When unprecedented calamites snatch away everything but hope, humility and generosity…

The floods of 2015 and 2017 in Banaskantha have proved to be turbulent for the nomadic families living in the region. The families that barley had anything of their own to those who were building their lives, all suffered heavy losses. VSSM was thronged by the requests for help and support both immediate and long term. And that is what VSSM did, it provided relief kits and helped in rehabilitating the affected families.

Lalabhai Raval, a flourishing farmer and humble family man lost everything to the floods. The family stayed in Kankrej’s Urmi village. The damage was not in terms of losing house, household goods but also his farm land that the ravaging Banas engulfed into its fold as she decided to change its path. As the parched Banas swelled like never before with the flooding waters, it broke all barriers and just rushed, dragging with it silt and soil that was dumped on to the farm lands. The damage is such that even if a farmer decides to spend thousands and lacs to repair the land it can still not be made fit for farming. A couple of days before the calamity struck Lalabhai and his brothers had decided to further sink their borewell. They had brought all the required material, the cost of which ran into lacs. And suddenly hell let loose. It rained like never before in North of Gujarat. A region that is known as a drought prone region and reels under severe water shortage got flooded second time in two years. The flooding waters swept away Lalabhai’s two storied house, 7-8 lacs worth of goods, the material they had bought for sinking the borewell and the family’s farmland… the family was shattered.

VSSM later provided loan to Lalbhai with an intention to rehabilitate his livelihood. He repaired the other patch of land he had, found some borewell material that the floods had swept away and decided to begin working on the farm. He and his uncle had bought tractor and remaining material for borewell. He had taken loan for the same from some other money lender.  The land was little to feed his entire family hence he requested for a loan to buy buffalos as cattle farming was the only way to supplement the income. VSSM supported him with interest free loan to buy cattle. Lalabhai bought a buffalo, sold the milk to cooperative dairy, caved Rs. 40,000 to which he added another Rs. 9,000 and bought a pregnant cow.  However, the cow died after giving birth and the calf too died within few days. This again was a setback for Lalabbhai.

 “I am not sure what is God willing for me, the moment it feels things are going to be ok, we are made to tackle a new challenge!! I had a dream to grow my cattle family, but now this is heart breaking.” Lalabhai was choking while narrating the death of the cow and the calf. I knew he needed further support, he always refused doles and free stuff. We too weren’t sure how to further help him nonetheless we knew we had to stand beside him for sure. At that moment I just prayed to almighty to go easy on such hardworking and honest individuals. As they contemplated on how to move forward,  Lalabhai and his two brothers cracked upon an idea  to build cattle shed, but that was something we couldn’t support because it required huge  capital investment. We loaned him Rs. 2 lacs to buy more cattle. He also borrowed some money from some known farmers of Rajasthan.

Once when we were around Umri, we paid a visit to Lalabhai’s home. We were surprised to see around 12 cows in his yard. The income from milk is really good, he said and god willing he would be able to pay off the loan he took from his farmer friend.

What amazed us was the large heartedness of Lalabhai. He has been regular with his instalments to VSSM, but what touched our hearts beyond comprehension was that he also donates Rs. 2000 every month to VSSM so that the money could be used to help others. “I had lost everything, but you gave me the strength to carry on and look what that strength has given me!!”

Another instance of his generosity was experienced by all of us when we seeked his expert guidance to help us buy a good quality cow for Vadia’s Ramabhai Saraniya. As you all are aware of VSSM has been working to make Vadia free of the stigma it holds through encouraging its residents to take up other professions. Ramabhai and his family are extremely poor but as head of the family Ramabhai never forced his daughters into the much-practiced trade of Vadia. On the contrary he really worked hard to provide for them. But with limited resources and scope he has never been able to bring the family out of the clutches of poverty. At 60 Ramabhai and his family hadn’t had a decent roof over their head. Our respected Rashminbhai has helped him with the house. While VSSM was in the midst of searching options   to enable Ramabhai supplement his earning, we received call from another well-wishing friend of VSSM, Shri Nikeshbhai. He wished to donate a cow but not to a temple, but to someone who needed it. That was very thoughtful of Nikeshbhai and we decided to give that cow to Ramabhai. Now, the matter was about finding a good cow!! To help us find a good cow we decided to rope in the expertise of Lalabhai. By now Lalabhai owned cattle shed that had 35 cows. We assigned him a task to help us buy a cow worth Rs. 70,000 for Ramabhai. Generous and large hearted that Lalbhai is decided to give away a cow he had just bought from Punjab. The value of the cow was Rs. 83,000 and plus the transportation cost. He was prepared to bear the loss of around Rs. 20,000.

‘Why would you want to do this?” we inquired.

“I know how much Ramabhai needs this cow, we need to be helping partners for such efforts that might be life changing for others!!” Lalabhai did not even think twice before giving away a cow that gave 20 to 24 liters of milk daily, because he knew  Ramabhai needed that money more than he did.

May your tribe increase, Lalabhai.

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