They may never have watched her on TV or even seen her photograph, but British reality TV star Jade Goody's death in far away London sent many children here into mourning. After all, it was Goody's secret donation that had helped better their lives.
Unknown to most, Goody had donated Rs 2 million (approx $27,000) to the Jeevodaya Society Centre in Itarsi, about 200 km from the state capital Bhopal, last year. The money had helped the charity send 400 runaway children back home and rehabilitate 72 others at the centre.
"Itarsi station attracts hundreds of desperate kids. The children rehabilitated by Jade's money were a few of them. They used to sell snacks and water to passengers passing through and were made to go hungry if they didn't make enough money. Then they would beg for food. But now they have a place in a dormitory and eat decent meals," said Sister Clara Joseph, who runs the Jeevodaya Society.
"Jade's money helped 72 children lead a meaningful life. We are so grateful - but also so sad that Jade hasn't been able to see all the good she has achieved. The children have been praying every day for her well being since a fortnight ago," Joseph told IANS.
While 52 boys and 14 girls escaped "filth and degradation", another six children got all help except accommodation in the shelter, she added.
Navneet Kohli, who has a general store outside Itarsi railway station, which sees 170 trains pass through every day, has seen many children come and go.
"These youngsters, just like the kids in 'Slumdog Millionaire', seemed destined for a life of desperate hunger and destitution until Jade came forward as a mystery benefactor to pay for their food, clothes and medicine," he said.
The 27-year-old TV star, who died of cervical cancer Sunday, had made the donation in 2007 when she visited India after her clash with Bollywood star Shilpa Shetty on the reality show "Celebrity Big Brother". She decided to help the children through a British charity, Railway Children, but kept quiet about it.
The charity got Jade's money last year and the beneficiary was the Jeevodaya Society, whose shelter was built by British charity Butterfield's Edward Johnson Trust.