After being abandoned by her husband who was ashamed of fathering girls and unwilling to pay their future dowries, Shireen Tabrez is raising five children by herself in Bangalore, India. Shireen earns $3 per day working as a housekeeper, the majority of which is spent on sending her daughters to school. Despite economic and social pressures, she insists on her children getting an education stating, “Whatever it is, I will make sure my girls complete their studies.”
Every morning, Shireen’s three oldest daughters Mehreen (10), Madiha (8), and Shafiya (6), walk more than 20 minutes through unsafe and crowded city streets to go to Col. Hill English School. They come to school and sit on the dirt floors of small classrooms for two reasons: to get an education and to ensure they eat a meal that day. These girls are three of 150 children attending the school who live in extreme poverty.
When Stop Hunger Now India’s director Dola Mohapatra visited Col. Hill English School in Bangalore, his intention was to evaluate the impact of the meals we provide, but what he experienced there was so much more.
When he arrived at the school, Dola was greeted by these three girls who explained that their mother had stayed home from work when she learned he would be visiting the school in order to personally thank him. Moved by this gesture, Dola followed the girls back through the crowded streets to their home–an apartment less than 200 square feet in size made up of two rooms, cement floors, and one community bathroom shared by all residents of the apartment complex. There, he met Shireen and her two youngest children, along with community members who had also gathered to hear Shireen’s powerful story and learn more about Stop Hunger Now.
To our Stop Hunger Now affiliates, the beauty of their work is the ability to use locally sourced ingredients and local volunteers to package meals that will be distributed to their community members in need. Our affiliate directors, staff, and volunteers can sit and talk with the recipients of meals and see the impact first hand. Stop Hunger Now India is one of six international affiliate locations that have been established since 2010.
To Dola, the courage and tenacity that Shireen demonstrates and the priority she puts on her daughters’ education is unique and something he will never forget. He comments on Shireen: “Despite having a frail and sick body, she has a strength that allows her to take on such supreme challenges.”
“As we sat with Shireen, her children, and various community members, I was reminded of how strong we can be when the motivation is coming from a pure place,” says Jordan Lynch, International Affiliate Manager for Stop Hunger Now. “This woman sacrificially loves her children.”
While the need for Stop Hunger Now meals is not rare in this part of India, beneficiaries who are seeking out ways to personally express gratitude are. The impact that Stop Hunger Now meals have on the lives of people like Shireen and her family represent the heart of our work and motivation for the future. Stories like this reaffirm our belief that by feeding and educating a child, you can change their life as well as the lives of a family, community, nation, and the world.