Detroit’s parents need COTS

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My wife Ingrid and I are rooted in Detroit. Everything we have, we have received it here. I’ve been asked why we chose to support the Coalition for Temporary Shelter (COTS). It has a lot to do with our upbringing and what COTS is accomplishing right here in Detroit, my home. I, along with eight siblings, grew up in a housing structure that is called a chawl.

There were 10 families in the dwelling, each with a 300-square-foot living area. That’s it. Three hundred square feet for our family of 11. And there were 10 such families, five upper level and five lower level. There were two toilets outside at each level. Two toilets per five families.

We didn’t have much money, but none of us felt deprived. This is because we were families. The focus was always on the family and education. From that chawl of 10 families came many engineers, artists, lawyers, dentists and physicians. Many have become leaders and successful professionals in India and in other countries.

The heads of all these families had the foresight for success for their children and their children’s children. Our parents sacrificed a great deal with the vision that their children will have a better life than they had. They taught us that it is not what you have but what you give that makes you happy.

Our story is not unique. What happens in our infancy and childhood has a profound impact on the rest of our lives. And most of us need that one break, one helping hand, or one act of kindness to change our whole life. And that is exactly what COTS has done, is doing and will continue to do. The emphasis is to provide temporary shelter to families during their moments of darkness. Many of them are single mothers who need that opportunity to break the cycle of poverty. COTS tries to keep families together. Little infants and children are given the love and nurturing they need while their parents are out looking for or training for a job.

They are provided nutritious food, diapers, clothing and toys. They are held and cuddled, read to, taught age-appropriate skills, generally promoting healthy infant development while their parents are assuming individual responsibility for their families’ well-being. I look at it not just as investing money, but also investing compassion, caring, love and feelings. Who knows, one of these children could turn out to be a Johann Sebastian Bach or a Nelson Mandela or Detroit’s own Dr. Ben Carson.

It is our social responsibility to provide that chance, that break to these children.

That is why we chose COTS and its Bright Beginnings Infant and Child Development Center as our platform.

We have lofty goals, but when like-minded people put their collective efforts together, we can make it happen.

Dr. Ashok Sarniak, Detroit Medical Center

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