Radhika is among the millions of female children abandoned in India. But through the support of her Compassion sponsors, she finally understands the meaning of love.
When Radhika talks about her family, the usually vibrant, energetic teen slumps in her seat, staring at the floor. Her words are painful, and she rushes to get them out of her mouth. Dark spots form on her dress from the tears dripping off her chin.
Just give her a moment, though soon she will lift her chin, straighten her back and tell her story of redemption.
"NO ONE LOVES ME&"
"My father left our family when I was a year old," says 14-year-old Radhika, her dark eyes clouded with the memories. "I never saw him again. When I was 3, my mother put me into a home for girls. Then she got married again. Once Amma (Mother) got married, she never bothered about me at all. The only time she would let me come home was when she had another baby and she needed me to care for it."
Radhika twists her hands in her lap as she continues. "My mother's husband says he will not accept another man's child as his child. Both he and my mother tell me to never come to their home. When I visit there over school holidays, they treat me like a servant. Even my brothers hate me. In my mother's home, no one loves me or wants me there."
OFFERING AN ALTERNATIVE
Radhika's mother did not know that the home where she took her daughter was actually a Compassion-assisted student center. While most student centers run after-school programs or schools, the Tabithal Girls' Home (IN-641) is a shelter for girls, some who were abandoned by their families.
In India, girls are often viewed as a hindrance and many families cannot afford the expensive dowries that female children require. The Tabithal Girls' Home offers parents the opportunity to choose a future over abandonment.
Because of sponsorship, girls like Radhika have a safe, healthy environment in which to grow up. The center provides food, clothing and school supplies. Most important, the girls learn they are loved and valued by God.
"I have learned to pray at the project," says Radhika. "Whenever I am troubled, I come here to the chapel to pray. You see, here I am loved and wanted, but at home they didn't love me and they only wanted me as a servant."
A FAR-AWAY FAMILY
Radhika says she would not have survived without her Compassion sponsors, David and Lori, who have supported her since she was 6. In fact, she has decided that when she grows up, she wants to be a doctor.
"My sponsor, David, is a doctor," she says. "Whenever he treats someone, he tells them about God's love and prays with them sometimes. I want to be like him. I study well in school so I think I will achieve my dream."
More than role models, Radhika sees David and Lori as her family. "They are my mother and father. They tell me they have four children their daughter, Joy, their two sons and I am their daughter in India."
Radhika knows that without her Compassion sponsors, her life would be far different. By now, she would have joined the 12.6 million child laborers in India or worse, become one of the hundreds of thousands of children lured into child trafficking each year.
"If I were not sponsored, I would never have been educated," says Radhika. "I would have worked as a servant at home or elsewhere. I would never have known happiness or joy or even a childhood. I want to thank my sponsors for this gift they have given me."
Editor's Note: While gender discrimination may seem like an outdated concept in developed countries, in India, it is a daily reality. The statistics are grim: An estimated 50 million baby girls have been killed through abortions, 190 million females in India are illiterate, and girls are more at risk to die of malnutrition because the health of sons takes precedence.*
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