“There is no one more powerful,
Than the one who trusts their own heart.”
― Mimi Novic
Let me tell you a story. It is one worthy of a blockbuster title, yet you’ll be unlikely to recognize any of the characters. It has heartbreak and sadness, but even more love and joy.
The tale starts on a winter’s day in Austin, Texas, in 1999: Caroline Boudreaux was busy planning a year-long international trip with her best friend, Chris. Already a successful businesswoman at 29, Caroline knew it was time to start searching for a deeper purpose and was hopeful the upcoming trip would provide some insight.
Little did Caroline know that day was the start of a journey that would change her life.
The Journey to Creating Miracles
“That’s the biggest scam on earth,” Caroline replied when Chris raised the idea of visiting the child she was sponsoring in India. “I mean, everybody knows that stuff isn’t real. There is no kid.”
Chris insisted. Caroline gave in. And five months later, the pair landed in a remote village in Odisha with a parade of locals awaiting their arrival. Amongst them stood a smiling boy holding a letter from Chris.
To say what they saw was a shock to the system is an understatement, with Caroline becoming deeply affected by the poverty she witnessed in the village. After a few nights with the community, the pair were invited to visit a local orphanage on Mothers Day 2000. It was this day that truly changed Caroline’s life forever.
The instant they arrived, the orphaned children clung to Chris and Caroline, starved for love and attention. One little girl, named Sheebani, relentlessly pressed her body against Caroline’s, desperate to feel the connection she so craved.
After Sheebani had fallen asleep in her arms, Caroline carefully carried the child to where she slept. Yet, there was no crib. Not for Sheebani, not for any of the children. Instead, there were splintered and stained wooden slabs – it was a heartbreaking sight.
“The minute I heard her bones hit that bed, I just broke,” Caroline says. “I thought, ‘What am I doing? I’m partying around the world, complaining that I don’t have a purpose, and then here are these children.”
The impact of the visit would stay with Caroline long after she had left.
“Seeing children hungry, sad and alone haunted me… I couldn’t get it out of my mind. I couldn’t un-see their vacant eyes, their wooden beds and the wet rice they were served for dinner. I knew that very day that I was born to help,” She says.
“I felt like I was given a job to do. I knew I could help, and I knew that if people had an opportunity to help them, they would. All of a sudden, I had a mission and could make a difference. [Sheebani] changed me.”
But working out exactly how to make a real difference was another matter.
A Brighter Future
There are countless ways to help the world, many of which seem overwhelming. For some, it can be hard to know where to begin, but Caroline truly believes a brighter future can come from helping the world’s children.
“The better our children do, the better the world does. They’re our most precious natural resource, and we need to care for them regardless of if they’re ‘ours’ or not. We need to remember that they’re all ‘ours’.”
Caroline saw a future, one within our lifetime, where every child has a loving family and can live a life of health, wellness and endless possibilities.
“I knew that the children were miracles, and with a foundation, they could achieve their full potential” she says.
It was with that thought that Caroline created Miracle Foundation. So began the long process of building an organization that would uplift children in need.
Hurdles and Heartbreak
“I had one sister who believed in me from the beginning, but the rest of my family and friends thought I was crazy,” Caroline admits, adding that they were right; what she wanted to achieve would take a miracle.
“It was so hard to figure out what to do and how to do it, so I just decided to do one thing per day,” Caroline says. “Some days I would spend an hour writing the articles of incorporation, other days I interviewed other people that ran non-profit organizations and some days I would pray that I could be an effective tool.”
There were many mishaps and learning curves to overcome, including a dodgy accountant who stole some of the donations. However, with her sheer determination and belief in the cause, Caroline turned even her largest obstacles into blessings.
“It was one of the biggest failures I’ve ever had,” Caroline says of when she discovered her accountant had deceived the foundation. “I called every single donor and told them the truth. People stuck with us, and we’ve been stronger ever since. We now have a motto: ‘In God we trust, everyone else brings receipts’.”
Coming from a corporate world was also an adjustment for Caroline, who says the standards held for non-profits are unrealistic.
“In the non-profit world, we get dinged for paying employees well and investing in marketing. That makes no sense to me. We are dependent on people to donate out of the kindness of their heart and even though we do awesome, incredible work, it’s very hard to know how much money we’ll get in a year, which makes it hard to budget. If I got to spend the time I do on developing programs for the poor instead of raising money, the world would be a very different place for the 15,000 children we support.”
Despite the struggles of building a non-profit, Caroline was humbled by the outpouring of support received for the cause. Donors immediately started stepping up and have continued to be there, helping thousands of vulnerable children.
“Miraculously, people of all ages, from all walks of life, and all socioeconomic backgrounds have joined us on this journey over the years. Thousands of people have taken a stand for children and donated to support our mission.”
A Family for Every Child in Our Lifetime
Caroline says there are four things we need to do to make her dream of ‘a family for every child’ a reality.
First, she says we need to change the narrative that foster care and orphanages are the best or only way forward for vulnerable children. With so many amazing projects and pilots around, traditional – and less ideal – solutions are outdated.
Second, Caroline wants to change the approach to helping children. “Every day around the world, social workers, caregivers and government officials make decisions that impact millions of vulnerable children. Along with UNICEF and other partners, Miracle Foundation provides training and educational resources for these ‘boots on the ground’ workers in the childcare ecosystem,” she says. Upskilling the workforce is essential to ensuring the needs of vulnerable children are being both understood and met.
Third, Caroline emphasises the difficulties of having sufficient funding. She is adamant that this needs to be addressed for charitable organisations to do their best work.
And finally, she says organisations need to share resources like tools and processes. Miracle Foundation is currently working with 256 other non-profits to make this a reality.
Creating Miracles Everyday
It has been 21 years since that fateful Mother’s Day. Since then, Caroline and her team at Miracle Foundation have improved the lives of more than 15,000 orphaned and vulnerable children at more than 300 orphanages in India.
One of these children is Naku. After losing both his parents in 2010, Nakul was placed in an orphanage. During his time in care, he yearned to be adopted, have a family, and belong. In 2017, Nakul’s dream came true. His adoption papers came through, and finally, he had a family of his own.
Nakul’s life is now unrecognisable. Miracle Foundation reports that every day when his father arrives home from work, Nakul runs to greet him with a big hug and that he says his favourite thing about being with a family is the special attention and love he gets from his parents. The way every childhood should be.
As for Sheebani, the little girl who inspired Caroline to take action – she is now in college training to be a teacher. Kalpana Kindo and Absolam Bira, two other children who inspired Caroline early on, are also on bright paths. Kalpana is currently studying to be a nurse, and Absolam is working as an engineer for a car company. “All three of these kids stay in touch with me, teach me, speak for other children and help with our strategy. They’re remarkable,” Caroline says.
Caroline believes the future is bright, not just for Miracle Foundation and the children they support but also for the world as a whole.
“Taking a look at global trends over the last 50 years, you’ll notice that the world is actually getting better,” she says. “There has never been a better time to be alive than right now. Life spans are up, conflict and wars are down, literacy is at an all-time high. Since 2000, we’ve seen like-minded organizations working together to stop the spread of HIV/AIDS, provided more clean water to more places in the world, practically eradicated smallpox and have fewer and fewer women dying during childbirth.”
The story of Miracle Foundation is far from over. Every day, Caroline and her team work to uplift children in need, and in turn, provide a brighter future not only for them but for the world. I can’t wait to see what the next chapter, and even the next page, holds for this inspiring story of love-in-action.
I’ll round up Caroline’s tale so far with her words on what she has learnt from the past 21 years:
“When we help others, we help ourselves. The more centred, loving and aware I am, the better this work gets.”