Ruchi did not choose to be born to a poor migrant laborer family. She did not choose to be born a girl. She did not choose to have an alcoholic father. She did not choose to be so poor that she could not go to school. She may be a victim of her circumstances, but she embraces life with optimism and courage.
I often saw Ruchi roaming the streets wearing nothing but her underwear, and sometimes a tattered t-shirt. She was always carrying a wide-eyed, dust-covered baby on her hip and holding the hand of thin smiley toddler. When our eyes would meet, she would give me a big smile. After seeing her around for so many days I asked her about her family, what she was doing and if the baby had eaten…
Ruchi is the second child of 5 siblings. The baby was Rinku, her littlest brother. The toddler was Ashish, her second youngest brother. Her parents are migrant laborers hailing from Bihar. They travel to find work. They live on the streets at the construction sites for the duration of the job.
When they were in the village, Ruchi went to school. She studied till second grade. But when poverty struck the family, they had to move to Delhi to find work. This meant Ruchi could no longer study. She needed to look after the younger siblings while mom and dad worked.
So here she was. This sweet soft-spoken smiley 10 year old caring for two children all day long. She bathed them when there was water. She fed them. She helped them go to the bathroom. She entertained them. She consoled them when they would cry. And she never asked for anything for herself.
I could not bare seeing them sitting in the dirt piles all day in the hot sun. So I told Ruchi’s parents to start sending her along with Rinku and Ashish to our Home of Hope. They were grateful. I told her to come at 9am the next day. She showed up at 8am, as if she was too excited to wait another hour.
The following day, she brought three more children with her.
“Didi, they also want to study. They don’t have a mom.” Her compassion was showing.
Now it is four months later. Ruchi is a kid again. She studies. When Rinku cries, our housemothers step in. Everyday From 9am (or 8am)- 6pm Ruchi is a 10 year old girl. She has found solace in our home. Sometimes, when her father drinks too much in the night, she will show up extra early in the morning with that same beautiful smile and say, “We needed to come here today. We didn’t eat dinner last night, so the babies are hungry.”
Since Ruchi came, I feel even more now than ever, that our Home of Hope is just that. A Home of Hope- A Beacon of Light for all those children who just need to be seen, if even just for a day. Ruchi continues to bring more and more children whenever she meets ones in need. I haven’t told her this, but I believe she would make an incredible social worker!