Community Family Giving & Generosity

Cover Story:
A Life Worth Living

A Life Worth Living

We seem to be constantly searching for the elusive joy and fulfillment in life but often we look for it in the wrong places.

We think if we can save enough for the future of our children and earn enough to provide every comfort for our family then they, and in turn we, will find peace and contentment. But these are shifting goal posts or a bag with holes. How much ever we put in, it will never get full. And it leaves us stressed, unhappy, unhealthy and in constant conflict with our loved ones.

Joy and meaning in life comes from relationships where love, laughter and sharing are woven beautifully together; where receiving and giving form the bedrock of life. Living sustainably without hoarding and cluttering, spending intentional time to invest in people are the keys to bringing back joy and contentment. Challenges will remain but will not overcome us if we have loving relationships and meaningful lives.

Chitra found the secret of the joy of giving and receiving even in the midst of lack and poverty. Their family gave even in dire need and in turn their needs were met providentially. Today she has made giving her vocation and passion, and hopes the cycle of blessing will be passed on to many others.

Here we bring to you her life story and the cause she is passionately investing her life into.

Chitra V. on receiving and extending generosity; a life of loving relationships and meaning:
My life has been a story of receiving and extending generosity. Growing up, I saw what it means to give when you don’t have. My mom got married at a very young age and became a mother of six. My father was a government employee and though he earned a good sum of money he spent it on alcohol and on his friends. He would come home after a week of receiving his salary with only Rs. 5.

About 29 years ago, my mom agreed to work in a convent school for Rs. 175 doing anything the management asked her to do. She would clean the school, toilets, take care of school kids and never questioned her superiors. Even in difficult situations her virtues stood tall. We were given free education in the school and whatever my mom earned was just sufficient to provide one meal for us. There were times we had to starve and there were times when she would have somehow gathered something to cook for us. When a stranger or beggar would come home asking for food at those times, she still had the grace to serve them the food that was cooked and most of the time she slept starving. We had a drumstick tree at home and most of the time we survived on drumstick leaves. Although we had a life of beg and borrow, we lived a life of giving and found richness in it.

We never used to take part in any of the school functions, as we did not even have proper clothes or sandals to wear. In the entire locality only our house had no electricity so my sister and I used to study under streetlights. There was also a temple close by where the temple in-charge would allow us to study. Struggles and difficulties did not hamper our lives because every place I went I had special grace that followed me. I was friendly with those around me, both in school and my neighborhood, and a bright student.

Even in the small single room with eight of us staying together, mom had the heart and generosity to give shelter and food to anyone who came home. My neighbors still remember the taste of the food that she served them. My brother grew up seeing my father and began to drink and have no concern for the family… it became hell for all of us to survive. Difficulties and trauma were the order of the day. It was then somebody referred me to a hostel and I began to live there. In hostel we had a disciplined lifestyle with early morning devotions, breakfast, studies and then back to school. Everything was taken care of. The grace of God and favour of people was abundant on me.

I continued in hostel till I completed 10th standard and then went back home. Back home life was very difficult. Years went by and life’s circumstances pushed me to a point of wanting to kill myself. As I was scheming in my mind to end my life suddenly scriptures that I had read from the Bible started speaking to me in that dark room. I felt like Jesus was telling me, “Don’t worry, I will take care of you. Nothing is impossible for me.” I just held on to God and trusted in Him from then on to this day.

My life and family circumstances began changing gradually. The Lord healed my mom from a prolonged illness. A property of ours that had been taken over illegally and occupied by some local thugs was restored to us after 28 years of struggle and fighting for the land. We had finally become the legal owners of the land but of course we did not have any money for construction. Every door seemed closed to us and it felt like a complete dead end. It was during this time that I joined work to serve the poor in the slums under a project called Kutumb Jyothi – the Compassion department of Urban India Ministries. I really enjoyed serving poor children and their families through teaching, guiding, mentoring and meeting their needs, both physical and spiritual. Networking with different like-minded people to see transformation in the lives of slum dwellers was very fulfilling.

It was at this time that I had received an appointment order to join a post with the central government. The job looked very promising. I had to decide whether to serve the community through Kutumb Jyoti or take the government job in order to provide for my family, who were struggling in poverty and ill health. My mother was forcing me take up this government job since it offered a high pay and out of lakhs of people who wrote the exam, only I was selected for this one post. I had to make a choice and the Lord helped me to make, what I believe is, the best choice I have ever made in my life…to serve the poor and the needy and empower women. Looking back, I can still say that I chose the right path for myself.

I believe that when you help others God helps you. When I received my salary in 2008 and Christmas bonus, I used this money as seed money to invest in the construction of a house. I shared about the need for a house with the director of the organization and he immediately sent an engineer to sketch out the plan and helped me to build the house. The Lord brought people to us who helped us finish the construction with an interest free loan and we were able to clear all debts within one year. We had the housewarming with much prayers and thanksgiving on November 2012 and the Lord filled my house with a lot of good things. My sister got married in 2013 and my brother’s wedding was in May 2014. Different people came into my life at various instances and gave generously. They really strengthened my wings to soar high.

I am now the Associate Head of Kutumb Jyothi. My life has become a living miracle for people with whom I work in the slums and also to my neighborhood. I have learnt to give out of my nothingness and also in my abundance. I visit people when I see a need and speak about it to people who can help. Today, all of you who are reading this article can make someone’s life beautiful by giving your time, talent and money and I am sure one day you will reap a great harvest. You will be able to proudly say it was worth investing.

Invest in an Initiative of Generosity

Kutumb Jyothi:  Bringing Light to FamiliesKutumb Jyothi: Bringing Light to Families
Chitra serves people and communities in need through Kutumb Jyothi (KJ), which envisions seeing urban poor families transformed in our nation by bringing emergency relief to the families who are hurting and in crisis. It also aims at empowering children, youth, parents/couples who are unable to fulfill their dreams and aspirations for themselves, their families and their communities.

KJ strategically invests in formal education and leadership development for this section of society.

The project started with the concern to reach less privileged families in urban India. Its humble beginning was in the home of a slum dweller whose home was open to bring light to the other families in their neighborhood. Starting with English tuitions for the neighborhood children at the dweller’s home, Kutumb Jyothi began to impact families through the children from March 27th 2007. The team shared their time and resources addressing various family issues pertaining to the urban poor, thus transforming families, one home at a time.

Fighting Poverty and Neglect through Education and Healthcare
Everyday Kutumb Jyothi tuition centers bring hope and life to hundreds of children in the slums through interaction, help with their studies, counseling, small group issue-based meetings, house-visits, providing nutrition and community-based programs.

They aim to fulfill the mission of lighting up homes through four aspects – Emotional, Educational, Empowerment and Economic.

Emotional Aspect
These needs in families are met through family counseling, pre-marital counseling, group family therapy, youth meetings and women’s meetings. Personal counseling on issues related to identity crises, workshops and meetings to cater to spiritual and financial crises are also conducted.

Kutumb Jyothi:  Bringing Light to FamiliesEducational Aspect
About 85% of the urban poor are illiterate and 39% of slum children are school dropouts. Keeping in mind the education factor in the slums, Kutumb Jyothi assists slum children by giving them free tuition. An adult literacy program is also conducted for the benefit of the women in the slums.

Empowerment Aspect
Leading and guiding the youth and women in the slums to job opportunities and trading skills is envisaged as a part of the project to ensure self-confidence and a better future for them.

Economic Aspect
Critical and emergency financial needs such as medical expenses, assistance in the form of tuition fees, school fees, school bags, pen, pencils, uniform, admission fees etc. are extended to the needy children from time to time.

Kutumb Jyothi needs your Involvement.

KJ is a faith project that is solely dependent on the assistance provided by people who feel a burden to reach the urban poor families in misery.

You can partner with them by:

  • Adopting a family
  • Supporting a worker of KJ
  • Contributing to the medical emergency fund
  • Sponsoring a child (Child to Child Sponsorship)
  • Sponsoring any program of KJ
  • Supporting the project monthly, quarterly, half-yearly or annually
  • Praying regularly for the KJ project

Hope – Help – Save

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