Standing outside a small gift shop run by CFCA mothers, with her hands folded and a slight smile brightening her soulful brown eyes, Rekha is the picture of grace as she talks about her life in Agra, India’s world-famous city that is home to the Taj Mahal.
Rekha is bringing up her two children on her own; her husband doesn’t live with the family. Her 14-year-old son, Dushyant, is sponsored through CFCA.
The Taj Mahal is a lifeline for Rekha, who supports Dushyant and his sister by singing at events in Agra’s tourist hotels. The singing engagements, though, tend to be mostly at peak tourist times.
“I won’t get regular work; it mostly depends on the seasons,” Rekha said. “The income I get is the only source of income for my family.”
Rekha grew up in the area, and has visited the Taj Mahal many times. She speaks of it as an ageless, timeless wonder.
The Taj Mahal was built from 1632 to 1653 by the Mughal emperor Shah Jahan as a resting place for his beloved wife Mumtaz Mahal. It is often mentioned as one of the Seven Wonders of the World.
“I think there is something in this building, which keeps the monument looking like new,” Rekha said. “It never becomes old.”
While the Taj Mahal has been a lifeline for Rekha and her children, CFCA has also been a lifeline for the family, in more ways than one.
Rekha didn’t get the chance to go to school, and Dushyant’s sponsorship is making it possible for her to afford that opportunity to her children.
CFCA was also there for the family at a time of crisis four years ago, when Dushyant was diagnosed with cancer. The project staff arranged for Dushyant to get treatment, free of charge, at a top hospital in Delhi.
“They helped me like close relatives,” Rekha said of the CFCA staff. “Now Dushyant has recovered from the disease and is going to school.”
Rekha is proud of the young man Dushyant has become.
“My son wants to become a civil engineer and dreams of constructing houses for the poor people,” Rekha said. “I am happy that he is not only thinking about himself, he is thinking about the others who don’t have a home.”
Dushyant’s dream to build isn’t surprising given he grew up amidst an architectural marvel.
Rekha feels a special connection to the Taj Mahal, for what it means to the community, to her children and to her.
“It is good that Shah Jahan built this Taj Mahal,” Rekha said. “… If the Taj Mahal is not there, who will come and listen to my songs?”
For more stories about families of sponsored children living near the Taj Mahal and how CFCA works with them, visit hopeforafamily.org.