I received enough school supplies and used clothes to fill four full size suitcases. However, due to airline rules for baggage, I was only able to take two somewhat over the weight limit suitcases with me to Kolkata. The rest of the donations will have to wait until my next trip back to the States.
Always, when I returned to the States, it seems more different and I see how much more our society needs to do to help the poor. The amount of spending we generate on everything from purchasing things we need to live to luxury items that we eventually no longer use and discard.
I have met many people who share this passion to help the poor and others with less. But, I have also met many people who don’t want to help the poor and feel it is not their responsibility. It is definitely a difficult if not impossible task in helping the poor and to provide them with opportunities. However, it is very easy to help one poor child/person to have a better life simply by recognizing he/she deserves our respect and love.
July 5, 2015
This morning I went to Don Bosco Ashalayam to paid tuition for the non-German sponsored children and was surprised to learn that a new director, Father Alfred is now in charge. After meeting him, I caught him up on who I am and the mission of the work. Father Alfred is willing to look at our children and make assessment so perhaps, we will be able to place children again in boarding school in Don Bosco.
All the children except for two are still there and are doing well. The two children who left were taken out by their fathers. There was no reason why they wanted their kids out, but I can speculate that it is for work or conflict with school’s philosophy.
At Nav Jeevan, I went to visit Rupa, who we recently placed. She is doing well, but still misses her family a little. The rest of the children are doing well except for one girl, Mary, who is missing because her mother has not brought her back from a holiday break. Sr. Lizy is keeping her place opened for now in case she returns.
July 6, 2015
Today, MC Sisters took me to a school in the village where three of the children were placed in a boarding school run by the Sisters of St. Anne. The school and hostel are situated on a large piece of land with nice landscaping of mango, banana, and jack fruit trees. Many tropical flowering plants add colors and beauty to the environment. The children appeared well-adjusted to their new homes which is a stark contrast from the train platform of Sealdah. On the train ride, it was difficult to take in the poverty that exists for kilometer after kilometer along the train track. Tiny homes of rusted tin metals and bamboos formed a gauntlet on both sides of the track that seems to have no end in sight.
July 7, 2015
I visited the Nimtala Slum and the Gandhi Slum today until the afternoon rain came. I met with the children and family to let them know we have six slots available for boarding. Of course, many parents wanted their kids to be placed, but we can only take six so it will be difficult to decide who gets placed and who will wait until next time. While visiting the children, one child was being physically abused by a very bad father who bloodied the boy. The mother wants us to take the child for boarding, but I am afraid the father will cause trouble so it may not happen. As long as the abusive father is in the picture, there is not much I can do to help. The mother can go to the police, but that is probably no help either.
July 8, 2015
As I promised a mother and her son three months ago when I was in Kolkata, I stopped by her make-shift home in the Nimtala Slum to provide boarding school for her son. At the request of the MC Sister, another boy from the same area was also provided boarding. At first, I was about to bring the children to Missionaries of the Word, but after speaking with the director, I felt taking them to Don Bosco was the better option. At Don Bosco, Fr. Alfred was helpful and quickly processed the children’s papers and within an hour, the children were admitted.
I am quite pleased that Don Bosco Ashalayam and I are able to work together once more to help provide education for the poor. Father Alfred seems more sympathetic for the poor since he is born and raised in West Bengal so poverty is a part of his life. In any case, I hope this will be a long lasting cooperation that will benefit the children we are serving.
July 10, 2015
Wading knee deep in sewage water due to monsoon rain this morning, I began to wonder how some people are fortunate enough to live in glass houses while others not so fortunate are trying to keep what little possessions they have above water. It seems the two worlds are so separated that one cannot imagine how the other lives.
I have been blessed to have experience being poor with nothing but the clothes on my back and also to have everything I need and more. So as I sat in prayers today, I wondered how and why some people are born into poverty while others are born into privilege.
Jesus said, “When I was hungry, you did not give me food and when I was thirsty, you did not give me drink.” To serve the poor is to serve God. To love the poor is to love God. To be human is to love and care for others and every living creatures on Earth.
July 12, 2015
After mass this morning, I visited a mother and 5 year old son in the slum next to the Gandhi Center. We then took a taxi to visit the Missionaries of the Word to see if she wants her son to go there. Br. Xavier was nice enough to show them around and explained the school’s mission. And though the mother likes the school, she did mention it was very far away. I said we will go to Don Bosco on Thursday and she can decide afterward which school would be better for her son. On the way back to the slum, I visited three other families and on Tuesday, we hope to bring one boy and two girls to Don Bosco for boarding.
Today was very hot and humid. After a twelve hour day, I could not stand my own body odor. And no matter how many showers I take, some days I cannot take enough showers to feel fresh. Today is one of those days.
July 14, 2015
Today, a volunteer from Valencia, Spain came along to help with the children. We arrived at the Gandhi slum around 8:30 am and gathered the children and mother to take to Don Bosco for boarding. They were pretty excited to go. We took two buses to get there and after 45 minutes, we arrived to Don Bosco only to have to wait two more hours, because they were busy with internal matters. When my frustration was finally at my limit, I began coaxing the staff to begin processing the children’s papers so that the children may be placed in a boarding home and get off the streets. By 4:30 pm, we were able to help three children from the Gandhi slum get boarding and education.
Part of the internal issues they were discussing was about helping too many Muslim and the problem with helping the poor Muslims while not as many poor Hindus are being helped. Again, I was reminded to try bringing in more poor Hindus so the numbers are about equal. Of course, it will never be equal as long as ethnic and religious discrimination exists in society.
It is bad enough that society treat poor people badly and not show them respect and dignity. But, to prioritize by religion to see which poor person should be helped is really beyond my comprehension and makes me question the compassion within society.
The poor never seem to catch a break. They are not afforded many opportunities. And when they are given an opportunity, they are not given many chances to make mistakes. The poor in India are seldom given a first opportunity much less a second.