maandag 25 november 2013

Go. Eat. Give. A Giving Movement fuelled by Passion (Overig)

Life Lesson

When I was a child growing up with my grandmother in India, I would accompany her to the Mother Teresa’s orphanage every once in a while. I clearly remember one of these visits. I was 10 years old and the nun who managed the orphanage took us around for a tour of their facility. I saw cradles full of babies and my heart went out to them. She told us that for every 99 girls in there, there was only 1 boy. It is because the boys get adopted quickly. Here I must mention that it was a belief in Indian culture that a boy is an asset to the parents, sort of like a retirement policy. That day, I decided I would adopt a girl instead of having kids of my own when I grow up.

Volunteering

A few years later, I discovered that India and Russia account for the largest number of orphan children in the world. At 29, I decided to go to Russia for a volunteer vacation program. It involved working in orphanages and boarding schools through a non-profit, Cross Cultural Solutions. I spent a week in a small town roughly four hours east of Moscow, called Yaroslavl. Because of the language barrier, there were limitation to the kind of work I could do with the kids but I soon realized that love has no language. The children were excited to know that someone travelled all the way around the world, and took time out, just to be with them. There were children of all ages, from 4-14. Some of them had living parents who were unable to take care of them, therefore put in government sponsored “boarding houses.” Communism and poverty left a lot of women as prostitutes and addicts in Russia, leaving their kids to suffer.

I really enjoyed engaging the children in sports, arts and crafts activities. They were curious because I looked very different from them. “A Bollywood actress, Princess from Asia” they exclaimed amongst themselves. In one of the classes, we (the volunteers) took pictures of each child individually and made foam photo frames. Most of those kids had never seen a picture of themselves and were overly excited to have one in their possession. During another afternoon, a young affectionate boy wanted nothing more than to be hugged. There were other little ones who seemed to have a look of loss and I felt very sad when I couldn’t reach their hearts to make them smile. One thing I noticed was how nice these kids were to each other. They were helpful, courteous and loving. Perhaps they had learned to create their own family in this new environment.

The Impact

It was hard to leave them after my short visit. I felt guilty of not spending more time, not giving them more attention, not making a bigger impact. I did not come back with any adopted babies (although I considered it) but with a broader perspective on life. I wanted to share their story with others and make people realize how many kids are out there who could use love, resources, a family or a home. I don’t feel one person can change the world, but one person can change another person’s life forever.

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