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Dhanyavaad, bhaarat ke Indiya. (“Thank you, people of India”)
In the weeks since I’ve returned home from the Softchoice Cares International Project in Rajasthan, India, I’ve come to realize that people are truly amazing.
I’ll start this post by stating plainly that India has its challenges. Real. Serious. Challenges.
The Caste system, widespread hunger, political corruption, over-population, no common language (Hindi is most common, but only 41 percent of the population speaks it), illiteracy, wealth distribution – a lot of challenges.
Perhaps the most heart wrenching though is the status of children in India.
Many are orphans. By many, I mean four percent of the population under the age of 18. To put that into context, four percent is about 20 million children. That’s 50 times the number of orphaned children in all of North America.
Harder still to comprehend is that 19.4 million of them are abandoned. Not the victim of an untimely passing of their parents, not lost or runaways. Abandoned.
Why? Poverty is a common answer.
As you can imagine, living as an orphan under these conditions leads to a number of other tragedies from crime to starvation and death. Perhaps most disturbing is the child trafficking, where these orphans are sold primarily for child labor.
Why am I telling you this? Because behind every dark cloud, the sun still shines – especially in India.
Allow me to elaborate.
SD (a nickname for the sake of maintaining anonymity) is a young, mildly affluent Indian man who lives in South Delhi. As he described it, South Delhi is the “posh” part of the city. To our standards in North America, there is still significant poverty. He is well kempt, tall and slender. He wears sports thin-rimmed glasses and speaks English nearly as quickly as he speaks Hindi. He is a huge WWE fan – John Cena is his favorite!
SD volunteers with an organization called Robin Hood Army. You may have read about them in one of our other posts. What an incredible organization! They take in young, orphaned girls under the age of 18 and provide them with food, shelter and an education. While we were visiting with them, we learned of one girl whose sister had brought them both to Robin Hood Army as young girls, and who recently went off to study Law in Delhi. Amazing!
SD has been working with the organization for about 18 months, and said he expects to work with them the rest of his life. He assists organizations like Softchoice Cares to visit the Robin Hood Army orphanage, and personally volunteers with the girls every single week for two or three hours. He brings toys, food, books, new music and a great sense of humor. He’s adored by some of the older girls who, I suspect, have a crush on him!
Every October, SD and his friends also collect money and donate 200 blankets to the least fortunate, who do not have shelter, in South Delhi.
SD inspires me more than most people I’ve met. In India, there are many like him. I’m proud to say there are many working at Softchoice as well.
I am not only referring to those that have served on the employee-driven Softchoice Cares board. I’m also referring to the hundreds of Softchoice employees who donate and participate in Softchoice Cares charitable events and initiatives; our generous vendor partners who donate to and sponsor our events and initiatives; and of course our “Orange Ambassadors” – employee volunteers who serve as local Softchoice Cares cheerleaders in our offices across North America.
This group has spent more than 30,000 hours this year alone supporting causes in our local communities and our international project abroad.
People are amazing! Every passing moment is another chance to do something incredible. When we are united, we can do more good than we could ever imagine!
And now, every time I come across someone in need, I ask myself, “What would SD do?” I hope my answer is always to be ‘the sun behind the dark cloud.’