Tarik Kadri (MSW 2012) had been studying yoga in India for a month in 2008, but he couldn’t calm his mind. He kept picturing the faces of the orphans he had seen in Bihar, in northeast India. The children, their feet bare and hair uncombed, didn’t have clean water, fresh produce or medical necessities. “It was the first time I felt compassion in a physical way,” he recalls.
Kadri, 33, was raised in a low-income, single-parent household in London, Ontario. “When I was a kid, there were people helping me at the food bank and the community centre,” says Kadri, who is a military social worker. “I always said, ‘When I grow up I’m going to beat this poverty.’” It was that sense of hope that he couldn’t find within the walls of those orphanages.
When he came home to Canada, Kadri founded the Paper Kite Children’s Foundation in 2009; the first branch was in Vancouver and others soon opened in Ottawa and Toronto. Paper Kite’s volunteers buy fruits and vegetables in Bihar to stimulate the local economy, and reduce water-borne diseases by educating caregivers about clean hygiene and working to improve existing water systems. They also provide school supplies, bedding and essential medical items. More than $22,000 in supplies have been purchased in the last two years. They’re still looking for help, through donations, volunteers and corporate sponsorships. Paper Kite’s work is particularly important in a region of India that has a 64 per cent literacy rate, and where more than half of all children are malnourished.
Kadri goes back to Bihar every year to check on the progress made and to purchase supplies there, instead of sending money. With Paper Kite’s help, two orphanages have expanded to accommodate more children in safer, cleaner conditions. “Our hope is that some of these kids will go on to college or university,” Kadri says. “We just want to provide opportunities that wouldn’t be there if we weren’t there.”