By Tarini Mohan
It's almost like I was born with the fierce need for independence.
Luckily, my parents gave me the most important gift of all: they made me a responsible individual with the wings of independence. Practically from the minute I was able, I moved out of my house, at what I now think of as the tender age of fifteen. I went to an international boarding school in India, The Mahindra United World College of India, a school that truly fosters independence in its students. My UWC experience made me the person I am, it strengthened my wings and helped me realize that with freedom comes responsibility. The school effectively showed me that I couldn't do all the things I wanted to do in my life if I ran with my newfound level of independence. So instead, I learned to fly cautiously. Most importantly, since the school gives utmost importance to social service, it sowed more firmly the seeds of my passion for making a difference in the lives of vulnerable people.
Later in life, I flew with my still unclipped wings to Uganda to volunteer for BRAC and help raise the income of poor farmers. Although my parents and my school had taught me to be responsible, I made a mistake and sat on a motorcycle taxi without a helmet. A grievous mistake, one that must not be made by anybody, young or old, at any cost. I suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI) and lay in a coma for three entire months.
During those three months, my parents were right there by my side while I was in the intensive care unit. Not for a second did they lose hope that I would someday awaken. They made sure nobody entered my room with eyes brimming with tears. They didn't want any bad vibes to come to me. My mother spent practically every night in the hospital, in a bed by my side. She would chant and pray daily for me to wake up. My father had to continue teaching his class, as trying as those times were, but he also wanted to be there for his daughter. He taught the class via video through Skype late at night. He is the primary breadwinner of my family and had to pay the daily bills, the bills for my hospitalization and a portion of my brother's college tuition.
If I were him, the stress caused by all of this would have taken its toll on me. My father, on the other hand, never once mentioned it.
My recovery from the coma was slow, filled with hours and hours of physical, speech and occupational therapy. For most of these sessions, my mother insisted on being present by my side. I could no longer fly, as I was unable to walk at all, couldn't propel myself on my wheelchair due to a non-functional arm, and my speech could not be understood most of the time.
While all of the above are no longer true, some still are. I still live at home, cannot cook my own meals due to poor balance and don't earn enough money to sustain myself. Would you believe it if I said that I still have a great many things going for me? This is true thanks to my parents loving care and support. A big thank you also goes to BRAC for continuing to have faith in my abilities even after my brain has been damaged. BRAC rewards valuable work, no matter who the doer is. It really does believe in creating opportunities for people. This is true of BRAC as an organization and is also true of each and every staff member.
I was on vacation when I heard the news that a credit officer for BRAC's Microfinance program in Liberia, by the name of Ophelia, had contracted Ebola from her boyfriend, Moses Yekelo. Ebola ended up claiming both of their lives. Moses and Ophelia left behind a five-year old daughter, now an orphan. Hearing this news made my heart ache. I tried thinking of who could provide some assistance to the child. Moseline is still too young to even be aware of the misfortune that has struck her. I have no contacts in West Africa and neither do my parents. Out of the blue it struck me -- why did somebody else have to take the first step for me? I could help this innocent child. Her successful future could be a reality if I had the courage to take a first step.
This is why I have created a fund called Educate Moseline Yekelo.
With these funds, this child will be empowered through education to eventually earn her own livelihood and help her look after her grandmother, who took care of her when she was orphaned. Maybe some day she'll even get a scholarship to UWC and then move on to a top liberal arts college or Ivy League university. Following that she could very well develop the cure to cancer. Who knows.
The possibilities for her future are endless. But first, we have to create the opportunity by making a very small investment in Moseline Yekelo's education.
Tarini Mohan is Program Advisor at BRAC USA and is a native of New Delhi, India. Tarini work largely focuses in fundraising for the agriculture program in Sub-Saharan Africa for which she assists in proposal writing. Tarini also works on fundraising for a range of BRAC programs, such as -- BRAC's Ebola response and road safety. She joined BRAC Uganda as a volunteer in 2010, an endeavor that was cut short due to an motor vehicle accident. Due to her passion for her work, before she had even fully recovered, she was back to volunteering for BRAC USA. She became a part time employee in March 2014 and works remotely from DC, where BRAC has set her up to work out of the Center for Global Development. Tarini received her B.A from Wellesley College, where she majored in Economics.