Biographer Robert M. Weir discusses Rosalee Giffoniello’s charity work in Kolkata slums on Sharon Kleyne Hour radio show

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Water advocate and Bio-Logic Aqua® Research founder Sharon Kleyne interviews co-author of “Reclaiming Lives,” about Rosalie Giffoniello’s efforts to educate slum children in Kolkata, India.

When New Jersey teacher Rosalee Giffoniello turned 50, she decided she wanted to do more with her life. After two summers with Mother Teresa’s organization in India, she founded “Empower the Children,” which operates schools for children of the “working poor” in Kolkata (Calcutta). A new book by Giffoniello and co-author Robert Weir, “Reclaiming Lives,” was recently discussed by Weir on the Sharon Kleyne Hour™ Power of Water® radio show.    

Robert Weir is a freelance journalist, editor and world traveler who lives in Lakeview, Michigan. He is author of “Peace Justice and Care of Earth: The Vision of Earth Day Founder John McConnell” (Press On Press, 2007) and “Reclaiming Lives: Rediscovering myself while educating Kolkata’s poor,” with co author Rosalee Giffoniello (Kindle, 2014). Fifty-percent of proceeds from “Reclaiming Lives” go to “Empower the Children.”

The syndicated radio show Sharon Kleyne Hour™ Power of Water®, hosted by fresh water advocate Sharon Kleyne, is heard weekly on VoiceAmerica and Apple iTunes. The education oriented show is sponsored by Bio-Logic Aqua® Research, a global research and technology center founded by Kleyne and specializing in fresh water, the atmosphere and dehydration. Nature’s Tears® EyeMist® is the Research Center’s signature product for dry and dehydrated eyes

Sharon Kleyne interviewed Robert Weir the Sharon Kleyne Hour™ Power of Water® broadcast of February 2, 2015.. For podcasts of this and other past shows, go to

The children of working poor in the Kolkata slums, according to Weir, have little chance to go to school. However, despite the wide divide between rich and poor in India, a slum child can to well and be accepted by the wealthy if they can get an education.

The availability of safe drinking water in slum neighborhoods in India is a critical issue, Kleyne and Weir noted. Dehydration from lack of adequate fresh water and poor nutrition strongly affects health, energy, mood and productivity. Even in wealthy neighborhoods in India, Kleyne pointed out, clean running water is not available 24 hours a day. Most water must be either boiled or treated. Bottled water is safest for those who can afford it.

According to Weir, providing water and nutrition is a priority at Giffoniello’s schools. They serve one meal per day, which may be the only nutritious food the children receive.

Most of India’s working poor, called “wallah’s,” says Weir, earn very little for their efforts. A rickshaw puller, for example, earns about 25 cents (10 rupees) for each passenger but might spend hours between fares. Women are generally employed as maids also for low wages. Children often spend much time on the streets attempting to earn money.

Other slum businesses Weir described include fruit stands, pot and pan sales, rags and other inexpensive commodities they either make, collect or purchase cheaply. Each street vendor has their own song to attract customers. The entrepreneurial spirit is high and often ingenious among these people, says Weir, in part because starting a business is very easy.

Giffoniello’s schools, says Weir, are small and crowded with 70 to 90 children sitting on the floor or a garage sized room. Ages range from five to 15 or 16 and grade levels are mixed because a child may not have started until age nine. Ninety-percent go home at night. If a child can pass the 10th grade exams, and subsequent exams, they can go to college and the entire world opens up to them.

According to Weir, Giffoniello wrote the book for two reasons: She wanted to people to know about the plight of slum children in India and her organization; and she wanted to describe how the program reclaimed her own life and the lives of many of her volunteers.

“Reclaiming Lives” is available at ( and

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Mikaylah Roggasch
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