Monday, June 23, 2008

Monday, June 23rd

What an amazing day. Today we finally arrived at Rising Star after a 2 1/2 drive our from Chennai. There are 25 of us here and volunteering. When we pulled in the children were all in their classrooms. We walked over to the children's dorm where we are divided up into the boys dorm and the girls dorm. I am sharing a bunk room with Kendall, Syd, Sandy, Megan and Monica. After we put our things in our rooms we dressed in the traditional top and baggy pants, charitas. We looked like a colorful bunch when we headed to the roof for our orientation. There we were told about what to expect this week and what we will be doing. Tomorrow we are building a goat shed at one of the colonies and then the next day doing hygiene at the colonies and then on Thursday, teaching at the school.

We heard from Padma, who is the head of the micro lending in the colonies. It was an honor to meet her, not just because she is the daughter of the former prime minister, but because of what she has done here in India. She is literally a modern day Ghandi. Through her formula to eliminate leprosy and the stigma associated with it, she has given lepers a chance to make a living, stop begging and gain self respect. She explained how the loans worked and how it has changed lives. She told us she would be taking us to Bindu art school to show us one result of micro loans.

The bus that we had taken us out here left and so all of us piled into 2 cars. We looked more packed than an Indian bus, and received honks of approval from passing drivers. We had 15 people in one 5 seated jeep and another 14 in the other jeep. It was a hot 45 min ride, but a great chance to get to chat with everyone.

The Bindu art school is made up of leprosy affected people, some with just club hands and feet. They work in basically a small commune, where they share the earnings of paintings sold. Their work is bright and colorful on thick homemade paper using acrylic mostly. It is contemporary in the sense that it is fairly simple but the color combinations and unique style make it so beautiful. We bought 5 paintings and could have bought more. They were so friendly, pleased that we loved their work. They all wanted a picture with us so when we left we put our arms around them and took a great picture.

Next we went to an "old folks home," for older leprosy affected people. There were 2 adorable old ladies that had to be 90 and they were sisters. Sandy and I had our picture taken with them-the sisters. 25 had to be in the big room with just cots and they either lived there or came for treatments, something else Padma had helped to do. We hated to leave,but needed to head back to see the kids.

We pulled back into Rising Star and were swarmed with over 145 of the most adorable, clever and smiley kids one could ever have the privledge of meeting. They came to us and hugged us and we hugged them. They taught us games and we taught them games and spun them around. We showed some of the little boys a picture of Sam, they wished they could meet him. They were fascinated with the girls and Syd and Kendall walked around for the next hour with the little kids in their arms. It was the most overwhelming showering of affection and attention I think any of us have ever received. They are a blessing.

We ate in the dirt out front of the dorm in a circle with the kids. We enjoyed a tasty dinner of rice, chicken and onion sauce on our plate, which was a palm leaf. After dinner, quick clean up when all we had to do was roll up the leaf and throw it out.

We then put our "families," to bed. There is a house mom for each group of 25 kids. They sleep on the floor with the kids- ages 2 to 16. We told the kids the story of Cinderella and acted it out and then taught them our favorite lullaby- I See the Moon. We then sang them each a song, laid by them on a grass mat on the cement floor and kissed the little ones goodnight. We stayed up later with the older ones who were doing their homework and they taught us how to spell our names in Tamil, their local language. They told me I had homework tonight and needed to practice my name. They have beautiful script writing in English and Tamil looks like art work written by these children- way better than my writing.

It was a wonderful day. I need to sleep so that I can be ready to build tomorrow. I see the greatest gift we can give these children and people in the colonies is our love and respect, and when we do- we feel we have received the greater gift. We have made new friends, for this I am grateful.


Steve Hargadon said...

Karen: how are you getting Internet access? Does the school have access?

david said...

That sounds awesome Karen, your making me want to do it! Keep up the writing, its really interesting to know what you guys are up too

Karen M said...

The school doesn't have internet. People that are working there are getting internet through bluetooth, using their cell phones. They are trying to figure that out and are working on trying to get computers donated and a way to get wireless out there. They have a designated room at their school for computers and will have the 5th grade up and classes learn computers once they have figured it all out.

I mentioned to Becky Douglass about you and that you work with schools as a consultant with computer integration and she said she would be very interested in talking with you. You can find her email on the rising star website.

Thanks for all your support, sorry to not have replied while we were out there, the couple nights we had access, I was falling asleep typing in our posts.