In 2008 and 2009, when Joshua Gomes was just 6 and 7 years old, he accompanied his family on trips to India, where so much of what he experienced left a lasting impression on him.
Joshua is now a high school sophomore who lives in Hunter’s Green and attends a biomedical magnet program at Middleton High on N. 22nd St. in Tampa.
His goal is to one day become a cardiologist, but he’s not waiting until he graduates from medical school to help people.
He’s working now for the benefit of children in India, just like he remembers from his trips there when he was a little boy.
Back then, Joshua tagged along as his mom Arlene and sister Ayesha volunteered at a small school in Mumbai, called the Premdan School for Impoverished Children, which is run by Catholic nuns. It was started in the 1970s by a nun who wanted to help children living in the slums of Mumbai, who don’t have access to the educational opportunities reserved for the upper class.
Joshua says his mom and dad are both from India, and his family traveled there in 2008 and 2009, when his grandparents passed away. While they were there, Arlene offered to provide a meal to students at the school, which teaches kindergarten to children no one else will educate.
The experience was eye-opening, because of the poor conditions of the school, how eager the kids were to learn, and also because of the gratitude the children showed for the help they received. Arlene and Ayesha, who was about 12 at the time, continued to volunteer with the students throughout their time in India. They helped the children with their studies, provided food and handed out candy as treats. Joshua sometimes got to come along.
“The kids are cramped in tiny rooms, with small desks and small chalkboards,” he recalls. “There’s such poverty.”
After those trips, Arlene says she was putting off going back, although she needed to take care of business related to her parents’ deaths. But, Joshua didn’t forget about the kids in that little school.
“Even after all these years, I have always remembered how appreciative these children were for what we gave them, and I always wanted to go back one day,” Joshua explains.
Arlene says he asked to return to the school many times over the years. “He finally told me, ‘I don’t want to hear any excuses,’” Arlene says. So, they planned a trip last summer and Joshua was thrilled to be able to finally visit the kindergartners at the Premdan School again.
“I think education is so important for these children to make something of themselves in life so they can take a different path and stay off the streets,” he explains. “It is a foundation for these children.”
Before he left, Joshua promised the principal of the Premdan School, Sister Sylvia, that he would continue to promote the school and raise support for it back here in the U.S. After reaching out to friends, family and local businesses, he hopes the New Tampa community will support his efforts, as well.
Joshua is hoping to re-stock the school’s three classrooms with necessary supplies — such Joshua as books, colored pencils, maybe even playground equipment — before the new school year starts in June.
“He has a very caring personality,” says Arlene. “He’s always been interested in helping kids, in education and in making a difference and helping out.”
He’s set a goal to raise $750 through a GoFundMe page. While he had raised more than half of that at our press time, Joshua says, “I want to raise as much as I can because the school and the children really need it.”
To support Joshua Gomes’ efforts to help the Premdan School, visit GoFundMe.com/PremdanSchoolForTheImpoverished.