Deborah Pepper, Treasurer, Step Children of Mother India –
“I first came into contact with KarmMarg in 1998 when my husband and I were at a fair in New Delhi sourcing products for our shop in Amsterdam. Many of the stands put the products they sold in paper bags made out of old newspapers. The bags intrigued us and we asked where they came from. We were pointed to a small stand in a corner where a man and women sat with a few kids. Yes, they made the bags. No, they were not a business. They were a family, they told us. The kids were street kids and they all lived together in a house outside of Delhi. They had no government support, and earned money by collecting old newspapers (free raw materials and good to recycle, they said) and making shopping bags and other craft items. Seeing that I might be shocked (child labor) the man explained that the kids went to school and the bag-making was used as a learning experience for the kids, lessons in precision, organization, social interaction with buyers etc. as well as a way to earn money.
Spontaneously, my husband and I decided to order bags for our shop. They were an instant hit. I suspect that sometimes people bought things in our shop just to get a bag! And we had many discussions with customers about the meaning of child labor and alternatives for kids who had no family support.
On our next trip to India we visited Dev and Veena and the kids at their home in Faridabad, 30 km outside of Delhi. We were warmly welcomed. What seemed to us a cheerful chaos, turned out to be cheerful organization. The next thing we knew everyone gathered for a delicious meal which the older kids served up from the primitive kitchen.
Since then KarmMarg has grown to 60 kids and has moved to a new location where, with the help of several foundations, they have built a larger home with better sanitation and cooking facilities. The family feeling is as strong as ever. Many of the kids who have grown up and left KarmMarg come back for special holidays like Diwali and Holi or on February 7 (when KarmMarg celebrates its founding).
What is so special about KarmMarg and why do I support them? Giving kids the feeling of living in a safe and nurturing family where they learn to care for themselves and their brothers and sisters. Learning to do things with care and precision, teaching self reliance and social skills. Using creative talents and really trying to figure out what is best for each kid. KarmMarg is not an institution where each kid has to fit into a mold (There are several kids at KarmMarg who have been kicked out of institutions because they did not fit into the mold), but a family where the parents consider each child an individual and want the best for them.
This is my experience of Karm Marg.”