Poornima (aka Kashak)…

…I know I have great friends; but I didn’t know they were this great! Recently, my friend and fellow Washington University in St. Louis alumnus and recent graduate Laura Pridmore decided to sponsor one of our deserving children for an entire year. I am excited to present Laura with her new “daughter,” Poornima.

In many previous posts, I have referred to Poornima by her “house” name, Kashak. In the slum, Kashak is still Kashak. However, at her new school, the Carmel Convent School, she is known only by her real name, Poornima. In a way, this duality of names underscores the double lives that she and our students now live.

–Poornima riding in the tuk-tuk to get the shoes and uniform Laura bought her–

–Poornima trying on her first pair of real shoes–

–Gudiya, Versha, and Poornima arriving at the Carmel Convent School for the first time–

–Poornima with her sister Versha in Sister Puspha’s office–

Poornima and Versha’s parents, Gudiya and Rustam, are steadfastly appreciative of our efforts here. They have insisted that I come to their home two times now, where both times they have had an ice cold Limca soda waiting for me. As I sit on the bed that takes up most of their home, I always make a point to show my satisfaction after every sip. To receive such heartwarming gratitude and hospitality from people who have so little to give away is truly special.

Rustam works as a machine operator in a local shirt factory. His family may not have many clothes, but the ones they do have they wear with beauty, pride, and dignity. They continually look better than most people with 100 times the income.

–Gudiya climbing the ladder into their home with Poornima’s uniform in hand–

Like Ajeet, Poornima also runs home to wash her uniform after school even if it isn’t dirty. Sometimes, actions speak louder than words.

I took this picture of Kashak on January 2 so that I would be able to remember her name. Now, I will never forget either of her names. She has become a part of the Squalor to Scholar family and will remain as such for many years to come.

Laura, I hope Poornima and her smile melt your heart as much as they do mine. Her beautiful mother, Gudiya, is illiterate. However, thanks to you, Poornima will not be. You can consider Poornima’s home your own. If you ever come to India, Laura, your new family will be waiting to welcome you with open arms, a seat on their bed, and an ice cold refreshing Limca.

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