Monthly Archives: December 2007
I had the pleasure of meeting Major General Basant Kumar Mohapatra when I was in India in both 2005 and 2007. The Major is otherwise known as Aja, which means grandfather in Hindi. Aja was retired after forty years of service in the Indian armed forces. Our group of volunteers enjoyed a lovely and delicious brunch at Aja’s home.
Aja was one of the most peaceful people I had ever met; the feeling inside his house was one of quiet and contemplation. I loved listening to his simple, but wise, philosophies for living. “True wealth lies not in wanting more,” Aja said, “but in needing less.”
Later, as we ate, someone commented to Aja about how happy and giving the children were with us. Aja responded, “It is because they know you come without any self-interest. You come only with love. This is the most important thing. Skin doesn’t matter, color doesn’t matter; only the heart matters. You come to share joy with them – and also sadness, if it is there.” He looked around the table at all of us and then he beamed. “You see, the world has become a global village.”
It is true. Through this blog, incredible people from all over the world have contacted me; people who are also touched by these children and their stories, and who are interested in joining the effort to uphold their inherent right to the most simple of all things: a childhood.
Here are just a few of the people who have contacted me in the last month, and the paths they are on which have converged with mine, even from another part of the globe:
Nechama Goldstein is an independent documentary director from Israel. He lived and worked with the boys in the CCD home in Calcutta for several months – I featured their story here. There he conducted a film workshop for these young, aspiring filmmakers. Today, with the gracious help of Swapan Mukherjee of CCD, Nechama is currently making a feature documentary about child slavery, called “Lost and Found.” Nechama says, “It really moves me to meet people who are fighting for the awareness of this cause; we should find a way to make a bigger impact together!”
Nancy Quin is an artist in New York. She and her husband are headed to Delhi in February 2008, and are interested in conducting an art program with children living in orphanages while they are there. Her idea is to conduct both an art school in which the children can create their own individual works of art, as well as an art exchange with children in the U.S. Later, in August 2008, there will be an exhibit in New York which will feature this artwork. She has done a similar program in Africa, and the exhibit from that raised awareness for the nonprofit organizations and money which was sent back to Africa for the programs. Nancy says, “My hope is to connect children of the world through visual art, while bringing art into the lives of children who do not have the means to create it.” -Contact Nancy via Email-
Jessica Whittenbury, an Australian who works for Virgin Blue Airlines in her home country, is traveling to India with her sister Kate in January 2008. There, they plan to visit the Little Hearts home run by C.P. Kumar, which I visited for several days last March. I wrote a story about it here. There they will play with the children, providing a much-needed respite from their daily lives, and help C.P. with volunteer work that might need to be done.
When it comes to talking about people who are helping, I cannot fail to include my own family. They have all supported me throughout my work in India, and the writing of this book over the past year. My mother, Sandra, and my grandparents, E.F. and Shirley, have both made monetary contributions to several organizations with which I have worked. Thanks to all of you, and I love you!
If you’d like more information about the needs and how you might get involved in ensuring the rights of exploited or impoverished children in India, please contact me.
You are probably used to me writing about India and her children. Today I would like to write about American children who are also desperately in need of a family to call their own, and who are in danger of falling through the cracks and being lost forever without one. I am talking about children in the foster care system who are longing to be adopted.
For years I have worked as a court-appointed advocate for such children, and have been involved with the Heart Gallery of Central Texas. The Heart Gallery aims to find “forever families” for these children. The hardest children to place are teenagers, sibling groups, and those with disabilities or special needs. Recently Tracy Eilers, a friend of mine and director of the Heart Gallery, sent me the following information about a boy, Jarod, who is about to age out of the foster care system and has almost given up hope on a family to call his own. The prospects for kids who age out of the system are grim. As Tracy says, “18 isn’t a good thing for kids in foster care.” Sent out on their own with no one to care for them or teach them how to be an adult in the world, half of these kids end up homeless.
Tracy said, “Week after week, we film segments for Forever Families… week after week, I meet the most amazing kids… and every second of every day I hope beyond all hope that we can make a difference in these kids lives… I don’t know if I have ever hoped so much as for Jarod.” Please see Jarod’s story below – it touched my heart and I hope it will yours too. And if enough people see it, maybe Jarod will find his forever family.
Last year at this time, Jarod was showing off his Junior ROTC uniform for his Forever Families segment. He was 15 and only recently decided he wanted to be adopted. Jarod’s goal was to become sergeant, but he moved from foster home to foster home this year and isn’t in ROTC anymore.
The rest of year has been filled with just as many disappointments, and now his outlook on life is bleak. No 16-year-old should feel this hopeless.
Jarod came in to foster care when he was 10 from his uncle’s house, where there were five kids – Jarod and his sister, and their three cousins. Jarod was the one who had to go into foster care.
He’s had a very hard time trusting adults, and who could blame him? Now he’s 16 and repeating the ninth grade. In two years, he’ll age out of the foster care system. Foster teens on their own are at a higher risk of homelessness and substance abuse. “To me it seems like it’s too late. For life, I guess. When I turn 18 I don’t know what I’m going to do,” he said.
Jarod’s anger, frustration and confusion has caused him to give up on adoption. His aunt was going to adopt him, but it wasn’t a good fit. They lived together for a month but kept getting into fights. Now Jarod is in a shelter, where he says things aren’t going well.
“I got in trouble because I broke a door. I feel mad all the time. It’s not foster care. It’s not being adopted. It’s just when I turn 18, what am I going to do? Am I going to be on the streets? I don’t know what I’m going to do. I barely got an education. Ain’t nothing to do,” he said.
Jarod is out of hope. He feels he’s out of time and he has no idea what to do about it. Ask about his future, and he shuts down.
Though he’s given up on himself, he still has another year.
You can learn more about Jarod and other children available for adoption at the Adoption Coalition of Texas.
The Adoption Coalition of Texas is hosting a Foster Care and Adoption Information Meeting Saturday, December 8th at 10:15 am at the Old Quarry Branch Library located at 7051 Village Center Dr. Austin, Texas 78731. The meeting will last no more than an hour.
Call Renee Sassin at 512-687-3208 if you have any questions!