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India's One-Woman Charity

Discussion in 'Inspirational Stories' started by Archived_Member16, Dec 20, 2010.

  1. Archived_Member16

    Archived_Member16
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    India's One-woman Charity

    December 19, 2010
    Rick Westhead - The Star, Toronto

    Canadian Crystle Mazurek speaks to Monica, a 9-year-old student
    in Chamiyari, India. After years donating to well-known charities,
    Mazurek decided to start her own and now works in rural India.
    Rick Westhead/Toronto


    CHAMIYARI, INDIA—Not long ago, the thought of graduating from school must have seemed like an impossible dream for Monica, a soft-spoken 12-year-old with emerald eyes, a heart-melting smile, and pigtails secured with scraps of ribbon.

    Her father sells juice at a roadside stand in this town, only kilometres from the Pakistan border, never making more than a few dollars a day.

    Monica's mother abandoned the family three years ago, leaving her husband to raise their four daughters.

    Monica's father can barely afford to buy rice, flour or lentils, let alone pay the fifth grader's school fees, which total about $140 a year.

    Enter Crystle Mazurek, a Canadian high school teacher with an easygoing smile, aubergine highlights and a soft spot for India's needy children.

    A 49-year-old mother of three who lives a block from the St. Lawrence River in Brockville, Ont., Mazurek donated to well-known charities for years. But she became increasingly concerned, she said, that her contributions were being used to put aid officials up “in five-star hotels.”

    So in 2001 Mazurek started her own charity, one she hoped would make a difference in a handful of derelict villages in Punjab, an Indian state where she spent four years as a child. Despite the state's robust agricultural sector, social issues such as female infanticide, honour killings and even access to basic education remain grave problems.

    Nine years after making her first donations here, Mazurek's India Village Poverty Relief Fund has made impressive strides.

    She has brought in more than $100,000 — $30,000 of which was raised from Canadian donors this year alone — to help pay for the education of primary, elementary and college-aged students, and to buy new tools such as sewing machines and welding equipment for young, skilled and poor apprentices.

    “People are so giving,” she said. “My husband was out for dinner the other night and was talking about what I'm trying to do here and the couple he was with wrote a cheque for $500 for the charity, just like that.”

    Mazurek is sponsoring more than 200 students this year alone at 32 schools in Punjab. She says she emphasizes helping girls and young women.

    Monica is just one of those girls. Mazurek's charity contributes $80 a year toward her fees for St. Mary's Convent School in Chamiyari; the school covers the remainder.

    There are other success stories. A former beneficiary, now 27, works as a computer programmer in Dubai. Another is close to completing nursing school. “Her education will give her a good income and really enhance her marriage prospects,” Mazurek said.

    But Mazurek's story also illustrates how complex the aid world can be, and how simply throwing money at the world's poorest without understanding local customs usually fails to affect long-term change.

    During one of her first trips here, she distributed boxes of toothpaste and toothbrushes after watching locals scrub their teeth with branches from a neem tree. When she returned a year later, people were still using the same brushes, now blackened and frayed. The toothpaste had run out months earlier.

    “It was a reminder that you can't impose a Western mindset when you come here,” she said. “I later learned that neem branches actually have some antibacterial properties. I was doing more harm than good, and it was a lesson that you really have to listen to what people say they need and try to accommodate that.”

    In another case, she gave money to a family to build a latrine. Diseases like polio spread through contact with human waste and Mazurek hoped word about the benefits of improved hygiene would spread through the village. But on a subsequent trip, Mazurek saw that the new latrine simply emptied into an open sewer outside the family's home.

    She also saw some of her money waylaid during her early days as a philanthropist. “I gave some money to a young woman to get false teeth because hers were so bad, and her brother told her he'd commit suicide if she didn't give the money to him,” Mazurek said.

    That prompted her to stop giving cash directly to families and instead distribute it through schools and churches.

    There have also been hurdles involved in bringing money into India.

    In past years, Mazurek's local church in Brockville held her collected donations in its bank account and sent the money via wire transfer to the Catholic Archdiocese in Jallandhar, a large city in Punjab. But in the wake of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Canada has become more hawkish about overseas fundraising, prompting her church to drop out.

    A few months ago, she won approval from the Canada Revenue Agency to distribute tax receipts as a registered charity. “My bookkeeping is excellent, but I'm still not looking forward to the first time I get audited,” said Mazurek, who is a one-woman show.

    She has no staff, draws no salary from the charity and looks after her own fundraising through public speaking engagements in Ontario.
    Mazurek made her first trip to India as a 2-year-old when her mother heard there was a need for English teachers, packed their belongings and boarded a freighter to set out across the Atlantic. Once they landed in Bombay, the city now known as Mumbai, they made their way north to a small village outside Amritsar, a city in Punjab that's home to the Golden Temple, a pilgrimage site for Sikhs around the world.

    Mazurek lived here with her parents for four years before they returned to Canada. It was long enough, she said, to become hooked on life's simple pleasures: sweet chai masala, a steaming hot whole-wheat chapati, and meetha chawal, a popular local dish with rice, sugar, coconut and raisins.

    “A few years ago, my mother called me over to her house to say she was giving me my inheritance,” Mazurek said. “When I got there, we sat down and she explained it was this village in Punjab. She had spent her life trying to make a difference there and she was expecting me to carry it on. That's how this all started.”

    Not everyone in Punjab needs financial help, of course.The expansive state of loamy farmland that runs along India's border with Pakistan has long been the country's breadbasket. Landowners here, with fields of wheat, maize and rice, are among India's richest residents. But the labourers who toil in these fields are among its poorest.

    Mazurek says she's aiming to help the disadvantaged children of these labourers, who typically earn about $1 to $2 a day.

    On a recent sunny afternoon, Mazurek walked into a classroom at St. Mary's Convent School. Several nuns dressed in navy blue and white habits greeted Mazurek and handed over a sheet with the names of the 12 students she sponsored. There were six boys and six girls whose marks ranged from 88 per cent to 71 per cent. “Generally, the marking is harder here,” she said, running her finger over the sheet. “A ‘C' here is like a ‘B' in Canada.”

    Aid work in this sprawling country is an increasingly polarizing issue.

    India, of course, has been proclaimed a world power by no less than U.S. President Barack Obama. Its middle class is surging and its wealthy class has more money than ever. Recently, an Indian billionaire made headlines when he built a 27-storey, billion-dollar home in Mumbai, complete with a six-level garage, three helicopter pads and a grand ballroom.

    India's progress leaves some aid workers wondering whether the country still needs foreign money at all.

    “Isn't there enough money here for India to feed its own?” asked a senior United Nations official based in New Delhi. “The economy here is now twice the size of my own country.”

    Motoring over potholed roads to her next appointment, driving past fields of workers collecting chaffinto golden piles high in the air, Mazurek and Father Robi mulled over the question.

    “If a parent has a child but doesn't feed it, do you as a neighbour stop looking after the child?” Robi asked. “It's a question we are asking, too: why Indians don't do more to help others here? But international society still has a responsibility to do what it can.”

    For the rest of the afternoon, Mazurek met more of her other aid recipients.

    One 25-year-old tailor, married with four children, used the 3,000 rupee sewing machine Mazurek gave him four years ago to start a business. He now has an unpaid apprentice and has purchased a second machine for his home so he can work late into the evening.

    “He'd like another one that can do zigzag stitching,” Father Robi said, translating for him.

    Another student, 20-year-old Priyanka, was learning computer programming at a local community college thanks to Mazurek's contributions.

    But meetings the next morning offered an insight into some of Mazurek's tough choices.

    Fifteen-year-old Nancy, one of six students Mazurek sponsors at a Catholic school in Chamiyari, has a 60 per cent average. She's barely passing school.

    “My father is suffering from black lungs,” Nancy said, explaining her struggles. “I find . . . math and science very difficult but I will recommit myself from this day forward.”

    Nancy was obviously worried that Mazurek would pull her financial support, a move that would drive her either onto the streets at worst or, if there's room, into a public school. India's public schools, particularly in small villages, are plagued by teacher absenteeism and have a checkered record when it comes to turning out employable graduates.

    “I'm not sure what I'll do with this,” Mazurek said softly, shaking her head. “I'm still learning as I go.”

    source:
    http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/909312--india-s-one-woman-charity?bn=1
     

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  3. spnadmin

    spnadmin United States
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    The learning curve is what amazes me in this story. A woman learns about herself by learning and helping in a world so different from her own. Great story!
     
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  4. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Though what she is doing is good but when you read Church then there is always Doubt that whether she is honestly doing it or indirectly she is promoting christianity .As a person in India I heard so much how churches or christian schools indirectly purchase faith of people.
     
  5. findingmyway

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    Many in my family including my mum and 90% of my cousins went to convent schools in India and none converted to Christianity. Quality of education was very high.

    What strikes me about the article is her learning that it is not money alone that is needed. That is a lesson that really struck home when I worked in Malawi. The EU throws a lot of money at Africa yet parts of the continent are still sliding backwards in many ways. We found that in many of the places we went to people had an expectation to be given money/food/glasses etc without working for themselves. Our driver was treated equally to the rest of the team and paid extremely generously for his services yet still stole from us. We met other aid workers who were there for the long haul and working on changing attitudes as that is what is really needed. Money has its uses but alone the effect is limited.

    Asia, Africa and South America had such advanced civilisations while Europe was still in the dark ages and USA didn't exist. How sad it is to see things turned around!
     
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  6. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Quality of education in convent schools is always very high that's why they attract large number of students.My cousin sister too went into convent schools run by Christians.Though she was never asked to convert but she has lot of stories about how poor Girls are asked to convert in exchange of half or full waiver of fees.It is not that Christian missionaries go and ask each and every one to convert ,they just target the vulnerable.
     
  7. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    I think, it is very easy to focus on the negatives in every scenario. If she is able to help someone out of misery then surely Guru Nanak would be proud of her!

    Leaving them to their fate and hoping that everything will turn out fine for them, is a clear fallacy in our thought process.

    One day, which may not be quite far, if the Widows of 1984 pogroms decide to covert to another faith for the sake of better future for their coming generations then it is not the fault of the Christian missionaries. It would be our fault. We simply have not done enough to retain them.
     
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  8. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Well there are always two sides of an argument .If she is doing it honestly and with dedication
    of doing sewa but on the other hand if her intention is to convert them to christianity then how could someone justify it.If Sikh community decides that to increase their number they too start sending sikh missionaries in Poor indian area's or even Africa who too indirectly convert people to sikhism then is it O.K?

    To be honest if they will do so then fault lies with both ,Sikh community and the widows.Hindu's have 250 million Dalits and tribal which are oppressed from centuries Yet
    They are not converting to christianity or Budhism in masses ,Muslims too have their very poor people and person which were hit by riots yet they are not going to convert to christianity or any other religion then why only sikhs?
     
  9. Admin Singh

    Admin Singh
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    How is it the fault of the widows?
     
  10. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Aman singh ji

    We are discussing an imaginery situation as there are no reports of conversions.
    Anyway My point was if just because of financial help or a job you convert to other Religion
    then how is it justified
     
  11. Admin Singh

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    kanwardeep ji, exactly my point, we only focus on negatives and fail comprehend the positive message altogether...

    Topic starter is not discussing an imaginary situation here. He has presented a very successful working module of how even an individual can help out the poor or the needy. If we can take a queue from above story, a Gurdwara can easily replace a Church to extend its support to such people who are coming forward to help out the needy.
     
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  12. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Well We are totally relying on one media report and we all know that a good journalist can make anyone a hero.

    The reason I started doubting is because it is mentioned that she distribute her charity through churches or schools.All the schools mentioned in article are Christian one.In Punjab Sikhism is still dominant faith followed by hinduism
    .If she really want's to help the poor why she is not distribuiting her charity through Gurdwara's ,Sikh schools,Ngo's etc.Anyway this is just my Doubt and I hope My doubt is wrong but on the other hand No one can deny the fact that Christians in India do target the poor and vulnerable for conversions so any charity coming through churches do raises suspicions that Whether that is real charity or Indirect conversion method
     
  13. Ambarsaria

    Ambarsaria Canada
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    I would always admire the doers. Not debating just penning a typical scenario.

    Consider,

    • You are poor and social outcasts
    • You don't have food in the house
    • You don't have a cot to sleep on
    • You don't have money for health care
    • Your parents cannot afford education or better education
    Anyone (a believer of God or even an atheist) who can help immediately and create hope in the soul is worthy of praise and encouragement.

    Sikhi is inclusive and touches people's souls and the messengers or the believers are at fault if they don't experience this.

    Sat Sri Akal.
     
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  14. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Well I agree with you that doers should be admired but on the other hand intention of doers is also a matter of concern.We all know islam and christianity believe in conversions either by hook or crook so they will always exploit the situation.So should we accept that there is nothing wrong If you help people in exchange of their faith?

    Anyway If a man Helps a woman in the situations you have mentioned in
    your post and one day He ask her to sleep with him then is that man worth of
    praising or he is pervert oppurtunist who is just exploiting the situation of the woman

    The reason I am asking you this question is 4-5 years back when I was discussing this issue and I too was saying that how christian missionaries help people then someone asked this question to me and I was unable to answer that.
     
  15. Ambarsaria

    Ambarsaria Canada
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    Just some thought in the dialog,

    ...... Well I agree with you that doers should be admired but on the other hand ....
    - intention of doers is also a matter of concern ... it is for recipient and recepient alone to judge
    - We all know ... sorry let us not generalize
    - islam and christianity believe in conversions either by hook or crook so they will always exploit the situation ... let us not generalize even though there may be more (not absolute) abundance of truth in the statements
    - So should we (the recepient to decide in dialog with their own soul) accept that there is nothing wrong If you help people in exchange of their faith?

    In terms of the other statements,
    - Anyway If a man Helps a woman in that situations as you have mentioned in your post ... the woman and her soul accepts the act of kindness or with hidden intentions and not for you or me to judge
    - and the and one day He ask her to sleep with him then is that man worth of praising ... that man is not seeking praise from you and me and again if the woman's soul decides as to be that is her decision
    - or he is pervert oppurtunist who is just exploiting the situation of the woman ... not for you or me to judge but the woman. May be the first act of kindness would have made the woman stronger rather than weaker to address the situation. Were it to be the case that the same was posed before the first act of kindness the woman would have succumbed much easily.

    If one is scared of judgment, it is hard to do much. Acts need to be judged in their own merit at the time of occurrence.

    In my humble opinion,

    - Series of good acts make a person great
    - Series of good acts with some questionable acts makes the person average
    - Series of bad acts make a person needing lot of improvement
    - Series of no acts are a reflection of indifference and isolation
    - Talk is just that, talk

    The final judge of an act is the person who was impacted and every person's soul knows the answer about good or bad whether they verbalize it as such or not.

    Regards.

    Sat Sri Akal
     
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  16. kds1980

    kds1980 India
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    Ambarsaria ji

    Due to some reasons I am not going to discuss this matter further
     
  17. findingmyway

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    Aman ji,
    What you say is very true. It is so easy to get caught in the negatives and in the blame game as that absolves us of any responsibility. The charity I worked with in South America was a Christian charity. They had no problem with me not being Christian. Whether I went to the devotional service at the beginning of the day did not matter. Whether our patients were Christian or not did not matter to them. Churches provided them with an infrastructure to recruit volunteers and funds and co-ordinate between countries. Religion provided the founders of the charity with the inspiration to continue with the work even at the toughest moments.

    Each and every person has a responsibility to do what they can for those less fortunate. Each of us should be thinking how can I use my skills for others? How can I co-ordinate with others to make the best use of situations? This can be through Gurdwara's, existing charities etc. It's easy to say Gurdwara's need to be doing more but to do that they need people willing to take on responsibility and people to donate funds as well as skills.

    If we are not doing this then we have no right to blame others for things we consider to be failings.
    Jasleen.
     
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