Manipal and his father came to the EARTHSPEAK speech camp in India dressed in the simple dress of the rural people and carrying all they owned on their backs. They were both barefoot. In the father's pocket was a bag of lentils, their food for the week they would be staying. He didn't know that food, transportation, and training were all provided at no cost.
The father knelt to bless the feet of the EARTHSPEAK team as they walked into the room. He was a simple man from a remote village over 500 kilometers from Hyderabad. He brought his son to learn how to help him speak normally.
Father and son worked hard during that first visit. It was only a mini-camp, so not much help could be given. Six months later they appeared again, ready for more work and showing broad smiles and grateful hearts.
The next time the team saw Manipal and his father, they had made much progress. We could see the new confidence and hear the speech changes. Manipal's father felt such gratitude that he sang praise to the EARTHSPEAK team in his native Telugu language.
One day when the parents were talking about the challenges of a child with cleft lip and palate, Manipal's father rose and told his story.
After his son's birth the family rushed to him and urged him to let the boy die. Just expose him and be done with it. The father was troubled and spent many days deliberating. The village health provider told the father that if he decided to kill the boy, the health provider would take him and raise him as his own.
Manipal's father chose life for his son. Their family cast them out, and they had to struggle on their own. When they heard about the free surgery they could get for Manipal, they took advantage of that opportunity. When they returned to the village, people began to say how lucky Manipal was to have gained a new appearance.
But Manipal's speech problems were severe, and he could not attend school.
One day Manipal's father got a note from the hospital where the surgery was performed to tell him that EARTHSPEAK would provide free speech training. Manipal and his father came to the speech camp, and they hoped and believed.
Today Manipal is the luckiest boy in his village. He is a handsome lad of 12. He and his father have shoes, and Manpial has money to go to school, thanks to an EARTHSPEAK benefactor.
The photo of Manipal, his father, and the EARTHSPEAK intern was taken because the teachers at Manipal's school have built an altar to the luckiest boy in the village, and they wanted pictures of the angels who had made it possible.