 miles)
Pacifica to SF (14.2 mi)
SF to Oakland (9.9 mi.)
Oakland to Sacramento (97.1 mi.)
Sacramento to South Lake Tahoe (111 mi.)
South Lake Tahoe to Carson City (29.4 mi.)
Carson City to Austin (173 mi.)
Austin to Salt Lake City (366 mi.)
Salt Lake City to Steamboat Spring (360 mi.)
Steamboat Spring to Boulder (134 mi.)
Boulder to Cheyenne (95.2 mi.)
Cheyenne to Rapid City (276 mi.)
Rapid City to Pierre (170 mi.)
Pierre to St. Paul (395 mi.)
St. Paul to Madison (273 mi.)
Madison to Indianapolis (401 mi.)
Indianapolis to Columbus (186 mi.)
Columbus to Pittsburgh (199 mi.)
Pittsburgh to Harrisburg (319 mi.)
Harrisburg to United Nation Plaza (211 mi.)
Rest days will be taken after every 6 days of riding. We plan to cycle about 100 miles each day. Our hope is that as we ride across America, people will join us on the ride to show support for the poor. Depending on weather, fatigue factor, illnesses, mechanical, and injuries, we hope to complete this ride in 2 months.
With Easter approaching and sharing in the sacrifice of the season, I figure it is appropriate to again help some children to get off the streets and slums to receive a chance to go to boarding school. This month in Kolkata, we are in process to place between 7-11 children for boarding and school, pending on whether we can obtain documents on them.
But, at the moment, I am in Nairobi, Kenya working with Alfajiri to support them in their work to help drug addicted street boys to get off the streets and to kick their addiction through art. At the same time, we will begin a project to provide opportunity for kids from the slum in Nairobi to go to boarding school.
The other day, I spoke with one school and arranged for a visit later this week to see the facility. If the school meets our approval, then we will begin processing the children's paper and get them in before the new school term begins in May.
My hope is that this work in Nairobi will blossom in similar ways that happened in Kolkata. It is quite inspiring to see the drug addicted children and how they create passionate art work based on their lives. It is also inspiring to see the children showing passions to learn and wanting a better education. I am just glad to be able to provide them with the opportunities to dream.
Five years ago, I began a journey that led me to help the extreme poor. In that time, I have learned the challenges people faced everyday that I can never imagined and how they endured their hardships. And though there are many wonderful people out there helping and making differences in their lives, society can also be cruel to the poor. With the current political and economic situations in the world creating uncertainties and worries, we tend to turn our focuses on ourselves first and not as much for those truly suffering in the world.
This summer, I am riding to raise awareness for people living in extreme poverty and for those who are suffering due to world conflicts. I will attempt to ride my bicycle from San Francisco to New York City ending at the doorsteps of the United Nations. I hope to talk to as many people willing to listen and to let everyone knows how it is possible for them to help as I ride across America. I will begin this ride alone, but I hope people will join along the way.
I will post the complete route on the website and Facebook in the coming months for anyone who wishes to join in this ride. I hope through awareness, we will make this world better for everyone, especially for those who are suffering in the world everyday just because they were born into it and have little opportunities to have better lives.
I have not written much in a long while, but that is because the work in serving the poor is just busier leaving little time to keep up with telling their stories and getting more people to be aware of their situations. It has been four Christmases ago that I began this work in service to the poor children and time seems to pass by so quickly since the first child was helped with boarding school placement.
At the Christmas celebration yesterday at Don Bosco Ashalayam, I saw one of our original kids (Jasmin) grown up and smiling. She is one of the first and has been in boarding school for four years now. I hope she will finish class ten and move on. The school said she is doing quite well and is in the top five percent in her class. She is now in class two. An older girl, Reena, was recently helped last year by us (FHL) has completed class 12 and is studying to take an exam to get into medicine. I am praying and wishing her all the best and have expressed to her our complete support.
Of course, we also have some sad news regarding some of the kids. One boy left our boarding program due to a serious infection that the school can not risk having others kids being sick and two other boys also left because the parents did not bring them back after the summer break. We also lost one girl, Miriam, after spending almost four years in boarding and now back in the streets.
In all, it was a positive year with 52 of the 58 children returning to school after each term and holiday break. There are 10 openings available this December for new children enrollment so I hope to get them into boarding before the new term begins. It is always the same obstacles of having no ducuments and money that are keeping these kids from being in school. Yes, they have free government school, but I have seen the government school and most are not what I would considered a school. In any case, the kids will have better success through broading school where they can be monitored and supported.
There are so many poor children throughout the world and in various situations. Some I am able to help while others I am helpless to do anything. I was in Nairobi recently to meet many of the young Kenyans living in one of the largest slum in the world. Their eagerness to learn and to receive help is a good indicator and so I hope to begin the next phase of work there.
I believe that it is important for us to help the poor not for the sake of helping, but for the reason that somehow it will make this world that much better. They will help to make this world that much better if they are given opportunities for better lives.
One individual working alone will not end the issue of poverty and neither can one government do the same. However, if we can all work together to help those with so much less, then perhaps it is possible. It is difficult to comprehend how we can live in a world where over 850 million people are living in extreme impoverish conditions with many more living on the edge about to join them.
People don't become poor all on their own, we don't believe. Perhaps a child is born into poverty, but the poverty began some time back in the family's history. There are many factors that will force people into poverty such are wars, droughts and famines, economic crisis, and many more. The question is how do we help them get out of poverty when so many factors are working against them? Is providing the poor with basic education good enough? We don't think so...but it is better than no education.
Mother Teresa once spoke up to her critics who said she was spoiling the poor, enabling them, and keeping them dependent on her goodness. In response to her critics, she said that in our society so many people have spoiled the wealthy so isn't it about time someone spoils the poor.
So to that end, what if we can spoil the poor with the best education, the best schooling that everyone would wish to have? How would that impact poverty in this world? We would never know until we try.
With the end of May and Summer is approaching, we were getting the children ready for entrance to their boarding homes. Over the years, we have learned and made adjustments to help the children and families in the transition from street living to boarding situation. So with the help of a local social worker, we gathered all the children and families together for some counseling and informative guidelines prior to bringing them to their boarding homes to receive care and education.
In total for the month of May, 13 children will be making the transition from the street to boarding environment. The kids are very excited to go into boarding. However, it is always unpredictable how they will adjust once they are there and whether they will find their new environment a place they feel as a home with love and care.
We just hope that the children will make full use of the opportunity. Our main goal is to provide the children with proper shelter and care. The educational part is important, but it takes on a lesser importance to providing proper shelter and care. We hope that the children will learn to value the education they receive even if they don't get through and complete their schooling. But, if the children learn to value education, then perhaps their children will have a better chance to achieve.
Just like any 9-5 job, I began my day at 8:00am actually to pick up two families from Motiljel Slum and Terretti Bazaar Slum to go to school for registration and boarding. We arrived at Ashalayam by 9:00am and began the interview process with Fr. Alfred. Then the kids and families were brought up to counseling and processed. However, due to morning breaks and lunch where everything stops regardless of what is going on, the parents and I did not signed the completed registration papers until 4:30pm. However, in the end, the two kids were happy they are going to a boarding home and schooling.
Papiya is a 12 year old girl from the Motiljel Slum living with her grandfather, mother, and two sibblings, She is the eldest of the three. Her father recently passed away at the age of 31 years of age. She is in class 4 in Hindi Medium, bvut with the loss of her father and a source of income, life is difficult for the family and so we are happy to be able to help Papiya with boarding and ease the family's financial burden just a little.
Sahil is an 11 year old boy from the Terretti Bazaar Slum area and is also in class 4. He comes from a family of 4 children and he is the eldest. His father works as a laborer, but a recent accident to his abdomen makes hauling material difficult and his monthly earning got reduced. Sahil is a wonderful artist and loves to draw. He can also speak English fairly well so we hope he will be attending English Medium classes soon.
By the end of the day, both kids were happy as they left Ashalayam to their new homes. The families were also happy and are very supportive of their kids. And though they are older than the normal kids we usually placed in boarding, we have much hope these two children will do well in school.
and Cassie Fox-P