Ashwanth's Samuel's experience at the 10th year anniversary celebration
This past summer of 2014 was the tenth anniversary of the Samuel Family Charity Foundation. This organization was founded by my uncle, Ashok, and supported by my father who is currently the Director. The 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake rocked the coast of India with a devastating tsunami, and the coastal fishing town of Nagapattinam was hit the worst. Thousands in small, coastal towns were killed, injured, or displaced from their families and homes. Many of those most affected had seemingly bleak futures, except for 24 young women. Our family transported these girls back to Madurai, another city in Tamil Nadu, about three hours east of their hometown.
Once these young women arrived, we provided them with food, shelter, clothing, healthcare, essential transportation, and education in English. We reassured these girls that they would have a brighter future. When we first began working with them, none spoke any English, many had minimal schooling, and most lacked the basic necessities of life back in their homes. Now, ten years later, they are self-reliant young women. Four will be graduating from college next year, and many are stellar students in their elite private schools. Several are interested in pursuing careers in medicine, the arts, and engineering, and some have expressed interest in pursuing higher education and training in the United States. Seizing the opportunity they were given, they have worked hard to get where they are.
When I visited these young women in June of 2014 I had the opportunity to teach them math in order to make them more competitive in their college entrance exams. I instructed them over the course of many sessions, ranging from two-and-a-half to four hours each. In the beginning, the girls were apprehensive about answering because they were afraid of being judged, but by the last session, they were not shy about speaking up. While initially I had covered the basics to make sure everyone had a clear understanding of specific fundamental concepts, as we progressed, I found that the girls picked up on very complex topics with ease.
Following the lessons, I had the chance to speak with the girls and get to know them better. Because I was teaching them math, they reciprocated and taught me Tamil, their language. Sheets of paper covered with sayings and Proverbs in Tamil now hang on my bulletin board in my room. When we took them out for dinner one night, I really got to know them more personally. I got a more complete picture of what their lives were like before they came to the home, and how drastically they had to alter almost everything about themselves -- except their character. Their drive and passion to face and surpass any obstacle are what make them the strong women they are today.
On the last night, we all enjoyed a tenth anniversary celebration. The girls gave performances in song and dance that left me in awe. In return, I played my violin for them, and they were equally impressed, especially by the western song. And to think, their talents probably would have never been discovered if they and we hadn't connected. It was the perfect ending to an incredible trip.
I went to Madurai to teach others practical skills, but I came back having been taught important lessons in motivation and perseverance. Our family will continue to help and support these amazing young women, and maybe one day the mantle of leadership will be handed from my father's generation to ours. My cousins, siblings and I intend to continue our efforts to provide those deserving young people at our Samuel Charity Children's Home with opportunities to succeed and make a difference not only in their lives but also in the lives of the people they touch.
Here is a video presentation of the trip:
Girls Home Madurai