By Rusen Kumar
“Eight million children live in institutions. Every one of them deserves a family. Let’s create miracles for them.” feels, Caroline Boudreaux, Founder of Miracle Foundation, empowering over 7,000 children. Core philosophy of the Miracle Foundation, a non-profit that is here to help people make a difference in the lives of orphaned children.
Tell about Miracle Foundation India and its background.
On Mother’s Day in 2000, I was in rural India and met orphaned children for the very first time. I had been invited to dinner at the home of a local family. When I arrived, more than 100 hungry, beautiful, parentless children greeted me. Every single one of them was vying for my attention. It was overwhelming. There were so many, and every single one was precious and perfect, desperately in need of love, attention—someone to care.
A one-and-a-half-year-old girl came and put her head on my knee. I sang her a lullaby and rocked her to sleep. I went upstairs to put her into her crib, and was shocked to see that there wasn’t one. Instead, the room was filled with hard, wooden-slatted beds.
I laid that angel down and heard her bones hit the boards. I broke. I couldn’t believe that any child had to live like this. These children were going to bed hungry and lonely every night, on hard wooden beds. It’s one thing to be poor; it’s an entirely different thing to be alone. The day was auspicious: It was Mother’s Day. I decided I had to do something to help them.
After that night, I started my research. Globally, 8 million children live like those kids, in institutions, where their most basic needs are not met. The children are often hungry, scared, confused, and lonely. Even when managed by people with good intentions, child care institutions often lack the necessary funds, resources, and knowledge.
That’s why we find loving homes for children. The children need us to step up so they can get what they need to thrive in real time and make sure institutions are a last resort. Our goal is a loving family and personalized care for all children. And it’s a goal that can be accomplished if we all do our part.
What led you to start Miracle Foundation? How has the journey been till now in India?
The inspiration for the Miracle Foundation really came from when I met those 100 children without parents on Mother’s Day in 2000. I was inspired by the incredible potential of the children, yet horrified by the conditions in which they lived. And I knew we could do better.
Since then—miraculously—people of all ages have joined us. We’ve developed a systematic way to improve the quality of care being given to parentless children and focused on expanding to support more kids in need. We use a business approach, applying our systematic method which ensures every child receives all their rights, per the United Nations Rights of the Child.
I won’t lie. It hasn’t been smooth sailing. It’s hard to deliver services in the deep interiors of India. Yet that is where the suffering is. Corporate often want to help in their own backyard but that isn’t going to make the impact we really need to make. If we really want to change the world and make a difference, we have to go where the pain is and it is very rarely conveniently located. We’ve also had to overcome corruption, bureaucracy… but after 17 years of doing this work, we’re fine there.
Tell us more about the Centre for Excellence program.
The CFE program is great because it helps us care for exponentially more kids. We’re partnering with governments, NGOs, subject matter experts, and companies who want to make a difference. Every month, we bring together a cadre of leaders who are caring for more than 1,000 children. Together, these leaders are learning about child rights, how to improve quality of care, child protection, family-based care, mental health and more.
The program is bringing together a community of people who want to make miracles for children and then giving the children food, healthcare, education, and a sense of belonging—all they need to thrive. Together in partnership, we’re improving the quality of care and we’re getting interest from other states who want to form similar partnerships.
Tell us about the Children’s Leadership Council? How are we helping the children?
There is a dearth of leadership in our world. We consider it to be one of the greatest lessons we can give to children. The Children’s Leadership Council is empowering the next generation of leaders. It’s about giving a voice to children who haven’t ever had a voice before. It’s about empowering them to tell you what their lives are really like and their vision for what their lives can really be. More than 60 children from southern India are at the council now. They’re discussing professional and personal development, practicing public speaking, learning how to be an advocate for other parentless children suffering silently like they did.
What are the various challenges you have faced in India?
The biggest challenge faced by an NGO is the ability to help enough people. That is a matter of raising enough money and having enough donors to care for the thousands of children we support. The way to do that is to show donors where their rupees are going and the impact they’re having.
Measuring impact is necessary. Many years ago, we realized that there was a lot of corruption and we learned the hard way that not everyone has the best interest of the children at heart. However, corruption made us engineer. Our Thrive Scale is the measurement tool that sets us apart and enables people to see where their money is going and how the children are doing.
The measurability of our interventions ensures we know the exact impact of donations, which enables us to provide full transparency and maintain integrity to our donors, whether they give 100 rupees or 100 lakhs.
What impact has Miracle Foundation India made? What are the plans for 2018?
We’re empowering more than 7,000 children and we need help to get to more children. That sounds small to some people but remember, we’re raising children. This is not easy. Think about what you do to raise your children! Because our model is replicable and scalable, we are bringing life-changing care to children who need us. Our goal is a loving family and personalized care for every single child living in an institution.
Would you like to share a message with our readers?
Sy Wise said, “Nothing is heavy if everyone lifts.” We’ve seen children start off hungry, sad, and sick and then end up in great colleges. We’ve seen children who were painfully shy stand up and talk to Government officials about what kind of oversight would improve their conditions. And we’ve seen children who had nothing to be proud of then stand tall with a huge smile on their face when they received the highest scores in their schools. This is the kind of future we can provide to all kids, if we work together. If everyone did a little, we could end this. And, isn’t that the vision we all have? An India that works for everyone.
Caroline Boudreaux is a social entrepreneur and Founder of the Miracle Foundation. Since the organization’s inception in 2000, she has committed herself to empowering orphans to reach their full potential. She is respected as one of the most impactful non-profit leaders in the US and India. She is a graduate of Louisiana State University in Psychology.
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