Today I will tell the story of a 17 year old girl from Calcutta. Not only is she my friend, but I could easily consider her my daughter, niece, or even my little sister. This little lady asked a good friend of hers that is attending university to help her write a letter to me. She just wanted to express how thankful she was to be part of a new empowerment program The Girl2B Foundation launched. She wanted to tell her story to help me spread the word that girls really need our help in these impoverished areas of the world and anything is possible. I have changed the names and a few of the details from the original writing to help keep her anonymous. This blog entry has been a collaboration between the three of us.
I hope you will find her story as beautiful as I have. Thank you Sweetie for sharing with me.
Dear Christine Aunty,
We are a family of 8, 6 sisters, 1 brother and my mom. I have been a part of a foundation and living in a girls’ home for the past 9 years and feel very lucky. Not everyone is cut out for the normal progression of kindergarten, grade school, junior school, high school, and university. Matters such as age, learning disabilities and simply the lack of interest in numbers and alphabets prevent a person from getting educated normally. Thankfully this was realized for me. After I finished 7th grade, at 16 years old, I moved into a field of vocational training that I love and enjoy and which also helps me be on par with other teenagers my age. Very soon I will be finishing my training and will be starting internships in big production houses. It is everything I ever wanted, yet a few years back my life hadn’t been such a bed of roses.
9 years ago I used to live under a bridge close to the city with my family. We didn’t know what a house felt like. The bridge was our roof. That is the only thing that acted as our shelter from the sweltering summer heat as well as the incessant monsoon rains. We would have said that winters were a blessing but unfortunately we didn’t have any walls to guard us from the icy winds during winter nights. We had nothing to block out the polluted car exhausts and the grit-laden city air. Taking baths and using soaps and shampoos felt like a joke as our bathing room was an all-purpose pond and our clean bodies were like early-morning-swept-city-streets on which the torture of ‘dirty’ began as soon as we stepped out of that pond.
Our source of income was begging. We never had to learn this profession as it came to us naturally due to our growling stomachs. It began with the first honk from a car and lasted till we thought we had collected enough for the day. As soon as the traffic lights turned red we used to run into the streets and begin…..some cleaned the windows and windshield with a red cloth and then asked for a penny for what they did, some simply started persuading the traveler, the older girls with a baby at their waist begged to feed the little one, while the bent old women and disabled men simply begged for mercy. When traffic was low we attacked the legs of passersby and hung onto them until we got a penny.
We had a minimum amount we had to collect and if we didn’t collect that much we wouldn’t receive food for the day but would be blessed only with slaps and kicks. Days we thought that we had collected more than enough we went to the movies or ate our favorite candy and finished the money. We never saved any for the future and why would we do so? All the extra money went into buying bottle after bottle of booze.
I hated that way life and the uncivilized freedom. I always pleaded to my mom to send me to school but she always laughed it off. One day my prayers were answered and my sister and I were rescued by social workers and put into a girls home to live.
The rest of the story I will save for another time. She is full of life and big dreams. She told me the other day that she thinks she could have made it further in her schooling, that with the proper help she thinks she can possibly graduate class 10. She wants to be smart, have a good job that she loves, and she wants to buy a house for her mother and her other siblings who were not as fortunate as her. If I tell you this girl will defy all the odds against her, it is no exaggeration. She will make something of her life, and she will break that terrible cycle of poverty that she was born into. She will not become one of those terrible “girl” statistics. She is safe in our program, and we are holding her hand every step of the way until she can manage her life on her own.
I must say, even then, I will not let go. This girl has become my daughter, niece, little sister, and friend. Her smile and soft voice will be with me forever.
Thank you girls for writing together, you know who you are. And keep on fighting!
Lot’s of love
Your Aunty Christine
PS. The photo attached is not the photo of the writers, they are an anonymous lovely 2 girls we met along the way.