I am happy to reconnect with you this Christmas and New Year Season and I wish all of you the joy and warmth of the Season. May you find success and fulfilment in all your endeavours in the year ahead.
I will briefly share with you some of the developments associated with BRIDGE since my last mail. As always, I have lots of stories to share about our beautiful journey and the people and families that we have been able to touch on the way.
Let me first place on record the continued support of our friend and benefactor Mr SV Rao from Megha Engineering (Hyderabad) and thank him for his appreciation of what we do and the financial help that he keeps sending us. Early this month, he sent us another cheque of Rs 5 lakh. I must tell you, as I have said in the past, just when our funds pool gets nearly drained, some help comes from some quarters as if to tell us that the whole world is conspiring to fulfil our dreams. It is because of persons like Mr Rao and Mr Bala Malladi sirs that we never had to knock on anyone’s door for help ever since we started on this journey a little over three years ago. Thank you once again Rao sir for your thoughtfulness and concern.
Friends, I also want to share another wonderful news with you. Expressing solidarity with BRIDGE, my larger family (including my mom and my siblings) has committed Rs 60 lakh for BRIDGE for the next 10 years. The amount will be credited to BRIDGE in tranche of Rs 6 lakh each year. This is noteworthy especially because this gift does not come from the abundance of their wealth but abundance of their hearts as we are just another middle-class family that has several financial milestones to cross. But then my mother has always told us never to wait to earn enough to start giving. Give while you are still struggling because you understand the needs of others better and that it’s our duty to take them along, she has always told us. This is indeed good news for the BRIDGE family and I thank my mother, my sister and brothers and their families for taking this courageous step.
I also acknowledge with gratitude here the regular financial and moral support offered by people like Shaji Thomas family, James uncle family, Austin family, Prakash Pillai family from Mumbai, Rakesh Bedi from New Delhi, Feroze, Karthik, my ET colleagues and a few other individuals. Without your support BRIDGE would have remained just an idea. Thank you guys for making it a change-agent.
Let me quickly introduce to you the new members of BRIDGE families.
We were introduced to the family of this singer from Mala, Kerala. He met with an accident in which he was almost electrocuted and ever since he has been in and out of hospitals for various ailments involving his stomach, lungs and what not. He has a wife and two children who are now struggling to eke out a living as the income from his occasional singing contracts at small functions has dried up. When I talked to him, he expressed his wish to open a small shop where he could start an ironing service and his wife could do some tailoring work. So BRIDGE has given him a loan of Rs 50,000 to buy equipment and rent a place. The money would be returned to BRIDGE in small instalments of Rs 2,000 each after six months.
Another business loan of Rs 50,000 was extended to a widow with two children to start a small juice shop. With our funds, she has bought a fridge and a mixer grinder and started a small juice centre near her rented house. I am happy to share with you that both these units are functioning well and you can be proud we have brought smiles back on the faces of these two families.
BRIDGE was introduced to a family from Kurnool, Andhra Pradesh, really struggling to make both ends meet. This family of five has a bedridden father and a mother who does household work nearby. The eldest girl was doing her first year nursing but had to quit midway due to financial constraints at home. The second is a boy who does odd jobs after he stopped studying after his 9th. The third is a girl who helps her mother doing household jobs after she quit school when she was in Class 7.
BRIDGE has intervened and we paid the fees of the eldest daughter and put her back at the nursing institute and provided her hostel accommodation. We are taking care of her hostel and college fees through our monthly subsistence support of Rs 5,000 each.
We met Sadasivan, a cobbler at JP Nagar, Bengaluru, bus depot. He is from Tamil Nadu and I was fascinated by the sense of purpose of this father of three brilliant children. His eldest daughter has just completed her MBBS and is interning at Govt Villupuram Medical College (TN). The second son is doing his 3rd year Veterinary Science (it’s a 5 and a half year course to become a veterinary doctor) and the third is a boy who is doing his 1st year PG in Pharmacy in Madras Medical College. And mind you, all three of them got admissions in these medical institutes on merit and therefore fees are limited except for hostel and other sundry expenses. Their cobbler father Sadasivam earns about Rs 500 a day and sleeps nearby at the bus depot to save money for his children. To understand if he was speaking the truth, I got the numbers of his children in Tamil Nadu and made enquiries and found everything the way he told me (my narrow-mindedness to doubt a cobbler’s story. Mea culpa). His son who is doing veterinary science had not paid his hostel fees for the past four months and a basic yearly fee of Rs 12,000 had to be paid. When I spoke to his son (Vanmarain), I found him to be a confident boy and he told me that he was hoping his course would be completed soon as the children are feeling bad that their father is struggling in Bengaluru to send them money. BRIDGE has paid Rs 26,000 (arrears) and promised to pay his hostel fees in future. The other two children are able to manage somehow is what Vanmarain told me. I am so hopeful of these children.
In my last mail, I had shared with you the story of the wife of the victim of an honour killing. Although we had part-paid her fees, she has been struggling to pay her hostel fees and she was giving up even one-time food to save money. We have now started to meet her hostel and food expenses.
In the past two months, BRIDGE has been able to part-fund the wedding expenses of two girls, children of two families that had lost their breadwinners, one in Tamil Nadu and another in Bengaluru. A total of Rs 60,000 has been spent for this.
BRIDGE also has part-paid the medical expenses of Ajinkya Shekdar of Pune (blood cancer), Ashwin Samuel of Bengaluru (kidney transplant), Biju of Ernakulam (throat cancer) and 5 dialysis patients. These medical payments have totalled around Rs 1 lakh.
BRIDGE also has joined the efforts of a few volunteers and helped renovate a small house of a widow and her mentally challenged daughter in Kerala.
Friends, there are a few more families whose lives we have touched in the past two months since my last mail. Since I do not wish to make this mail any longer than it already has become, I am winding up. But I just want you to feel good that with your support we have been able to wipe the tears of a number of persons. During Diwali when we presented some of our beneficiaries with new clothes and goodies just as their fathers would have done had they been alive, one girl broke down and asked me, “Sir, why do you love us so much?”. I held her close to me and choked with emotion. Friends, this is the kind of happiness they say we can never buy with money. I want all you contributors of BRIDGE to experience it. I am only a messenger, it is you who are the pillars of this little initiative of ours. I want you to feel good that you are making a difference in the lives of many families, the number of which is only growing.
God bless you all!