Student’s art skills help kids in India

In the cards

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Finney Manchala displays one of his Christmas cards.

Somers Middle School seventh-grader Finney Manchala has undertaken an enormous task — help break the cycle of poverty in his native country of India.

Finney moved to the United States five years ago with parents Raju and Grace Manchala, but the family returns to India on mission trips regularly. Raju works for Youth With A Mission in Lakeside.

Breaking the cycle of poverty starts with education. For many of northern India’s poorest children living in slums, the $180 yearly fee to attend school is not an option.

Finney learned this firsthand while distributing basic personal care items such as soap and toothbrushes as his parents accompanied him in a slum of 500 families in northern India during a recent mission trip.

He witnessed a sight unfamiliar to most U.S. children, but all too familiar in poverty-stricken parts of India. Instead of going to school, Finney saw children spend their days searching for food, begging or sorting through trash to salvage recyclables worth money.

“It was sad, but not surprising,” Finney said. “None of them could pay for school.”

“Kids 5, 6, 7 years-old go out with a gunnysack and pick through garbage looking for plastic to be recycled,” Raju added.

Raju said India’s schools are not funded through taxes like America’s public schools. This poses a problem because all children do not have access to education. Transportation, lunch and textbooks are at the expense of families. During a recent mission trip Grace set up an informal school for these children, teaching them to read and write, but knew that would end once they returned to the U.S.

Raju and Grace have guided and encouraged their son to use his artistic talent to raise enough money to send four children to school in kindergarten through third grade. Some of these young children are kids Finney grew up with.

Finney designed and made about 150 cards over the past few weeks. From the embossing to illustration, the cards are completely handmade. Finney hand drew large-scale illustrations of a cardinal, candle and deer that were scaled down on a computer to fit on each card. The colorful, angular scrollwork inside the illustrations are a signature of his designs.

Grace proudly displayed one of Finney’s new designs that incorporates traditional watercolor. A serene blue sky dusted with snowflakes surrounds a cheerful snowman. Finney also plans on creating greeting cards that are not holiday-themed.

Grace also has created cards using her charcoal and graphite artwork.

The cards are $3.50 each, $20 for six or $35 for a dozen. Tax-deductible donations also are accepted.

So far, Finney has raised $300. The Manchalas plan to return to India and pay for each child’s school fees directly. Finney’s goal is to see these young children complete high school by selling his cards.

“Giving them joy and happiness gives me joy and happiness,” he said. “If kids can’t read they won’t have much of a future.”

The Manchalas’ hope is that other children will join Finney in using their talents to raise funds for children in India.

“Any other kids moved in their hearts to join Finney in changing lives of these children can connect with us. And they can do what they’re good at,” Raju said. “If you raise $10 or $20, you’re part of making a difference. I think this teaches our kids not just to receive, but also give.”

For more information call the Manchalas at 250-6991. A website for people to make donations or view Finney’s work is currently under construction at

Reporter Hilary Matheson may be reached at 758-4431 or by email at

Finney Manchala is making Christmas cards to raise money to help send children in India to school.

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