Warm August days are made for summer reading, and so we thought we’d share a story this month and introduce one of our key staff members at Miracle Foundation. Her name is Niyoshi and her story begins in India…
Niyoshi Mehta was lucky.
She was born in 1986 in what was then Bombay into an upper middle-class home with a large extended family. From the day she arrived, she was surrounded by support.
When Niyoshi was 13 and her older sister was 16, her parents traded their entire Indian life for a life in America, hoping to ensure the best possible education for their two daughters. All children should be so lucky.
“On the day we left India,” Niyoshi recalls, “more than thirty people came to the airport to see us off. The entire apartment complex came to wish us well. It was a big deal.”
Their destination was French Lick, Indiana, which sounded like an exotic destination to a young teen girl. “I thought it was a resort town because it had a large golf resort, and so I imagined the beach not far away and jet skis like I saw on TV.”
But this was far from the reality waiting for her on the ground. French Lick was a small town. It had one stop light and was only famous for being the birthplace of Larry Bird, the former professional basketball player. Niyoshi remembers driving two hours into Kentucky to find Indian spices. There were only 54 students in her graduating class.
Though they were the first Indian family ever to live in French Lick, the Mehtas were welcomed into the community and in time, Niyoshi was accepted into Indiana University where she studied marketing and international business.
“I was always interested in social causes, but I didn’t pursue it,” Niyoshi remembers. “There was a lot of peer pressure. Everyone in the business school wanted a big job in Chicago, so I thought that’s what I would go for.”
But after graduation and an uninspiring first job, Niyoshi followed her parents down to Austin, Texas. It was a fateful decision.
During graduate school in Austin, she volunteered here at Miracle Foundation.
“By then, I hadn’t been back to India in ten years,” Niyoshi says, “so working for Miracle Foundation gave me the connection I was missing. I also loved the people at Miracle and their commitment to children. I still do.”
Before long we offered her a full-time position, and she’s never looked back.
Today, Niyoshi is our Director of Global Programs where work continues to evolve. “We’re no longer about orphanages and thousands of children. Today, we’re working to get the 5.4 million children living in institutions back into families. We’re focused on innovation and scalability. We’re not afraid to try new things if it brings better quality services to children. And if we fail, we fix it. I like that.”
Still, even as our work becomes more global, our heart is still in India—which is a feeling Niyoshi knows all too well.
“I still have lots of family back in India,” Niyoshi says, “and I’ve been back more than twenty times. But it was my first visit to a CCI (Child Care Institution) that helped me put this work and my childhood in perspective.”
It was 2013. Niyoshi was traveling as part of a Miracle Foundation team visit and they were at an orphanage around dinner time. “On that trip, it really hit me how different life was in an orphanage compared to how I grew up. I was born in India like those children, but they had a totally different experience. As I stood there, someone rang a loud bell and the kids lined up and waited to be fed. There was no dinner table and parents asking questions about the day. When I think back on that moment, it’s so clear to me that children do not belong in institutions. They belong in families. And so we work every day to make that happen. “
We’re so grateful for Niyoshi’s compassion and talent. We’re also grateful for every one of our supporters who make our work possible. Happy Summer and we hope you’re enjoying all that this time of year has to offer.