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Making a difference

Kim Fitzgibbon just returned from India, and she’s coming to dinner.

She teaches math (PHD, no less) at the Sacred Heart Prep College in Atherton, Calif.

“I wanted to see what the Sacred Heart sisters are doing in Mumbai and Bhokar,” she says.

“How long did it take you to get to India?” I ask.

“Fifteen hours. First, I stayed with a family in a high rise apartment in Mumbai. It was very nice, but close by were corrugated and cardboard settlements, with dirt floors, crammed full of people. ‘They’re happy,’ people would say, but come on, how can you be happy living with one water spigot, and one toilet for a mob of people?” she says.

“I suppose you could say they’re happy, because they aren’t starving, to death,” I add.

At the Sacred Heart College in Mumbai, Kim spoke to a large audience, some attendees with doctorate degrees.

“Ron, they would not believe me when I told them my family gave me a financial trust, and my husband isn’t allowed to touch it,” she said.

“Is the Caste system still in force?” I ask.

“No, it’s officially over but, when we went to a very posh restaurant, I got a scolding for shaking hands, and speaking with the server. ‘You shouldn’t have done that. He’s a ‘Delit.’ The man wouldn’t even look my way, when my friends were there, but when they left, he came over, and he spoke perfect English,” she says.

Mumbai has a population the size of California.

“What’s the traffic like?” I ask.

“I rented a taxi to take me, and my chaperone to Bhokar. It took 14 hours to go 375 miles.”

“What is Bhokar like?” I ask.

“It’s absolutely rural. People had never seen an American. They would rush over to me, and take a selfie. Everyone has a cell phone, but no wi-fi. Everyone told me, I shouldn’t go India, too many Muslims but I was introduced to a Muslim family, and they invited me to dinner. A U.S. conciliate officer told me, ‘Eat everything on your plate, or you will deeply offend them.’ So, there I sat, in front of the entire family eating, while they sat and watched. As poor as they were, I was the guest, and should be honored,” she says.

Kim is a very compassionate, and caring woman, but she’s a realist too.

“You must learn to speak English. You won’t even be allowed to interview for a job, I told the girls. When I go back to Atherton, I’m going to show them these pictures, and maybe they’ll fund a classroom,” she says.”

“What’s this picture of?” I ask.

“I’m telling the girls how important an education is. I’m also suggesting that for $50, they can get a sewing machine, and can earn money. If in my life, I can make a difference in these girl’s lives, I’ll be happy,” Kim says.

Ron Walker lives in Smith Valley. He can be reached at walkover@smithnv.com.