About 20 years ago, I began my work in India. I stayed in a room that had large ceiling-to-floor windows. Across the street at an apartment complex, there was a young girl who was 8 years old who sat on a pile of dirt all day and opened the gate for all the cars of the residents. She and her family lived in a tiny tomb-like enclosure in a pillar next to the gate. Her mother cleaned the apartments and her father did maintenance work there.
The young girl had a very bright, beautiful and lively face. Since I witnessed her daily life of monotonous work from her station on the pile of dirt, I began to wonder about her future and if she ever dreamt of going to school and creating a different life for herself. I became attached to her and contemplated how I could sponsor her education. Our staff invited her to our house, and I asked her about her dreams. She wanted to be an accountant. I offered to her and her father that I would pay for any school fees, and even offered that she could stay with us, since we had electricity, for her to study at night and people to tutor her.
Her father refused my offer, and said she needed to continue with her work as the gate-keeper. The years passed by and she grew to be a young lady, and daily she still sat on a pile of dirt and opened the gate for the residents. I wondered at her inner life- how did she face each day knowing that it would be a day of grinding poverty and monotonous chores, and that her dreams were hopeless to achieve without education? What was it like to live in a tiny tomb in a pillar with 4 people, and see life from a station on a pile of dirt? How many other children were living the same desperate lives, unseen and unheard and no opportunity in sight? I could have been that young girl, instead of growing up in the US with everything I needed to be anyone I wanted to be.
I vowed to do what I could to bring transformational education to as many poor children in India as possible, and give them the opportunity to learn how to dream of a new life, and take steps in every way to make that dream a reality. We began our educational programs first in a tutoring center in a slum for the children of fishermen, and then by partnering with the Rotary Club to provide alternative education on the weekends for their Boystown. Today we have 101 of our own after-school centers throughout India for 4040 of the poorest children living in broken families in remote villages, and we deliver our educational programs in 40 schools for 16,000 underprivileged children in US, Mexico and India- and expanding to more children every day.
What happened to the beautiful girl, my neighbor? Eventually we moved, and I never saw her ever again. However, her memory is etched on my heart forever. Likely she grew up to be a maid like her mother- illiterate and married to an illiterate husband, with children of her own. She probably stopped hoping and dreaming, and just lived.
Every day there are children all over the world living through hopeless situations that are like a mini-prison- growing up to live in a permanent prison of poverty, lack of opportunity, lack of jobs, lack of money, lack of everything. At Tripura Foundation, we are dedicated to bringing these children the HoPE of transformational education that empowers their brain, lights up their soul, brightens their faces and inspires inner dreams that blossom into new lives of achievement and fulfillment, and service to their family and communities.
And HoPE is happening every day- we invite you to join our mission to bring HoPE to the world. To us, HoPE means Heaven on Planet Earth- a world of peace, love and prosperity for all.