Tuesday, April 6, 2010

I’ve been home from India for a week now. I’m still absorbing all that I experienced and am trying to determine how best to express it. It seems that words simply don’t exist to describe the joy and sorrow I felt as I witnessed the magnitude of such an amazingly rich culture, alongside such desperate poverty; the radiant smiles of the kids who call The Miracle Foundation home, juxtaposed with the desperate look on the faces of the street children; and the love that is so evident in the amazingly dedicated TMF staff in India, paired with the sad reality that this work is even necessary.

So, again, I’m simply going to describe some of the more memorable events from my last week in India (along with a few pictures as illustration), with the hope that somehow, between the lines, I’m conveying all that I have gained from the experience.

1. Greeting my travel companions (Amy, Chris, Geoff, Katie, and Perch, along with my friend Laura and my co-workers Caroline and Barbara), as we all boarded the train in Ranchi and prepared to begin our four-hour ride to Rourkela.

2. Watching in awe, upon our arrival at the Rourkela train station, as the porters each lifted two heavy suitcases on to the top of their heads and made their way up the steep stairs and through the crowded train station to our waiting taxis.

3.  Receiving a handful of beautiful purple flower petals and a warm greeting from the smiling children and Housemothers as we all took our first steps through the gate at Rourkela Children’s Home.

4.  Listening as Mr. Koul, the new director of Rourkela, warmly welcomed us and told us about his goals for continuing to transform the lives of the children who live there.

5.  Watching as Amy met her sponsored child for the first time and witnessing the bond they had developed over the years deepen even further.

6. Walking through the village market just outside the gates of the children’s home and seeing the town at work: merchants setting up their tents and selling their wares; women in brightly colored sarees pumping water from the well; men driving everything from bicycles to rickshaw carts to SUVS along the dusty, narrow streets; while goats and cows wandered about wherever they pleased.

7. Making our way to the local saree shop with the older girls from the children’s home. Then, waiting for their nod of approval before deciding which saree we would purchase.

8. Smelling the smoke from the open-air, wood burning fire, while Esther prepared an amazing lunch of eggplants, poppers (a.k.a. poppadom), dal and rice.

9.  Losing complete track of time while drawing and coloring with three very focused young girls.

10. Sitting on the floor in the nursery, holding sweetly sleeping babies.

11.  Sharing evening meals with my fellow travelers, along with our experiences and reactions to the events of each day.

12. Helping the Housemothers spoon out incredibly generous portions of rice and dal to the three-year-old children, who all sat patiently waiting for their share.

13. Participating in a special puja (a Hindu ceremony) to honor the young girls at the end of a nine-day festival. Some twenty three-year-old girls sat quietly in chairs on the porch while, one-by-one, we each kneeled down in front of them, washed their feet, dried them with a small towel, and then folded and placed the towel in their laps.  Their beaming smiles were all that was necessary to understand how pleased and proud they were to be “seen” in such a significant way.

14. Watching the smiles erupt as the children each donned their hand-colored paper mask, posed for a picture, and then excitedly reached up to see their brightly colored disguises looking back at them from the digital screen of my camera.

15. Riding in an auto rickshaw through the busy streets of Rourkela with two of my fellow travelers on a last minute shopping expedition.

16. Feeling a deep sadness wash over all of us as we witnessed the desperation of a young street girl kneeling at the feet of one member of our group while we waited for taxis outside the train station.

17. Returning “home” to Sooch Village and being greeted by the now familiar faces of all the people who do such amazing work there.

18. Participating in a tree planting ceremony at Sooch Village in which we were all offered the opportunity to plant a tree in honor of a loved one. I planted a mango tree and dedicated it to my nephew and my two nieces.

19. Taking in the moment as the TMF ambassadors and the children of Sooch Village made a big circle, filling up the Prayer Hall, while Caroline led us all in one final round of Hokey Pokey.

20. Saying my final goodbyes to all the new friends I made: the Housemothers, the children and the remarkable staff of Sooch Village, as well as my fellow TMF Ambassadors.

I suspect it will be some time before I fully process all that I saw and felt during my three weeks in India. What I do know is that I will always carry with me the radiant smiles of The Miracle Foundation children and all they revealed to me about the power of love and the resiliency of the human heart.

Firmly believing the old adage that “a picture is worth a thousand words,” I literally took thousands of images, with the hope that they would help to tell my story. I’ve done my best to edit them down to a manageable few and have posted them on You Tube in four brief slide shows.

TMF Sooch Village: First Visit


TMF Rourkela Children’s Home


TMF Sooch Village: Second Visit

Traveling: Rishikesh and Agra