My wife Geetha and I met while working in Catholic parish ministries in villages in south India. She is a medical doctor and I have degrees in theology and counseling. We come from rural areas, where many are neglected. This need led us to start the Foundation for Children in Need in the United States.
We came here in 2000. We both had green cards and knew we could work and have comfortable lives, but we felt called to something different. We had this dream to start a foundation to help the needy in India. With our incomes, we could help 20–30 children, but a foundation could impact even more people.
With the encouragement and support of our friends in the United States, we established the Foundation for Children in Need at our parish, St. James in Arlington Heights, Ill., in 2002. Since then, FCN has been providing hope and assistance to people in rural villages of India.
With the help of a network of donors and sponsors in our parish, the Archdiocese of Chicago and across the United States, our nonprofit organization brings village children food, education and medical care. We also assist the elderly and bring medical care to those who lack access to hospitals. One of our efforts involves helping more than 1,000 children born with cleft lip and cleft palate with free surgeries, with the help of a medical team from the United States and local surgeons. FCN also provides travel and food expenses for the families.
During the COVID-19 pandemic, we’ve distributed food to 4,000 families of migrant workers without jobs in the country’s lockdown, 20,000 masks and 4,000 sanitizer bottles.
Over the years, my wife has assisted thousands through our free medical services and health education. “When I help a needy person with medical care or health education, my heart is filled with tremendous joy and satisfaction,” says Dr. Geetha.
FCN believes that education is the key to transforming the lives of children. Currently, we are helping 2,000 children and college students at 26 locations in India. With the help of our sponsors in the United States, these students receive clothing and tuition fees and the opportunity to have a better life. We have about 1,600 sponsors, including 80 from our home parish. Many U.S. sponsors have visited India to meet the children they sponsor.
I have seen children struggling to continue their education. It is a privilege to assist them. Many have been able to pursue a college education.
We have gone to parishes around the United States, where we share about FCN and invite those interested in sponsoring a child to sign up. The people are most generous and, of course, our parish has been supporting our work from the inception.
We also have nearly 30 volunteers from our parish who help us. Besides Geetha and myself, there is only one part-time employee at FCN. We work 90 hours and seven days a week, so volunteers mean the world to us.
Our work is pure service, which goes beyond religion, caste, creed and politics. We are looking to help the poorest of the poor. We see Jesus in the poor.
Our mission work does not involve direct evangelization, but people see our faith, and our love for them inspires them. As we told the Chicago mission office’s Megan Mio during her radio program, “Mission Matters”: “We bear witness to the love of Christ when we care for them.”
We also have established schools, boarding homes for boys and girls, an elderly home, a community center and, recently, FCN Home, where we are caring for 15 elderly and physically challenged people. Ten young girls are taking tailoring training there. More needy people are arriving every week. “This home helps seniors, physically challenged and orphaned children. The idea is to have all three generations helping each other,” says Geetha. “We want to train the next generation.”
We tell everybody that this is not our work; this is God’s work and we are just the instruments. And we have done far more than we imagined.
Featured Image: Dr. Geetha teaches health and hygiene to teens before COVID-19. (Courtesy Thomas Chitta)