A Sabden woman has set herself the massive challenge of raising £40,000 by the end of March to help poverty-stricken families in India.
Mum-of-two Meriel Woodward (43), of Gardeners Row, travelled to Vijayawada in the South-East of the country where she was moved by the plight of children living on the city dump.
She also spent time with families living in nearby villages and has pledged to help an Indian couple raise enough money to carry out projects improving education, sanitation, job prospects and health care.
Meriel, who quit her job in project management to devote time to her fund-raising, and has lived in China and Japan, is now appealing for businesses and individuals who can help, to get in touch.
She has set up a UK branch of Indian organisation KISES, which has projects lined up, and has already been promised £10,000 as long as she can raise £20,000 herself to match it. She is looking for donations, raffle prizes, people to sponsor a family living in the dump or hold fund-raising events, and groups to which she can give presentations to raise awareness of the problems she witnessed.
Meriel is also hoping to find office space which she can use as a base because she said the internet speed is poor in Sabden.
“The children living on the dump are absolutely gorgeous but they are living in horrendous conditions. They live among the rubbish, they play among the rubbish and they have no shoes.
“The photographs I was able to take there are so compelling. They have nothing but they are full of happiness and hope.
“When I came back I thought why are these children so happy but they don’t know any different.”
“When you imagine poor people you imagine them worn down, at the end of their tether and without much life but you can tell from their eyes, they are bright, they have hopes and dreams.”
Meriel, who is also a Scout leader and has a daughter Morgan (14) and son David (12), is now writing to companies to try and secure some corporate funding as well as working with contacts in India to get financial backing there.
“This is me. It’s a big challenge. My dream would be for a rich philanthropist to see what I’m doing and pay for it.
“Some people have asked why I am interested in an overseas project, when there are so many needs more locally, like the floods, refugee crisis, terrorism and war. My answer to that is I don’t know where to start to help with any of these, but I do have a reliable contact in India, who has projects ready to go to turn the lives around of some 2,000 children and their families at a relatively low price point and with no other way of raising the money.”
Anyone who wants to sponsor a family, make a donation, or help in any way can contact Meriel through Facebook www.fb.com/stigmaOTD or by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.