In December 2017, I got an opportunity to visit one of SOS India’s Family Strengthening Programmes (FSP). Here I met a few beneficiary families. One of them was the family of Laxmi and her five daughters. The FSP coordinator told me that this family is now phased out, which means it is now self-sufficient.
When my colleagues first met them, they were living in horrible conditions. Earlier Laxmi’s husband was helping out in a factory; Laxmi herself used to work at road and building construction sites on a temporary basis and would only get paid for the days she worked. When she gave birth to her fifth daughter, she became sick and could not go to work anymore. In the beginning, her relatives helped her out but they could not do this for long. The family struggled. When Laxmi recovered from her illness, her husband had a severe accident at work. From that time on all the five daughters and the bedridden husband were dependent on Laxmi. She tried her best to provide two meals a day, but didn’t always make it. It got to a point where she just couldn’t handle the situation any more. The children didn’t take a bath for a month and had torn clothes, uncombed hair, dirty faces and nails. They didn’t even have enough utensils to cook their food. The seven member family was living in one very small house, which leaked during rainy season.
When the SOS FSP Gurukul near New Delhi was doing a survey to identify vulnerable families in the area, they came to know about Laxmi. The turning point for the family was when they enrolled in the Family Strengthening Programme.
Five years later, I spent some time with Laxmi and found out that she is leading a happy life with her children. Smilingly she told me about all the developments. The first thing SOS did was to provide nutritional support like rice, flour, pulse(beans), sugar and oil and the whole family got medical checkup. The next step was to organize education for the children and later on capacity building for Laxmi, She became a member in one of our self-help groups and learned about livelihood promotion, nutrition, health issues, government schemes available for women and girls, education and savings regularities.
Within two years, with the support from the FSP, she opened a small stall of cosmetic items and initiated her journey to self-sustenance. Her income increased steadily and another two years later, she was able to convert her stall into a shop using her own savings and a loan from the self-help group. Her husband also recovered and is able to work again. With both of them working, the family now has a monthly income of more than 9000 rupees.
During my visit, Laxmi proudly showed me her shop. She told me: “Whenever there is a festival for example “Karvachoth” (a festival when wives fast for the long lives of their husbands) or Diwali (festival of light), I put up stalls outside. On these occasions everyone wants to dress up, put on make-up and look for fashion accessories. On these days my earnings always go up.” She also proudly informed me that the family now lives above the shop in a properly constructed house which doesn’t leak during rainy season. Her smile became even bigger when she talked about her girls: “Four of my daughters are attending school and are performing well except for the youngest one. She will catch up soon.”
When I left, I wished Laxmi good luck. I went away happy. This family doesn’t need us any more – what good news!