CAI’s India – Through My Eyes - Riyaz
Like everything else Indian, the extremes in everything can be overwhelming, and the weather is no exception. I land in New Delhi to balmy weather conditions, quite nice actually. The last time I was here in January, why, I almost lost the feeling of sense in my tush! Blame it on global warming I suppose.
Riyaz from Vancouver has joined me this time, and he has the following to say:
A packed week of traveling on planes, trains and the crazy roads of India with Yusufali of Comfort Aid International (CAI) is coming to an end. I leave India having met so many nice and hospitable people, and seeing all the great work that CAI is doing throughout India helping those less fortunate with education, housing, and humanitarian work.
I start my trip in Sri Lanka, visiting a just completed old age home and the first eight residents moving into it. There is a huge need of nursing homes for poor elderly throughout Sri Lanka and India. The first phase of homes will accommodate 24 residents and over time the property can be expanded to 72 residents.
The first stop in India is the opening of a school CAI has built in Sikanderpur, which is a five-hour drive from Delhi. The area had an urgent need for an English Medium school for our community, and CAI embarked on this project in 2014. The school will start with five classes in April when the school year starts and will eventually have 1,000 students operating in two shifts. Aliakbar Ratansi from Alimaan Charitable Trust from Mumbai (CAI works with them in India), and Ahmed Dossa (the architect and gratis contractor) also joined us on the trip.
The next stop is Sirsi, another four hours drive - the one thing I learn to do in India is catch up on my sleep on the long and bumpy car rides. CAI is involved with several project here - a school that has between 1,100 and 1,400 students, a medical clinic, staff administration building, and a 34 boys orphanage aged 5 to 18 which is built on 9 acres. We stayed at the facility, and the kids were very pleasant and hospitable - we got a chance to spend time with the children going for early morning runs, playing cricket and badminton in the afternoon, and having a meal with them in the evening. The school was originally started in 1996 and was in need of repair and expansion. CAI helped with the renovation and expansion of the school, adding complete tiling, a computer lab, physics lab, chemistry lab, biology lab and a library. The total cost of operating the school on a monthly basis is $10,000 that educates over 1,100 students. A large part of the expense is staff costs and diesel (operating 13 school buses moving students from surrounding villages to and from school). The operation is very well run, and the students are very well behaved and speak English well. This is a great investment in helping the youths get educated so they can escape the poverty cycle by getting good jobs when they graduate and also further their education.
We visit Phanderi next, about a two-hour drive from Sirsi where CAI completed a housing project four months ago that has 20 new houses that were distributed to needy families. We call on some of the houses; many have four or five people living in a single room. This is a great help to the poor who previously lived in tatters, flooded and rat infested hovels.
A short distance away in Phanderi we visit Az Zehra Girls School. A rudimentary school was opened in 2006; CAI helped with the extension in 2012, tiling the old wing, adding an entire new annex, computer, physics, biology, and chemistry labs and a library. As it is Sunday, we do not get a chance to see the school in operation but meet with the school principal and the administrator who provide us an update on the school. The school currently has 600 girls, many of them would not be receiving an education without this facility.
On the way to Sirsi, we stopped in Awghanpur where CAI is constructing a house that was attached to a center that they built in 2010. The next stop is Kundarki where CAI has constructed six houses for the homeless. We visit one house where a grandmother is looking after five daughters (the mother had passed away). Two of them are deaf and dumb (age 18 and 22), and the whole family is very fortunate to have a house to live in, thanks to the donors of CAI. Back in Sirsi, we visit the Sakina Girls Orphanage, home to 24 girls between 5 and 15 years of age. The day ends with a barbecue that the administrators arrange for both the girls and boys of the orphanages in Sirsi.
After visiting the school in Sirsi and giving them a talk on the value of education and helping those less fortunate next day, we leave for Mehmudpoor where CAI has a 70 home housing project under construction. 17 of these homes have been completed, and distribution of the homes will start shortly - the balance will finish this year insha’Allah. Our next stop is a housing project that was completed in 2015 in Sirsi - 50 houses that have been completed and distributed to needy families. It is very satisfying seeing old people who had medical issues, families with little children, and those less fortunate being able to have a decent house for their family.
That evening we take a five-hour train ride to Lucknow and then a five-hour car ride to Hallour. We attend the opening of a school that CAI has built, and some of the classes started a few months ago. The school session officially starts in April, and there should be about 600 children attending the school this year.
We then visit a non-CAI school project in Lucknow that has over 2,000 students in session over two shifts. Also, there is a technical college where students can learn to become plumbers, electricians, draftsman, beauticians, computer programmers to name a few of the trades and the placement of the students in good paying jobs is virtually 100%. This is an area that has immediate impact and takes families out of the poverty cycle.
After arriving in Mumbai, we visit Sakina Girls Orphanage, which is home to 45 orphan girls. CAI is looking to acquire 2 additional 500sf apartments so that 25 poor orphans waiting for a place can have a home. The cost of these in super expensive Mumbai is US$350k.
Also, we visit a number of homes in the slums of Govandi area where CAI has built hundreds of homes. I saw a home under construction where 10 people will live in an area of 200sf. At least this home is now tiled and solid, not the dilapidated ones before CAI donors stepped in.
As I depart India, I have a huge appreciation of the great work that the team at CAI is doing - helping so many people in education, housing, orphan and widow care and assisting them in getting out of the poverty cycle. Without the assistance and the financial support, they receive from their many donors, the life of many people would be considerably different.
I am so blessed, humbled and overwhelmed with the super supporting emails, messages, and calls I have received regarding my ailment that I am stumped for words. I knew there would be startling reaction to the Blog (http://aliyusufalimyworld.blogspot.com/2015/12/the-end-of-road.html), but did not realize it would be so awesome; alhamd’Allah. To have so many of you that pray for my health and wellbeing is soopa special; may Allah bless you all.
Some of the reactions were very emotional, and I apologize if my piece caused you discomfort or pain. Had it not been for CAI’s wellbeing and concern, I would have not been so forthcoming regarding such a private matter. For me, however, CAI takes all precedence, as I feel very protective for its successful future. CAI is to me, like, to a woman, an unplanned and wary pregnancy that is soopa shireen afterward. Also, there are simply too many vulnerable lives that depend on CAI for survival. It would have been unfair to you, the donors, to be exposed to rumors and third party speculations.
Thank you all, again, sincerely, from the depth of my overcome heart. I welcome and cherish your valuable prayers, caring and encouraging words. These supplications and the treatment I am under will turn the tide and I’ll eventually, insha’Allah overcome, be izzne’Allah.
It will be quite impossible to individually respond to the 250 plus email messages received, but more seriously, the exercise will emotionally bankrupt me; I hope you will pardon the unintended impoliteness.
To those of you who ask about my third novel, I can’t promise you a timeline except health and travel commitments permitting, I should have it to my editor by the end of the year insha’Allah and an eBook version soon after that.
I ask the Angel of Death for more time. He looks at me in surprise. More time, he asks, a twinkle in his eyes, why, come, Allah wants to give you eternity.