Two months ago, a five year old boy named Peter came to Don Bosco Deodurga, a Salesian boarding school for some of the poorest children in Southern India. He clung in fear to his 11-year-old sister Mariamma, while their other sister, Shantamma, looked equally scared. It was the first day at what would be their new home.
The three children brought minimal clothing. Peter only had one pair of pajamas, two shirts, and a pair of shorts. His clothes were torn and his shirts were missing buttons. The girls both had only two dresses each.
Peter and his sisters were brought to the Salesian school because they desperately needed help.
Peter’s mother, Sivamma, had been given away in marriage at the young age of 15. By the time she was 30, she had seven children. The family struggled to survive on their father's measly pay of 35 rupees (70 cents) a day, and although they had some land, it was too dry and barren to produce any food.
Sivanna could not care for all the children by herself, so she relied on the oldest daughter, Husenamma to do much of the work. Husenamma watched her younger siblings, washed all the family's laundry by hand, and made sure all of the children were fed and bathed.
The family was already struggling enormously when tragedy struck. A snake came into the hut at night and bit the second oldest sister, and she died. Shortly after, the family's hut could not withstand heavy rain and it was destroyed. The children and their parents were left homeless with an annual income of only 10,000 rupees (223 dollars).
The Salesians gave the family a place to stay in a spare room of the church and were able to raise some money from sponsors to start building a sturdy house for them. But the money eventually ran out, leaving the house still unfinished.
The Salesians also offered to accept the children into the Boarding School for free, waiving the normal tuition of 12,200 rupees (270 dollars) a year per child. The parents agreed to send Peter, Shantamma, and Mariamma, but sadly did not allow Husenamma to attend because she was needed at home.
Husenamma is only 13 years old – and not only will she be denied an education – she will soon be forced into marriage once a husband is found. If the Salesians or the police find out about the ceremony before it takes place, they can stop it because child marriages are illegal. However, after the ceremony takes place, there is nothing they can do.
Fortunately, the outlook for Peter, Shantamma and Mariamma is much brighter. Upon arriving at the school, the children were given schoolbooks and brand new uniforms (probably the only new clothes that they had ever gotten). Shantamma looked adorable in her school red blouse, and dark blue jumper, while Peter put on his uniform shirt, shorts, and belt. They got white knee high socks and black school shoes. These were the first shoes and socks that they have ever owned. Peter looked so proud as he carried his box of shoes from the store with his other classmates. He was smiling ear to ear.
Today, Peter and his two sisters, Shantamma and Mariamma, are very happy staying at Don Bosco. They are looked after by Salesian Fathers, Assisi Sisters, teachers, and volunteers. They have made friends with the other boarders and their classmates. They are so playful – always laughing and joking with the volunteers, the fathers, and their friends.
Without the help of the Salesians, these children would have had dismal futures ahead of them. After they finish 10th standard (10th grade), they will be able to read and write not only in their own language, but also in Hindi and English. They will also be able to go on for further education if they wish to do so and hopefully get a better paying job.
It is the hope of the Salesian Fathers that these children will learn important and essential life lessons that they can pass on to generations to come and thus break the cycle of poverty. Thanks to the Salesians, they are at the beginning of making that dream a reality.
Your support makes it possible for children like Peter, Shantamma and Mariamma to get the basic care they desperately need today, and the education that will lead to a better life tomorrow. Please consider a gift that will help fund our schools in Southern India and other impoverished regions around the world.