When he was just 8 years old, Bineesh saved his mom, sister and himself from his mom's desperate attempt to take all their lives twice. Soon after his near-death experiences, Bineesh was enrolled in Compassion's program. "If it weren't for Compassion, I would be dead," says the vibrant 13-year-old.
A small, thin Indian boy stood trembling at the river's edge, bound tightly against his mother's leg. Omana had wrapped her sari around her two children, Bineesh and his sister Laca, and was about to do the only thing she believed could alleviate their misery and starvation drown herself and her children.
"Momma," Bineesh screamed, clinging to her. "Don't kill us! One day God will bless us!"
Overwhelmed by the hopelessness of her family's poverty and longing for a way out, Omana believed, on that day five years ago, her only option was to take her and her children's lives. In India, as in other developing countries, poverty often breeds a sense of fatalism and despair. In fact, southern India has the highest suicide rate among young people, according to a 2004 report by the British Broadcasting Company.
Death Wish Birthed in Despair
"India's suicide rate is high, especially in rural settings where the reason is simply poverty," says Silas Balaraj, Compassion India Country Director. "When a parent believes that he has no other option, that there is no way out of their family's misery, (suicide and infanticide) become the solution."
With her husband dead, Omana was desperate. A painful asthmatic condition prohibited her from working. The family's daily income was just $0.23. Remarriage was also out of the question since Omana had no money or family to pay a required dowry.* Wrenching hunger was her only offering to her family.
Bineesh's screams stopped his mom that day five years ago. But just one week later, Omana again tried to kill them all. She bought poison to put in her family's meager bowls of rice. Again, little Bineesh pled with her to stop. "One day, people will see our need and we will receive blessings," he cried.
Bineesh's transition from death to life was almost incidental. About a year after his near-death trauma, a relative heard about the opening of Vallanad Child Development Center, a Compassion-assisted project where the family lived.
Omana enrolled her two children and Bineesh was given a new life. "If it weren't for Compassion," Bineesh, now 13, exclaims, "I would be dead!"
A Compassionate Culture
Attending the project has given Bineesh and his family hope where there was once only despair.
"Before Compassion," says Bineesh, "there was no one to love me. Now, I get lots of love from the project staff workers! They encourage me to study hard and participate in the center's sports and arts competitions. I also receive all of my school supplies through Compassion."
Additionally, the growing adolescent now eats three meals a day breakfast at the center, lunch at school, and dinner at home.
"I love to go to Sunday school," the teenager adds. "And my mom, grandma and sister also go with me to all our church's worship services."
Building Trust, Building Hope
Omana's family death wish may not be the experience of most of Bineesh's classmates. But Bineesh's family's escape from despair to a life of hope is shared by the majority of India's Compassion-assisted children and their families born into deep poverty.
"When the families to whom we minister see our love for the Lord communicated through practical assistance there's food on their table, their child's health is improved and that child is going to school and studying this begins to build trust.
"Building trust takes time, but this is how our culture can begin to change," Silas concludes.
* Dowry: "the money, goods, or estate that a woman brings to her husband in marriage," as defined by Merriam-Webster Dictionary: http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/dowry. Although dowries have been outlawed by the Indian government, the practice continues in many parts of rural India, including the state of Kerala where the Kumar family lives.
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