Monthly Archives: October 2009

A New Look at Poverty

For today’s Good News Wednesday, I would like to share something written by my friend, Deepa Krishnan.

Deepa runs the tour company Mumbai Magic, an excellent visitor tour service that shows the real India, led by insiders and locals of the city with a great cultural immersion and respect for the traditions and culture of India. In addition, Deepa donates a percentage of her profits to social organizations that work with at-risk children living in the streets and slums.

Deepa with a woman entrepreneur on our visit to Dharavi, 2007

Deepa with a woman entrepreneur on our visit to Dharavi, 2007

Deepa showed me around Mumbai when I visited in 2007 – most particularly, the Dharavi area, widely considered the largest slum in Asia and where much of the movie Slumdog Millionaire was filmed. You can read my article about my experience in Dharavi with Deepa, where I discovered that besides the two Indias of affluence and poverty, there was a third India of the hard-working class. What I found in Dharavi surprised me, and Deepa gave me entirely new eyes with which to see parts of Mumbai that I would have never otherwise seen.

Recently, writer Mara Gorman featured a review of The Weight of Silence on her site, The Mother of All Trips. Mara was so inspired by the children’s stories in the book, that she amazingly made a pledge to donate $5 for every comment left on the article, to The Miracle Foundation! Deepa Krishnan was one of those who left a comment – and I loved what she had to say.

It was a whole new way of looking at someone who is poor, and I’d like to share her comments here:

“Poverty” is a much misunderstood word. Here’s an anecdote from my personal experience – I run a sightseeing tour company called Mumbai Magic, and we had an American lady on one of our city tours.

From Mumbai Magic

From Mumbai Magic

On the tour went to Sassoon Docks where the day’s fish catch comes in. The fishing community in Mumbai has a culture where the women take the fish to the market and are therefore the ones with the money. Our fisherwomen are very fierce, they have a sharp tongue and an equally sharp fish knife, and nobody messes with them, all locals know they are independent and proud.

Now at the docks, there was a fisherwoman sitting on the ground with a basket of fish, and next to her was her young girl child. My American visitor saw them and started weeping. Oh god, she wept, why do people have to be so poor? Why does that woman have to sit on the ground like this? Why is that child not in school and playing? The lady was inconsolable and retired to her palatial hotel room.

Whereas I looked at the fisherwoman and was proud of her financial independence, of the fact that she was supporting her family, that nobody in their right minds would ever mess with her, that the tradesmen treated her as an equal and haggled as hard with her as they could. As for her child, that child would always have a full belly, she would learn the fish trade and be as smart as a button soon. The docks are open early in the morning, that child probably went to school later as well, but I don’t know that. After the fish were sold, she would most certainly go home and play.

Now this is not a perfect scenario – their home is a tiny village without amenities – but the thing is, my visitor and I looked at them and saw two entirely different realities. To me this was not a scenario with a deprived mother or child. This was a happy family, and I strongly felt that the sympathies of my weepy tourist were entirely misplaced.

Shelley is not a weepy tourist. She has immersed herself in the country she is writing about. She has invested time, effort and – I know this is really basic – but she has invested sweat. In the heat and dust, she has given of her body and mind to be with the children she writes about. Shelley’s kids – orphaned and homeless – are truly deserving of our attention. Shelley is tireless in her campaign to ensure they get what they deserve. I wish her luck.

Thank you Deepa – for your support of The Weight of Silence, your donations to help further children’s educations through Mumbai Magic, and your ability to give us a new way of looking at the world. Namaste.

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Deepa at Shaar Harahamin, The Gate of Mercy.

Deepa at Shaar Harahamin, The Gate of Mercy.

Success Stories from Orphanages

For today’s Good News Wednesday, I would like to share a child’s success story in another part of South Asia. Nepal and India are often intertwined when it comes to issues affecting children. Nepalese girls who are trafficked into the sex trade are usually brought into India, and other children pulled into child labor are often trafficked between the two countries. Once across an international border, it becomes incredibly harder to find and rescue these young people.

I visited Nepal on my last trip to India, in March 2009. While there I visited a wonderful organization called Maiti Nepal (see my previous post about them here). Maiti Nepal is instrumental in the fight in Nepal against trafficking and the sex trade - they investigate such trafficking and work with police and other organizations to rescue these girls; they provide a home in Kathmandu where they rehabilitate the young women, providing them shelter and education, and teaching them a trade; and they conduct extensive awareness and educational campaigns across the country to let people know how trafficking occurs and how to help stop it.

If you have a chance, check out the incredible work they are doing, or consider becoming a Friend of Maiti Nepal. I had the great privilege of meeting the people who run this group in Seattle, and being invited to a screening of their movie, The Day My God Died, narrated by Tim Robbins.

Tej

Tej

A few weeks ago, I was pleased to receive a connection through Facebook, from a young man living in Nepal. He introduced himself as someone who had grown up in an orphanage in Nepal, and because of the care, attention and education he received, has grown up to be a happy and successful young adult.

His name is Tej, and the place he grew up is the Horac Nepal home. Tej wrote:

I am grown in one of the orphanages named as HORAC/Nepal and I have completed my school level from the orphanage. I have secured very good marks and now I am currently at my college level. My orphanage is my home and it has given me a lot of care and support in every step. I am at this stage all because of the love and care given by my home. You can log on to “www.horac.org” to know about my happy home.

Thank you for sharing your story, Tej – I always love hearing about such organizations that really are providing the support and love that helps such young people have a bright future.

More information about HORAC:

Home for Rescue of the Afflicted Children (HORAC/Nepal), established in 2005, is a non-for-profit social organization. It is duly registered with the Nepal Government and the Social Welfare Council of Nepal. The main purpose of the organization is to provide helpless and needy children; especially those who lost their father and/or their mother in the years of conflict in Nepal, the opportunity of being children, receiving parental love and care. HORAC/Nepal aims to provide all of the children under its care with good education and a high level of guidance, so that they can grow to be assets to their community.

Poverty and conflict are the main causes that have left many children abandoned and homeless in our country. Many have been detached from home and parents and are compelled to pass their life on street as street children, beggars, child labourers as well as orphans. Keeping view of humanity and morality, HORAC/Nepal has set specific goals and objectives to help and care for those deprived children and build a bright future by providing education to those children and by preserving their right and privileges.

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The Smallest Sacrifices

Listen to the show by clicking above

Listen to the show by clicking above

For today’s Good News Wednesday segment, I first want to highlight some exciting news. I will be on Peter Greenberg‘s nationally syndicated “Worldwide Travel” radio show this Saturday, October 10!

The show begins at 9 am Central Time, and you can listen to it online by clicking the Listen Now button on the right-hand side of the page.

Peter Greenberg is America’s most recognized, honored and respected front-line travel news journalist.He is Travel Editor for CBS News, and appears on The Early Show and across many CBS broadcast platforms.

An Emmy Award-winning investigative reporter and producer, Peter was named one of the most influential people in travel by Travel Weekly, along with Al Gore, Bill Marriott and Richard Branson. Peter is also host of the nationally syndicated Peter Greenberg Worldwide Radio show, broadcast each week from a different remote location around the world. He is heard on more than 150 stations, Sirius/XM radio and Armed Forces Radio.

His other current titles include Travel Editor at Large for AARP, Contributing Editor for Men’s Health magazine, and contributor to Parade, ForbesTraveler.com and MSN.com. He has been a featured guest on The Oprah Winfrey Show, The View, Late Night with Conan O’Brien, and Larry King Live.

I am very honored to be a guest on his show! Bookmark and Share

In other Good News, a few weeks ago I had a message from a reader, Lynn McKenna, who said this:

“Reviewing my Amex bill and noticed my Starbucks spend last month: $60. Decided to give up lattes for 30 days and instead donate $60 to the Miracle Foundation. That modest donation / unimaginably small sacrifice will allow the Foundation to provide: medical care, nutrition, a bed, and loving care to one infant in India for one month. BTW, this organization has great credibility…I became aware of them by reading a terrific, inspiring, educational book – The Weight of Silence…written by FB friend Shelley Seale.”

Thank you so much, Lynn – both for your own creative way to improve the lives and futures of these children, and by demonstrating just how easily we can find ways that we spend small amounts of money – money that could easily go toward a bigger cause and never missed by us, but which makes a HUGE difference in the life of a child. You have no idea how far $60 will go for these kids in India! It’s truly amazing.

Thanks, Lynn, for being an inspiration to motivate me, and I hope others, in ways we can all make a difference, places we all spend small amounts of money that would have such a great impact when donated. For my part, I’ve decided to make one day per week a “Spend Nothing” day – I spend NO money that day, I mean nothing, not one penny. Then I figure I typically spend about $20 a day on average, whether that’s on food or a movie rental or gas or whatever…and I donate that money.

So my challenge to all the readers today is:

What is that one thing YOU can do? What creative way in your life, can you think of to carve out $5, $20, $100 to help improve the lives of children?

If you want to write and share your idea and donation, I’d love to hear it! As always, thank you so much to everyone for your support of these kids and their rights. Together we can help make a brighter future for them!

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