When Sandhya Godey, well-known for her role as a volunteer for social causes, came across the ICICI #FundYourOwnWorth programme, she instantly got in touch with Madhu Tugnait, Founder Director for the Icha Foundation, an NGO that works as a lifelong home/shelter for the abandoned children. The programme called for participants who were working on diverse causes and Rani’s story was presented. Of the 19000 participants who applied from across the country, Rani and Madhu’s story made it to the top 55. Sandhya, Madhu, and Rani headed to Mumbai on the 9th February for the event, where they featured in the top 25. Here’s the story of little Rani’s journey in Sandhya’s words. And yes, this is how the ICICI initiative, gave the story of an abandoned child a global platform.
“Many times, children teach us simple lessons of life. Lessons that set us thinking about the way we do things and the way we live our lives.
When Madhu Tugnait told me that she was bringing Rani as her companion to the #FundYourOwnWorth awards night in Mumbai, I was excited. It would be the first time I would be meeting one of Madhu’s ‘children’.
Rani was a delight from the moment I met her on the way to Vizag airport. She was super friendly, super inquisitive and super duper independent.
Rani was brought to Madhu as a grossly underweight baby at an age of a few months. She breathed through her mouth since she practically had no nose because of her cleft lip AND cleft palate. Her right arm ended in a stump well above her elbow. Her left hand went down to her fingers, but all her fingers were stuck to each other.
Doctors advised Madhu to get Rani operated for her cleft lip and palate before she turned one year, on the condition that Rani reaches a minimum weight of 5 kg. At that point, Rani weighed 900 grams and was about 5 months old.
In an effort to add the mandatory weight, Madhu had to set alarms at two-hour intervals through the day and night for the next six months to feed small doses of Cerelac to baby Rani. Madhu’s effort, dedication, and love paid off. Rani touched 6 Kg by the time she celebrated her first birthday. The subsequent surgery allowed her to breathe through her nose and also repaired the cleft.
Despite her weak condition, Rani, Madhu says was an inquisitive and active child. Today, I had a lovely dose of that questioning mind. She adapted to my presence rather unquestioningly. She, I think, adopted me for the day. She wanted to know where we’re going, why we were going, why there were so many planes at the airports, where we would stay Mumbai, what did a Hotel mean ( thinking quickly on my feet, I explained – A Hotel was a home in any place we didn’t have our own home for which we had to pay money) , if the hotel room had a bathroom, if we would have a bath that night in the hotel, if there was a TV there, if the fountain in the hotel lobby was the shower, would be go back to the hotel or to Vizag after the awards ceremony, could she play with her toys in the room etc etc etc.
There wasn’t anything Rani couldn’t do by herself. Open a bottle of water and hold it between her little palm and right arm and drink from the bottle, cut a slice of pizza (which she ordered for lunch), eat her food, pull down the tray table and window shade in the aircraft, use the toilet. I watched a video of Rani mopping the floor and chopping vegetables as part of her daily routine back at Icha. She wanted to hold the replica of the cheque awarded to Madhu, even though that was as big as her. She even hopped out of the Innova by herself.
She called out to her ‘Madhamma’ in a little sing-song way for anything she wanted to share and absolutely didn’t approve of Madhu and I talking to each other. Every time Madhu turned to talk with me, we heard a plaintive ‘Madhamma’.
The only time she willingly held my hand was when we were walking in crowds – Airport and Awards night.
All the time I spent with Rani and with Madhu was like I was in a ‘Life’ class being taught simple but fundamental lessons in love, confidence, and adaptation.
Thanks to #ICICI #FundYourOwnWorth for this fabulous experience. A wonderful initiative that was planned and implemented impeccably.
A moderated talk with Chanda Kochchar and Vidya Balan was well conducted with Vidya at her best. This ICICI job that Chanda Kochhar joined 23 years ago, was her first job application that led to her first and only job that goes on until today.”
We at Yo! wish Rani and the entire family of Icha Foundation all the best.