Backpacks With a Side of Sizzling Dosa, Warm Smiles, and a Bright Future.

The whole scene was a bit chaotic. It was July 2022 and we had just arrived in Kalandra for the first time in three years to visit our feeding center and backpack recipients there. The village stirred with energy as our car pulled up, and we were greeted by an excited crew of elementary and middle school-aged boys, eager to share their village with us. At the front of the pack, with the biggest, uncontainable smile was Sam Kumar.

He grabbed our hands and directed us through the narrow, winding streets to a small home in the corner of the village. “Is this where you live?” we asked. Beaming with pride he said it was and proceeded to bring his parents out. Sam loves his family and wanted them to share time with us, even though family dynamics haven’t always been easy.

Sam’s dad struggles with an addiction to alcohol and spends most of the family’s income on liquor. His mom has struggled through some heavy bouts with depression, leading to a near-suicide attempt while Sam was present. Through it all though, Sam seems to have a contagious optimism that draws the family together. In fact, his mom was talked down from her suicide attempt by Sam’s encouragement for her to trust God’s provision. Sam’s love is felt by the family but they are still left with some significant struggles. Both of his parents work day to day and the income is so slim. Sam’s dad works as a coconut peeler, and his mom tries to find work as a maid for a local landlord. After the continued dependence on alcohol and a meager supply of food and necessities, there is no money left to spend on an education for Sam. Even though school is government-funded, Sam couldn’t afford to pay for the basic supplies like books, paper, and pencils. Supplies needed by anyone who wants a chance at succeeding in school, and for Sam, success in school could be a lifeline out of poverty.

Everything changed a few years back though. In 2020 we raised money for our Backpack Project at A Night For Hope and we were able to send enough money to our partners to distribute over 5500 backpacks full of school supplies. One of those recipients was a kind and smiley young boy in the little village of Kalandra. Yep, Sam got a backpack thanks to the generous support of a few hundred people gathering together in a parking lot in Lincoln, NE for a Covid-friendly, drive-in fundraiser. And that impact was not insignificant.

Equipped with a backpack full of all the supplies he’d need, Sam now had the confidence to approach school with the same love and enthusiasm that he approached all of life with. But even more than that, Sam got connected to our local partner Aaron who has loved and invested in him. Aaron has started teaching Sam and his family about Jesus and his love for them. They have started to open up their home to the community to have a small church gathering each Sunday and lives are changing forever — all because of a few pencils and notebooks in a backpack.

As we wandered in behind Sam, he and his mom pulled out a small stove and lit a fire. We gathered around as Sam poured fresh batter onto a sizzling skillet, preparing each of us some of the best Indian dosa you’ve ever had. Sam giggled as I tried to help with the dosa and really butchered it. The fire was hot, the food was warm, and the smiles touched us. In the midst of a broken home, in the corner of an impoverished village, hope was stirring. 

Our bodies warm with food, we said our goodbyes and departed out into a now rain-soaked evening. Looking back, we longed for more for Sam and his family. Yet at the same time, his radiant joy reminded us that even on a dreary night, in a cold concrete home, next to a self-consumed, alcoholic father, Sam has hope. The future still holds light.

To impact more students like Sam, donate to our Backpack Project today!