It's been too long since I blogged, but I still get tons of requests from PR people every week asking me to write about this or that -- usually mass blasts about products that have nothing to do with adoption. Recently, though, I heard from an adult adoptee who is trying to help children in her native India, and I thought her project would be the perfect topic to get me writing again.
Malika Bowling was born in Mumbai, India, and adopted as a baby by John and Mardai Harricharan, a couple of Indian descent hailing from the South American country of Guyana. Eventually the Harricharans became American citizens and raised Malika in New Jersey, and later, Atlanta. Today, Malika is an Atlanta restaurant reviewer as well as an entrepreneur with her own online marketing business. On her blog, she writes:
On his own website, Malika's father writes about the compulsion he felt to rush to India before his daughter's adoption was complete, a compulsion that likely ended up saving her life:
My wife and I had been married for several years and we felt it was time to start raising a family...Our decision was to adopt a baby girl from India and as a result we waded through an ocean of bureaucratic and political red tape. The entire aura around us was one of excitement and anticipation. Only one more document remained to be processed by the Immigration Department. Then something went wrong. We were informed that it would be another week or two before the necessary visa for our "soon to be" daughter would be issued.
Having waited for seven months, a delay of a week or two seemed inconsequential, except for one thing. On the very day we were notified of the delay a telegram arrived from India. It stated that a baby girl, a few weeks old, was available for adoption and that we should travel to Bombay as soon as possible to complete the formalities of the adoption process. This was the notice for which we had been waiting. Everything was in order except for that one visa document. Only one week to go and we would be on a plane to India...
At first, logic dictated that all was well and that in a short while, we would be the parents of a fine baby girl. But all was not well. That night I could hardly sleep. My sleeplessness could have been attributed to excitement and anticipation, but that was not so. Instead there was an uneasy feeling within me, a strange premonition of disaster. I was filled with overwhelming apprehension.
As the day progressed, the feelings of anxiety increased. I examined the situation but could find no reason to justify such uneasiness. Try as I could, however, it was impossible to dismiss them. I felt that I must leave for India within twenty-four hours.
Against all reason, Malika's adoptive parents heeded John's premonition and left for Bombay immediately, despite the missing visa, reaching the orphanage just in time to rush the gravely ill baby to a doctor. Eventually they were able to bring their new daughter back to the US, and later added a baby boy from India to their family as well.
Malika describes a mostly happy childhood, though there were financial up and downs, and most difficult of all, the death of her adoptive mother when she was just 11 years old. Now Malika, her father, and brother have started the Mardai Harricharan Foundation to honor her late mother and offer support to orphaned children in India, and have applied for nonprofit status.
The family is preparing for a November fact-finding trip to India to see how they can help the children now living in Malika's old orphanage and to investigate other philanthropic opportunities. They've also started a crowdfunding campaign at WeCareCard to support this first trip.
This will be Malika's first trip back to India since she was a toddler. Having spent a lot of time in that beautiful, maddening country dealing with its bureaucracy, I felt a little worried as I spoke to her, and struggled to not throw cold water on her plans. I know several people who have started charities in India, and I admire the passion and perseverance they bring to a difficult but worthwhile challenge. I was happy to hear that Malika's father has some contacts in the philanthropic community in India to guide them, contacts forged during that first trip her parents made to India, when her father's intuition prompted them to rush to her side. I'm sure that faith and intuition will carry this family far as they begin this ambitious project.
As Malika says, "I will never forget how many times my dad has quoted the late Dr. Thomas A. Dooley: 'It is better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.' So I have volunteered to light 'one candle' and travel back to India for the first time since I was a little girl to give as much quality of life as I can to children who have so little."
For more about Malika's project in her own words, check out the video: