Rosalie, a trained speech therapist and special educator, had always dreamed that some day she would volunteer at one of Mother Teresa’s orphanages in Kolkata. In 1993, she wrote to Mother Teresa offering to donate her professional services and received a reply that said, “Please come to Kolkata. God bless you.” Rosalie inserted the letter into a book entitled Something Beautiful for God, which was placed in a bookcase on the top floor of her house.
Six years later in the spring of 1999, while resting on her bed wondering where she would spend her summer holiday, she suddenly heard a thump, thump, thump. Curious, she got up to see what caused the noise. There at the bottom of the stairs lay the book Something Beautiful For God — with Mother Teresa’s signed letter inside. Rosalie took this as a sign that she was meant to go to Kolkata, and thus her journey began.
During the two months she spent volunteering at Daya Dan orphanage many of the disabled children learned how to walk, feed and dress themselves. When Rosalie returned to New Jersey at the end of the summer she could not stop thinking about the children – so she took an early retirement, turned around and flew back to Kolkata. She brought with her specialized chairs that enabled some of the children to sit upright for the very first time in their lives. Rosalie also donated pediatric wheelchairs, giving many children their first taste of independence. She created an in-house educational program so well structured that eight of the children were soon able to succeed in schools outside of the orphanage.
After two years Rosalie realized that these disabled children were the lucky ones – as compared to the thousands of vulnerable children living on Kolkata’s streets and in terrible slums. In January 2001 Rosalie and Janet Grosshandler, a New Jersey guidance counselor, co-founded Empower the Children (ETC), a nonprofit 501 (c) 3 organization headquartered in Jackson, New Jersey, USA.
Its Mission Statement is “To serve children in need, enriching them physically, intellectually and spiritually —allowing them to fulfill their life’s potential.”
The bylaws of Empower the Children stipulate that 90% of every tax-deductible contribution must be spent directly for the children. Only 10% is used for administrative costs.
Since moving to Kolkata Rosalie’s life has been radically altered, but not as dramatically as the lives of those she touches. Empower the Children has provided enriching programs for 400 destitute and disabled children as well as unskilled women who are taught a marketable trade.