Jayaraj was living on 3 dollars a day to provide for his family of 6. He farmed land that wasn’t his and could take no profit from his work. His kids weren’t going to school. All they had was a cement floor to sleep on and a patch of dirt to share with the animals. Paralyzed by the ideology that they belonged where they were, the family would not strive for more. A backpack changed all that.
Four years ago Jayaraj’s kids received backpacks full of school supplies. Vikas is now 13, Sarika is 14, and Yuvaraj is 17. They all now have the courage to dream. When she was asked what she wanted to be Sarika responded with confidence and a splash of sass; she said, “a lawyer” as she wrinkled her nose and stuck out her tongue through a smile. She had a tinge of mischief and rebellion in her eyes, as if she was saying something she shouldn’t. Something seemed to be telling her, you can’t have that kind of dream! But Sarika has a confidence that defies what society tells her she can be.
This is what a backpack can do. It is a gift that empowers people to change their life. A life is not transformed overnight, but as one is consistently reminded that they matter, that they are cared for, that they should work hard and grow, a life becomes something it had never even dreamed of being.
written by Caleb Petersen, March 2018, India