A 15-year-old boy in India starts delivering newspapers to help pay off his family’s debt and shares life lessons he’s learned along the way.
Most of us have fond memories of food from childhood. Whether it was Mom’s pancakes, Dad’s barbecue, or grandma’s cheesecake, food carries with it a certain memory.
For Vinod, a teen who lives in India, it was no different.
Vinod clearly remembers his first day at the Hope Center, where he received a glass of warm milk.
“I was 7 years old. I didn’t have any food at home that day and I was very hungry,” he says. “Drinking the warm milk at the Hope Center made me very happy.”
Vinod is a hardworking boy living in poverty with a heart full of gratitude and a desire to help. This is his story and the lessons he’s learned on his journey.
The Early Morning Routine
Fifteen-year-old Vinod’s day begins at 5 a.m. He has to reach the newspaper agency by 5:30 a.m. to collect the newspapers he delivers to 70 homes and businesses, covering a distance of 6 to 9 miles.
Some of the locations are apartments on the fifth and sixth floors. The elevators aren’t turned on until 7:30 a.m. so Vinod has to walk the stairs to deliver the newspapers right to the doorstep.
It takes him around two hours to complete his route on his bicycle. Then he heads back home to get ready for school.
During the monsoon months of June to September, Vinod has to begin his day much earlier, spending the additional time to cover the newspapers with plastic before delivering them.
On days when the rainfall is heavy, the downpour beats against his face, making it difficult to continue cycling.
“I take shelter by the roadside shops till the rain subsides,” says Vinod. While his raincoat keeps him dry, his flip-flops offer little protection for his feet against the muddy splashes.
Helping the Family by Working
In most Indian families, a wedding is an important event where they are expected to invite extended family, all the other families in the neighborhood, and even local shopkeepers. The guest list will usually number anywhere from 200 to 2,000.
With a daily earning of just $4, Vinod’s father took out a loan for his daughter Umadevi’s marriage ceremony. Vinod knew his father was still paying off the debt and decided to look for part-time work to help. He was 12 when he landed the job as a newspaper delivery boy.
Initially, Vinod earned around $15 a month delivering newspapers, but he has worked his way up to $18 a month. His parents don’t want him to work, but Vinod insists on helping them.
Learning the Ropes Takes Time
“My first day on the job, I was very nervous and afraid,” recalls Vinod.
Mr. Swamy, the newspaper agent, had drawn up a map indicating Vinod’s delivery route. For a 12-year-old, this was a huge task. Many homes subscribed to more than one newspaper, and some customers subscribed to different publications on different days of the week.
“It was so confusing in the first few weeks that I often goofed up,” Vinod admits.
Fortunately, his customers realized he was new on the job and were patient when he mixed up the newspapers. Mr. Swamy had Vinod train under an experienced delivery boy, and after four weeks, Vinod had memorized the route and the newspapers to be delivered.
Education First, Always
Except during illnesses, Vinod has not missed a day delivering newspapers, even during bad weather or on days when he has school exams.
His dedication to his studies shone in his grade 10 exams where he scored 93% and earned the best student award in his school.
Vinod attributes his consistently high performance to a combination of his hard work, good teaching at school, the tutoring class at his Hope Center, and his sponsor.
“My tutors at the Hope Center, Mr. Ezra and Ms. Ruthamma, taught the basic concepts very clearly, which has helped increase my knowledge, and my Child Champion, Ms. Glory, helps me keep focused on my goal to be a topper in college,” says Vinod.
“My sponsor Cindrea’s support allows me to go to school and study well. She is God’s gift to me. “
7 Lessons Learned
Vinod’s interactions with Child Champions and other children at the Hope Center have revealed wisdom beyond his adolescent years.
Here are the 7 Life Lessons we can all learn from this extraordinary newspaper boy:
Life Lesson #1 – Make the Most of the Opportunities You Are Given
Vinod lives in a community where most people earn a living by rag-picking.
“I’m very lucky to be a sponsored child,” says Vinod. “I’ve received support in so many ways.”
When he was a child, Vinod loved to play with his plastic toy cars. One day he asked his father, “Why can’t we get a real car?”
His father replied, “Son, I’m your poor father, it’s not possible for us to buy a car.”
Vinod’s father earns between $70 and $100 a month as a driver with which to support his family of five. Vinod is inspired by seeing his father work hard each day.
When the Hope Center director and Child Champions visited the community to encourage parents to enroll their children, Vinod’s parents were more than happy to see their son get an education through sponsorship.
Since sponsorship provided him the opportunity to attend high school, Vinod works hard not to miss a single day of school and to give his best in his studies.
Life Lesson #2 – Always Be Helpful to Others
Wise beyond his years, Vinod has seen other children face hardships in his neighborhood.
“Instead of going to school, many children wake up in the morning to go to work, so that they can help their families financially. I have learnt so many things in school, so I share my knowledge with other children and my younger brother, by helping them in their studies.”
Vinod believes that one should always be helpful to others, as we don’t know what battles they may be fighting.
Life Lesson #3 – You Can Make the Impossible Possible
The prayers, support and love he receives from his Child Champions and sponsor have given Vinod hope for the future.
His inspiration is his Child Champion, Ms. Glory, who is helpful and kind. She inspires all the children at the Hope Center, reminding them, that with God, nothing is impossible.
Vinod is also fascinated by stories of ordinary people who have done extraordinary things. He is particularly inspired by the lives of Mother Teresa and Swami Vivekananda, who have impacted lives across the world by serving humankind, and the work they began continues today.
Life Lesson #4 – Do Good, Be Good
Experiencing firsthand the humility and compassion of his Child Champions has taught Vinod to be humble and compassionate.
“They are honest and spiritual,” he says. “So, I want to be like them.”
He doesn’t miss an opportunity to speak words of encouragement to his friends or to other children in the community when they are depressed or are experiencing financial hardship or emotional stress due to family problems.
Vinod even shares food with those in need whenever he can.
Life Lesson #5 – You Don’t Have to Be Great to Start, But You Have to Start to Be Great
Vinod firmly believes, “When you start something, you don’t need to be in a great position. You need to have great determination to be a great person.”
“Today, I’m working hard, distributing newspapers from house-to-house, but it’s not permanent,” he says with confidence. “One day I will be a great person.”
Life Lesson #6 – Depend on God in All Situations
Vinod also gets moral and spiritual support through the prayers of his Child Champions and his sponsor. Vinod’s dependency on God is evident in the way he speaks with conviction.
For Vinod, everything starts with God.
“I have received everything from God, and so I depend on God for everything.”
Life Lesson #7 – Education Is the Passport to Our Future
Vinod’s father always encouraged his children to study and emphasized the importance of education, and Vinod has kept that focus since childhood.
He remembers the advice his father gave him: “Education is very important. When you work hard, all of us together as a family will be in a better position financially. You will gain respect in society.”
With an A in math and science and an A+ in social science and languages, Vinod is specializing in science in high school and hopes to be a civil engineer and to be involved in law enforcement as well.
“I cannot imagine life without the Hope Center,” Vinod says. “The Hope Center gave me hope for the future. One day I will be successful.”
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