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One day my maid came with a leaflet. She looked uncertain of showing it to me. I asked what it is. Hesitantly she gave it to me. It was a plea for financial help for a girl aged 8 who was suffering from cancer. It was from a well-known hospital and stated that her condition is curable but she needs financial support since she belongs to poor family. Details of her illness were also mentioned.
My maid said “She is Sakshi and she is my relative. Her grandfather gave me this paper and requested me to give it to people who can help. I was not sure if you would believe me. Normally people consider this as a gimmick to make money.”
Of course I believed her. Why would she lie to me I thought. I promised her to help in raising fund. I was pretty sure of raising good amount of money if I circulated it on my social networking accounts. Who would not want to help a young girl who is fighting for her life?
Immediately I took a picture of the leaflet and circulated on my social media. To make it more authentic I attached a note describing it being a genuine plea for help for a person whom I know and not a chain message or any forwarded message. I asked my husband to do the same. Typically If I upload a picture, immediately start getting likes and comments. For this particular message I expected the same along with help messages. To my surprise no one replied. I did not give up and circulated it again through Whatsapp and sms to make it more subjective. Few came forward to help, few asked for more details, few said they are already helping other needy people, few doubted its authenticity and most chose not to reply.
It cropped a question in my mind. Why people are so reluctant to help? Undoubtedly it was not for money. Many of them could easily afford to donate minimum 500/-. I could comprehend two main reasons for their reluctance: Trust and unwillingness to help.
First and foremost being trust. As we see, our social networking pages are full of chain messages for typing Amen for people suffering from various diseases, for liking/ forwarding messages otherwise be ready to get cursed by bad luck, few fake messages asking for financial help for poor and sick people. How I wish if people can stop sending such chain messages! If you want to pray for someone, please offer a silent prayer to God rather than typing Amen and forwarding it. And remember no one curse you more than your bad karma.
Among the flurry of such messages, we see some realistic messages requesting to find missing people or to help people needing blood/ money for treatment. Messages in former category outnumber the messages in later category. Hence, many find it annoying and hard to believe. As a result majority of genuine pleas for help go unobserved.
I agree its hard to distinguish between genuine and fake messages. Yet instead of just ignoring it, we should try to find out its authenticity from the person who posted it. If its from a person we know personally, we should ask for more details rather than dismissing it as a fake. Our ignorance might cause someone their life.
Second reason being unwillingness to help. These people expect other people should come forward and help, “Why should we do it? There are NGOs, various government schemes like Rajiv Gandhi Yojna for needy & poor people. And then there are very rich people too. We are ordinary people, why should we help?”
Why these people forget that NGOs also need help from individuals like us to raise funds. We might not be very wealthy but what if we keep some fund aside as less as just 1% of our annual income for deprived people? With this small amount we can definitely help few needy people.
Coming back to Sakshi, it planted a suspicion in our mind as well when some of our friends suspected reality of Sakshi. Still we decided to trust our maid who was very honest and reliable. We decided to go with our gut feeling. We could raise only 40,000/- with the help of our friends and colleagues who trusted us.
My husband and I decided to go personally and handover the cheque to Sakshi’s family. It was a way to clear any doubt in our mind. Once we went to her house and met her, we knew we did the right thing. She looked fragile and weak yet bright and full of life. She was wearing a medical mask to protect her from any infection. She lived with her parents, grandparents and two siblings. They all lived in a small house in a slum area. Her father was alcoholic and spent his income on his bad habits. Her mother’s most of the time was spent in taking care of Sakshi.
Sakshi’s aged grandparents were the wage earners for the family. They were working day and night to take care of all the expenditures of the family along with Sakshi’s medical treatment. They were hopeful that Sakshi would be fine one day. It was difficult for them to meet the costly medical expenses with their small earnings and hence were trying to raise enough fund for her.
When I spoke to Sakshi’s family about NGO and various government scheme, they agreed that they do get help from NGOs and government schemes. But that’s not always enough and it takes time to get the help. Many times when Sakshi suddenly falls sick, they have to give her medicine before taking to hospital. Even when she is hospitalised, they have to buy medicine from outside if it is not available in hospital’s medical store. Sometimes they have to rush her in taxi to the hospital. By looking at their financial condition, I could see these things were rather costly for them. They wanted to have enough fund for Sakshi’s treatment so that they do not waste any time.
They assured us that they do not to use a single penny from her medical fund for their own expenses. By looking at their state, we believed their honesty. We were pleased to trust our maid. We were content to provide a small help to their never ending struggle. We took a photo of Sakshi along with the cheque to show it to our friends who trusted us & to those who doubted us. We posted the same on our social networking accounts.
We assured Sakshi to help further. Despite of all the medical help she was getting, her health worsen in next few months. During her last days when she was hospitalised, we got a call from her grandfather for some money. Few of our friends had assured us to help again. This time we requested those friends only. We presented the money to her family. Still Sakshi could not be saved. Her condition deteriorated and finally she rested in peace putting end to all her troubles. Her family was devastated, so were we. Sakshi was lucky to have a supportive family and well-wishers. Therefore she could live a life full of hope. She did not die due to lack of medical help.
Her family especially her grandparents fought for her life till her last breath. In spite of facing reluctance from people, they never shied away from asking for help. They were humiliated many times but still they never gave up. But there are many poor people who feel hesitant to ask for help due to fear of humiliation and rejection. There are NGOs who try to help these people but face difficulties because of our misconceptions.
So next time if you get a plea for help from anyone please do not ignore it. They ask for help because they cannot afford the treatment themselves. If you are in doubt, ask more proper documentation. But please give it a thought, you can give someone a hope to live with your small help. Please remember ‘There was indeed a girl named Sakshi and she truly needed your help!’