People We Have Helped
Anjali, 32 years
Anjali is one of the many Indian women
in India who have suffered domestic
violence. Women are often uneducated
and unable to support themselves
financially, and therefore and
dependent on men who often dominate
and abuse them (some surveys have
estimated that physical or emotional
abuse of women in India is as high as
70%, but it's hard to say).
Like many women, Anjali was bought
up to believe that one should stay with
and serve one's husband for life. She
hid her black eyes as best she could.
She confided that her husband had
broken 6 belts on her. She still does
not know why her husband beat her.
Then her husband started abusing her
2 year old child also. When I met
Anjali she and her child were very thin
and had eyes wide with fear. Her
mother (a vegetable seller) was kind
enough to accept her back in the
house. This is not normally the case.
Large families often cannot afford to
accept back their daughters and
divorced women become social leppers
in lower and middle class circles. Anjali
lives in her mother's front yard. Her
house is a tin roof which is 1.5 metres
by 1.5metres between a fence and the
front of the house. Her walls are
flimsy wood made from packing crates.
We have offered counselling and food
to Anjali and are currently seeking a
sponsor for her daughter to go to
Below are the stories of some of the people we have sponsored or taught.
Certain names have been changed to protect privacy, but the stories are true...
Satya, 24 years
Satya's father died prematurely when he
was 21, he did some illegal things and
when found out died of shock and
stress. This bought shame on the family.
and in the middle of studying to become
an accountant. When this happened, the
whole family fell apart. Satya's mother
is an uneducated house wife and was
only able to find work as a
door-to-door saleswoman. Satya was
taken out of school to try to support
his two sisters. The shock of his middle
class world falling apart was heavy, the
family had to move from a big house to
the local slum. Satya, trapped by shame,
bad friends, grief and depression turned
to gambling and alcohol to numb his
pain. He started riding a cycle rickshaw
to support his family, but most of it he
spent on drink.
In conjunction with the work of another
counsellor, we counselled Satya and
were able to bring him round to the idea
that his life was not completely lost. We
encouraged him to go back to school,
which he has since done. If he had not,
it's possible that within 10 or 15 years
he would have drunk himself to death
because of the sheer hopelessness of
his life. He is slowly giving up drinking
(unfortunately there is no Alcoholics
anonymous in Nagpur slums). There is
now hope for Satya and his family. His
two sisters have been able to find good
jobs and his mother has also improved
her situation. He continues to receive
counselling and support.
Stories of Hope From the Slums
Asha is a little girl of four. When I first met her and her mother Gita they were living
on the verandah of Gita's mother's house. Inside the one room house (5 by 5mtr) lived
Gita's mother, brother and his wife and child. Gita had no toilet and was making her
house out of packing crates. Asha's eyes were big with fear and she wouldn't go to
anyone else to be held. She had already seen too much. Asha's father had been an
abusive alcoholic. Asha's mother had had the courage to escape a man who had
physically and mentally abused her. Asha was covered in heat rash because her mother
lived under a tin roof in 47c degree heat.
It was very lucky that Asha's grandmother allowed Gita and Asha to live on her
verandah, otherwise Gita may have had to become a prostitute or search through the
garbage for recyclables to make ends meet. Being uneducated and without money,
she had few options. Now Gita sells chillies on the side of the road. Asha would
play in the dirt next to her. I wondered what kind of future Asha would have, I was
moved by her plight. Fortunately some generous Australians had gotten in touch
with me and said they wished to sponsor a child. This family is not wealthy, the family
consists of a single mother, a pensioner and her daughter. It moved me that living on
so little in country town Australia, they were still able to set something aside to
change the live of a little girl in desperate circumstances.
I enrolled Asha in a posh grammar school. This was only approx $50/mth. Only an
excellent education will allow a child to overcome the intense competition that exists
in India for good jobs. Asha's Grandmother was very supportive of enrolling her in
school and the whole family was willing to do the extra work to give her a good
Children go to school quite young in India. Asha was already considered old at 4!
The morning I went to take Asha to school, she had already been awake from 5am
because of excitement. Asha was beautifully dressed in her school uniform and
ready for a new life. Her mother was also dressed nicely. It was very exciting for all
of us. I have to say that if I died tomorrow, I would feel my life was meaningful just
because of seeing this day, a little girl going towards hope.
We walked up the stairs of the school, which was like a huge office building. There's
something very satisfying about walking up the stairs of a bastion of power and
elitism and demanding entry for a small child from the slum. Ironically, the school was
surrounded by slums. It became clear to me that there are many more children in the
world who need our help. In fact, according to UNICEF,
22000 children die each day,
because of poverty related illnesses
such as diarrhoea.
More girls have been killed in the last 50 years precisely because they were girls (100
million) than people slaughtered in all the atrocities of the 20th Century. More
women died in child birth because of lack of maternal health care during the periods
of the first and second world wars than men died in fighting these wars.(from the
book - Half the Sky - 2010).
After we enrolled Asha in school, we took her out for coffee and ice cream at a
coffee shop with her mum and our other social worker. They had never been into an
air conditioned place filled with mirrors and polite staff before. Asha is now very
happy and has completed one year of school. We offer a bit of extra food to her
family and books, school fees, uniforms and bus fare. She now has a future and can
live life to her full potential. She has been given the gift of hope.
A 'Slum Dog's' Struggle:
My name is Vijay and I've been asked by Ayya Yeshe to write a story about my
life. I am the middle child of my parents. I am 17. I have two brothers and we live in
a slum. Our house 10mtr by 5mtr and we have a kitchen, bedroom and a living
room. Our TV is broken because my father smashed it. My father has smashed
many things in our house and destroyed a lot of happiness in our family. He was
forced to leave university and get a bad job as he needed to support his family
and many of his dreams were crushed. Then he married my mother when he was 22
and my mother was 17.
My father is not a bad person, even though I often feel angry at him. He has just
given up on life. That's why he drinks. He even broke my mother's arm.
Unfortunately domestic violence is very strong in the slum where I come from.
My mother is very hard-working. She gathers the other women in our community
around to make sari embroidery. She is the leader of the group, and seems very
happy and independent, but she has to hide her bruises. Most people in the slum
work hard, but due to lack of education and the availability of good jobs, they
never make enough to get ahead. The good thing is now me and my brother are
big enough to stop my father beating my mother, but that means that one of us
always has to be around the house when my father is there.
I am almost completely deaf. It took my parents quite some time to realise this.
They just thought I was a bad child. I used to misbehave in school because I
couldn't hear the teacher and I didn't want to admit I had a problem. Most of the
time in my school, the teachers never turned up anyway. I can just hear enough to
communicate and speak.
"I thought that life was full of misery and had no meaning."
I had nothing to look forward too as I couldn't study well and get a good job.
That was before I met Ayya Yeshe and the social workers of the Bodhicitta
Foundation. I learnt about how to calm my mind and not get so angry. I learnt that
there are kind people who care about people who suffer. I met other young
people who are on a good path and are recovering from bad circumstances. I even
got to see (going around with Ayya Yeshe) that there are people even worse off
than my family. At least my father and my brother have jobs.
"I was thinking of
joining the Mafia"
before I joined Ayya Yeshe. Every young man in my slum who had aspirations to
do great things and make a lot of money either does it through doing well in his
exams or through crime. All the young guys around me were a bad influence and I
didn't know that there was another way. In the slum girls get married at 18 because
their parents can't afford to educate them and they are worried they'll get
molested. Girl's often can't work, and the family can't afford to feed them.
I'm really grateful that Ayya Yeshe has shown me a good path in life. She has
sponsored me to go to a college for the hearing impaired and now I'm learning
sign language and heaps of good things. I'm lucky that I can hear a bit more than
most deaf people. I sometimes help run the youth group with Sister Yeshe and it
makes me happy.
"It means a lot to have people who show me genuine friendship."
It has given me the courage to try new things and create a better life for myself.
Thankyou Bodhicitta Foundation.
Job training for a young woman
Parvati is a 30 year old woman who's
husband died from HIV. She had lost faith
in life and human goodness. She is currently
making about $40 US per month tailoring
clothes which is hardly enough to buy food
let alone rent. We are sending her to beauty
school college that is of a good standard.
She has committed to do beauty treatments
from home and prepare brides (a good
business) when she completes her 4mth
course. Now she has the hope of being
independent and finding a dignified way to
make a living.
Achana's father was an alcoholic who drank himself to death out of poverty and
desperation. She faced neglect and didn't go to school for many years. Then her
grandmother took charge of her life and enrolled her in a local cheap public school.
These schools are pretty bad. Teachers do not attend classes and students are
packed in together and do not receive help and care. We have enrolled Achana in a
better school, have helped her get a second hand bicycle to go to school and
arranged for tuition, uniform and extra clothes. She starts school in May and is very
excited. Her mother cleans houses for a living and barely makes enough to feed one
person ($60 US per month).
Her father died from Tuburculosis, her
mother cleans houses and hardly makes
enough to feed her family. Our sponsorship
pays for school, transport, unforms, books,
tuition and extra food to ensure that Payal
will reach her full potential.
Shittal is 9 years old and comes from a family of
four girls. Her father is very sick and her mother
works cleaning. Her sister has a life threatening
illness. Shittal loves to wear boys clothes, play
rough and tumble games and wants to 'make my
family happy' when she grows up. Our
sponsorship will ensure a good education and
financial future with security and independence
Himanshu is a happy boy who loves to climb trees and draw pictures. He wants to
be a police officer when he grows up. We are paying all the costs of Himanshu's
education and are offering food and clothing to his family and nutrition
supplements to his hard working mother so that together, they can once again look
to the future with hope and without fear.
Ayya Yeshe with the new hut built for $250
for orphan Vicky and his brother Pandu.
Saving the Life
of a Tribal Mother
and her Children...
Payal is 11 years old.
Himanshu and his mother
Priya. Priya is a village
woman who didn't finish
school. She is dangerously
husband died due to a
poverty related illness.
Because she is not
educated, she can't get a
good paying job to
support her family.
for a tribal girl
Achana is a beautiful and vivacious
13 year old girl from a Christian
Yashodhara, 26 years
Yashodhara is a child of the slums. Her
father works at the mill, where he inhales
the poisonous fumes of dyed clothes all
day. This has destroyed his health and
his lungs are almost at collapse point (he
is 50). His two sons are uneducated and
work as labourers who earn approx $50
a month (you need at least $100 to buy
food and pay rent). Yashodara is the
only person in her family who has a
college degree, but she is still unable to
find a job. She does not have the money
necessary to bribe her way into a
government job and she lacks confidence
to find a job in the highly competative
private sector where english and good
looks are essential. 'You are too black'
they said when she applied for a job. In
India, connections are everything.
Yashodhara's roof leaks in the 3 month
monsoon season. Her brother needs
and operation and her father needs to
retire. We are helping her when no one
else would. Otherwise poverty would
force her into an abusive marriage where
poverty is passed onto another
generation (domestic violence is very
common in financially strained families,
and also pervades upper classes to, but
there are also many loving marriages).
We are training Yashodhara in English,
computer skills and employing her as a
social worker, which empowers her and
her family. She is able to educate and
improve the lives of other women around
her, as well as help her own family and
Padma, 48 years
Padma has nine children and was married
to a labourer (who makes about $100 a
month). Their family was verging on
starvation already, but when her
husband left, she was forced to take a
job as a cleaning woman for $60 a
month (she works 14hr days, 7 days a
week). Padma has a son who is mentally
and physically disabled. Her daughter
was in a motorcycle accident and
desperately needed an operation to fix
her knees. Several of the daughters
were quickly married off and others
worked and studied part time. The
whole family worked very hard, but there
was seldom enough to feed the family
and Padma was doing everything she
could to keep her daughters in school
so they could go on to live independent
and fulfilling lives and not just be at
their husband's mercy for all financial
We offered Padma some financial
support in a time of crisis, we put her
daughter through a computer course.
We continue to remain in touch with the
family who's situation has gradually
improved with the employment of several
of the families children.
There are many other women in
situations of domestic violence who are
too afraid to leave and who need to go
into hiding if they do leave. We need to
find work, counselling and secret living
situations for these women. See Social
Work Projects - Women for more
Our Centre recently invested in a tiny 100cc 8 seater Suzuki van to take children
to hospital, act as an ambulance, buy large supplies for our community centre etc.
The van was 'christened' when a 22 year old Tribal woman's waters broke on the
backseat. We had been taking her 10 month old baby who was near death after 2
weeks of diarrhoea (the baby is 5kg and should be 8kg). Megha got pregnant
immediately after having her last child. This little girl is her fourth. She is almost
illiterate and married at the age of 17. Her husband is an alcoholic and her mother
in law supports a family of 8 on the meagre wage of a house cleaner (barely
enough to buy food).
Princes on White Horses
Empowering Young Women Through Employment
Hello, my name is Anita and I have recently been employed by Bodhicitta
Foundation as a Tuition Teacher. I am so happy to do this job. I am the first
person in my family to pass 12th class in school. My father started driving trucks
when he was 11. My mother is a simple village woman who gave up school in year 8
to care for her 4 younger siblings while her mother worked. When I was born my
father drank out of desperation and hopelessness and beat my mother. After me
there are my brother and younger sister.
I didn't do that well in my 12th exams because my family didn't have the money to
buy books, but I passed, that was a miracle. My family live in a one room house, 8m
x 8m. We also have a cat that we love very much. My family is happy now because my
father became spiritual and gave up drinking and has a job as Bodhicitta
Foundation's driver. Both my parents work very hard, but we still only have money
for food and sometimes for new clothes.
My mother spends 5 hours a day cooking all the food from scratch, washing all the
pots and plates in a bucket and carrying water buckets from the tap where the
water comes once a day. She washes all our clothes by hand and has to scrub the
floor on her hands and knees because of the pollution and dust that creep into our
house from coal fires and diesel fumes.
Now I'm enrolled to study social work. I'm happy with that. I dream of getting a well
paid job so I can lift my family out of poverty. At my age my mother was married
and pregnant with me to a man who beat her. She had to cover her head when her
in-laws came and had no say in family affairs. I am going to be independent. I travel
to school on a scooter that Bodhcitta foundation gave me a loan for (there are no
buses to my school). I work 2 hours a day with slum children as the tuition teacher.
We have 20 children in the class and we also give them protein powder and vitamins
and record their weight and health. Some of those children don't have proper
clothes, live under black plastic and can't read and write. They go to school late
because they have to wait to collect water from the communal tap (there is one tap
for 100 people) or from the government water tanker and then the teachers beat
them because they are late. In India we don't have even basic things like quality
education, health care, electricity and clean water. We fight like dogs for
everything, people even have to hold onto the side of the bus from the outside to
go to work. When they say we are the second fastest growing economy, I wonder
who is growing? It's certainly not the labourers who are paid $30 per month to
build the glass skyscrapers that the 'new India' lives in. It's not their children.
My family left the village because there wasn't enough land to support all of us,
not enough water and my parents dreamed of a better education for us. I was lucky
I met Bodhicitta Foundation and got good advice. Now I will help my people and
my family and myself. I have hope for the future. I have education, independence
and dignity that few girls in my slum have. Some of my school mates are already
married. In the beginning they think it's really exciting to get new saris and new
jewellery and go somewhere else, but in the end it's like a cage, because they are
not financially independent, they depend on their husbands and in-laws and can't
leave the house without permission. So many times I see that after a few years and
a few kids, a beautiful young girl who entered the house like a queen has become
like a haggard slave. Her husband starts drinking because he can't get a good
paying job due to lack of quality education or laziness and then she has to go to
work cleaning others pots because that's all she was trained to do. I think it's a sin
to not make your daughter independent – to indenture her to others as a
biological and emotional slave.
Stories tell us of Princes on white horses who will rescue us, or of the faithful
Indian wife who will follow her husband through fire to prove her devotion and
meekness. But I live in the slum. I don't see any princes on white horses. I realise I
have to be my own prince. My father is a good man who works hard for us. Now my
mother is really the boss of the family, but it took a long time for her to have
independence. I don't want that to happen to me. I will get a good job and have a
love marriage – I will choose my husband and my life. Thanks to all our friends at
Only two weeks before we saved Megha's baby boy Sahil from death by
getting him hydrated with saline and much needed food and vitamins. Megha
didn't realise that babies need to be fed several times a day (as opposed to the
adults in her family who eat once or twice) and their food should not be placed
on the floor. Our organisation started feeding her children as they are severely
underweight (her 3 year old girl is only as big as a healthy one year old and her 5
year old boy has behavioural problems and often fails to go to school). We
have created an infrastructure so that several malnourished children in Megha's
area receive food and tuition (because their parents are alcoholics and unable
to care for them and their schools have 70 children in one class).
Megha had no blankets to wrap her new born in, so we gave her some. We took
food everyday as her family live too far to bring it and we paid for much needed
medicine (which is not provided by the government hospital where up to 30
women in one ward, 2 in each bed give birth simultaneously with a few doctors
looking on. Shilpa was then moved to a mattress on the floor of the hospital
amongst the cockroaches. The hospital refused to discharge her until someone
from her family offered blood to replace the blood she had received. Her
husband was rejected because he was too drunk, and everyone else in the family
was rejected because they were under 40kg. In the end Ayya Yeshe had to
donate to free Megha from hospital!
Miraculously, Megha's new baby girl was born normal and healthy. Both mother
and child are well and are taking medicine and food sponsored by Bodhicitta
Normally our foundation tries to take what is called a 'sustainable' approach to
social work – that is we don't just focus on one individual, we make programmes
that will help many needy people at once. But there are frequently desperate
cases of people who are clearly unable to help themselves such as the elderly,
children or those who are mentally or physically challenged. These cases require
Megha's husband agreed to have a vasectomy (as Megha was refused for tubal
ligation as she was too anaemic), but then got drunk and refused the operation.
Our social workers chased him down the street trying to question him about why
he'd changed his mind! It is sad that we live in a world where children still starve,
where girls are so ignorant they don't know how to feed their babies, use birth
control or keep themselves clean. Your kind donations saved the live of this
young mother and her two babies and her other children who are severely
underweight. We have also given the family clean clothes, blankets, painted and
baby proofed the house and assigned them a social worker. Now these children
have a chance.
Megha's Story (continued from above)