Resilience and Hope from Rajgir

Posted by Spalding Hurst

June 27, 2023

In the verdant landscape of Rajgir, a story of relentless courage and insurmountable spirit is emerging. It is a tale that interweaves hardship, resilience, and the power of charity, as witnessed by Sister Rena Fernandes and as told to us in a conversation at the Eastern Provinces Development Office (EPDO).

The protagonist of this story is Soni, a 25-year-old mother of a bright-eyed boy named Mayank. Despite the adversities she has faced — an 80 percent physical handicap below her waist due to Poliomyelitis and a partially paralyzed right hand — Soni carries a unique kind of strength, not only in her demeanor but also in her narrative.

Soni first came to the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth’s hostel in 2007, when she was just a young girl from Nayipoke village. With the support of the Sisters and the opportunity of guided study and coaching, Soni was able to write her matriculation exam in 2014, demonstrating a tenacity that would remain a constant in her life.

In 2016, Soni was in an arranged marriage. This union birthed her first child, Supriya, a victim of cerebral palsy who tragically passed away in late 2020. But before that, on Nov. 16, 2019, Soni welcomed her second child, Mayank, into the world.

A series of family disputes and her husband’s inability to provide for the family due to his mental health led Soni to return to her childhood home in 2020. However, the family dynamics proved equally challenging, with Soni and Mayank facing hostility from her brother.

Despite the adversities, Soni has found a way to support herself and Mayank. Every day, she travels on her battery-operated tricycle to Asha Kiran, where she makes jalmuri — a sprouted gram mixture — to sell to the children at Chirag Vidyalaya. She also helps prepare meals for the hostel children, despite the physical difficulty of her task.

Every month, she saves an average of 1,000 rupees ($13.50), which she dutifully deposits into her bank account. That modest income, along with the daily meals provided at Asha Kiran, keeps her and her son nourished.

Adding to her support is Maria Shyama, a generous benefactor who has committed to providing monthly donations to assist Soni and her son. This contribution goes towards medical treatment for Mayank, clothing for both mother and son, and most importantly, for housing accommodations.

Maria emerges as a beacon of hope and generosity. The role she plays in Soni’s life is both transformative and essential. Shyama’s monthly donations with the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth have provided a lifeline for Soni and her son, enabling them to access medical care, purchase clothing, and, most importantly, secure a safe and stable housing accommodation. Her financial assistance has provided immediate relief and facilitated a better future for Soni and Mayank. In doing so, Maria exemplifies the profound difference that one person can make in the lives of others, particularly those living on society’s margins. Her kindness underscores the power of philanthropy in creating ripples of change, fostering resilience, and instilling hope in the face of adversity.

In spite of the countless hardships she has faced, Soni finds joy in her everyday life, especially in the company of her son and the Sisters and children at Chirag Vidyalaya.

Through a life filled with challenges, Soni’s story is a testament to the human spirit’s capacity to rise above adversities. It also underscores the power of generous hearts like Maria Shyama’s and the importance of initiatives such as the Sisters of Charity of Nazareth and EPDO in uplifting those in need.

This narrative is a poignant reminder that even in the face of crippling adversity, there exists a profound resilience within us all and a capacity for empathy and kindness in others that should never be underestimated.


  1. jessie saldanha

    Thanks Spalding for sharing this real life story. Certainly a profound life story of resilience & hope. Thanks to the generosity of Maria Shyama, a generous benefactor to breath new life & bring hope to Soni.
    Sony’s indomitable courage & resilience made her what she is today. Bravo to Soni & her son Mayank!!! wish them well in their future.

  2. rita puthenkalam

    Bravo to Soni and her cheerfulness and tenacity!

  3. Angie Shaughnessy SCN

    Thank God for these beautiful people.


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