Monthly Archives: May 2010
Ten years ago, a young American woman was in the midst of an around-the-world adventure with a friend. Taking a sabbatical from careers in television advertising that had become stressful and unrewarding, the two corporate refugees found themselves in India a few months into their trip. One of the women, Chris, had been sponsoring a child there through Christian Children’s Fund, and had added India to their itinerary during the planning stages because she wanted to meet the boy.
The second woman, Caroline, wasn’t so sure about either India or the sponsored child. Quite frankly, she was unconvinced that the child even existed. But if he did, according to the literature Chris had on the boy, he was to be found in an extremely small, rural village in the northeastern state of Orissa. It was not easy to get there, and the May heat was almost unbearable. But when Chris and Caroline arrived, they were greeted with pomp and ceremony by a hundred villagers as the first Westerners to ever come and visit their remote little community. And there, in fact, was Manus, the boy Chris had been sponsoring. He had every single letter and small present that Chris had ever sent him, saved in the tiny 6-by-6 foot hut he shared with his parents and siblings.
The local director of Christian Children’s Fund, who had assisted the American’s journey to Manus, invited the visitors to his home for dinner. On that night, Mother’s Day 2000, Chris and Caroline had no idea what was lying in wait for them. As it turned out, the overwhelming rush of emotions from that evening, including sadness, horror, grief and above all, an unbearable sense of wrongness, would end up changing forever the course of not only Caroline’s life, but the life of hundreds of children who lived across the world from her. That Mother’s Day, this single woman who had no children of her own – and admittedly knew nothing about children, much less orphans – went to bed an entirely different person than she had been when she woke up that morning.
When Caroline and Chris arrived at the CCF director’s home that night, they were shocked when over a hundred children rushed out to the car to greet their “Papa” and the two visitors. Barefoot, filthy, painfully thin and mostly bald children. Children who surrounded the women, pulling at their hands and arms from all directions, creating a sea of little bodies that the women didn’t know what to do with. Stunned, they spent the next several hours playing with the kids, holding them, eating with them and singing them lullabies – all the while a heartbreak was growing inside them.
These were all children that Papa had taken in over the years – children who had nowhere else to go, who had been orphaned or abandoned, dropped off there by parents who couldn’t afford to feed them, or simply found wandering the streets. Damodar Sahoo, who became their Papa by default, took them into his own pitifully inadequate home and family, and tried to take care of them the best he could, on painfully little. A little girl named Sibani, who had been found abandoned in the bushes when she was only five days old, pressed herself into Caroline’s lap, burrowing into her as if she was starved for attention, for mothering. Sibani fell asleep there, and when Caroline went to put the toddler to bed, she found the room for dozens of children no bigger than a closet, with no ventilation and no pillows or blankets. Sibani’s bed was nothing more than a wooden slat; the room looked like images Caroline had seen from concentration camps in the Holocaust.
Caroline left India with Sibani and the other children haunting her. It was so unjust, that they had to live like that, deprived of not only the basic necessities, but even of a childhood. It was unjust that anyone should have to live that way. Caroline simply could not go on with her life as if they did not exist, and from the moment that Sibani crawled on her lap, the Miracle Foundation was born – that Mother’s Day, ten years ago.
Caroline and the organization she has poured so much of herself, her life and her passion, into have come a long way since then. It now has a full cadre of sponsors, volunteers, donors and “Ambassadors” – those, like myself, who have traveled to India in volunteer groups to work, play and live with the children for a period of time. The Miracle Foundation has an effective and energetic COO, Elizabeth Davis, a dedicated Board of Directors, and an incredible staff of housemothers and Dr. Manjeet Pardesi in India. The organization now cares for more than 500 children, who live in good homes with caring surrogate mothers, and receive nutritious food, medical care and an excellent education.
But there are so many more. Currently, about 25 million children live in orphanages or some type of institutional home in India – many of them unspeakable, where they are vulnerable to abuse, child labor or trafficking. The more support that Caroline and The Miracle Foundation receive, it means that another child can be given a home, and a childhood.
There is no better way to honor Mothers Day than to help support these children, who have no mother of their own – and might not ever have had a chance, if it weren’t for Caroline Boudreaux, a childless woman who decided to become a sort of mother to hundreds. And it seems clear to me that she won’t rest until she’s done everything she can to make sure that every child has such a home and chance for the future.
Whether you want to honor your own mother, or an incredible mother you know – perhaps a grandmother or your wife – or, you are a mother yourself who wants to celebrate Mothers Day by giving to a child who doesn’t have a mother – please know that there are many things you can do that will make a huge difference. I can personally attest that the seemingly smallest contribution is enormous. I have been to India with Caroline numerous times, and I have seen how far this help goes. I’ve purchased underwear for 120 kids, for about $40. I’ve thrown them an ice cream party, such a treat as they rarely get, for about $10. Every single dollar is enormous.
So, for this Mothers Day and in honor of The Miracle Foundation’s 10th anniversary, I challenge and encourage you to make a difference, a HUGE difference, in the life of a child. Sponsor a child, or volunteer a couple of hours. Check out taking a volunteer trip to India with the organization. Purchase school books, a bicycle or mosquito netting for a child. Buy my book through The Miracle Foundation, where all proceeds are donated back to the nonprofit.
And a very happy Mothers Day, to each and every one of you.