Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Truth about India is....

I don't mean to be redundant, to keep posting about India, but it's important to me that people know about this amazing outreach organization.  It's also important to me that people know they can help. 

Saran Raj was my favorite kid. I just loved him so much!
 Rising Star Outreach is more than a "let's do something to make this icky world better" organization. Rising star is a personal, yet very professional humanitarian aid project with some beautiful goals in mind. Becky Douglas saw something in this world that needed change and instead of just feeling bad and sending some money, she got together with some friends and did something about it. I believe she and brother Brian Andre are right when they told me that when you see something that needs to be changed or fixed, you have a responsibility to do so. It's not okay to walk away and forget.
Look at those faces! How could you NOT fall in love!?
Amid the work, and the pouring rain, volunteers still find
time to have ridiculous amounts of fun!
My mom actually learned about Rising Star before I did. She met Becky in the basement of some building at BYU teaching a class on charity and the leprosy affected. My mom came home and handed me a flyer with a little girl on it (Jennifer was her name) and said, "Amanda. I really think you need to go to India." I told her she was crazy. (I do this very often.) And didn't give it a second thought. But after a few weeks, something kept tugging at me. And while I was sitting in sacrament meeting in church one day, it hit me. I needed to go to India. And I just sighed.

Okay. I was going to India.

All through the preparations I just kept thinking. "Oh my gosh. I'm going to India!" Honestly, I don't think I even realized I was there until a week into it. I had culture shock for the first two weeks, if you read my journals you'd think I was unhappy to be there. Maybe I was. A little intimidated and frightening, sure. It was hot, the people stared at us, sometimes the smell was so horrible you thought you were going to vomit, then there were the other moments. The moments that made me realize I could spend the rest of my life in that place. The moment where it was raining so hard, dancing was the only option. Or the moments when the children would just sit in your laps. Or the moments where you sat on top of the roof, hanging your laundry and took a look around at the jungle around you. And realized, "Wow. I'm in India!"
Mixing Cement the old fashion way. Look at all that sweat!
It was moments like this that made it worth being there. Moments that really changed my life. I had a new understanding of things that i never had before.
The greatest thing about being apart of RSO, about being in India was this: I had never in my life been so happy. I had never worked so hard. I had never faced things and challenges this hard. I had never met people like this. People who were absolutely brilliant and educated and talented, but had been forced to leave their homes and family to live in Colonies for the leprosy affected. I met a man who was muslim who spoke four languages and used to teach philosophy at the university, but because he had come down with this debilitating disease, he had been forced to leave his home and job and family to live in a place full of sadness and disease and pain.

Padma Venkatraman

 I learned that these people are extraordinary. Padma was one of the people that helped us realize that. The Daughter of former India President R Venkatraraman, Padma has long been a leading figure in the national fight against leprosy and its resulting stigma. She does a lot in the way of micro-finances in the colonies. Meeting her was for sure a highlight in my trip to India.
I can't tell you what you'll learn yourself in India. I can't tell you what your experience will be. But I can promise that if you go, and you go with the notion to get everything you can out of it, You'll never regret it and you'll never be the same. There will never be enough words to express what these people mean to me, what these people mean to me, what this experience meant to me, or what it did for me. I really challenge you to consider the possibility of allowing this program into your life. There are more options than just volunteering. There's possibilities for donations and for sponsoring children to be able to attend school. Take a look at the website, and really give it an open thought.  And if there's a little tug at you saying "Oh my word. I really want to do this." Then stop thinking. AND DO IT! :) That's what i had to do. I promise if you decide to do this, the universe, God, whatever you believe in, will make it possible. I promise.
Quite possibly the cutest smile ever. 

Monday, January 24, 2011

The greatest thing you'll ever do!

Four years ago, this summer, I had the amazing opportunity to do something that changed my life forever. Rising Star Outreach is an organization that has devoted people's volunteer time and energy to furthering the cause of curing leprosy and teaching those who have been told that they are worth nothing that they CAN do something with their life.
I can't express what Rising Star has done for me. I believe I've gained more from my 4 years of working them than they have. I won't lie, it takes a lot of work to be with Rising Star, but at the same time, it is more fun that words can express. You will fall in love with the most adorable children and humble and grateful people. You will learn what unconditional love truly can be.

I can't praise enough. I have never been so happy in my life than my short 3 months i spent in India. I've never been so sure of myself and sure that I was supposed to be someplace. I've never missed being away from a place than I do India. I hope that someday I can return and stay for a much longer time. The video below shows some of my experience in India and some of the people I was lucky to meet and spend time with.

I promise you this: If you volunteer in India this summer, you will never regret it. You will learn to love these people and love this work. And if you're scared, don't worry. I was probably more scared to go than you will be, because I'm a chicken, but once I got there, the love and acceptance and culture were more than my heart could take. I was extremely overwhelmed by the good humanity of our world. Please take a minute and really think about this. Think about what this could do for your life. So instead of planning your trip to Cabo or Hawaii this summer, give a thought to India.

Help End Leprosy.  Volunteer in India this summer for Rising Star Outreach! Follow this link to see how!