I CRIED FOR GOVENDHI - An Update
May 30, 1998
Salaam Alaikum friends,
This is an update to my original report, "I Cried For Govendhi" written in March 1997. I was fortunate enough to visit Govendhi once more, during the week of May 17. India in general and Govendhi in particular have not changed, in my opinion. It remains filthy and (mostly) depilated. Sadly, the personalities who shape policies in such developing countries, in their infinite wisdom, are of the opinion that money spent exploding nuclear devices is the way to go…
Tucked away in the midst of the sprawling slums of Govendhi, choruses of voices are raised in praise of Allah (swa). In a stuffy hot little house, where sweat breaks out of your skin instantly as you enter, little children get up and scream salaam-alaikum at you. No matter how many times you try and swat away the flies that follow, they find exactly the same spot of torture to torment you; the smell of rot, feces and decay is slightly diluted inside, replaced by that of body odor. The temperature in here is about 45F, the fan blows hot sticky air at your face. I immediately feel my legs weaken but then I brace myself. I will be out of here in half-hour, these children have to come here day in, day out; and they are the lucky ones.
Our madressa, I thank Allah (swa), has grown; it now has 396 students, masha’Allah!!! Thanks to the generous contribution of the precious few who have regularly chipped in, the education work continues. My dream of purchasing the adjacent building remains exactly that, a dream. However, I remain hopeful…insha’Allah.
I realize that comprehending what I say and write about the horrors and misery of Govendhi is difficult, and I appreciate this problem. I, however, do not have the means to make a sleek presentation video to bring you the realities either, although some say that would be the best way to raise more funds…. 100% of the money you donate goes to the end user; all costs of travel, accommodation, meals, etc comes from elsewhere. For the time being, you will have to take my word for the miseries I describe seen in Govendhi.
Now, in order to streamline the process of administration the funds and avoiding any duplication of the charity work that goes on in around Govendhi, I have teamed up with the Al-Imaan Foundation (Najafi House of India) and Aakherat Trust. Most of you are familiar with Najafi House; it is the result of Aga Musavi’s toils (may Allah swa give him long life). These two organizations do a lot of charity work in Govendhi. There is a school, a clinic, a maternity clinic and an orphanage that is either wholly or partially funded by them.
My efforts, and I have support of these two bodies, is directed towards education of Govendhi’s people. I want to give them a net to catch fish, rather than the fish itself. Education has to be fast tracked and encouraged. We have made a lot of progress in his field and see it in the enrollment of new students at our madressa and the Jaafery School. Funds are administered by Al-Imaan Foundation while Aakherat Trust administers the Madressa.
However, the education of adults lags way behind. This can be seen from the seemingly squalid living conditions and the constant state of najasat everywhere. I had to personally walk through human feces in order to reach some sayed shia houses and an Imambargha; it makes for a very strong heart and stomach. These conditions are because of two main factors:
The solution to the first problem is more expensive than the first. Al-Imaan foundation has special deals with local contractors whereby pipe water can be provided to shacks at a cost of Indian Rupees 2,000 / UAE Dirhams 185 / US $50. Many families have been provided with this service but many, many more are on the waiting list due to the lack of funds. The in-house water facility allows for taharat to be maintained as well as keep up the general cleanliness of the neighborhood.
Illiteracy will take more efforts and money; and time. The building adjacent to the madressa would be ideal for this cause. As per my original plan, this place could be used for classes in general good living habits and taharat, in addition to its primary usage; that of practical training in dressmaking, embroidery, hairdressing etc. This form of training becomes instant source of income to the womenfolk of Govendhi, who have shown remarkable zeal in ridding themselves of poverty.
These then, are my dreams, but are very doable and realistic. There are people who take time out to go Govendhi and oversee the work and ensure proper checks and balances in the distribution of your donations. See, it is relatively an easy thing in the world to give money. The funds come out of your pocket, and your conscious is rested, stroked. It is much more difficult and taxing to administer these funds and physically make the trips to and from Govendhi. These projects are eligible for Khums money as almost all the beneficiaries are sayeds. I have met only one non-sayed person in Govendhi so far. Additionally, we will accept sadeqa, nazar or any other charitable funds you want to donate.
As hard as it may be for your conflicting financial priorities, I appeal you to please, pretty please, find a little change for my project. insha’Allah it will not be long before I collect the full $30,000; as a matter of fact we are already all most halfway there, all I need is an additional $16,000. For reasons I cannot readily explain, Govendhi is very close to my heart. It has changed me, my life, in many ways, for the better, I pray to Allah (swa). The look of hope in the children I see, their innocent eyes locking into yours, seeking reassurance, in that environment, moves you beyond imagination. I want us to be able to give that reassurance, seeking the pleasure of Allah (swa). Please help. Thank you and may Allah bless you and the children of Govendhi.
Funds can be made to Al-Imaan Foundation (specify Govendhi project please) or to me here in Dubai or Austin, USA. Donations by personal checks must be made payable to Yusuf Yusufali, DD’s or other bank instruments can be made to either.