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Mother to all

On 30 March, our children were invited to Samman Nari Shakti with Sindhutai Sapkal’s daughter Mamata Sindhutai Sapkal. She shared her mother’s journey through life, including setting up an institution in Pune that inspired Snehalaya and similar to another established by Sindhutai also in Pune. Today all three are all working for many women and children and have close links, with Sapkal having adopted her own child from our Snehankur adoption center, handed over to her by her own mother.

Among our children attending the program was one of our beneficiaries Divya who is currently working in our fundraising department. Here she shares what she learned.

“I liked this event so much and left knowing that my ‘mother’ understood me and my needs. I really liked when she said, give rations, not words. She believes that when people hear the situation of those in need it is important that they give freely and without the need for long speeches.

“Sindhutai Sapkal is an Indian social reformer, known as the ‘Mother of the Orphans’ for taking care of them like her own children. She has cared for thousands facing tough situations. In 2016, Sindhutai was awarded a Doctorate in Literature by the DY Patil Institute of Technology and Research for Social Work.

“Life is very difficult for women in India. Be it poor or rich they have to face problems in the society and often fend for themselves. Social reformer Sindhutai was born on November 14, 1948 in a poor cattle-rearing family in the Wardha District of Maharashtra. Born in a poor family, he had to wear rags.

”Despite her mother's opposition and the family's financial situation Sindhutai's father, Bhimanji Sathe, was eager for Sindhutai to study and used to send her out to school pretending he was sedning her to tend to grazing cattle. However, due to their economic conditions, family responsibilities at an early age and child marriage, she was only able to study up to class four before dropping out of school. She was married to a man 26 years her senior at the age of nine. After marriage she faced a difficult life but never lost hope. She fought against the exploitation of women who were used to collect dung for the forest department and landlords. When she became pregnant at the age of 20, an angry landlord spread rumours that the child belonged to someone else. This raised doubts in her husband who kicked her out of their home after which she was also kicked her out of her village.

“Later the same night, Sindhutai gave birth to a girl in a cow shed. She struggled back to her ancestral home, but her mother also refused to help. Sindhutai was left with no option but to beg on the streets and at railway stations to meet her needs and ensure the survival of herself and her daughter.

“Sindhutai ended up in Chikaldara in Amravati District where 84 tribal villages were being evacuated to make way for a tiger conservation project. Sindhutai decided to fight for the proper rehabilitation of the tribal villagers and she successfully convinced the Forest Minister to make alternative arrangements for the villagers. Sindhutai returned to living in the railway station with her daughter, staying in graveyards to keep herself and daughter safe at night.

“Realising that there were many orphans who needed a mother, she decided to start taking care of them herself. Having decided to become mother to those in need, she gave her own daughter to an NGO. After many years of tireless work, Sindhutai established her first ashram at Chikaldara which so far has adopted 1,200 children, who lovingly refer to her as 'Mai'. Providing shelter and education, many of them are now working as doctors and lawyers. She was also reunited with her own daughter.

“She now has six orphanages in Maharashtra run by destitute and homeless women. Sindhutai never extended her hands to anyone for money to run her orphanage, instead she gave inspirational speeches on public platforms and sought public support to help the underprivileged and marginalized sections of society.

“Sindhutai Sapkal's inspirational life story is about luck and determination and shows how positive change can come from the difficulties that arise in our lives. Her happiness comes from being with her children, making their dreams come true.

“I feel happy there are people like Sindhutai in or world making a better life for many.”

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