To celebrate CSJ's 4th birthday, we're kicking off the third annual Lend a Hand campaign. From 13 August to 1 September, we're sharing stories from our staff about children we help to show how lending a hand changes lives. Click here to learn about the campaign.
Richa, CSJ’s office manager, remembers the first time she visited a government hospital, to lend a hand to a 14-year-old rape survivor named Reena*.
She sat with Reena in the waiting room. Coughing men, dust clinging to the sweat on their foreheads, and sari-clad women with wailing, feverish babies clinging to their chests crowded the room, some crouching on the floor, waiting for their names to be called. Shouting doctors and nurses rushed in and out of the room.
“The whole setting of the hospital was very intimidating for me,” Richa said. “It must have been extremely intimidating for her as well.”
Reena had been raped by her brother, father and grandfather, but no one in her family believed her. After the police filed her complaint, Reena moved into a shelter home. CSJ took her to a hospital for a medical exam to record evidence of abuse. While CSJ’s lawyer handled logistics, Richa sat with Reena.
“She was crying and very sad,” Richa said. “She knew people were fighting for her, but I was just holding her hand, talking about movies and music and making her feel relaxed. I was just her friend.”
After the medical exam, a government counsellor interviewed Reena about her rapes. Reena gripped Richa’s hand through every question.
“Every time she felt uncomfortable she would press my hand, and I would press hers back to let her know, ‘I’m there with you. You shouldn’t be scared,’” Richa said. “Then she would answer the counsellor… we really connected that day.”
Richa’s decision to work for CSJ seemed risky at first. After an internship at CSJ, Richa worked in corporate finance. But from her company desk, she kept remembering the stories of abused children and their ongoing trials. She had just graduated and never planned to work for a non-profit organization.
“My family was very skeptical about me leaving the corporate world, but now they are very involved,” Richa said. “At times I would cry after reading some of the stories, and my mom was always there to console me.”
Holding Reena’s hand shortly after joining CSJ confirmed for Richa that this was the work she wanted. As office manager, Richa updates the accounting software and works with an outside accountant, handles equipment inventory and petty cash for staff and ensures the smooth functioning of the office.
Two years later, Richa still sometimes visits Reena in the shelter home. Reena likes to share her homework and poems. The fear she showed at the hospital is gone.
“Today she’s very talkative and friendly,” Richa said. “She’s excited about everything.”
Click here to support girls like Reena.
*Name changed to protect identity.