Namaste India Children’s Fund

Dr. Jessie Voigts's picture


An interview with Delta Donohue – Co-Director and Vice President of Namaste India Children’s Fund (NICF) --- We've been so happy to share the writings of Delta Donohue on our site - she's the co-editor for Voices of India. Since she joined Wandering Educators as an editor, Delta has shared some powerful experiences with kids in India. Reading them makes you pause and reflect about humanity - and how we can help. Delta is also Co-Director and Vice President of Namaste India Children’s Fund (NICF). We were lucky enough to sit down and talk with Delta about her journey to NICF, as well as the volunteering work with NICF and Vatsalya. Here's what she had to say...

 

 

WE: Tell us a little bit about yourself...

DD: I spent 14 years climbing my way up the corporate ladder working for a global financial institution. It was a wonderful job that allowed me to travel to many different countries, meet some incredible people and overcome the hurdles of ever changing work conditions that so often accompany large corporations.


Almost four years ago I realized that there was more to life; that I wanted to go to bed each night feeling like I had contributed to our world. I was at a transitional point in my life as both of my children were starting graduate school and it seemed the perfect time to make a change.  I ended up giving notice and began to network with people around the world focusing on issues that involve women and children. I ultimately met two people who would change my life forever. Jaimala Gupta – Co-founder of Vatsalya and Dan Eigsti, founder of Namaste India Children’s Fund.

As I continued learning about both organizations, I began doing some administrative work for NICF and made the decision to go to India and volunteer for Vatsalya in their children’s village – Udayan. I spent three months at Udayan and came home committed to doing everything I could to help NICF and Vatsalya.

 

NICF/Vatsalya - Kids from India

 

 

WE: How did NICF come about and what is its mission?

DD: Dan Eigsti founded Namaste India Children’s Fund in 2007. NICF is a 501(c) (3) non-profit. Dan had the opportunity to meet Jaimala when she visited the US talking about children’s rights and Vatsalya, the NGO she and her husband, Hitesh, founded. Dan was so impacted by her stories that he made the decision to go to India and visit Vatsalya. Once there, seeing the tremendous amount of need and the incredible results that Vatsalya is producing particularly with Udayan, their children’s village, he began long discussions with Jaimala and Hitesh to figure out how he could help. When he returned home he started the process of creating NICF.

The mission of NICF is to provide safe housing, a nurturing environment and educational opportunities for the street children of India. To accomplish these goals, NICF partners with organizations in India with proven track records demonstrating a holistic approach to working with orphaned, abandoned and/or destitute children. While our mission statement allows us to partner with multiple organizations, currently we are only working with Vatsalya.

 

 

WE: How did your experience of volunteering at Udayan impact you?

DD: It was life changing. I spent three months living in the children’s village. Udayan resides on 10 acres of land and consists of residential units, a full K-8 school, sports and recreational areas, a meditation center, a medical clinic and several vocational areas including mechanics, carpentry, dairy/agriculture, tailoring and a bakery. There were 53 children being cared for when I volunteered. They ranged in age from 4 – 17. They represented Hindus, Muslims and Christians. All faiths are welcome and honored.

Vatsalya believes in giving these children, the neediest of the needy, back their childhood. Many of these kids have life stories that rival anything you’ve read or seen in movies such as Slum Dog Millionaire. Their resiliency is extraordinary. The majority of the staff (house mothers, teachers, administrators) live on site and their primary mission is to love the children and restore their sense of security and value in this world. A counselor works with the children several times a week and they are exposed to animal, art and massage therapy.

The children of Udayan are also taught that they have a responsibility back to the world. The village is as “green” as possible.  Plastic is not allowed. They utilize a solar cooker and solar lighting on the pathways.  Leftover food scraps and animal waste are used to create fertilizer for crops that are grown onsite. All of their food is fresh. The three months I was there I never saw a can of food or any type of prepackaged food.

I found that my days there were full beyond description and, yet, slower somehow as I took the time to actually BE with these amazing young people…to spend time creating a garland out of flowers, playing tic-tac-toe, teaching someone how to tie their shoelaces, holding young ones as they fell asleep in my lap, watching Bollywood dance routines practiced, looking at the night stars when the evenings were warm enough that we would bring our bedding outside…just being.

 

NICF/Vatsalya - Kids from India

 

 

WE: What is NICF focused on currently?

DD: The need is beyond description. Depending upon which statistics you quote, there are between 18-25 MILLION children living on the streets of India. They are orphans and orphans of poverty. The second category I hadn’t fully understood until I spent time at Udayan. There are many children on the streets that have living parents. However, their parents (or often a widowed mother) cannot afford to take care of them and they are abandoned.

The global recession has hit India just as it has impacted the US. The poorest of the poor have to cope with skyrocketing food costs. The cost of some grains, that are staples in many villagers lives, has tripled. Vatsalya and NICF have partnered on a new fund raising campaign called the $100 Campaign. Acknowledging that people everywhere are struggling economically, we are seeking to raise smaller amounts of money from a larger network of people that commit to giving over multiple years.  We are asking people to contribute only $100. I know that’s not an insignificant amount, but it is something that many people can give, if they feel the need is justified. By joining the $100 Campaign, each donor becomes a Friend of Vatsalya and would receive a quarterly update detailing how their money is being utilized.

 

 

WE: That’s a concern for many donors… wondering exactly how, and if, their money is really helping the cause they are donating to.

DD: It is a concern and it is a valid one. It is one of the reasons that I became involved with NICF and so enthusiastically support our partnering with Vatsalya. Our website states that 90% of all donations go directly to Vatsalya. Currently, the figure is actually 100%. Dan and I are covering all administrative expenses as we are so committed to this mission. This is not sustainable long-term but our goal is to always send 95% of the funds to Vatsalya. Dan and I also visit India yearly, and sometimes more often than that. We KNOW where all of the money that NICF sends is going. Vatsalya is a grass roots, award-winning NGO. They are strategic in their planning, forward thinking, and continually evaluating all of their programs to ensure they are making a difference in the lives of these children. They are tireless advocators at the local, regional and national level understanding that the real answer is prevention.  This is a case, where it is easy to say, that there is no need for concern. Your money is going exactly where you want it to be going.

WE: Thanks so much, Delta - your work with NICF is so important and powerful.

For more information about Namaste India Children’s Fund please see www.NICFund.org or contact Delta Donohue at Delta[at]nicfund.org. If you are interested in learning more about Vatsalya or volunteering, please see www.vatsalya.org.

Share

Comments (1)

  • farsighted girl

    7 years 8 months ago

    I strive to support causes like these. What an inspiring undertaking to help these children and give them a firmer foundation in life. I also appreciate that all religious backgrounds are welcome. I will add this cause to my charity donations, thanks for the info.

Leave a comment