Most people recognize the role of children in the world. As the future generations that will inherit the planet, children are the harbingers of good things to come. But so many children are deprived of the basic right to education and to a decent standard of living. Many have known nothing but squalor, the most degrading conditions and appalling poverty.
But while these children and their families may not have the means to change their circumstances by themselves, it is possible to change their world if those more fortunate step up to take the mantle for their betterment. Meena Arumugam is one such person – professing a burning need to uplift the lives of unfortunate children, she sponsored Arun, a six-year-old from Gingee who was in desperate need of help.
Like so many other children, Arun came from a background of extreme poverty, where food was often scarce and every rupee made was spent on the family’s food supplies. In such a scenario, sending the bright young boy to school was out of the question – until Meena stepped in. “I was intrigued and interested to know more about this child after I was sent photographs and information about him,” she remembers. “World Vision India would send me regular progress reports about him, as well as his school records. The more I got this information, the more I wished to meet him and see for myself if my contribution was making a difference to the life of his community,” she adds.
She had the chance to meet him at World Vision India’s Chennai office in the year 2010. “Arun had come from Gingee for the visit, with his mother and grandfather. The meeting went off very well. I wanted to visit his village and see the community, but I could not do so because of the distance. I will go some day, however,” she says. Arun knew who she was and was very well-behaved, she adds. “I was very happy to see him in person – it was very satisfying to meet the child I was hoping to help with my sponsorship. I had taken a few small gifts for him, which he accepted with great joy though he spoke very little. He is a very shy and engaging child. For me, the most satisfying and enriching experience was to actually meet this little boy,” Meena says.
However, she is quick to point out that merely sponsoring one child is not enough – everyone should do it as much as possible. “I took my own daughter along for the visit, so that she would experience the meeting for herself and feel inspired to sponsor a child, too. Everybody must have a moral responsibility towards society, and especially towards young children who are denied many opportunities in life owing to lack of resources.
“When I compare the lives of these children with those of my child and others that I know, I feel humbled. Our children get good food to eat whenever they want it, they get the education they desire and we make every opportunity available to them. But what about lakhs of these underprivileged children, who do not even get one square meal a day? It is unjust of us to not extend a helping hand to them when we have the means to do so. If each person would shoulder the responsibility of sponsoring at least one child, it would make a big difference to the community and society as a whole,” she explains.
She has just one nugget of wisdom to share with other sponsors: “If you believe that children are precious, you must sponsor them. That’s why I sponsored Arun. But it is not enough to sponsor, one must also take the time to personally visit the child and the place where he stays. Sponsors must understand for themselves how they are making a difference to the lives of the children and the community. It is an enriching and uplifting experience,” she signs off.