We launched The Sharma Foundation at Terminal 5 in March 2010. Some of you will have spotted fundraisers at Jimmy Choos, but it’s not all glamorous. Although I go to lots of schools to present talks on global citizenship, I slummed it with 100 students on Bank Holiday Monday last May.
I saw human suffering that I would have found unimaginable if I had not seen it with my own eyes – the heat, the monsoon, the flies, the absence of running water, the children working on rubbish dumps full of health hazards.
The whole economy depends on the rain. Agriculture is the mainstay of rural India and in times of drought, people die because it does not rain and they have no crop to harvest. No work means no income.
At the opposite end you have the floods, which leave devastation in their wake and ruin the few items that these poor people have skimped and saved to acquire with blood, sweat and tears! So these people migrate in hordes to Mumbai and squat illegally on dumping grounds, only to find that the bulldozers come along to chase them out and they lose those belongings anyway.
Life is incredibly tough in the slums, yet I found myself welcomed with a cup of tea despite the one hour cycle ride required to bring back a gallon of water. I hope we can find it in ourselves to do the same and just tighten up our belts when times have become a little tough for us here, rather than deserting those who are so poor and living at the bottom of the food chain.
The slums are full of amazing and highly resourceful people. I did not expect to learn so much from the people I met. (To be continued…)