“What do you want to be when you grow up?”
Goutham’s deep, brown eyes lit up; there is something within them, confident and hopeful, that shines out and captures whomever he is speaking to.
“A pilot,” he smiles, crinkling his nose up innocently.
That crinkled nose, coupled with his frame worthy smile, will stop you in your tracks. The cadence of his voice – soft, but sure in each word spoken, affirms he is a boy who thinks before he speaks. And because he speaks softer than most, you must lean in to listen, to hear.
At seven years old, Goutham can recall watching his father endure pain as throat and kidney problems led to his mother becoming a single parent with two children to raise. Although she worked whatever jobs she could find, Goutham’s mother decided to send him to live in a children’s hostel with the hope that he would receive better care and be afforded the opportunity to attend a better school than the government school he had been attending. While that hostel didn’t offer the most ideal living situation, Goutham’s story found renewed hope in August of 2014, when he moved onto the Suzuki Samuel India Hope Campus.
The young boy who had watched his father suffer from significant pain, and who had experienced his own significant pain, now lives in one of the homes on the campus with 7 other boys who have become his brothers. Goutham is cared for by caregivers Swaroopa and Rajini and is nurtured by Adam, Amos, and a growing team of Back2Back staff.
Goutham is now attending a school with a higher academic rigor. In his second year, he is a hard-working student who is catching on to new lessons and subjects and catching up academically.
If you were to ask him yourself about his dreams for his future, you would see his face light up. His attentive, brown eyes seem to get warmer when he speaks about a future worth hoping and fighting for. It is through the love and support he receives from staff and sponsors that he knows his desires can be a reality – he has come to understand that he isn’t the only one rallying to bring this future vision to fruition; he has people who love him deeply that will work to help him accomplish his goals.
He is most animated and energetic when playing cricket or soccer on campus with his friends. He also enjoys Blokus, a game of strategy that’s growing his cognitive abilities. Goutham is kind and generous and enjoys telling and playing jokes to gather a smile from whoever is nearby.
Goutham is eager to answer questions and ask them in return. His slim frame happily curls up against the steps of the India campus as he laughs musically at a joke or an American visitor attempting a word in Telegu, but his patience precedes him. His eye contact and the small motion of moving his head from side to side allow others to see the heart of gold that radiates in everything he does.
By allowing Goutham, and the other children on the campus, a safe place to rest and eat, play and laugh, Back2Back is creating space for children to be just that – children. Goutham need not be defined by where he has come from, but by the hope he receives from the people who lovingly support and invest into his life and dreams. Once a little boy unsure of what might happen next, Goutham has become someone who feels the freedom to run and enjoy, inquire and celebrate, to plan and dream out loud.