Evolution of Holy Wisdom’s Relationship with SARTHI

Holy Wisdom Monastery Justice 1 Comment

By Raj Atalla, Sunday Assembly Member

The relationship began during a time when our son Ian was travelling in India for language and cultural studies; it was the 2005 to 2006 academic year. Soon after he arrived there, he was walking the streets of Delhi and saw a young boy with a cleft palate who seemed to be quite timid in comparison to the other kids his age on the streets. Ian took the boy, whose name was Akshay, to a hospital nearby and asked what it would cost to have the cleft repaired. He was told it would be about $450. He emailed me and asked if I could raise that amount. I told him I would try. We raised the funds and also connected Ian with Smile Train, an organization that is dedicated to providing cleft palate repair in underdeveloped countries.

The Delhi branch of organization arranged for the surgery for Akshay. Since he had no family in Delhi, Ian stayed with him during the hospitalization and recovery. Ian then placed Akshay in an ashram on the outskirts of Delhi, where the residents said they would care for him. Ian stayed in touch until he returned to the U.S. at the end of the 12-month period.

In 2007, Ian returned to Delhi for a six-week course in Urdu. When he went to check on Akshay, he was told that Akshay had run away. One of the other children at the ashram told Ian that Akshay said he was from Patna in Bihar province and that was where Akshay said he was planning to go.

Ian travelled to Patna to check on Akshay and found that he had been held in a government detention house for street boys and that he had then been transferred to Sarthi, an organization that specialized in placing young boys in a small hostel so that they are better cared for and enrolled in a school. Ian got to know Tarkeshwar the director of the program.

Ian remained in touch with Tarkeshwar after he returned to Madison. Soon thereafter Ian started raising funds to help support a couple of the boys at Sarthi. Some of his friends contributed and we joined them.

After we became members of Sunday Assembly and my relationship with Holy Wisdom and with Sisters Joanne Kollasch and Mary David Walgenbach was deepening, I asked Sister Mary David whether it would be possible for us to transfer the funds to Sarthi through Holy Wisdom, so that contributors could claim their donations as charitable contributions. The Board of the Benedictine Life Foundation considered the matter and agreed to allow this. I believe soon thereafter, they decided to adopt Sarthi as one of the social justice ministries of the Monastery.

Chickee and I committed to supporting one of the boys there. It was about $480 per year according to Tarkeshwar. The young boy was named Kallu. In the photo above, you can see him at age 12 years old compared to when he was five. It is gratifying to see how he is developing.

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