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Thank you for the adventure and experience of a lifetime. Your warm and welcoming home, full of family, friends and dedicated helpers made us feel so welcome, comfortable and loved. Your special attention to our meals and introduction to new places, foods, traditions and experiences afforded us an insight into the wonderful Indian culture not usually available to foreigners.
We appreciated the opportunity to see, first hand the magnitude of your work and the efforts you take to help others and to make their world a better place. We were so fortunate to meet the children, staff and teachers at your school and to share in the annual celebration of Children's Day. Being one of the honored guests at the celebration, sharing in the festivities and seeing the smiles and happiness on the faces of the children was a heartwarming and joyous experience.
Your medical clinic held at the nearby village was amazing and so appreciated by those in need of care. I was honored to be included. I also enjoyed meeting the students of your embroidery and sewing class. Seeing the joy and confidence in their faces as they displayed their work showed not only their newfound talents, but also the confidence your program has afforded them and their families for future income and self esteem.
The dedication of the Melanie and Casey Memorial Chapel on November 17th was the highlight and the culmination to many months of hard work for you, Sister Lucy and your entire staff and support team. I was so impressed with your construction and organization talents in building the Chapel and orchestrating the opening celebration. The Chapel is beautiful with the stone floors, stained glass windows, hand painted art and carved teak entry doors. The dedication ceremony, with nearly 500 guests, including 25 priests at the mass and reception dinner that followed was well organized and a moving tribute to Melanie and Casey. The musicians and choir filled the air with beautiful songs and praise. I was very moved and will never forget the wonderful celebration of the lives of Melanie and Casey you made possible with this Chapel and your hard work and dedication. I was most honored to be part of the celebration and to experience just another one of your milestones of good work and selfless dedication to others.
Thank you for honoring my sister and her husband with this memorial chapel. It means so much to them and to our families. Thank you also for what you have given to me and my son Ian -- the most memorable experiences of our lives.
With love and gratitude,
Mary and Ian Wilson
Three years ago I meet Dr. Geetha at St. Daniel Church in Ouray, Colorado. She was talking about all of the good works of the Foundation for Children in need to support poor children and elderly in southern India. What struck me most was that she was specifically requesting sponsorships to help poor children obtain an education. This was a cause I was particularly enthusiastic about; because I believe with an education one can do anything one sets his or her mind to. I decided to sponsor a child. Within a short period of time I received my first letter and photo of my sponsored child, Mary Shobha. Mary continued to send photos and letters, describing her activities and course of study, and always sent her prayers and those of her family for me. This really touched me, so I wanted to meet her. As an engineer myself, I was particularly impressed by her college course of study in math, science, and computer programming. After 3 years of sponsorship, I made the trip to Hyderabad this past October which is the closest major city to Mary's college and the FCN. It was such a pleasure to finally meet this remarkable young lady. We had a wonderful weekend of sightseeing in Hyderabad, and I enjoyed the wonderful hospitality of Dr. Geetha and her husband Tom. I learned so much about India during my visit. I even got to meet other sponsored students and encourage them in their studies. I left India feeling so happy about the personal connection I had made.
To Whom It May Concern:
And, yes, you should be concerned! If you are reading this letter on the website of The Foundation for Children in Need, chances are that you are concerned and that you are interested in learning more about this wonderful organization. I would like to share my story about my recent experiences with FCN.
I have been a Registered Nurse for nearly seventeen years and have worked in many different roles from Pediatrics to Geriatrics. Having had plans to travel to India for the wedding of a friend, I had hoped to use my nursing skills to volunteer and help Indian children and families in need. I had contacted a few agencies without much luck and had pretty much given up on the idea.
Well, the day before I left for my trip to India, I attended mass at St. James Roman Catholic Church in Stratford, Connecticut, my parish since childhood. The bible readings for that particular Sunday focused on the Beatitudes, the beginning portion of the Sermon on the Mount from the Gospel of Matthew. ("blessed are the poor in spirit…") Of course, Father Tom Lynch began his homily explaining how important it is for us to give of ourselves as much as our money. He then went on to introduce missionaries who did exactly this. I nearly fell over in my pew when he introduced Dr. Geetha Yeruva and Tom Chitta from FCN in India!
After mass I met with Geetha and Tom, explaining to them that I was traveling to India within the upcoming weeks, and that I was hoping to volunteer there in some capacity. Three weeks later I was on a plane to Hyderabad, India, followed by a train to the middle of Andhra Pradesh in Southern India! Geetha and Tom had made all of the arrangements for me and graciously welcomed me into there home in Porumamilla, a small town in a very remote part of Andhra Pradesh. After the nine hour train ride from Hyderabad where I was the only Westerner within hundreds of miles, I was quite happy to see Tom there waiting for me!
Having spent a week in New Dehli, I thought that I had seen just about everything. The people, the cattle in the streets, the poverty, the smells, the non-stop movement of just about anything on wheels… There was a stark contrast from wealth to poverty, with families sleeping on the streets in front of mansions. There were slums next to wealthy communities, and people everywhere were begging or trying to sell you something. It was really difficult to get used to at first but after a week in India I thought I was prepared for my trip to Andhra Pradesh. Was I ever wrong!
The further we drove away from the train station and the closer we came to where FCN is based and provides its services, the more remote and poverty-stricken it became, only without the contrast of the wealth of New Delhi. There was a contrast; however, as the landscape of Andhra Pradesh is absolutely beautiful with lush green valleys filled with fields of sunflowers, all surrounded by arid mountains. Mixed amongst the beauty, however, were the poorest villages filled with the poorest people I've ever seen! The children were all small, malnourished in appearance, dirty, and most did not wear shoes, if they had them at all. The little bit of clothing the people possessed was worn and dirty, washed in the local rivers by the women during the day. Men and women labored in fields in the hot sun, for less then one hundred "rupees" per day…less than two U.S. dollars! Words can't accurately describe what it was like, and I am so grateful to Geetha and Tom that I was able to experience it first hand.
The work that they do there is incredible! My first day started with a tour of their administrative offices and health center, and a visit to their tailoring and embroidery training center for women. The work the women did was beautiful, and they were thrilled when I asked for a special-order dress for my little niece. Just my very presence made them quite happy, as evidenced by their warm welcome and fond farewell. It was very rewarding, and I hadn't even provided any medical care yet
I spent the next few days visiting various schools and villages where we provided medical camps for children and families. Each village and school was unique but they all shared one common theme…the people there are poor and need help! I've never witnessed living conditions like the villages…grass huts without plumbing, limited electricity if at all, large families living in one small room with mats on the floor as beds…
Each medical camp started out with health education from Dr.Geetha (as she became known). She would teach the children and families about the importance of personal hygiene and proper dental care. She would remind them to drink plenty of water, especially in the hot climate where they live, and provide other education as appropriate. Having first-hand knowledge of their needs, Dr.Geetha was quite well received as she taught them in their local dialect.
The children we cared for suffered from a variety of illnesses that we rarely see in developed countries. Many were malnourished or had parasites in their intestines due to the lack of clean drinking water. Many of the children and adults were quite ill with respiratory infections and pneumonias that had gone untreated for weeks or even months. From school to school, village to village, we found numerous children and adults who were in need of medical care. With our stethoscopes, translators, and a suitcase full of medications, we provided medical exams and care to countless needy children and families. We created medical clinics wherever we could…in a tiny classroom of a village school…in a building that was being built with dirt floors and no electricity, only the light from outside to see our patients…outside of a grass hut in one of the villages, trying to finish our exams before the sunset and we lost our only source of light…It was an incredible experience to work in these conditions.
Equally rewarding as the medical camps were my visits to FCN's school and Home for the Aged. Because there are not enough classrooms at the school, many of the children have classes under a tree! Fortunately, they are in the process of building more classrooms thanks to the generosity of donors. The school supports the children with meals and snacks, as many are not well fed in their villages. There are also dorms at the school where many of the children live. Visiting the children and seeing how they learn was incredible!
The Home for the Aged was also a very special place. Here some 40-50 seniors live in an assisted-living environment. These are elderly villagers who don't have family or the means to care for themselves. The ones who are able try to help with the care and maintenance of the facility, a rewarding experience for them. They all appeared well cared for and quite happy. Dr. Geetha overseas their medical care as well, and it was truly wonderful to assist her in their examinations.
Everywhere that we went we received a warm welcome and it was obvious that we made a huge difference for these people. Some of the poorest villagers even went as far as to offer us a few biscuits and grapes. These people who have so little were so grateful to us that they were offering us food! It was also quite remarkable to see how simply visiting their villages, schools, or aged home made them happy. I took many pictures and they were thrilled to see them on my digital camera. Everywhere I went the children were full of smiles and the villagers greeted me with folded hands and a bow of their head saying "namaste" or "hello". Never have I felt so appreciated or so welcomed!
Working with Dr. Geetha and visiting Andhra Pradesh was perhaps one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. The work that Geetha and Tom do is truly remarkable! They choose to live and work in these communities, helping the people that need it the most. Their dedication and commitment to the people of their community is commendable! I am so grateful to Geetha and Tom for providing me with this opportunity to visit their home and to work with their organization, and I will never forget the time that I spent with them. I hope that this letter will encourage others to not only support their organization, but to plan a visit to India to see the work of FCN first hand. I can assure you that it will be an experience you won't soon forget!
Darin Michael Bershefsky, RN
Stratford, Connecticut, USA