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Yes, one person can make a difference

IN this high-rise city by the sea, where the British bade farewell to colonial India, poverty is everywhere. It is on sidewalks, where some Indians have lived in pitiful rag tents for nearly three generations; on street corners, where children in tattered clothes with babies on their backs knock at the windows of cars and beg for money; on the streets, where people who can't afford the luxury of a rag tent sleep curled up in gutters on steamy Bombay nights. Neera Kapur knows that the poverty of her city can be numbing, so overwhelming that Bombay's more affluent residents simply block it out because the problem seems too big for any one person to make a dent in.

But Ms. Kapur thinks that's a fatalistic attitude. She is convinced that one person can make a difference - a big difference. And for eight years now, Kapur and several other young professionals like her have tried to drive that point home through a grass-roots organization called Child Relief and You (CRY).

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Since 1978, CRY has recruited volunteers from Bombay's top professional circles to lend their time, talents, and money to help the city's poor children. Through a variety of fund-raising activities - like the sale of cards and calendars designed by top local artists - CRY has been able to help fund several projects for children, including health, educational, creative-learning, and day-care programs. Over the years, thousands of people - rich and poor, old and young - have responded to CRY's message that change can be brought only by individual action and caring.

``The real purpose of CRY is to bring about a change in attitude, to help people understand that every little drop, every contribution, makes a difference,'' says Kapur, a co-founder and trustee of CRY.

``People have just gotten so bogged down and accepted the problem,'' she says. ``But unless you make an effort to move forward [things don't change]. It's a collective effort that is now being demanded - collective and individual, so that every individual makes his contribution.

``Instead of just looking at it and saying, `This is a problem,''' she adds, ``you've got to go one step further and say, `Well, there is a solution, and what is my contribution to that solution?'''

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