I just received this very moving story from Crossroads Foundation, telling us how a small contribution can make such a huge difference to people’s lives.
Bhavani is a 42 year old fisherwoman who lives on the coast of southeast India. Her family was, for years, totally dependent on the sea for its livelihood. Bhavani’s husband Muthu sailed out to sea each morning at 4:00 and Bhavani sold his catch at the local market. It was a precarious existence, however, and, as the family grew and their needs increased, the fish became more and more scarce. The income from Bhavani’s daily market sales was not enough to meet their needs for food, medicine and school fees. They had no option but to take out loans from a local moneylender who, typical of their kind, charged impossible rates of interest whilst intimidating those who could not pay. Bhavani could not keep up with the wildly inflated demands and she was terrified of the repercussions. She felt her family sink further and further into desperation, seeing no way out.
By way of background, Bhavani’s tribespeople live in southern India on sloping hillsides, in valleys, on the periphery of forests, as well as by the sea. They are marginalised and many do not have an official identity, are unable to vote and are cut off from other basic rights. Like most of her people, Bhavani has no access to electricity, clean water or formal healthcare whilst tuberculosis, skin infections and alcohol-related illnesses frequently claim their lives. Discrimination or lack of formal identity documents prevent children from getting into school and many fathers, like their fathers before them, are trapped in modern-day slavery, working without proper pay in rice mills.
Crossroads, therefore, was delighted to partner with a non-profit organisation working to reverse this pattern. They seek to give the ‘invisible poor’ a voice, advocating for their children, liberating enslaved workers and finding them fair employment. They also provide basic care for the poorest of the poor, with gifts of clothing and household items.
This group discovered Bhavani and realised her potential as a small business owner. They invited her to meetings for tribal women on business, marketing and civil rights; through these, Bhavani learnt that she is a person of value, and that she and her family have rights. Today, Bhavani’s loans are paid and she has a thriving fish business which she plans to expand into pickled fish. Regarding her future, she now says with determination, “I will see no more poverty in my children’s lives. I will see that my village people are empowered to overcome poverty.”
What mighty words from one who once felt utterly trapped! It is a wonderful example of transformation and we thank you for being a key part of such stories. Because of people like you, Bhavani – and many like her – can now look into the future with hope.