- Friday, February 06, 2009
She confesses to being slow, but for six hours of what is mostly tedious work – an effort Namita never complains about – she earns two rupees, or what amounts to about US$.05. Like many other women here, this is her job, the only work available for an uneducated woman. Without it, her family would go hungry.
Thinking about it for just a moment, tears begin to well in the corners of her once cheerful eyes. “I have to cope with poverty,” she whispers.
Life in the rustic village of Khordanala, an hour-and-a-half outside Calcutta, India, is simple and straightforward. Men typically work the land for meager wages, harvesting rice mostly, but some coriander. Tan homes made of hand-smoothed, dried mud and braced with sticks rise up randomly from the flat landscape. Cow dung, a cooking fuel, is pressed against walls and trees to dry, the fingerprints that formed them still visible in their small round shapes.
Namita’s husband, Gobinda, a tall, sinewy man with serious eyes, works the rice fields when he can or sometimes as a mason’s helper when the fields don’t need tending. The couple’s only child, 11-year-old Abhijit, has the fine features of his mother and the shyness of his father. His smile comes quickly but words rarely do.
What sponsorship does for the Mondal family is what it does for the other 149 sponsored families in Khordanala. Most importantly, it helps their children attend school by alleviating the costs for uniforms, tuition and supplies. Not having to pay for these items allows them to address other important needs, which helps prevent further hardship.
Likewise, having a Children International community center at hand comforts sponsored families. This is especially true, says Gobinda, because an energetic and mischievous boy like Abhijit seems to find trouble easily. “Without the program, I would have to take him to the doctor, but we would have to take a loan to pay for it. Then I would have to work much harder than I already do. Or we would have taken him to a quack doctor (local healer).”
Parents like Namita and Gobinda want their children to have what they don’t. First, an education, then higher self-esteem and the hope to dream about a life beyond the poverty that has robbed so many of so much in Khordanala. And anything that helps Abhijit put his best foot forward is a small step in the right direction.
“Sponsorship is really helping,” affirms Gobinda, as he begins the chore of breaking sticks for a cooking fire.
Photos and reporting assistance by Nivedita Moitra
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