Paying Forward

Through the years that the organization “Canadian World Education Foundation” has helped needy widows, giving aid for the education of their children, many mothers and their children have written to us. Some of the asked questions in these letters include: “Who are you?,” “How did you start assisting us?,” “How did you come to know about our difficulties?,” “Why would you help us when you don’t know who we are?,” and “What do you expect from us?” Answers to these questions are given below. These are the answers for all loving children and dear mothers who are associated with us.

Who are we and how did we start assisting you?

My name is Alka Chandna, and I am the daughter of Mrs. Krishna Chandna. My mother’s mother became a widow when my mother was only one year old. Even though my mother’s father had passed away, she was still able to receive her education due to the loving support from her grandparents. My mother always knew that without that support, she would not be able to realize her educational ambition. As a result, she always felt that she should also do her part to help others in a similar circumstance. She and my father feel that it is the responsibility of society to provide support for the education of children whose fathers expire.

In 1996, the effort was launched for this project. My parents started helping for the education of seven children of three mothers. The number of children assisted for their education started increasing steadily. 96 mothers were helped for the education of their 154 children in the year 2000. When friends and relatives in Canada, India and U.S.A. learnt about this project, they started joining in the year 2001. As a result, this mission, with its big dreams and humble beginnings, was converted into an organization of friends. Everyone in the organization wholeheartedly supports the cause.

Today, this organization, called ‘Canadian World Education Foundation (CWEF)’, has about 110 members. I am also proud member of this organization. It was only with the growth in CWEF’s membership and outstanding support from schools it receives that the organization has made enormous progress. Without the support and hard work of members of CWEF and staff members of schools that CWEF works with, the service CWEF is able to do would be limited. CWEF will help for the education of about 1250 children of about 1000 mothers in 2015. These children will be from 42 schools and 11 colleges in 10 states of India. CWEF works with the society ‘Homes for Orphans (HFO)’ in New Delhi, schools and college students for its operation in India.

How did we know your difficulties and think about you?

All members of CWEF are aware of the financial difficulties faced by the recipients of our aid. Some members are themselves, children of widows who also received help for their school and college education. All of us know that many children whose fathers have died are forced to leave school to help support the family. They are then condemned to a life of abject poverty. Members of CWEF share stories of struggles that widows face in trying to educate their children. Out of many stories, I am sharing my mother’s story with you. This story helps us understand the role that society and family must play for the education of children after a mother loses her husband.

My mother was one year old when her father passed away in Amritsar. My grandmother was 18 years old. She moved back, with her baby, to the house where her parents and three brothers lived in the village named Bajwara near Hoshiarpur. The society did not accept or allow the remarriage of a widow even if she was just eighteen. My grandmother had received only primary school education before her marriage, but this education was insufficient to become a self-supporting individual. She had a long life ahead of her. She also had to raise her child. My grandmother’s parents and her brothers understood exactly the challenges that my grandmother faced. And they made an outstanding decision for the future of my grandmother. My grandmother was sent to Lahore where she received education for six years. She came back to Bajwara as a school teacher. My mother was a student of grade 2 in the same school.

My mother’s maternal grandmother raised my mother as her own child. My mother was showered with love by her experienced grandparents. She also received wise guidance which was aimed at helping her realize her dreams and full potential. My mother finished her B.A. degree from D.A.V. College for girls in Hoshiarpur. She then moved to Delhi to live with her maternal uncle’s family and study for her master’s degree in Sanskrit.

My mother had received full support and protection in her life so that the pain and loss resulting from her own father’s absence was minimized. She noticed that most others who also lost their fathers did not get any support from anyone or anywhere. My mother remembers many mothers who were unable to afford the education of their children. She also remembers many bright children of these mothers who became child laborers. It pained her greatly when her classmates in primary school, middle school and high school left studies after their fathers died, due to their mothers’ inability to afford the cost of their education. She was pained but was unable to help. She decided during those days that she would repay the kindness she received from her uncles, grandparents and their families to others in a similar situation—what is called “pay forward.”

After receiving her master’s degree, my mother taught in a private college in Delhi for about a year. During this period, she met and taught Mrs. Madhur Bhashni Rehani. They both liked each other very much and became very close friends. My mother called her friend by the name Rani Didi. Rani Didi understood and shared my mother’s pain for the children of widows.

After three years in Delhi, my mother moved back to Hoshiarpur to work as a lecturer of Sanskrit in D.A.V. College for girls. She had studied for her bachelor’s degree from this college. She taught in this college for six years before migrating to Canada with her husband and their two 3 daughters. I am one of those two daughters. My father is Rani Didi’s brother. Rani Didi is my aunt Rani (Rani Bua ji) When it was decided to start educational assistance for the children of widows in India, Rani Didi, her family members and her friends joined the effort and the society ‘Homes for Orphans (HFO)’ was started after getting approval from the Government of India. CWEF is able to assist widows in India only because HFO provides most efficient support for the cause. CWEF sends funds to HFO to provide aid to mothers for the education of their children.

All members of CWEF know the challenges each one of you is facing. You are not only in our thoughts and feelings, you are also a part of our prayers and blessings. We wish the very best for you. We also know the famous line “this too shall pass.” In spite of the challenges life has placed before your family, you and your mothers will have a very happy life after only a few years. You will also get the pleasure of helping others once you are well settled. You are a part of our extended family like we are a part of your extended family. We always want to hear from you the words, “I made it and have realized my educational goal.”

What do we expect from you?

CWEF is very proud of the students it assists because we know they are working hard to make a difference in the lives of their families. We are sure that they will achieve whatever they put their mind to doing. Members of CWEF may never meet some of the students receiving assistance but the success story of each student pleases them and inspires them. We know that children assisted by CWEF will receive inspiration from its work and make a difference in the lives of others in the future when they are able to do so. They will also assist for the education of children of widows and pay it forward.


Written By:

Dr. Alka Chandna,
Daughter of Krishna and Om Chandna