When Hema Parimala’s 70-year-old father died, he left her mother alone, illiterate and ill with an abdominal tumour which often causes her unbearable pain, leaving her bedridden most of the time. A neighbour cared for the family as there was no one else to support them.

The family lived with her mother in a small thatched hut with a mud floor and a mud wall 3 ft high. There is no door, just an opening where they would hang their clothes to cover the entrance. They cooked over a fire of twigs and sticks which they gathered nearby. The roof of the hut was badly damaged and leaked in the rain.

When she could, Hema Parimala’s mother worked as an agricultural labourer for c. rs. 100 (£ 1.25 ) per day, not enough for 3 meals a day, frequently leaving the family starving. When there was income, they would borrow money for food, repaying the loans when they could work. Hema Parimala was malnourished, quiet, withdrawn and depressed. In this state, she would have dropped out of school and become a child labourer. It was at this point that they heard about Joy Home. Hema Parimala was 11 years old when she arrived.

In her own words: “Life was different from day one. I was happy to be with so many girls in my age – we smiled, joked, played, laughed and giggled. Life became colourful. I got an idea what life was. Earlier I never thought outside my circle, now I knew many stories, many faces, many characters, learnt good things.

“My education was free and unhindered, I was able to concentrate in studies without worry. I visited my mother when I wanted. When she is sick, I go and stay with her to take care of her. I have faith that my future will be blessed bright and colourful. This is my story.”