The Christian Science Monitor collects wonderful stories for the series “People Making a Difference.” I’m on the email list and receive so much good news, it’s hard to choose what to share.
This story was written by Anita Satyajitin.
“The 41 boys of Sanmati Bal Niketan keep a lamp burning all the time in their home. They believe that the flame should never be extinguished, for as long as it burns, their ‘mother’ will be hale, hearty, and healthy.
“Their mother is Sindhutai Sapkal, a beggar who has used her earnings to raise 1,042 orphans over the past four decades.
“As a young pregnant woman in rural India, Ms. Sapkal was abandoned by her husband. She turned to begging for a living, seeking refuge in cowsheds, cemeteries, and train stations. But despite these hardships she found her calling as a mother to hundreds of children.
“Today Sapkal runs four homes for orphans and others in need across India’s state of Maharashtra, currently caring for more than 400 children and 150 women abandoned by their families.
“ ‘I have experienced what it feels like to have no one and nowhere to go. This [work] makes me feel like someone is dressing my wounds,’ Sapkal says.
“Four decades ago, when she would sing at train stations and beg to earn a living, she noticed the large number of orphans who made the stations their home. She had been grappling with thoughts of suicide, but instead she felt a strong call to care for the children.
“The more of them she looked after, the more vigorously she begged. …
“After a few years, with the help of supporters, Sapkal set up her first orphans’ home in Chikhaldara, a town in rural Maharashtra. As word about her work spread, people from other villages began to approach her with orphaned children. …
“Her innovative idea of having women abandoned by their families live in the same home as the children ensures that the children are cared for and the women have a family, too. …
“The children [are] all sent to nearby private schools or colleges to pursue an education. Sapkal, who travels between these homes, has worked with a network of nearby schools, colleges, and hospitals that offer their services free of charge or at a reduced rate to her children. …
“Sapkal’s success is also a result of the support she receives from the people she has raised. The day-to-day operations of her homes are run by her ‘children’ and their families.
“Dipak Gaikwad was 11 when relatives handed him over to Sapkal. When as an adult he inherited his ancestral home, he sold it and gave the money to her to carry on her work. Today he manages her Saswad home.”
Photo: Anita Satyajit
Sindhutai Sapkal, who has nurtured more than 1,000 orphans, is seen here with a few of them at her home in Pune, India.