Sneha grew up in a poor farmer’s home. Her father could not afford to pay a dowry to marry off his two daughters, as is custom in much of India. There were already enough financial struggles at home. So Sneha assured her father she would marry whomever he chose for her after her sister married outside of their clan.
Sneha’s father got a proposal for her after a year. When the two families met over lunch at their home, it seemed to be the perfect match because no dowry was even asked for. They agreed, and Sneha got married.
But after one month, life started to change. Fights started at home. Sneha’s husband started accusing her of being unfaithful, even with her brother-in-law.
She thought it was his possessiveness of her that made him angry and verbally abusive. But when Sneha learnt about her husband’s abusive and suspicious nature from the neighbors, she was hurt. Sneha kept his behavior secret from her family, and she had no way out.
Sneha thought perhaps a child would end the tension in their marriage. After a year she conceived and gave birth to a beautiful little girl.
Things did not change as Sneha had expected. Her husband started abusing her even more because she had a girl instead of a boy. Gradually his verbal abuse turned into physical torture. He would burn the little baby’s tender skin with cigarettes. He would grab Sneha by the hair, and hit her in front of the neighbors.
He even stopped Sneha from going home to see her parents. But Sneha never complained to her parents because she knew it would break her father’s heart. Sneha thought she would be able to change her husband with love and affection.
After two years Sneha conceived again. She was afraid to tell her husband, and when she did, he threatened to kill her if she gave birth to another girl. Sneha struggled a lot during her second pregnancy. Her husband tortured her, she cried much of the day, and half the time she did not even eat.
One evening Sneha’s husband came home from work furious. He didn’t talk with Sneha. After dinner he called Sneha into the room, picked a fight, and tied her up with her daughter. He then poured kerosene on them and Sneha started screaming for help.
The neighbors heard Sneha’s voice and rushed to rescue her. She took shelter in their home that night and left with her girls early the next morning to go home to her parents. Sneha went home battered and bruised.
Even after returning home to her parents, life wasn’t easy for Sneha. People in the community began talking ill about her instead of sympathizing with her. Sneha gradually became depressed because the trauma she went through was immense. Her hope was lost and her dreams for her children shattered.
Sneha worked hard as a single mother so that she wouldn’t become a burden on her parents. She rolled bidi, which are local cigarettes, to support her children and herself. And every day Sneha would hear children singing inside a church building that she walked by on her way home.
She was curious what was going on, so one day she stood for a while peeping through the window. She heard children singing and praying, learning moral values and the Word of God.
Sneha was inspired by what she heard and saw inside the church. The next morning she went and met the pastor and shared her life’s story with him. The pastor urged her to attend the Sunday worship service and since then Sneha began attending the church with the hope that she would get some help for her daughter from the church.
Last year our Child Survival Program (CSP) opened at the church. God heard Sneha’s prayer. She enrolled in the Child Survival Program with her younger daughter, who was 8 months old at that time. When she first started attending she would sit quietly in the corner and cry.
Sneha is an industrious mother with great potential and eagerness to learn. She shares the Scripture stories she learns in the Child Survival Program with her daughters and parents back home. She has grown in prayer. Sneha has become firm in her faith in God.
“I do know that if God is there with me, it doesn’t matter how difficult the circumstances may be.”
The Child Survival Program offers income-generating activities through which Sneha is learning tailoring and stitching to help her become independent in the future.
“I don’t have go to a tailor for stitching my clothes now …. I can stitch a frock, skirt and small tops for both my daughters sitting at home.”
The Child Survival Program has helped Sneha to have a vision for her children.
“I am saving a little money in a mud pot every month for both my daughters for their education when they grow bigger … it is hard for me to set that apart but I have to for their better future.”
Sneha could not buy milk and hygiene supplies for her young baby, but the Child Survival Program provides them for her now. Mothers eat a nutritious diet at the program that consist of foods like rice, lentils, mixed vegetables and fish, eggs or meat.
Mothers meet at the center for their group activity three times during the week. Sneha has learned to keep herself clean. Though she lives in a house with a dirt floor, she is careful to keep it clean.
It is hard to live as a single mother in her community, as it is considered a social taboo. Many women look down on her. They don’t let their children mingle with Sneha’s children. But that has not stopped Sneha from sharing God’s goodness in her life with other women in her community. She has brought along many mothers to the Sunday service.
“It amazes me when I hear Sneha share the Scripture with other mothers both in the Child Survival Program and in her community knowing the trauma she went through in the past … she has come to the knowledge of God just recently and yet Sneha has the faith to say that God will take care of all her needs and circumstances, even if others forsake her,” says Sona, a CSP implementer.
Sneha leads the other mothers by example. She inspires them to win over their brokenness by sharing God’s love with them. The CSP staff can rely on Sneha with any work because they believe she is a smart and a fast learner.
“We have delegated Sneha to lead worship for the mothers during devotion at the center …. Sneha is forthcoming and ahead of the other mothers in every sphere of learning, be it tailoring, singing, organizing, generating awareness in her community and even praying for others,” tells Sona, a CSP implementer.
Today, Sneha witnesses God’s goodness through her life that has been transformed through the intervention of the Child Survival Program. The struggles she endured in the past help her to relate to the pain of other mothers both in the program and in her community.
Sneha is determined to bring up her two daughters with good values to show that girls can make a great contribution to society. God has turned her pain into a blessing that she uses as a tool to spread the message of God’s love.
Kancherapara Child Development Center and Child Survival Program is part of our Church to Church strategy.