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Story time: India

Updated: Jul 2, 2019

What it's like for many children on the streets (not a photo of the exact girl that I met)

Imagine a little girl of about 7 or 8 years sitting outside a restaurant with a handful of balloons trying to convince people to buy them for a mere 30 cents. My family and I were sitting in chairs waiting outside the restaurant for our reservation when the little girl and I made eye contact. She was begging me to convince my mom or dad to buy a balloon. Regardless, I didn't know what to do and our name was called.

After dinner, the little girl came up to us and asked if we could buy her a roti (a common type of Indian flatbread). My heart just hurt so bad for her after that because not only did she need money, she was truly hungry. My mom always says that she wants to help all these people on the streets, especially children, but doesn't know what they will do with the money, which is a fair point. But, this little girl needed money for a meal which i'm guessing she hadn't had for a while. We tried to explain that we came from a restaurant where you couldn't buy bread like a grocery store. We wished that we had some leftovers that we could give her, but we didn't.

Eventually, my mom decided to buy a 20 rupee balloon (30 cents approximately), but didn't have exact change so just decided to give her a 50 note. I will never forget the look of pure gratitude and happiness on her face that night. This sweet girl had such wonderful manners despite the difficult circumstances she was in that she even asked me if I wanted another balloon, since we essentially paid for 2. I told her no thank you, please go use it to buy dinner. She again smiled at me and said thank you.

When we were walking towards the car my mom said, "We could've just given her the balloon back so that she could sell it to someone else and make some more money". I was like that's a smart idea, so I ran back to where she was sitting and told her exactly what my mom had told me. She was, again, so grateful and I felt like my family and I had done something that would make her life a little bit easier for the night.

Despite the significance these random acts of kindness can have, these occurrences do not get at the root of the problem nor does giving money improve the situation of people on the streets long term. Organizations (NGOs as many are called in India) work towards tackling problems head on, whether it is poverty, specifically child poverty as described here, or other major issues like climate change, gender inequality, safety, etc.... These NGOs/ charitable foundations, specifically ones that work on the issue of child poverty, rely on government funds and/or donations in order to house, feed, and educate children whose parents either cannot take care of them, would need them to work instead of going to school, or for children who don't have parents at all. Taking care of these basic needs allow them to focus on school, build strong relationships, and eventually, to be self sufficient and successful adults.

I visited an organization like this called Aanchal while I was in Jaipur where a lady named Seema rents out a room and houses 32 orphan girls between the ages of 4-14, simply out of the goodness of her heart. She pays the rent, gives them food, and pays for their education because she truly wants to help reduce the number of impoverished children on the streets of India by giving them the opportunity to attain a good education. It was such an eye opening and fun experience and I was surprised to learn that despite living on opposite sides of the world and growing up in completely different circumstances, we had a lot in common. I think that the world is so lucky to have self-less people in the world like her who want to help the less fortunate because it's the right thing to do.

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