“What’s your name?”
“How old are you?”
He doesn’t seem to comprehend me. So I ask him again.
“How old are you?”
I try in this time in Hindi.
“Aap kitne saal ke ho?”
I don’t know..
Today I started my one week-long internship at Maher, an NGO dedicated to (and I quote their Mission Statement): “Creating secure and loving homes for women and children and enabling women to discover their power within and develop self-reliance.”
Maher is a Marathi word that means ‘Mother’s Home’. Started by Sister Lucy in 1997, it strives to assist “members of impoverished villages in uplifting their communities.” I was not able to see much of what they do today, however, I interacted with individuals that Maher had and has been aiding for years and were now, themselves, helping out Maher.
Gaus, who is now studying for a Masters in International Business, is working on setting up a database for Maher and its 750+ children and 250+ women, something that has been pending for a long time. We had a highly productive discussion in which we defined seven major points that are to be our goals not only with a short-term outlook but also in the long run.
He told me about his past. He says: “I was a Child Labourer. I was washing cars when Sister Lucy saw me and asked me: “Do you want to go to school?” and I said ‘Yes!’ So, I went to school, got an education, went to College and now I’m working for Maher while completing my Masters in International Business.”
I met some of his close friends, Ravi who is big on singing, Amol who has a rather good hand at animation, Akshay, a bright twelfth grade Commerce student and Peter, an avid guitarist who teaches himself using YouTube due to the absence of a teacher (and after my recommendation: Marty Schwartz’ Video Lessons on guitarjamz.com).
The anecdote with which I started this article was my first introduction to the life of the children at Maher. Kids are picked off the streets and brought to the shelter. Battered, exploited and destitute women and children are taken under the wing of this organisation and given a new, improved way of living.
I even played some football with the kids, getting soaked in the rain before the weather decided (rather dramatically) that it wanted to be hot and sunny. Nonetheless, it was great fun and interacting with these kids is a delight. They are smart and yearning to learn. They deserve a life that so many people take for granted. And Maher is working towards helping them make a better life for themselves. The stories I heard today were just a few of many that shocked me, bringing me to tears once I had left. To give you an idea of the heart-touching work Maher is doing, a while ago, they took in a 12-year-old rape victim with a baby. The horror of these situations and backgrounds just gets to you.
Furthermore, just by spending some time with them, you notice that they are hard workers. They’re not privileged and they don’t have as much awareness and as much knowledge of the outside world and its development as we do. But that’s not the point. You see it in their eyes that they want to learn. Give them an idea, teach them, just sit down and have a conversation with them and they soak up your knowledge. You don’t need to be a professor or even a University student. They ask questions and they give you some food for thought. And you learn a lot from them. In fact, Amol, whom I mentioned earlier, gave me some advice on photography. I recall noticing him working on a 3-D concept of a building using a certain software on his computer. And Gaus, he still had some work, trying to make sure of the smooth running of the simultaneously ongoing Self-Defence session for women that was being conducted by representatives from the Marriott Hotel. But that meant having to interrupt our conversation on several occasions in order to straighten up things and deal with some issues. The determination and the passion is clearly visible in him.
As of right now, I haven’t officially started any work but the pieces are in place. Some are yet to be pitched and be born while others are infants. Thus, I won’t comment on what I am going to be doing exactly but I can inform you of the fact that I shall be working on the long overdue database and I shall also be working in the fundraising department. So stay tuned for daily updates. Any contribution on your part would be greatly appreciated.
A few of the projects that Maher has been working on:
Vatsalyadham: A home for cognitively challenged women.
Aadhar: Providing assistance with job placement for village women and youth.
Dnyan Ganga: The setting up and management of libraries for villagers.
Swavalamban: The creation of self-help groups.
Kalasagar: An Open School for drop-outs.
Pragati: Rural Outreach Programmes.
Parishram: A centre for vocational training and production.
Gamat Shala: A day care for children of migrant workers.
Kishoredham: A home for orphans and children from broken homes.
Mamtadham: A home for battered, exploited and destitute women.
“Give a man a fish, he’ll eat for a day; teach him how to fish, and he’ll eat for a lifetime,” said Anne Isabella Ritchie.
The fish here, my friends, is hope. Maher doesn’t just give children and women hope, it inspires them and teaches them to hope and to believe. This week may just be the beginning of an incredible journey.
Should you wish to help out, below are the details. Help is welcomed through monetary donations, education and educational items (eg. Books), household materials, clothing, food and shelter. If you would like to engage actively, I have listed the contact information at the end.
International Donation Account:
Maher, S.B. Account No. 0261101061493
Swift Code – FD Pune CNRBINBBBID
IBAN No. DE41500700100953458710
IFSC No.: CNRB0000261
Canara Bank, Deep Heights, Ramwadi,
Pune 411 014. Maharashtra, India
Local Donation Account (Pune):
Maher, S.B. Account No. 034104000033202
IDBI Bank Ltd, Plot No. 128,
Blue Hills Avenue, Nagar Road,
Yerwada, Pune 411 006, Maharashtra, India
IFSC NO. IBKL0000034
PAN No.: AABTM1421G
Maher, Vadhu Budruk, Bhima Koregaon,
Tal. Shirur, Dist. Pune – 412 216.
National Admin Telephone: (+91) 9011086134 / (020) 27033421
Pune Contact Details: (+91) 9011086131 / (021) 37287517