Much More Than a Birthday Gift

By Deborah M., India Communications Specialist   |  Photos courtesy of Hope Center

A sponsor’s gift enables a mother to provide safe drinking water and gives her hope for better health for her children.

Akhil and his mother pray before eating his birthday cake.

Akhil’s family is one among the many communities we serve in India, and their plight is not unusual.

In his role as a sanitation cleaner in the hospital, Akhil’s father, Prakash, values the importance of clean water and hygiene. He relies on water when cleaning the hospital’s washrooms and assisting bedridden patients with hygiene.

While clean water is easily available at his workplace, it’s a different story at home.

The River of Life

Akhil, 10, lives in poverty with his parents and younger brother Anish, in southern India. The Tungabhadra River flows to a canal, and from the canal through bushes and near their home.

This perennial river is the water source for the community taps nearby.

People from the surrounding area who don’t have water taps in their home come to the community taps to fill jerrycans and buckets with water for their daily needs.

Monsoons, Mud, and Diarrhea

Monsoons in India run for over six months a year, bringing much-needed relief from the scorching summer sun. The first raindrops have children and adults alike running out of their homes and dancing with glee.

But soon, the slush and dampness creep in, as does the mud into the rivers.

For Sudha, Akhil’s mother, the monsoons meant an additional task. With no water filtration system at home, Sudha had to use cotton tea-towels to strain the muddy water that she collected from the community taps.

Thanks to a gift from his sponsor, Akhil has a new bike.

With two young school-aged boys, Sudha could foresee what was to come. Both Akhil and Anish would often fall ill with diarrhea, affecting their health and attendance at school.

Water, the Right of Every Child

Globally, around 91 million people lack access to clean water, and in India, less than 50% of the country’s population has access to safe drinking water. Waterborne diseases not only affect the health of children and adults but create an economic burden of approximately $600 million in India alone.[i]

Access to clean water should be available to everyone, and especially to children who can so easily succumb to disease.

Sunshine After the Storm

As the monsoon months drew to a close, Akhil was happy to be able to play outdoors with his brother.  Little did he know there were also surprises in store.

For his birthday, Akhil’s Child Champion, Glory, brought him a birthday card with encouraging words from his sponsor.

His sponsor had also sent a gift that enabled Glory to buy him a new set of clothes that even had a waistcoat and bowtie included. Akhil did not waste any time and tried it on right away. He looked dashing!

Then, came an even bigger surprise. A bicycle! It was the first he’d ever had.

Thanks to a gift from his sponsor, Akhil and his family were able to buy a water filtration system.

Though Akhil could hardly wait to ride his bike, Glory, the bearer of these wonderful gifts, brought out his birthday cake. With Akhil wearing a birthday hat, Glory said a prayer of thanksgiving with the family.

“I feel very blessed and happy to have a birthday cake of my own,” says Akhil, after devouring the vanilla-flavoured cake.

Sudha, Akhil’s mother, was also able to buy an iron with the gift from his sponsor.

But there was still more to come.

A Gift for Akhil, a Gift for His Family

Akhil’s sponsor had sent a generous amount for his birthday gift, and Glory asked Akhil’s mother, Sudha, if there was any other immediate need the family might have.

Being a mother, Sudha immediately thought of the health of her children and did not hesitate to request a stainless-steel water filter. She also asked for an iron, a first for the family, which would allow her to bid goodbye to wrinkled clothing.

Safe Water, Healthier Lives

“The water filter helps my family to drink clean water and keep away from health issues,” says Sudha.

Little did Akhil’s sponsor know that he was giving so much more than a birthday gift.

Sudha is grateful to her son’s sponsor not only for making him feel special on his birthday, but for extending his generosity to the family by helping them live healthier lives.

When you invest in OneChild, you’re investing in children like Akhil. Your sponsorship and gifts help us reach more children and help them thrive in hard places.

[i] UNICEF India

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