Divya and Dad
Profile of an Operation Shanti Family
by Tracy Kunichika
Do you ever wonder where all of these little girls wandering the streets of Mysore come from? Do they have parents? Where do they sleep? How do they get food? Why aren’t they at home?
Like many street girls in Mysore, six-year-old Divya has just one parent (her father, Ramana, who sells peanuts for a living from his old green bicycle). Divya's mother died about six years ago from a heart attack, leaving Ramana a single parent -- a difficult situation no matter who you are in the world.
Volunteers from Operation Shanti met Divya on the streets near KR Hospital, where we work every morning with our street kids and moms. Ramana brought her to us one day, with her belongings packed in a duffel bag alongside her bag for school. He asked us if we could take Divya in at Karunya Mane, our facility for destitute kids in Mysore. Ramana wanted Divya to continue her education and to live in a proper environment while he worked on the streets to earn his living. Since Divya met our criteria, we took her to Karunya Mane to live, and enrolled her into school.
Divya and Ramana used to sleep near a restaurant on Kalidasa Road. Last year, they stayed in a rented a house in Lalithadripura, a village near Chamundi Hill, but were evicted when Ramana couldn't make rent. Divya was enrolled in the government school in Lalithadripura, but after losing the house, getting her to school on bicycle every day from Kalidasa Road was nearly impossible.
At Operation Shanti, welcoming a child into Krunya Mane who has living caretakers is bittersweet. Ideally, kids should grow up with their parents. Although our kids are well taken care of at Karunya Mane, many only see their parents at most once a month. Parents miss out, most of the time by choice, unfortunately, on experiencing the magic of their children growing up.
We immediately saw that Divya’s father, although destitute, was different. He started visiting her often and, while at Karunya Mane, began helping out around the place—digging our vegetable garden, assembling the bunk beds that we recently purchased (with funds from the recent Gokulam fundraiser), and making two very deep pits for our new sign. Sometimes the parents of our street kids can be a challenge to manage. Fortunately, Ramana is a caring father and a hard worker.
Since good labor can be a rarity in India, we offered Ramana a job as our night security man; timely, since the existing security guard had been a no-show for three straight nights. Even though Ramana has no experience in this capacity, we are certain that he'll pick up his duties quickly. He was very happy with the job offer, which comes with a steady salary, free lodging at Karunya Mane, clothes, three meals a day, and—most importantly—the chance to see Divya every day. In a city where numerous kids are abandoned or abused by their parents, and where countless "deadbeat dads" drink their days away instead of working to earn a living, meeting families like Divya and Ramana gives us enduring hope that what little we do is helping to change a few lives for the better.
You can read more about Tracy and Operation Shanti's work or make a donation by visiting their website at www.operation-shanti.org. If you're on facebook, be sure to add Operation Shanti as a friend to help spread the word of this noble cause.