On Friday, we spent over 6 hours at Don Bosco to place these two brothers (Intia, 9 yrs. and Chotu, 5 yrs.) in boarding school. The day began with going to a hospice home to pick up the father only to find out he ran away from the hospice. Later, the father returned and we then took the children to the Don Bosco facility. Often times, the parents are bad and not very well behaved, but the children should not have to pay the price. The father is a bicycle rickshaw driver, married twice, 3 children from each marriages, both wives left him because he drinks and beat them up, and does not provide for the family and forced his children to beg on the streets. The only reason we were able to help the boys was the father contracted malaria and got so sick he had to seek help. We placed the father in hospice care and his sons in temporary shelter at an orphanage. After the father got better, we processed the children's papers with child welfare to place them in boarding school. Hopefully, these two children will not take after their father's behavior and maybe will have a chance to have something better.
The 12 children we registered on 09 January 2014 to Saint George school all got accepted and are now attending classes. The sister at the Gandhi Center is helping them with school uniforms. Stephanie, one of the many volunteers in Kolkata and a wonderful and kind person, has donated 10000 Rupees to help pay for their uniforms and books.
It is with grace that all 12 children got accepted. We were expecting a few, but not all. Why all 12 children got accepted we do not know. Nor do we know why we registered 12 children, instead of 3 like we originally planned. However, what we do know is that whenever there seems to be an obstacle, a new path appears and our work continues.
Don Bosco is a great place to send the children for the chances/odds of success, but there is limited space and emotionally difficult at times for the children being in boarding school. Many of the private boarding schools we looked at as an alternative to Don Bosco were expensive, costing more than Don Bosco and some were not very nice. Saint George (the day school) is a wonderful school and is very affordable. However, it is also limited in the number of available spaces for new students and we have so many children we hope to provide with education.
When I left Kolkata in middle of January, I felt a bit lost at what to do since I have no idea where more funding will come from next. Then when I visited Cassie, who I met briefly in Kolkata eight months ago, in Bangkok since my flight layover there, she began asking all kinds of questions about the foundation and work and before I knew it, she had generously and kindly gave her time and energy and got a website up and running. Since then, three new sponsors contacted and so now there is funding to help three more children.
This week has been a long week at Don Bosco. Yesterday, I spent over 5 hours there to register two boys. I have logged many bus kilometers back and forth bringing children into the boarding school. I have also logged many kilometers going there in the late evening hours whenever one of the children is not feeling well and I have to go and find out what is wrong.
With the latest two boys, Rohit and Suvangit, we are now at ten children enrolled in Don Bosco. Our goal is to have 15 children in the school when I leave next week.
With less than 10 days left, there is still some work to do to get the remaining children into boarding school. Next Tuesday, we are planning to bring 5-6 children so that will be a very long day for sure. I hope when this is all well and done, God will allowed me to rest for a long time.
I have not been getting much sleep and drinking terrible instant coffee is not helping. On top of that, it is very humid and the mosquitoes are out in force. It is now malaria season and the mosquitoes are having their feasts. And I can’t stand how bad I smell from the sweat that is always soaking my clothes. This should make everyone dream of coming to Kolkata to work with the poor.
I visited Ashalayam today to learn that three of the children we sent there got a bit sad and are missing their mothers. This is common and when it happens, we notify the parents to come for a brief visit and to assure their children this is a good place for them and their future. After a few weeks, the children usually adjust to their new environment and meet new friends to help keep them from being sad.
When I met with the Director of Don Bosco today, we had a good chat about getting the rest of the children into the facility. I will not go into the detail of the meeting, but we managed to convince him to help us with the children. So it looks like we are now able to bring in all the children we intended to bring in and maybe more as we are getting more people wanting to sponsor children. There are so many children we have paperwork for admission, but we have no sponsors for them so for now, they are placed on a waiting list until we can find people willing to help. With grace from above, the children will not have to wait too long…hopefully.
In the prayer of Saint Francis, there is a passage that said something like, “where there is despair, I shall bring hope”. Well, for me it seems to be just the opposite. Just when I felt there is hope we will be able to bring all the children into Don Bosco; our hope turned to despair. In the last two weeks, we were able to get paperwork on most of the children and I had planned to bring 10 children in on two different occasions.
Today, I brought 4 children in to Don Bosco so now the total number of children reaches 8 ( 4 boys and 4 girls) for this trip. My hope to bring the rest of the children in next week got steamrolled when the first words out of the director’s mouth were, “We can not accept any more girls, because we don’t have space for them in our homes.” It seems as though a new challenge comes along just when I think it will be smooth sailing. Why do I even think, nor should I even expect this would be easy. To help the poor, should be easy to do, but the reality in helping the poor is far from being easy. Well, I hope someday it will be easy. After all, this is a brand new foundation so what kind of growing pains can be expected? Well, I just need to do what is written in the name of the foundation and that is to have faith, hope, and love to serve the poor and to serve the Lord even when I am suffering and things are not going so well. Nothing is a failure as long as we do our best. Easier said than to believe.
When I walked to mass at 5:30 this morning through the streets of Kolkata, I was wondering what most children in wealthy countries are doing at 5:30 in the morning. Many of the children are probably still sleeping and later will wake up to a breakfast and then get ready for school if it is a school day.
Today, we brought two more children to Don Bosco. Sumit and Prince both age 5 are now given a home and a chance for a future. But before I went to mass and picked up the two boys, I walked past a landfill where a mother and her son, (perhaps 7-8 years old) were scouring through the landfill searching for valuable garbage that can be sold. For many of the children in Kolkata, they don’t get to sleep in at 5:30 in the morning. Their early mornings are always busy with work; finding trash, fetching water, digging for coal/charcoal to cook with and never a thought about getting ready for school since that is not an opportunity given to them. The future for these children are the things surrounding them; the landfills, and the occasional jobs they may find, and life in the streets.
Sumit and Prince are two fortunate children who were found by the Sisters living on the “foot path” one year ago. Prince and his mother were homeless after his father left for another woman and leaving him and his mother with nothing. Sumit and his father and mother were homeless when they decided to marry for love instead of the traditional way of arranged marriage. Their families disowned them and they ended up living in the streets with his mother taking care of Sumit, while his father work to feed the family. A little over a year ago, Sumit’s mother passed away and his father became jobless, because he had to care for his son. Had the Sisters not found them, Prince and Sumit would still be living on the “foot path” and perhaps not having a chance to grow up.
As of today, both Sumit and Prince are at Don Bosco and will have a chance at a future like the rest of the children who are sleeping at 5:30 in the morning and then waking up to get ready for school.
I spent the day yesterday buying school supplies and some clothes for the children. I wanted for them to look nice for their first day at Don Bosco. This morning I went to pick them up at the Gandhi Center around 9 in the morning. As it is typical the children and mothers were not ready, but we had plenty of time. Two Sisters from Missionaries of Charity accompanied me and the children to provide support and to learn about the Don Bosco’s facility.
When the children were ready, we decided to take them there by bus and not try to be fancy using a taxi or the Missionaries of Charity’s car. Since it is our goal and philosophy to maintain simplicity as much as possible, it was appropriate to not waste money on fancy and unnecessary things.
When all the paperwork and interview were completed the mothers were elated, rejoiced, relieved, and began crying with joy that it finally happened; that their children are getting a chance to start new lives.
I am so thankful that we are able to bring the children in. There are still many obstacles to overcome for the other children, but I feel we will somehow get them all enrolled.
The two children that we brought to Don Bosco today are Sarfaraz and Shahin. Sarfraraz is 7 years old and is a very smart child who I believe will go very far academically. Shahin is 9 years old and works very hard. She is also a smart child and with guidance from the Sisters and teachers will have a chance to do well and have a better future. At least they will have the next 10 years off the streets…I hope for a lot more for them. Thank you for continuing to support the children and to help provide them the opportunities for better lives.
I have arranged with the Sisters to bring the children to Don Bosco next week. Father Myppan has said he will accept all the children so that is good. I hope the Sisters will bring enough cars for 17 children, otherwise it will be like taking a public bus where they pack people in like cattle..
This morning, I went to teach the children in the slum around the Gandhi Center. In the photo, the children are working on an art activity. Amazingly, we did a silent activity at the end of the day and the children remained silent for almost 5 minutes while we play a soft acoustic melody on the guitar.
Today, I visited Father George Myppan at Ashalayam, Don Bosco and he allowed me to take some photos of the boys at play. These boys were at one time homeless, living on the streets of Kolkata. They were rough street kids, either begging or sorting through trash and often getting into trouble on the streets. But because they were given an opportunity, they are now respectful young boys working towards a better future.
In the photo above is Fr. Myppan with one of the boys at Ashalayam. Sunday is a rest day so the children are given free time to play soccer and crickets. In the last photo is a young boy who is fairly new to Ashalayam. He is in 4th grade, quite shy, but he is well-mannered due to the nurturing environment.
Father Myppan has arranged for me to meet with the five children we have already sponsored next Sunday. To date, they are doing well and next week, I will have a chance to see first hand how they are coping with life off the streets and away from their families. I just hope they will continue to take full advantage of the opportunity they are given.
Please, continue to help these children however you can through prayers and kindness.
and Cassie Fox-P