Sultana spent her childhood in Kharda, one hour from CRHP. She comes from a large family, 6 sisters and 5 brothers. However, because her family did not have access to proper medicine or health facilities, many of her siblings died, with only five surviving into adulthood. When she was 7 years old her mother passed away from a heart attack, leaving her father and uncles to care for her and her siblings. Like many children in rural areas, especially young girls, Sultana was not allowed to continue her education. “My uncles and family members did not want me to go to school. I did not even finish my first grade.” For families that rely on work as laborers for an income, a child’s ability to work and earn a wage is placed ahead of their education. For young girls, their prospects for marriage become an important concern. The girl’s family is able to benefit from a prosperous marriage and no longer has to financially support her, as she becomes the responsibility of the husband’s family.
Sultana was married at the age of 12 and moved in with her husband’s family in Indiranagar, the slum located across the street from CRHP. “The first year of marriage, everyone took good care of me.” However, this good fortune did not last long. Sultana became pregnant a year later and her husband stopped working. He turned to alcohol and adultery to deal with his emotional and social stress. Because her husband did not work, Sultana’s family had no income and no way to provide the necessary nutrition or health care to her during her pregnancy. As a result, she gave birth two months early. Sultana had made connections with various people at CRHP so she was able to come to the Julia Hospital for her delivery. “Salma was in the hospital for three months, and [the staff at] CRHP taught me how to take care of the baby, how to feed her, how to bathe her, how to breastfeed, how to take care of diarrhea and dehydration.”
While Sultana was at the Julia Hospital learning to take care of her newborn child, she was unable to work in order to support her child after they return home. The Arole family recognized her struggles and offered her a job in the CRHP kitchens. She was able to earn an income, given a home near campus, and empowered herself to care for her new child and herself. Soon after her second child was born, Sultana’s husband became ill and died, leaving her to solely care and support her two children.
“My life has improved in a such a way since then. My kids have grown and are doing well.” Her daughter is married and has two children of her own. Her son is away studying at college, receiving the education his mother was refused when she was a child. Sultana now runs the kitchens at CRHP, coordinating the meals and other needs of visitors and training new staff. She also leads a group of almost ten women, all of who have faced similar struggles in their lives. She listens to their stories and advises them on how to keep moving forward, empowering them to take the same difficult steps she took when she was younger.
“I am who I have become because of CRHP’s support. For people like me, CRHP is a temple. If it had not existed, I may not have existed.”