The Young Humanitarian of Harugari

Editor's note: Tamara Kaftalovich is volunteering with Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) - a 100% charity that provides bedkits to children in underdeveloped and developing countries around the world. This is part six in a blog series detailing her trip to India.

Our third distribution was in a town called Harugari, approximately three hours from Belgaum, where we distributed 150 bedkits. We had such a great time at that site. At one point, we had the kids running from the moment they checked in, through to the area where they were supposed to get changed, high-fiving them along the way. It was also the only distribution where all the parents and kids stayed until the very last bedkit was handed out to thank us and say goodbye.

Tamara Kaftalovich and Veena Benti at SCAW Distribution Site

There was one girl in particular that stuck out in my mind that day. Her name was Veena Benti. She’s 22 years old and originally from the town of Harugari, but is now going to college in Bangalore, working towards a degree in Business Administration. Veena comes from a privileged family. Although she grew up in a very small town, her father was quite a prominent politician. More often than not, the poor children receiving a bedkit do not go off to college. Instead, at the age of 16 or 17 they graduate from public school, which is paid for by the government (the families need only to provide the child with their own school supplies), and since their families cannot afford to send them to college, they go to work to help support the family. Veena’s father passed away a little while ago, but her mother still lives in this town. She also has two sisters that are married and live elsewhere.

Veena’s old principal at the school we distributed bedkits at invited her to attend our distribution so she could witness first-hand what it was like to execute an event like this, as well as learn more about what we do so she could apply it to her studies, and later her work. Once she graduates, she wants to work abroad and receive hands on experience in social work so she could later use that experience towards helping the needy people in her home community of Harugari.

Parents and Children at Distribution Site, Harugari

Her optimism, selflessness and kind hearted nature are what I like most about her. She’s appreciative of where she came from — her family, her people, her home — and despite her privileged upbringing and getting the opportunity to study and work abroad, she is still choosing to eventually come home to help her community.

At the end of the visit, and before we said goodbye, she took off one of her rings to give to me as a sign of friendship. I was so honoured. I gave her one of my bracelets in return. I look forward to keeping in touch with her and learning about all the wonderful things she does in this world.

About The Author

Tamara Kaftalovich got her first real taste of traveling when she visited Africa and trekked up Mt. Kilimanjaro a few years ago. Ever since then, she hasn't been able to stop. Born and raised in Toronto, her other travel adventures include trekking through the Himalayas, visiting the busy streets of Kathmandu, exploring one of the happiest places in the world – Bhutan, and embracing the culture in Barcelona. Tamara is always looking for the next big travel adventure. Up next? For two weeks in February (2011), she'll be traveling through South West India, volunteering with Canadian charity Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW), distributing 4,000 bed kits to children in need.

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