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Description of A Voice Out of Poverty
A woman’s ascent from devastating poverty and childhood trauma to international standing as a prominent advocate for the poor and helpless.
As a young girl, Jillian Haslam saved a life. Herself tiny and aching from malnutrition, she stood for hours at a tea shop, begging for a ladle of milk to try and prevent her newborn sister from dying of starvation.
From the slums of Calcutta to the executive floors of a global bank, A Voice out of Poverty offers an unflinching look at one woman’s journey from destitution to success.
Throughout, Haslam demonstrates an inexhaustible drive to rise above adversity and find beacons of positivity in impossible circumstances. But her rise doesn’t stop at the top; she returns to her roots again and again to extend a hand to those left in the impoverished communities that she so narrowly escaped.
British by ancestry and born in India after its independence, Haslam and her family suffered degradation and prejudice. They were forced to live on the streets, flee danger in the middle of the night, and face persistent abuse and starvation.
This treacherous environment is the backdrop of an unlikely story of resilience and an unshakable family bond. From squalor and powerlessness, Haslam finds countless moments of grace, community, gratitude, and love.
A Voice out of Poverty is a raw and inspiring memoir that shows how beauty can be found in improbable places, and how “success” is not just the act of making it through. Rather, it is the act of reaching back to bring others with you.
Read an Excerpt of A Voice Out of Poverty
“Oh, come on now Jillu, it’s not that bad!” she said. The brusque tone harkened to how she’d counsel us not to yield to emotion. My mother relentlessly stressed that life could always have been harder. Never make a fuss. Be grateful for what you have, however paltry. Things can be worse.
I wasn’t appeased, and my mother could tell.
“We can get it cleaned up when we get back,” she added, wiping tears from my cheeks with a single thumb. Her other hand was trapped inside the hand of my younger sister, four-year-old Vanessa, who held on as if worried she’d fly away like a released balloon if she let go.
“Anyway, we’re leaving in a few days, and where we’re going is better.” More parental reassurance about greener pastures.
“Where are we going?” I asked.
“To Mrs. Brown’s. She’s letting us sleep on the floor in her room for a while. It will be crowded but all of us will be together again.”
“You mean Daddy and Donna can go there too?” I asked, my mood brightening. I saw a ghost of a smile emerging on Vanessa’s face as she took it all in. We often lived apart as a family because of our circumstances.
“Yes, but we can only stay for a few weeks, and then we must find somewhere else again. But don’t worry, you know Daddy and I always find us something.”
“Okay,” I said, nodding.
We resumed shuffling down the streets, navigating mass congestion. I turned my head for a long look back at the old woman and her dogs. I felt a surge of empathy for her, alone in wet and dirty clothes, facing each day with the promise of nothing. Soon we’d have a roof over our heads in a family home while she’d continue to fend for herself in the unsympathetic and unforgiving slum streets. She’d continue to get wet and dirty. She’d continue to try to survive each day with no family to love and care for her; I felt grateful for what I had and prayed that someday she might have the same. As those thoughts flooded me, she gingerly placed sheets of old newspaper on the wet ground to sit on.
The rain fell a little harder.
About Author Jillian Haslam
Jillian Haslam was born in 1970 and raised primarily in the slums of Calcutta. Despite the severe devastation of her family’s living circumstances, she completed her education and landed her first major employment as a personal assistant to the CEO at Bank of America in India.
Jillian rose through the ranks, and Bank of America appointed her president of its Charity and Diversity Network in India, where she spearheaded charitable work in four different cities. This led her to receive three philanthropic awards from Bank of America: the Star Recognition award, the Service Excellence award, and The Individual Achievement award.
In 2011, she published the first version of her memoir, Indian. English, which chronicles her life growing up amid dreadful poverty, abuse, and tragedy. The book sold over 150,000 copies, mostly while she was on the speaking circuit. Her story also incited interest from Hollywood and British film directors and producers, leading to the development of a feature film.
Charitable giving became Jillian’s life work. In 2012, she received the first runner up award for The Asian Woman of the Year in the “Social and Humanitarian” category. In early 2015, The Telegraph of Calcutta presented Jillian with the True Legend award for her exceptional contribution to social and humanitarian causes. In mid-2015, she was recognized as a finalist for the Role Model of the Year award for her work delivering speeches in educational institutes across the UK. In late 2016, she received an award for Excellence in Humanitarianism. And, in 2017, she received her greatest accolade, the Mother Teresa Memorial International Award.
Jillian became a speaker in demand and is a Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM). She has delivered several TEDx talks, among other prestigious speaking engagements, on various topics that flow from her life story. Jillian speaks on topics that include entrepreneurialism, the power of the mind, and human resilience.
She has also been featured on various TV networks, including Channel 5 and the BBC, and a wide range of print media, including The Independent, The Pioneer, The Times, The Telegraph, The Metro, Gulf News, and other major media outlets. Jillian’s charitable work continues under the auspices of the Remedia Trust where she oversees several separate charities: Ageing Smiles (for the elderly poor), Happy Hearts (for children), Empowering Girls (for teaching various workable skills), India’s Disabled (for building a mobile medical unit), E3 Growth (focused on education, employment, and employability), and the Mother Teresa Project (for women and single mothers).
Jillian currently lives in London with her husband.
Connect with her here:
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