What is the size of a mother’s love?

 

 

She is a soHza sister. She is a woman changemaker.

When she first walked into WORK + SHELTER Renu was so tiny, everyone thought she was a child. They called her “Choti Renu” or “Little Renu.”

But Renu was not a child—she was a mother.  A mother who was raising three little girls alone.  A mother who had migrated with her children to New Delhi from Bihar, one of the poorest provinces of India, to find a better life.  A mother who skipped meals to feed her girls and send them to school.  Renu was tiny because she was malnourished.

In New Delhi Renu and her daughters lived in a concrete building shared by many families. The four of them occupied one room barely tall enough to stand in.  They had no bathroom.  No kitchen or sink.  Just one small faucet sticking out of a wall.  And yet any little bit of food in their home—even the smallest piece of bread, would always be offered to a guest.

When the American team from WORK + SHELTER came to visit Renu they found her three little girls huddled together on a cot in the corner. When asked in Hindi, “Aap kaisii haen?” meaning, “How are you?” one of Renu’s daughters shyly responded in perfect English: “I’m fine.” 

Her English was remarkable because poor children in India are rarely educated. Many families can’t afford the cost of a school uniform for one child, let alone three.  But somehow, through determination and self-sacrifice, Renu had managed it.

So when she came in on her first day at WORK+SHELTER, it was no surprise that Renu was dliigent learner herself.  A complete stranger to a sewing machine, she worked hard for months and months until she slowly mastered the craft of sewing and making patterns. Now four years later, Renu thrives as one of WORK + SHELTER’s top seamstresses. She is so industrious that she also owns her own small business: a chai stall in the morning market.

Renu and her daughters have moved into a different house that does have a bathroom and a kitchen. And she has started gaining weight, since she now eats three meals a day. Her coworkers at the center sometimes tease that “Choti Renu” has become “Moti Renu,” or “Big Woman.” This makes Renu smile.

But the truth is, when it comes to love and resilience, there’s never been anything tiny about her.

Shop the beautiful soHza sister activism wear made by Renu

Just a couple of “soHza sisters” showing their love.

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