The rag-picking doc

Rescue story of a future doctor cursed to be a rag picker

Anitha, 13, who is under the care of SHAPE’s literacy centers (know more) was once a rag picker on the streets of Tiruvannamalai. She picked up her uncle’s job because her father died. Her mother, Radha, is a wage workerAnitha THE RAG PICKER who had to take care of Anitha’s little brother Bharani (4) did not find Anitha’s education essential due to the Indian misogynistic traditions. The family of 3 has to live on a weekly income of INR 600 (<$10). Even though Mr. Ramesh, the uncle, takes care of the family from time to time with his rag-picking income, he's got a family of his own. He often found himself in the awkward situation of choosing between his own family needs and Radha's. All of these factors pushed Anitha towards this profession. She spent 14 months picking rags before being rescued by SHAPE in 2018. She was found by one of our volunteers. Her mother while at first was unwilling, later agreed to stop Anitha when we promised that we will cover the family expenses up to some extent.

While talking about her rag-picking days, Anitha said, “I often prick myself with needles and other things because I used to pick the hospital wastes. I like being near hospitals because I know one day I will be in that building.”

“I want to be a doctor.”, says Anitha about her dreams. “I know it is doable because medical studies are affordable for people who study well and I always score above 90% in all my exams.” 

We pray every day to find thousands of Anithas out there (Click here to read about the literate child workers of Tamil Nadu), working in far more hazardous conditions. We pray that they become doctors and engineers and artists and peacemakers and leaders and whatever they want to be. We pray that poverty and diseases and the unforgiving economies we designed don’t put out their sparks.

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