The Story of a Changed Life
By: John Alfred
Asian Aid India Correspondent
My plans to visit the Seventh-day Adventist school at Vempalli, Kadapa was jolted when I was informed that traveling from the school I was at to Vempalli by road would not be possible. There was public agitation throughout the state of Andhra Pradesh, India and all roads were blocked.
Just to give you a brief background of the situation in the state, recently the Indian federal government decided to bisect the state of Andhra Pradesh into two separate states. The region against this bisection took up to the streets demanding a unified state and an immediate withdrawal of the government’s decision.
It was imperative that I stick to my school visitation schedule since I had already booked my return flight to New Delhi. So, the possible delay in my travel plans worried me. It was suggested that I leave early the next morning at 3 o’clock. I would most likely have no problems if I could reach Kadapa before 7 o’clock. Principal Prasad Rao from Fjarli Academy arranged for a car to drive me up to Kadapa the next day. I was only hoping we would not be stopped on the way.
The first three hours was without any incident, but as we reached a small town close to Kadapa we were pulled over. Sensing we would be stuck there until evening, my driver took a detour, making our way through mud roads and tiny hamlets. Somehow we managed to reach the school at Kadapa after two hours.
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Manoja Indla, 11 years old, came to the Kadapa last year with her older brother Ram Kumar, 13, and younger brother Ravi Teja, nine. Manoja’s father, an auto-rickshaw driver by profession, was diagnosed with cancer and underwent two unsuccessful surgeries. During a third surgery, his body succumbed to the strain and he didn’t make it. Mother Nagalaxmi was a coolie, an unskilled laborer, and earned less than two dollars a day. With such a small income, sending her three children to school was not an option. Pastor Chinnaiah from the local SDA church heard about the family’s struggles and was filled with compassion. He brought them to Kadapa Seventh-day Adventist School-forever changing their life.
When I come across stories like that of Manoja and her brothers, I am always reminded of the need and importance of these Seventh-day Adventist boarding schools in these parts of India. Coming from a cosmopolitan city, I understand the how schools like Kadapa can be difficult to get to because of its remote location. Come to think of it, it is for this very reason that having such big schools in remote places is so valuable; these children from need good education too. They have dreams. They have aspirations just like privileged children in big
The Seventh-day Adventist school at Kadapa is a place close to my heart. I had been there even before the first blocks of bricks were ever put in place. I was there the first time a child was brought into the children’s home by volunteers. So this visit was a bit emotional for me as I’m fond of this place and the children. That Sabbath afternoon, when these kids came to know I was there, they flocked to the guestroom I was in and everyone wanted me to tell them what their name was. Now how could I remember all their names? It was a challenge.
When children have access to education they can achieve greater things in life. That’s why our direct impact sponsorship model continues to be effective after 40 years of existence.
I was looking for another story at the school when Jesudas, the headmaster, mentioned to me about Vinod Kumar Konduru. Last year Vinod, 10, joined his older brother Vijay Kumar who was already at the school.
I was curious to meet these boys, so I met them in front of the boys’ dorm with an elderly gentleman. The elderly gentleman, their grandfather, had come to visit Vijay since he had fallen ill. Anjaneyulu, 60 years old, had eyes, tear filled eyes, ready to tell a story-a story I was anxious to get. The story began with Vinod and Vijay surrounding me while they translated.
The boys’ father also passed away. After he had been diagnosed with cancer and tuberculosis, his body was unable to win the battle. That same year Vinod was brought to the school.
I could only listen to the story in silence as Anjaneyulu’s translated words fell upon my ears. “Who will take care of these boys after my death?” he asked sobbing. I couldn’t respond, as it was difficult for me to console him. I only had to contend with the knowledge that the boys would be safer and their future secured if they continue to live and study at the school.