My dear friends,
At the outset, let me offer my apologies for such a long delay in writing to you and updating you of BRIDGE activities. As many of you who are closely associated with BRIDGE would know, these past moths have been quite busy for us as we have had to pay the school/college fees of our beneficiary students. This involved obtaining their progress reports, interacting with teachers about our children, negotiating with school authorities for fee reductions and even visiting some of these families. Since these had to be done along with our own jobs that bring home our bacon, I kept delaying writing to you. Hope you understand.
Friends, I want to share a few exciting experiences with you that kind of reaffirmed my belief that we are on right track. By early June, we had almost exhausted our funds pool having had to pay the fees of around 50 school/college going students. With a number of payments pending even after chipping in more than I could muster personally, I was beginning to feel a little stressed. Of course, during the past three years of BRIDGE work, God had never let us face any disappointment making timely intervention through the right people. With no fund-raising programmes organised this year (Infosys’ contribution of Rs 10 lakh was a major help the previous year), I was getting a little worried. I had sounded out a few contacts for help but couldn’t make a breakthrough.
And all of a sudden, I got a message from Bala Malladi sir, the affable CEO of ACT, the company that sponsored the BRIDGE event last year, and the person who has so much admiration for BRIDGE. In the message he enquired about my health and asked me if we could meet. I must acknowledge here that ever since my surgery last year, Bala sir has been concerned about my health sending me messages regularly, despite his busy schedule. He always insisted that I take it easy and take care of my health first reminding me often that only if I am healthy I can be of help to others. Even though we couldn’t meet one to one since our meeting last year, something urged me that I should seek a meeting with him this time.
We did meet the following week and the meeting totally turned the situation around for BRIDGE. I must say I felt touched by Bala sir’s concern for me as well as for the BRIDGE family. And as if he knew the situation, he asked me to share my stress points with him. Even though I am too shy about seeking help, on his prodding, I told him that I was going to hit the wall when it came to raising funds. He pulled up his chair close to me and said, “Shibu, you are not doing anything for yourself, but for other people. So never feel bad about asking for help. And when you are so committed, it is OUR duty to support you. Let me take this stress away from you. You focus on your work. As long as I am around, you will not have to worry about funds. Our company and me personally will be at your service.” He said this and in the next breath he said he was sanctioning Rs 5 lakh and that lack of funds should not be a stress point for me anymore. Immediately, he summoned his colleague Sunil Yajaman (Vice President) and requested that Rs 5 lakh be released immediately to BRIDGE. Thanks to the efforts of Sunil, Rs 5 lakh was credited into BRIDGE account within just about three days.
Friends, I must say I was almost in tears when I left his office and I have no hesitation to say that I saw God right in front of my eyes. The entire BRIDGE family is indebted to Bala sir and his company and not a day passes without our team members remembering this gesture.
If I still didn’t believe that God was at work, 10 days after this I received a call from our BRIDGE associate CR Sukumar from Hyderabad to inform me that our long-time benefactor SV Rao of Megha Engineering & Infrastructure had sanctioned another donation of Rs 2 lakh. As I had informed you all earlier, this company has been a pillar of support for BRIDGE and without ever having to ask, Rao sir has donated to the BRIDGE cause at various times. He says that as he cannot do things directly, he is happy to support a team that’s committed to a noble cause. Our heartfelt gratitude to you sir, our team is indebted to you.
I am also happy to inform you that some of my friends in Mumbai who had heard of BRIDGE wanted me to make a presentation during a gathering of theirs. They had formed an association called KFC (Kerala Friends Club) to help the needy and work for the welfare of member families. I made a presentation in April and this wonderful group of socially conscientious persons immediately sanctioned Rs 50,000 for BRIDGE activities. I am trying to request them to sponsor the education and subsistence of one child from BRIDGE family every year.
I must also inform you about another BRIDGE associate of ours in Mumbai Neeta who arranged and sent us 20 beautiful bags for our BRIDGE students early this academic year. Big salute to you Neeta and your team.
Friends, miracles do happen, and they happen so frequently. Look no further than BRIDGE benefactors for proof for this. And it’s just not only through money, BRIDGE has been helped by the selfless services of several of our volunteers which have resulted in miraculous changes in the families we have touched. If I were to write about them all here, I am afraid, this mail would really be very long. But I must mention at least a few of them here even at the cost of taking away some of your time. The others I shall write about in another mail.
We met 22-year-old Shilpa at the dilapidated house of her grandparents, in a colony of low-income families, surrounded by some of her relatives. She had lost her 48-year-old mother to dengue just a week before. Her mother was the world to her having lost her father when she was around 4 years old. Shilpa also was a heart patient and had undergone a surgery for a hole in her heart some three years ago. She also was suffering from poor eye sight and literally her mother was her eyes and ears. Now that she had lost her, Shilpa’s world came crashing down on her. A few neighbours and some relatives had gathered in their house when the BRIDGE team visited them and each of her ‘well-wishers’ spoke earnestly about her plight and how tough it was for her now, especially because she is a ‘heart patient’, etc. I noticed a silent Shilpa not too happy about the scene and walking in and out and I sensed something was amiss. Soon we sought a private meeting with Shilpa and during which time, I just told her that I didn’t think she was a heart patient anymore since the surgery was successful and that having a specs does not mean one has eyesight issues. I gave her my example of heart surgery and eyesight issues and told her that I am perfectly fine and that it’s all in our minds. Suddenly, she just opened her heart to our team and said that she was disgusted by her neighbours and relatives who are making a ‘victim’ out of her inviting unnecessary sympathies. She said that she does not want anyone’s sympathies and that she would want to do things on her own. We were so happy to hear her talk freely and we told her that we would take her to a known cardiologist and an eye doctor the next day and that she should say no to everyone who comes home offering sympathies and other help and that BRIDGE would take care of her henceforth. She was so happy to hear us and soon thereafter her entire demeanour changed and she said that she felt like having got her parents back.
Two days later, we arranged a meeting with a cardiologist who certified that she was in perfect health and she could do anything that anyone else her age did. She was so excited to hear it and she was now motivated to continue her studies. She had not completed her Plus II as her heart surgery and subsequent forced ‘rest’ did not allow her to continue her studies. We have now put her in a coaching centre that will help her prepare for the Plus II exams in March next. We put her at her aunt’s house near her coaching institute. Shilpa has become a happy go-lucky person today who keeps calling me almost every second week to update her about classes and share her excitements. BRIDGE has touched her heart, literally.
Jainy is a widow who lost her husband six years ago following meningitis. With two children to take care, she was struggling to make both ends meet with her salary of Rs 8,000 as a primary teacher. A month ago a cyst was detected in her uterus. A surgery had to be done. Fortunately, it was not malignant. With the family expenses increasing after the surgery, she stared blankly at her future as she was already indebted to many. She was introduced to BRIDGE and after analysing her case, BRIDGE has agreed to provide her a subsistence support every month. Jainy called me the other day and said: “Sir, I had told God that if He didn’t provide a solution in a week, I would be forced to take some drastic steps. Sir, your call came just two days after this. I want to thank you and your team for sparing our lives.”
Twenty three year-old Sowmya’s (name changed to protect her identity) case is heart wrenching. She is a victim of honour killing. Having lost her husband she was left to fend for herself. Struggling to come to terms with life, Sowmya saw all doors closed on her and besides she did not know whom to trust. Some help offered to her was being misused by her in-law’s family. A Good Samaritan came to her rescue and exhorted her to study and stand on her feet. He contacted BRIDGE and we have part-funded her college fees. Sowmya is a much-reconciled lady and doing well in her studies and grateful for BRIDGE.
Shantha Babu with three children, two of them mentally challenged, was deserted by her alcoholic husband for the past eight months. Not that things were easy even when he was around as they were subjected to physical abuses. Struggling to eke out a living, the lady approached BRIDGE for help. We have tapped a few resources and found her a small job and to supplement her income, we are providing the family a monthly subsistence support. Meanwhile, we are also in touch with the husband to put him in a rehabilitation centre.
I have some not-so-pleasant experiences too. One of the three daughters of Deva Nesam family whose children’s school/college fees are paid by BRIDGE, disappeared from their Bangalore home a day after her Class 10 exam results were out. She had failed in Kannada by 2 marks. BRIDGE volunteers got into action and after much frantic search and police help, we traced her to a house of an old lady in Tamil Nadu who found her in a bus station. After contacting their relatives in the state, she was brought back home and we subjected her to some counselling. She was motivated to write the exam again and by the grace of God, she cleared it this time. We got her admission in a college in city for PU and we are regularly in touch with her and her family.
I am really sorry to share the news that Sumathy who was under the care of BRIDGE volunteers for cancer treatment gave up the fight and passed away a few weeks ago. She is survived by her mother and her three little children. Our BRIDGE volunteers are talking to her mother about putting the children in boarding schools or other alternative plans. Will keep you posted.
Friends, I am afraid, the mail is getting too long and I shall share other experiences in another mail. I am taking this opportunity to thank each of you for your support and prayers. Without your support BRIDGE would not be able to make the kind of difference it does. I raise my hat to you my wonderful friends and benefactors for your faith in the BRIDGE cause. Thanks to you, I will never worry about the future. God bless us all abundantly.