| ||Sumathi and Shalini |
In the small rural community where 18-year-old Shalini lives, not far from India’s seething metropolis of Chennai, most of the 200 families who make their homes there live hand-to-mouth.
Their houses are either wood and thatch or, more rarely, concrete with metal roofs, usually single rooms partitioned into food prep and sleeping areas. Some houses have electricity. None have drinkable water or toilet facilities.
In fact, there’s no sanitation system — the closest thing to a latrine is near the railway line that bisects the community. There is no garbage collection, so families carry their waste to the dump, also near the rail line. Some families live right next to the garbage pit.
For washing, people use water from a borehole — underground water contaminated by all the community’s waste that continues to pile up. Families purchase potable water from a truck that passes through daily.
Shalini has been sponsored since she was 8 years old. Ten years later, she is the first in her family to graduate from school and is working toward a business degree at Chennai National College of Arts and Science. Her sponsor, who writes and sends gift money several times a year, has committed to continue sponsorship until Shalini finishes her degree. Once that happens, Shalini is determined to become a businesswoman and support her family with greater income, thus providing them greater security.
Her mother, Sumathi, is deeply proud.
The benefits from Shalini’s sponsorship don’t stop with Shalini: Although her 14-year-old sister, Vinither, isn’t sponsored, Shalini’s sponsorship and ChildFund’s programs in the area make it possible for her to attend school, too. Vinither dreams of becoming a teacher.
And Sumathi herself has used ChildFund resources to improve her family’s livelihood. When she heard about ChildFund’s self-help group program in her area, she acted promptly and joined, which gave her access to business training. The ChildFund program also taught the women how to use their savings to form a group-managed loan fund that its members could access. Sumathi was able to take a loan that she and her husband used to start a vegetable business.
Their daily 100-rupee (US$2.10) profit is enough for the family to live on and pay for health care, but they are unable to save much. Still, they are stable — enough so that they were able to weather Sumathi’s recent emergency surgery and hospital stay.
And to think that all of this started with a single sponsorship.