Several months ago while in India, I sent a message to two of my best friends that I had spent traveling through India with two years before asking them a favor. I wanted to purchase a new motorbike for my dear friend, Hari, who was basically like a father to me when in India. Hari had a motorbike that he had bought used about 8-10 years prior and dreamed of one day getting a new one. While Hari did not need a new motorbike for his livelihood..he works as the farm attendant at the Green Gardens Farm and the go to man for the TGG Foundation, the non-profit I was working for in Wayanad, Kerala...I wanted to make his dream come true.
Hari is one of the hardest working men I have ever known, he works all day at the farm- building, caring for the cows, chickens, and goats, and so much more. Not only that but he is extremely active in his community. He often spends many weeknights (after working a full day) to help set up water connections to local community members. He has built all but two of the houses in his "neighborhood", and is well respected and known in the community.
Successfully, with support from my friend Anna, Gayatri, and another WWOOFer at the foundation, we were able to buy Hari a new motorbike and set aside a small portion of retirement funds for he and his wife, Sushama (my Indian mother)
A few days ago, I received a similar message from my friend Gayatri, that I wanted to share. I think it falls completely in alignment with the ideals of the TGG Foundation's Responsible Indian Mission and goes to show how far a few dollars, that we in the Western world often take for granted by splurging on coffee, restaurants, or drinks in a given week, can go in another country.
Here is Gayatri's message:
Our farm in Hyderabad has various families that live and work on the land. Most of these families come from relatively impoverished villages scattered throughout Telengana and Bihar. They come from communities where education levels falter after 5th grade and wives are married/bearing children by age 19. One family in particular, the Mishra family, has stayed on this land and cared for my grandfather and his father before him for over 30 years! The father Bipin Mishra, now 65, is one of the wisest humans I know and pretty much runs the show around here even in my grandfather's absence. He himself never went to school, nor his wife Janke, but he dedicated his whole life and savings to properly educating his two sons, Anil & Ashok, so they could have a better future. A future which doesn't involve backbreaking work in India's heat and a salary higher than the standard $4/day unskilled laborers typically make. The two boys finished all the way through university and graduated TOP of their class in 2010. I don't know Ashok well, but Anil has become something of an older brother to me and his wife, Anjani (now 22), a best friend. They have two sweet children, Sachi and Sujit (6 and 1, respectively), and the parents place an equal emphasis on their educations as Bipin did for Anil. Attached is a pic of Bipin, Janke and young Sachi!
Now comes the unfortunate twist - Anil has been living separately from his wife and children for four years working as a bilingual translator in Vishakapatnam. He had been earning enough salary to send back home for his daughter's school fees and new born Sujit's needs. Last year, a devastating cyclone hit his town wiping out businesses and homes alike. He lost his job, but managed to find another one as a cabinet salesman. As of a few months ago, his new boss decided to stop paying Anil (apparently that can just happen here...) leaving Anil with no choice but to leave. Since then, Anil has tried to seek employment in several places, even going back to old employers but has had zero luck. With Hyderabad's (and Bangalore's) exponential rise in computer/IT jobs, the market for desirable skills has been rapidly changing. Despite knowing fluent English and having plenty of prior work experience, most of the feedback Anil has received is that he needs to learn how to use a computer and manage excel spreadsheets, something he's never been exposed to.
At the moment, the entire family of 6 is living off of Bipins $150/month salary and searching for a solution for Anil. If Anil can learn the basics of a computer and navigate through Microsoft Suite, his background and work experience will immediately be picked up by employers throughout the state. I've seen him in action - he's an incredibly fast learner and works as hard as his father. Not to mention, he has a genuinely kind heart.
I did some research and the total cost for a new laptop comes to IDR 25,000 (approx. $375). This may not sound steep to us, but its more than 2 months of Bipin's salary. My thoughts, and partly why I wanted to reach out to you, is to sponsor this effort for him. I'm going to cover the first 7,000 rupees and reach out to loved ones back home to see how much more I can raise. Of course, please do not feel obligated to pitch in, writing and sharing this story with you both is meaningful enough already :) That said, if you wanted to support, I certainly don't want to hold you back from doing so! Also, if you have any other friends that may be interested in supporting this cause, feel free to forward!
It's a beautiful story with a relatively beautiful ending. I'm drawn to this family, and to many families like them who are finding it difficult to keep up with the fast pace India and the world all over is progressing. I hope with so many advancements in technology, the schools will recognize the importance of teaching computer skills at an early age so future generations don't face a similar issue. But who knows...by the time today's generation graduates, we may be required to learn how to manage flying cars and artificially intelligent robots let alone how to operate a simple computer!
No (wo)man left behind. Now let's work towards that! ;)
I just heard that she was able to pool enough funds to get Anil his computer and they are now working on bargaining the price for him to take some computer classes locally! I am so thankful that I have friends that leverage the resources they have to provide valuable livelihood opportunities for others in communities abroad that they know and cherish.