Dick Smith from Australia was travelling across India in a moving train, when he spotted a homeless family living under a bridge in Gujarat, including a young girl wearing nothing but a pink bracelet.
Moved by the utter poverty and the condition this small girl lived in even in the 21st century, Dick decided to help her. But there was just one problem. The train was moving and he had no idea how he will ever find this girl.
An idea struck him and he immediately activated the GPS in his iPhone and took the photo (see below) of the girl through the train window.
Upon returning back home, Dick asked his friends Chris Bray and Jess if they would like to go to India, try and locate this same girl and her family, help them into accommodation, secure the girl an education, buy them life’s basics and open her a bank account for Dick to regularly deposit into – all in three days!
It was going to be an uphill task as finding one girl from a population of 1.25 billion was never going to be easy.
Undaunted by the challenge, the couple (below) arrived in Gujarat. After a lot of struggle, they finally managed to locate the bridge, where the family lived.
However, they couldn’t find the girl in the photo there.
Chris says, “We started asking around if anyone recognised anyone in Dick’s photos…Everyone denyed everything – telling Dr. Chellani that they’d never seen any of the people in the photos before…But then we saw this man in red (below) with the plastic leg (turnes out a train cut it off!) who was also in our photo! He agreed it was him, and then others started to admit they recognised others too…”
After a little bit of passing around of the photo, finally a woman was able to recognise the girl with the pink bracelet and pointed to a woman she said was the girl’s mum. The mum agreed that was her daughter in the photo, and she sent for her – she was playing out the back somwehere.
Says Chris, “She’s the girl in the photo (below)! She still had the pink bracelets on too! Amazing! Her name is Divya, meaning ‘divine light’, and she’s 8yrs old! With all eyes on her, and these 2 weird foreigners and two men in suits here to see her, the young girl Divya thought she must have been in trouble, and was initially very shy and a little upset.”
To make the family particularly the girl comfortable, Chris says he handed Divya a copy of Dick’s photo, and it was explained that his friend had passed by in a train a few weeks ago, and seen her and her family, and taken a photo, and they were just here to give her the photo.
“Everyone warmed up then, and we met the whole family, she has two brothers, 7 and 2yrs old, both who were also in Dick’s photo,” says Chris.
Chris further writes on his Facebook page, “The parents had been living under the bridge for 12 years, and Divya had been born there just under the bridge without any nurse etc. As the father was away at work (a plasterer, earning $4-6/day, not enough to afford even a slum house while also caring for three kids) we decided it was best to wait until the dad came home from work to discuss with the whole family to see if there was a way we could help. Dr. Chellani (a local acquaintance) told them to meet at the Bank that afternoon. We even had to pre-warn the security guard to actually let them in.”
The next day, they met the whole family in the office of the bank manager. Chris says he was pleased to know that Divya’s father didn’t smoke or drink and had been forced to live under the bridge because of the circumstances.
He says, “He certainly presented better than many of the other red-eyed, hungover men under the bridge – he seems like a genuine, hard working man, loves his family, and just struggling to get ahead. They seem like the perfect family not only in need of some assistance, but able and willing to be helped.”
Recounting that moment, Chris says it was pretty special for him to be ‘sitting there, as the messengers of such a generous, life-changing gift.’
He adds, “It was a special moment watching realisation dawn on this family that we wanted to pay rent for them to move into a house, help Divya get a good education, help the father earn a better wage to help them start to help themselves etc.”
Everybody met in the bank on the third day to complete the formalities of opening an account for the girl. Soon, they realised the family didn’t have any identity proof document. But the bank manager said that the girl’s account could be opened under a new scheme called ‘Smile.’
Without wasting time, Chris took Divya to a nearby studio to get a passport photo taken
Soon, with the help of the bank Manager, Ratan, the account was opened. According to Chris, Dick had promised to transfer money enough to take care of house rent and the girl’s education for two years. The situation will be reviewed after two years but Dick has already pledged his commitment for 10 years.
To ensure the funds were not misused by the family, they decided to write a formal contract specifying what the funds would be used for.
“Dr. Chellani suggested we write up a formal contract linked to the account, specifying what the funds are allowed to be used for (Rent, and furthering the girls education), and to give them confidence that this was to be ongoing, a minimum guarantee of 2yrs of an agreed level of funding, after which it will be reviewed etc (although the plan is for it to be more than 10yrs). We later added a condition that Divya must attend school regularly else funding can be stopped (the principle will provide monthly attendance reports to Dr. Chellani, who is also a 2nd signatory on the account, to oversee & ensure the funds are spent correctly),” says Chris.
Before returning to Australia, Chris took the family out for shopping, bought Divya her new school uniform, bags and clothes.
Summing up his experience, Chris says, “We are so lucky to have been able to make this come true! Thanks so much to Dr. Chellani (left) and Mr Ratan (right) – without whose help I’m sure we’d have failed to even find the family.”
Chris plans to release the video of his entire experience soon.