When I look at the extent of problems and social evils plaguing our world today, I am often disheartened. Like many others, it is hard for me to figure how to start doing my bit to make things better. Then, I stumble upon an inspiring story and I start afresh, with the same vigour. This time my inspiration comes from a foreigner who is working day and night to make the lives of street children in India better. Mary Gothi, along with her husband Dave, founded the Sunshine Ministries in 2005 to make a more permanent difference in the lives of hurting street children of India.
In times when many Indians also shy away from fulfilling their moral responsibility towards their nation, someone like Mary stepping in to contribute whatever she can makes all the difference. Discussing the beginning of this humble journey, Mary explains, “We began Sunshine Kids International in 2005. I had traveled to Mumbai with my husband, Dave (Devendra) for years and just felt we needed to do something more significant and permanent to make a difference in the lives of kids I would meet on the street. Our nephew, Vivek Gothi, was familiar with St. Catherine’s of Siena orphanage in Mumbai and directed us to Brother Joseph there. We decided to run a sponsorship program and the gifts of partners to support St. Catherine’s in many ways. We support their Happy Feet and Happy Home programmes, help pay the salaries of their teachers, counselors and social workers.”
Mary herself is a psychotherapist, which is one reason why she is interested in healing the child, holistically. “Each child is encouraged to discover their heart, the passion God has placed in them to pursue,” she feels.
Mary Gothi and her husband Dave, who is an engineer by profession, are fully committed to the cause of supporting and helping street children live a normal childhood. Mary explains, “We have partnered with St. Catherine’s to helping them build the lives of children who might otherwise never had the opportunity to not only better themselves, but make a real difference in their communities. Many of these children are street kids who now have the chance, through the Project: Age 22, to receive education in the fields of their choice and are encouraged until they are placed in a job at the age of 22! We are supporting this program by helping Americans, who are so blessed financially, to understand what the rest of the world is like and to be willing to leave their comfort zone to make a difference. Raising money for this project has been a constant leap of faith. We are a volunteer-led organization, but I can’t count on that forever!”
Apart from convincing Americans to make a contribution, Mary has also faced the constant challenge of making Indians understand that the caste system does not mean that God wants people trapped or unable to fulfill their potential. Mary often tells people, “God wants every child to have the opportunity to make a difference in the world! Every child, if given the chance, can make India a better place!”
Hardly a foreigner
After learning so much about Mary’s journey, one can’t help but feel uncomfortable in referring to her as a ‘foreigner’ as she has truly become a part of India and is striving to make it better. Mary explains, “I love India, I love my in-laws and I always felt we could do something to make India a better place for the kids I would meet, fall in love with and then leave after my visits, not knowing what would happen to them. I was tired of having a broken heart and had to do something!”
What drove Mary towards this noble work, in spite of being a foreigner? She adds, “Maybe as an ‘outsider’ I see things with different eyes? I could never get used to the poverty I experienced in India or the begging children. I couldn’t believe that this was just their ‘lot in life’ or what God would accept for them. I wanted more for them! Maybe if we found a place we could partner with, we could really make a difference just in our little corner of the world! And that has happened in ways that continue to amaze me.”
Mary’s story doesn’t end here. Sunshine Kids International is only a beginning. Even her daughter Maren and her husband TJ, have adopted a child Lola from India, from Ashraya Home in Bangalore. Because of Lola’s multiple physical deformities, her parents could not take care of her and her special needs. Lola Swapna has been an amazing gift to the family, as has been the family’s priceless care for many children.
Reach out to Mary and Dave at firstname.lastname@example.org