news

1.25 billion girls. Only a picture and a vague location to go by. They found her.

How do you track down one little girl among India’s 1.25 billion in only three days?

That was the question facing Sydney photographers Chris and Jess Bray when they touched down in Sydney after a trip to the Amazon and got a call from Dick Smith.

The entrepreneur and philanthropist had spotted a family out a train window while travelling in India a few weeks earlier and had only a picture taken on his iPhone and some rough GPS coordinates.

The photo that started it all.

But he had been struck by the family, in particular a little girl wearing nothing but a pink bracelet and he wanted to help them.

So he called the Brays and asked if they wanted to go to India.

“He really wanted to see if there was any way he could help the family into some accommodation, perhaps see if he could fund the girl’s education, etc. Well aware they might not be there anymore, that they might not need or want help, and the complexities of attempting to, he still wanted us to try,” Chris Bray wrote in a Facebook post that has now been shared over 50,000 times.

Finding the bridge was the easy part.

When they arrived in Vadodara in India’s west, the Bray’s immediately began searching for the girl and her family. They headed to the bridge where she was first spotted, and began asking around.

But no one wanted to talk, and their guide had misunderstood their need to find a particular family. So on the first night they came up empty handed.

On day two they went back alone but had little luck, unable to communicate properly.

“Getting desperate, we walked into a bank to try and meet the manager Ratan who was the friend of a friend of a father of a friend of mine. He introduced us to the wonderful Dr Chellani from the university who agreed to help. He drove all down to the railway bridge to try and find the family,” Bray wrote.

With help from the bank manager and Dilip Chellani, the Brays made quick work of the challenge.

Although reluctant at first, other people living under the bridge eventually pointed out the mother of the little girl, who was promptly summoned.

ADVERTISEMENT

“That’s her! She’s the girl in the photo! She still had the pink bracelets on too! Amazing! Her name is Divya, meaning ‘divine light’, and she’s eight-years-old!” he wrote.

Divya had two brothers, her dad was a plasterer and the whole family lived under the bridge.

Jess and Chris with Divya’s family on their way to the shops.

“The parents had been living under the bridge for 12 years, and Divya had been born there just under the bridge without any nurse etc. As the father was away at work (a plasterer, earning $4-6/day, not enough to afford even a slum house while also caring for three kids) we decided it was best to wait until the dad came home from work to discuss with the whole family to see if there was a way we could help,” the story continued.

So they asked the family to meet them at the bank later that day, where it was explained to them that Dick and Pip Smith wanted to help them with rent and education costs.

Divya with her little brother.

“It was a pretty special moment to be sitting there, as the messengers of such a generous, life-changing gift, and watching realisation dawn on this family that we wanted to pay rent for them to move into a house, help Divya get a good education, help the father earn a better wage to help them start to help themselves.”

The school where Divya is enrolled.

The Bray’s helped the family open a bank account, draw up an agreement with Dick Smith for how money would be allocated and spent, took them shopping for school things and new work equipment for Divya’s father, and made sure the little girl was enrolled in school.

The family is currently looking for a home to rent and have promised that Divya will begin attending school regularly.

Dick Smith told the Sydney Morning Herald that he was very happy to help the family, especially at Christmas time.

“It’s wonderful that we’ve been able to help this young family at Christmas time, because it’s a time of giving and helping people.”

He has pledged to support them for at least two years.

00:00 / ???