An Ordinary Miracle

The following is the introduction, statement of the Founder for the Annual Report 2007-2008, now overdue of course!



From Mother and Founder,

Childlife Preserve Shishur Sevay



An Ordinary Miracle


Once upon a time there was an old little house on a tiny piece of land in Panchabatatala, where New Alipore meets Behala in Kolkata, West Bengal, India,

South Asia

, Planet Earth, The Milky Way Galaxy, in the Universe.   Then a miracle happened, and it became home to 12 orphan girls, twelve girls suffering from various forms of social deprivation, nutritional deprivation, emotional deprivation, educational deprivation, and four of whom suffer severe physical disabilities. 


The miracle is that this house is now one of laughter and joy, and big dreams for the future.  This required enormous determination and plain stubbornness.  It required a deep and unshakable belief that children and flowers bloom when they are fed, protected, and loved.


The ordinary is that we are meeting the most ordinary needs of children, shelter, food, health care, immunizations, clean water and clean toilets.  Education is intensive, not unlike that of Indian families in most places.  The children have school, then tuition, then cultural programs, dance, song, art..  Their needs are pretty simple, but they lack the parental and familial advocates to insure they have these necessities.  And the society does not make meeting their needs a priority. 


Many forces combined for me to become mother to these children; a sense of destiny, the voices of the children calling to me, my Kolkata born daughter – and an awareness of hungry and abandoned children from the earliest times I can remember.  My grandmother, herself an immigrant to


, used to take me to the ocean, point out over the water and tell me never to forget the hungry children across the world.  In Kolkata I feel close to her spirit and her strength.


In this second Annual Report 2007-2008, we will write of Shishur Sevay in the context of Indian and international shared values and commitments to children.  We will show that what we give to our children is no different from what the international community including India agree are the rights of children; put simply, what they should have.  That’s all we are really doing, giving them what they should have, what we all know they need, but still do not give.


I look at the blossoming of our handicapped children, so far beyond our expectations.  They are each centers of love, giving and receiving unconditionally.  They are the heart of our home.  For the big girls, they are like the siblings they lost.  We all celebrate each advancement, standing alone, rolling over, drawing a picture, beating a drum to rhythm, trying to talk, and always glowing when they are held.  Our handicapped children have also started school.  Each morning, dressed in their proper uniforms they go off to their teachers, their education, their bit of normality of what should be the life of a child.  They have a life!  In fact their lives are full, with teachers, aunties, didis, and a lot of mother’s love.


I am a dreamer and the dream grows.  But this dream must grow slowly, and it must grow from its foundation.  A tree grows by feeding its roots, not by pulling at its branches.  We are growing our saplings in the best soil we can create, with warmth, sun, food.  We provide structure for when our children are set off balance by unhealed wounds and inner winds. We treasure the blooms.


Childlife Preserve: Shishur Sevay got its name from my stay at Kaziranga Wildlife Preserve in


.  Kaziranga is home to the Indian One-Horned rhinoceros, wild elephants, and the domesticated elephants who take visitors for journeys through the tall grasses.  In the evening when the domestic elephants came to be bathed in the creek and fed, I played football with an elephant calf as he learned to be comfortable with people.


Later I found myself thinking about that place often, and wondering, “Why can’t there be a place like that for children, a Preserve, where they are not prey?”  Thus the name, Childlife Preserve.  And then because my life is a fusion of American and Bengali, there had to be a Bengali name so our home would be understood for what it is.  Shishur Sevay, in the interest/service of children.


In a world globally and locally full of violence and abuse, Shishur Sevay is an oasis, a place of growth, of healing, of love.


Dr. Michelle Harrison

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November 2008
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