Frequently asked questions (FAQs)
Here are some helpful answers to questions we get all the time.
Here are some helpful answers to questions we get all the time.
Mother Miracle is a 501 (c) (3) NGO registered in the USA, and Mother Miracle Trust is a 12A and 80G NGO registered in India. We run on a lean annual budget, which covers program-wide expenses and salaries for 70 staff members. Our Founder & President, Shahla Ettefagh, volunteers her time to Mother Miracle and abstains from receiving a salary. We maximize the impact of every dollar we receive from our donors and sponsors. Each year we significantly impact the lives of 600 students through our K-12 school. We are committed to integrity and transparency, which is why we published information about our current financial position here.
Moreover, Mother Miracle School has a unique niche in that we focus our services on children born into the slums of Rishikesh. Each of our children is uniquely positioned to succeed in the long-term. Our vision is for 100% of our graduates to go to college and become employed to break the poverty cycle for themselves and their families. Our big brother/big sister program requires that graduates who become employed pay it forward by sponsoring one of our younger students.
No, our supporters, volunteers, staff, children, and their families span all beliefs and backgrounds. And we all share the same goal: breaking the cycle of poverty in India.
During a visit to India in 1995, Shahla Ettefagh was so moved by seeing children living in extreme poverty that she vowed to return to India to dedicate her life to helping poor children and families, especially women. In 2002, she fearlessly sold her house, business, and personal belongings. She said goodbye to her family, friends, and the love of her life. She ripped up all her photo albums to avoid the temptation of returning and moved to India to start a new life without ever looking back. Find out more here.
We invite anyone with an open heart and a desire to serve to join us in the beautiful city of Rishikesh as a long-term volunteer – ideally, 2 weeks or more. We will do everything we can to make your transition smooth and comfortable. Rishikesh offers a peaceful backdrop to slow down and reconnect with yourself. Sounds of chanting and sacred bells can be heard throughout the day, while yoga and massage classes can be found in abundance. If you are looking for a lifestyle change or a way to give back, join us in the yoga capital of the world! Find out more here.
Of course! Donations make our programs possible and fill gaps in funding for children who do not have sponsors yet, or if a sponsor left the program due to financial constraints. The general fund is also used for our “all you can eat” lunch program. Click here to make a donation.
Thank you for thinking of donating! Please email us at email@example.com, and we can work together to determine what is most needed at that time. By making a general donation to Mother Miracle School, you are assured that the money will go to our most pressing needs and current fundraising initiative.
At our Sponsor a Child page, click on the child you would like to sponsor. This will lead you to the dedicated page of the child. You can now choose to sponsor monthly or annual in the Dropdown menu on the right side. Click “Sponsor this child” to put the sponsorship into your cart. You can now proceed to the checkout and select your preferred payment method. Clicking “Start your sponsorship” processes the payment and starts your sponsorship. Next, we will send you details about your child via email, including the photo and information about his/her family and interests. We will connect your name with the child’s name in our database so that 100% of your donations moving forward go directly to your sponsored child. Aside from payment, there is nothing further you need to do to complete the process of sponsorship.
Your sponsorship is fully tax-deductible. It costs $600 per year ($50/month) to support one child. This comes down to $1.66 per day! To sponsor a child from Kindergarten through 12th grade, this important investment in a child’s life and future costs only $8,400. We accept PayPal and Stripe payments.
Your donation is fully tax-deductible in the USA & India. 100% of donations are directly invested in our school programs.
Aside from consistent financial support ($50/month), there is nothing additional required of you as a sponsor. That said, we have many opportunities to deepen the relationship if that’s of interest. This could include writing letters to your child, sending them packages, buying them gifts or a birthday cake from our Gift Shop, or planning a visit to Rishikesh to visit your child in person.
Ideally, we would like our sponsors to commit to their child until he or she finishes the 12th grade. Every year you sponsor the child, it only costs $600, which breaks down to $1.66 per day! Many of our sponsors have stayed with their children from the beginning. If you cannot make a long-term commitment, we are grateful for donations, which will help fill the gap for children who are not matched with a sponsor. Through your gift of sponsorship, you are enabling a child to reach their fullest potential by receiving a high-quality education that they would otherwise be unable to access.
We do not advise shipping gifts from abroad because we cannot guarantee they will make it through customs. However, we can buy everything your child needs in India for less than what it may cost overseas. Visit our Gift Shop to purchase a birthday cake or another special gift, and we will buy the item locally and send you a picture of your child having received it. To give your child money, please complete a one-time donation online and follow up with an email to firstname.lastname@example.org explaining the desired use of funds.
Once a year, your child will send you a personal package including a handwritten letter, artwork, report card, a photo, and updates about their height & weight. Additionally, Mother Miracle sends updates throughout the year covering happenings and progress at the school. Aside from this, our sponsors are not expected or required to interact with their child in any other way. That said, we have many opportunities to deepen the relationship if that’s of interest.
Letters & gifts: You are welcome to write your child a letter or send them a small package at any time. You can buy a gift for your child by visiting our “Child’s Wishlist.” We will purchase the gift locally and send you a photo of your child with the gift as a thank you.
Visiting your Child: Many sponsors have also found the experience of visiting their child at Mother Miracle School extremely rewarding and life-changing. This is by no means expected. However, if you decide to visit, we would be thrilled to arrange a personal introduction between you and your child and the child’s parents. It is likely you would be able to visit your child’s home, as well as spend quality time together.
It is extraordinary when individual sponsors commit to supporting their child throughout their academic career, from Kindergarten through college. Sometimes sponsors support a child from K-12, and then we have to find a different sponsor who will support that child’s higher education. However, establishing a long-term relationship between the sponsor and child from kindergarten through college is ideal. It creates a deep parent-like bond between sponsor and child.
Long-term Sponsorship Costs = $18,400 – including kindergarten to college education, dormitory, and food.
From Kindergarten through 12th grade: $8,400 – covers academic enrollment, healthcare, family emergency support, school materials, summer & winter uniforms, a glass of milk for breakfast, “all you can eat” lunch, and access to all extracurricular activities, including computer training, karate, art, dance, music, and singing, sports, yoga, and meditation.
College Tuition in India: Approximately $10,000 for 4 years
We are not an orphanage. We are a day school, meaning the students live at home with family or friends and come to and from our school daily. Some of our students have one or more deceased parents, which severely limits the family’s means of supporting themselves. We consider this during our admissions process when we select our children from thousands of applicants to find children from the most disadvantaged and poorest families.
Hours vary depending on the volunteer’s duration of stay and project focus. Some volunteers enjoy working full time, while others assist for part of the day or a few times a week. If it is a good fit, we can be flexible and do our best to work around your schedule.
Whatever your hours, please bring your passion and commitment! This means being on time, reliable in your communication and attendance, and taking responsibility for your work quality. It is always okay to say no to a task, but once you agree, please follow through. We are counting on you!
Here are some examples of activity timings:
No, Hindi is not required. But if you feel inspired, you can learn a few Hindi phrases and greetings to make a good impression with the kids! All of our classes are taught in English, and strong English proficiency is required if you plan to teach in primary school. You can speak any language to teach or assist with classes like arts & crafts, dance, or yoga.
Volunteers are expected to respect the modest Indian culture. Please cover your legs to the ankles (no shorts or skirts), cover your shoulders (no tank tops), avoid low necklines and the display of tattoos, and no tight-fitting clothing. Volunteers should not wear clothing advertising drugs, alcohol, cigarettes, or other substances or activities which are not child-appropriate.
If you give us enough advance notice of your arrival, we can assist with your adjustment to Rishikesh. This could include helping pick you up at the train station or nearby airport or finding a hotel, guest house, or apartment near our school. Once you arrive, we will give you a warm welcome by giving you a school tour and helping to orient you to your tasks.
Suggested housing near the school. For all bookings, please say you are a volunteer for Mother Miracle to get the best rate!
For private taxi, we recommend Many Tour & Travels: +91(885) 953-4242, email@example.com. Manny is the owner and a good friend of Mother Miracle. Say that you are a volunteer with us, and he will take care of you!
Arriving by flight – the closest airport is in Dehradun. There are daily flights available from Delhi to Dehradun for $30-$60USD, depending on when you book. It is a short 45-minute flight. Once you arrive in Dehradun, government taxis are available with fixed prices to take you to Rishikesh. It should cost about 800 rupees.
Arriving by train – You can catch a train from Delhi to Haridwar, and it takes about 7 hours. We recommend taking 2nd class or 1st class, which is much more comfortable and only a little extra money. Once you arrive, there are government taxis with fixed prices to take you to Rishikesh. It should cost about 1,000 rupees and take 40 minutes to get to Rishikesh.
Arriving by car – You can hire a driver from Delhi to take you to Rishikesh. It will take about 6-7 hours, and prices will vary. This will be much more expensive than the train, and you will likely face traffic.
If you want to donate, it is best to donate online to our general fund or wait until you arrive in Rishikesh to purchase the items you wish to donate. Many visitors and volunteers bring candies, toys, pencils, and markers from abroad, but all these items are readily available right here and at a much lower cost! We already have plenty of pencils and art supplies in our school, so we recommend waiting until you get here to work together to discuss the most pressing needs of the school. Plus, you can travel lighter and help support our local economy! If you plan to raise money from friends and family before coming, please send us an e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org to ask what is most needed. Thank you, you are the BEST!
Here are some examples of how you could treat our kids:
Buying apples or oranges from our local market – 400 apples or oranges for 400 children and staff costs just $200USD.
Sponsoring lunch for a day – our nutritious “all you can eat” lunch costs $185 a day for our staff and students. This is a daily expense.
No, there is no fee. We are grateful for your time and appreciate that you want to share your energy with us! If you enjoy your time at Mother Miracle and believe in the work we are doing, we always appreciate volunteers who help spread the word to their friends and family or consider getting further involved by sponsoring a child or making a donation. No, there is no fee. We are grateful for your time and appreciate that you want to share your energy with us! If you enjoy your time at Mother Miracle and believe in the work we are doing, we always appreciate volunteers who help spread the word to their friends and family or consider getting further involved by sponsoring a child or making a donation.
In Western culture, it is common-place to exchange hugs with people of the opposite sex. This is not considered appropriate in India. If you are a man, please do not touch or hug any female students and do not shake hands with any of the Indian female staff members. Instead, it is customary to put your palms together in a prayer position and say the respectful Indian greeting of “namaste.” If you are a woman.
To maintain a positive environment for our children, we are a drug, smoking, and alcohol-free school. No vulgarities or obscenities will be permitted while working in the school, and all students, teachers, and staff members must be treated with the utmost respect. We maintain a strict zero-tolerance policy in which volunteers out of compliance will be asked to leave the school immediately, and their volunteer term will end.