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“You know how they say it in French, ‘C’est La Vie’, which means ‘Such is Life’ and that is exactly what I live by. No one has control over how life can turn out but we all have control over how we respond to it. And now’s the time to react, respond and come together as humanity,” says Stephanie Herve, a music therapist hailing from Bordeaux, France, who has been a regular tourist at the ‘Casa Mia Homestay’ in Fort Kochi, Kerala.
Stephanie had been in Kochi when the nation went into lockdown. And despite the French Consulate’s offer to help her return to France, the big-hearted musician chose to stay back to raise funds to provide food kits to underprivileged families.
By going live and singing songs on her Facebook page, Stephanie raised Rs 6 lakh and has provided grocery kits comprising of rice, pulses and other essential items to more than 1,350 families so far.
“We had Stephanie stay with us around two years back. Even back then she had made a huge contribution in helping underprivileged children across India,” says Usha Antony, owner of Casa Mia Homestay, Fort Kochi.
Helping out people is not new to Stephanie (44), who is also the founder of the Association Gabriel, an NGO based in her home country that has been providing food and shelter in Vietnam and India.
The philanthropist comes down to Kochi every year and though she may not have anticipated getting stuck during this visit, she chose to stay in the country and offer a helping hand. “Though all of Stephanie’s friends had returned to France, she was determined to stay back with us,” shares Antony.
With the help of Antony and her family, Stephanie first reached out to the Veli community kitchen in Kochi. This kitchen is being run by the people of Veli in association with Kudumbashree and the panchayat members. Kudumbashree is a women empowerment programme implemented by the State Poverty Eradication Mission, Kerala.
After speaking with the people in charge, she started providing them with the essential food items they had requested for the kitchen. Furthermore, Stephanie decided to reach out to the people back in her home in France through her NGO. And finally, the proactive lady started conducting live sessions on her Facebook page to raise funds aided by Usha’s son, Thomson, 15.
From Carnatic to French, English and even Malayalam, Stephanie’s songs started gaining a lot of popularity and helped her raise funds for the needy in Kochi.
“We’ve been able to help people not just in the neighbourhood but people from all over Kochi including places like Kumbalangi and Challanam. To see the content and relief on people’s faces, that’s what I truly live for,” Stephanie tells The Better India (TBI).
Usha’s son, Thomson Antony, who is fluent in French has been Stephanie’s guide from the very beginning and has been with her in many live sessions. Currently, Stephanie is also helping with the construction of an Anganwadi in Vypin, Kochi.
“She’s not our guest anymore, she’s more like a daughter that I never had and I’m so grateful that we could all be together during the lockdown. Her spirit to work for society is truly infectious. In fact, after seeing her efforts, many organisations from across Kochi started doing the same,” explains Usha. Indeed, humanity does not need citizenship. It is just a desire to be kind and compassionate to people. And Stephanie is the true embodiment of humanity in all its humane forms.
(Edited by Saiqua Sultan)