By Melissa Wallace –
BRAMPTON, ON – Geraldine Karkada was only in middle school when her father lost his job as a security officer. The popular teen – an accomplished athlete and track and field champion at her school in Bangalore, India – as well as her three siblings knew instantly that life was going to be rough as their mother, who worked as an administrative secretary, suddenly had to bear the brunt of the entire family’s budget.
“It was a very sensitive time and, at the start of the new school year, we were still in our old uniforms because my parents couldn’t afford new uniforms,” says Geraldine. “My mom was a good seamstress and would mend all the worn areas, but kids know.” The family was also struggling to pay school fees, estimated at around $100 (CAD) per year for the four children.
Geraldine’s mother approached the school principal and explained the family’s situation. The principal reassured her of assistance and ended up enrolling Geraldine in the school’s sponsorship program offered by Christian Children’s Fund of Canada (CCFC).
The sponsor paid for a new uniform, monthly school fees and running shoes for Geraldine. After a year, Geraldine’s father was back in the workforce and the family no longer needed CCFC’s help. As a result, the sponsorship was transferred to another child in need.
Decades later, Geraldine, who now lives in Brampton, Ontario, says she will always be grateful for the help she and her family received for that one year. In fact, Geraldine and her husband Roland, who she met at age 18 in India, have been involved in helping others through social services from their teen years. In April 2010, they began sponsoring eight children with CCFC as a means of giving back.
“Even though I was only sponsored for one year, that one year made a huge difference for me as a kid,” says Geraldine. “Especially since I was into athletics and the whole school was watching me run and jump.”
“CCFC put shoes on the school champion’s feet,” laughs Roland.
Geraldine and Roland have a photo album filled with colourful letters and reports from their sponsored children and keeps photos of them on their fridge. They also try and get their own two children, Joel and Janine, involved in the process and hope to visit their sponsored children as a family one day.
“We share everything with our children and want them to know our backgrounds and what Geraldine went through,” says Roland. “We still feel that there is so much more we can do to help others.”
(Photo: (L-R) Janine, Geraldine, Roland and Joel)