Today there were state elections for the Chief Minister of Gujarat. Because of possible riots, we didn’t go to Hitmatnagar to visit the orphanage. Instead, I walked around the village to find people to take pictures of. At our neighbor’s house there were two girls and an older woman doing work for the family that lived there. The girls and older woman, who looked like their grandmother, were washing dishes and feeding the water buffalo. The younger of the two girls kept looking at me and smiling shyly. After she was done her work, I asked her to come over and proceeded to ask her a few questions. It turns out her name is Usha and doesn’t know how old she is. At first I thought she was kidding, then I realized she was serious. My mom doesn’t know when her birthday exactly is, but I didn’t think that STILL actually happened.
Usha (picture on the left) doesn’t go to school and neither do her five sisters. She is the third of the six sisters and helps her family do work in the farm and at other people’s houses in the village. There are several other families that live in the outskirts of the village whose children stay home to do work just like Usha. I soon learned that going to school and paying for books isn’t an issue for these families. It just seems more reasonable for these kids to stay at home and earn money rather than go to school. I also found that these children only go to school once or twice a month to get money from the government. The kids will get money from the village school, use it to buy clothes or food, and not return until the next month.
I later met Usha’s sister, Priyanka (below) who is the second oldest of the six sisters. When Usha saw me talking to Priyanka she started bragging about how I took 8 pictures of her. I then told Priyanka and their grandmother, Jamanaben that I would take pictures of them as well. Jamanaben told us the girls were her son’s kids. She also had another daughter named Teeny who is around 30-35 years old and autistic. She started telling us about how she was worried about who would take care of Teeny when she was too old to take care of her. Her sons could always look after Teeny, but how would they handle it? They were already working all the time and were hardly getting by. I could see her eyes fill with tears as she told us she has been looking for a school for autistic individuals, but was concerned Teeny wouldn’t be treated well. I told her that I’ll find a place when I go to Himatnagar tomorrow.
I’ve always known of the families living in surrounding villages who need help, but could never really think of a solution. Life for these families isn’t like it happened in one generation. It’s been generations and generations of hardships and struggles that seem to never stop. There are so many things that I can do, but where do I start? It wasn’t until I talked to my dad on the phone for 30 minutes today that I found the answer. Each one of these families have their own story. I need to find out what that story is. From the outside, they all look poor and do the same type of labor work. However, the reasons are all different from what I would think. I wasn’t born and raised in India and I’m not used to living in a collective society. I have to visit different families, talk to them, and spend time with them. I need to learn. Learn their story, their thoughts, and their reasons.
I have already written down three girl’s names and created a profile for each one. I told them that I’ll come see them and meet their families. This is where I plan on starting and when I come home, I’ll find sponsors for each of these girls. Each girl has their own story and each girl will be in need of something different.
I think I’ll end this blog post by just saying that today has been one of my most enlightening experiences since I was in India last year. I’m looking forward to sharing more of these experiences with you within the next two weeks and hopefully you leave this website feeling at least a little different from when you first entered.