The Eric L. Brandenburg
Eric L. Brandenburg
After our book Living on a Dollar a Day was released, we established this fund at the urging of one of our Board members. We discovered that some of the children we were encountering throughout our travels were living in such dire circumstances that absent our intervention, they would likely either live a life in extreme poverty or simply die. As to these children, this fund commits to an individualized plan of long-term support, and in doing so, pays for all their basic needs and education in order to ensure that they leave poverty and obtain a chance at a decent life. Currently, 13 total children have been served by this program and all are living in India or Ghana, or are attending university in the United States.
Meet The Children
Karishma was the first child we decided to help through this program. When we found her she was four years old and living with her family in a hole in the ground covered with a tarp on the side of a road in Northern India. Her mother had migrated from Nepal but could find only limited work as a road construction worker making about eighteen cents an hour. TFI helped get this family of five a home and put this child in private school. In 2018, she graduated from college and is now a teacher at a primary school near where she grew up.
Upon the release of our book Living on a Dollar a Day, we were asked to return to Ghana to help the kids we had photographed living on an e-waste dumpsite. One child we hoped to find was named Philimon, but he was nowhere to be found. Instead, we found a boy named Solomon who worked every day at the dumpsite in order to earn the pennies he needed for his education. Inspired by his love for education, we took him out of this slum and sent him to boarding school where he could advance much further in his life. As expected, he is an honor student.
Her name is Fatima, and at eight years old we found her, with several other children, attempting to survive on the e-waste dumpsite in the city of Accra in Ghana, West Africa. We were there chronicling stories from around the world for our book Living on a Dollar a Day. The bucket which Fatima rests on her head was used to hold tiny bits of metal which she gathered off the ground to sell for pennies in order to simply get through another day. All the while, she was breathing in toxic smoke that would surely kill her if she was not removed from this environment. Thanks to this fund, Fatima is at a boarding school and doing quite well.
Asana was found living in squalor. Seen here to the left in the pink pants, she was wearing the only clothes she had and slept each night in a shack with a group of girls and young women so that together they might protect themselves from being attacked and possibly raped or killed. She was about a year older than Fatima and we could not leave her trapped in a life with no future. Asana is now also at a boarding school where she is looking forward to graduating from high school in a few years.
Ayesha is seen here lost in the garbage that at the time surrounded her life. She was the oldest of the girls we removed from this dumpsite in 2015. Twelve years old and quite depressed, she was struggling with the life the world had dealt her. In short, she had come to Accra from an impoverished village in Northern Ghana with hopes of better her life, but with no help from anyone, she was left with no options other than a life of necessity. Today, thanks to the fund, Ayesha is trained as a baker and will soon be able to support herself.
This is Elvis, whom we found at a boarding school where we had placed the three young girls from the dumpsite. School administrators excluded him from classes because his mother could no longer pay his tuition. He was living there at the whim of other students who would bring him food as he slept on the floor in the corner of a dormitory, often hiding from the administrators. We paid his tuition, found his mother, and have continued to support his education. Today this talented and bright young man is hoping to become a commercial artist.
Sangeeta was found in a beggar’s encampment in Northern India. At the age of two, she only weighed nine pounds. This was because her mother had decided to starve her for the purpose of using a starving child to gain more sympathy from passersby as she begged on the street. She used whatever money she could acquire to feed her other children. After we found Sangeeta, we saw to it that she received medical care and later placed her in a boarding school where she is now thriving. Sangeeta, along with Fatima above, was featured in our film Living on a Dollar a Day.
Dennis, Rhoda, and Jennifer
Dennis, Rhoda, and Jennifer, 2020
These are the three children of Darry, our local guide in Ghana. Darry has worked with us for six years and has been helping us monitor and care for the sponsored students while his own children have needed help, as well. Jennifer is the three-year-old, named after TFI’s Jennifer, who went to visit the students shortly after we placed them in boarding school and has worked closely with Darry to manage their care. Without Darry’s help on the ground, we could not help all these children succeed.
Dennis, Rhoda, and Jennifer, 2022
Meet two new arrivals to our Children's Fund!
Thulasi Priya Ramesh
Thulasi Priya Ramesh, the first recipient of our new Priyanka Singh Scholarship, is pictured here with Diane Brandenburg, principal donor of our Children’s Fund and supporter of the work of the Shanti Bhavan school in India. Thulasi was born in Southern India to an impoverished family and began attending Shanti Bhavan at age four. Fast forward 16 years, and Thulasi now attends the College of Idaho, after graduating from Shanti Bhavan with all A’s. Our Children’s Fund started supporting her education here in the United States in the spring of 2021. Upon graduating from college, Thulasi hopes to work in marketing, ideally for an environmental nonprofit organization, and be able to send money home to her family.
Kusuma Kumar is the latest recipient of our Priyanka Singh Scholarship. Born in a small village in India, Kusuma attended the Shanti Bhavan school, which aims to help students leave the life they were born into and someday be able to help others escape from the lives of the extreme poor. Kusuma enrolled at Middlebury College in Vermont in 2021, and the Children’s Fund began supporting her education there shortly after. Kusuma hopes to major in Computer Science, and upon graduating her dream is to work with artificial intelligence to bridge technical gaps in India’s farming communities and give back to her community.
Gone But Not Forgotten
We knew Priyanka from age five until shortly after her 17th birthday when she was found dead in her home under very suspicious circumstances. In our minds, it is easy for us to piece together a collage of scenes of her as a barefoot child walking to school in her new uniform or playing behind her home among the wild pigs and the garbage they fed on, and as she grew, how her face would continue to light up when she talked about maybe someday coming to America. She was ambitious, often telling us how she wanted to grow up and to one day become an airline pilot. We would tell her that being a pilot is not an easy task and that she would have to work hard on her math and science skills and continue to practice her English. She would always say, “Yes, sir”. Sir was the first word she ever learned in English. Always smiling, always optimistic, and always happy although she had so little. She was a gift to all of us at our foundation, one that will never be forgotten. For one we knew for all too short a time, all of us at our foundation miss her dearly.