Chris Bray and his wife Jess recently visited India — but this was no ordinary December visit. They were here with one very specific mission in mind: to locate a girl and her family. Dick Smith showed Chris a photo he had taken from a train.
The photo was of a homeless family living under a bridge, and included a little girl who wasn’t wearing anything but a pink bracelet.
Dick wanted Chris and Jess to go to Vadodara (where the photo was taken) and find the family, who he wanted to help with accommodation, education for the girl, and a bank account into which he could regularly transfer money for the family. Talk about the spirit of Christmas giving! This is the story of Jess and Chris’s whirlwind India visit:
Dick Smith shows Chris the photo he had taken of a a homeless family (including a girl wearing nothing but a pink bracelet) in India. He wanted to help the family get accommodation, and perhaps get the girl an education.
All they had to go on was this distant photo and the Google Map location. To make it worse, most of the people in the photo were looking the other way.
They flew to India — their adventure will begin in Vadodara.
The receptionist of their hotel acted as a Hindi/English translator and got them started on their journey finding the girl in the photo.
On day 2 they found the bridge, but they could neither communicate with anyone, nor could they recognise anyone from the photo.
They walked into a bank where they knew the manager, and were introduced to Dr. Chellani, who would help them out.
They started passing the photo around, and this woman recognised the girl in the pink bracelet. She directed them to the girl’s mother, who called for her daughter — she was away playing.
They found the girl!
The girl’s name is Divya. While she was initially very shy (and possibly afraid she was in trouble), they reassured her, telling her the story of the photo taken from the train, and how they were looking for her because someone wanted to help her.
The family had been living under the bridge for 12 years.
Divya was born and grew up there. Her father worked as a day labourer, but wasn’t earning enough to afford a house, while also raising 3 children. They decided to wait till the father came home before discussing how they could help Divya and her family.
On the afternoon of day 2, they met the whole family in the bank. The father works hard, but they’re not able to make ends meet. To Chris, they seemed the perfect family: able and willing to work, and not averse to help.
They showed Divya’s family a photo of Dick and Pip, the couple responsible for this miracle meeting.
They watched the realisation dawn on the family that, if they wanted, they could now get help in a number of ways: education for Divya, rent for a house, and a better job for the father so that they could support themselves.
They set up a bank account in Divya’s name with her mother as the guardian so that Dick could transfer money into the account every month. Since they didn’t have any form of ID and couldn’t sign their own name, the bank took their thumbprints on the form.
Divya and her mother get their passport photos taken for the bank form.
Divya gets a bank account.
A formal contract was linked to the account, specifying what the funds could be used for: rent and education, for instance.
The contract also mentioned that the funds would be provided for a minimum of 2 years, after which the contract would be reviewed (although the plan is for it to be more than 10 years). As an incentive to Divya’s parents to educate her, a clause was added specifying that the funds would be stopped if Divya stopped attending school
To start things off, they deposited enough rent money for 3 months into the bank account.
Two families stuffed into the back of a single auto-rickshaw! Divya’s going shopping.
Since Chris and his wife Jess don’t speak Hindi, and no one in Divya’s family speaks English, Chris took photos on his phone of the things they needed to buy, and asked Divya’s mother to guide them.
While they bought mostly practical clothing for the family, they also bought this dress for Divya which she had fallen in love with.
Divya gets a school bag.
Divya gets school supplies!
She will be starting in Class 3, and should move to Class 4 next year. Since she has years of catching up to do, Dick has agreed — should the need arise — to pay for a tutor.
Divya can’t get enough of her new shoes. She’s been walking barefoot all these years.
Divya holds a photo of Dick and Pip, her brand-new benefactors.
This is the school that Divya will be going to.
Dick has said that he will make a significant donation to the whole school.
After their lovely goodwill adventure, Chris and Jess head back to the airport.