Monthly Archives: December 2009

Book brings $10K donation

For today’s Good News Wednesday, I would like to share some amazing news! Caroline Boudreaux of the Miracle Foundation recently informed me that a reader of The Weight of Silence has just made a $10,000 donation!

The unnamed donor had learned of the Miracle Foundation through a 3-page feature article about the book in India Abroad Magazine, and subsequently decided to endow the foundation with a $10,000 donation. This is incredible, and I could not be happier. This bequest will fund an entire cottage at the new children’s home being built in India; it will house 10 children and their housemother for their entire childhood – and then it will house 10 more children!

Nothing brings me greater joy than knowing that my voice for these children is being heard – and nothing humbles me more than learning of the goodness of others in being so generous. Thank you!

In other news, tonight I was the guest on Om Times Magazine’s radio show, talking about the book, issues affecting the children of India, nonprofit work and spirituality. Go to the site to listen to the interview!

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Chance Encounters & Meaningful Gifts

For today’s Good News Wednesday, I would like to share a wonderful email that I recently received from Avdesh Bhardwaj, an Assistant Professor in Delhi. This email made my entire week:

It was not more than a coincidence that I met Mr. Damodar Sahoo, more fondly known as “PAPA” on a train journey from Orissa to New Delhi. The beetle paan-chewing, friendly Papa caught my attention soon after boarding the train as he was reading a book whose title made me think. Soon enough the man had tears in his eyes. I asked him if he was in some sort of discomfort or ill. The enquiry made him smile and he asked me to read a few lines of the book he was reading. The concerned page was well marked. As I read the description of a paan-chewing saint I could gauge his emotions. The Weight of Silence had actually become The Weight of Emotions. As he was having some problems reading at night time I offered him to read it for him. I came to know about your work, Miracle Foundation, Caroline, and Papa. But the Journey ended soon and I could not finish the book. That is a regret.

Papa has sent his good wishes and blessings to all and specially to you. This truly was the most rewarding journey for me. I wish you all success and happiness in life.

Papa with his children

Amazing, isn’t it? This man happened to meet my Papa, a main character in The Weight of Silence, on the long train from Orissa to Delhi – and took the trouble to contact me and write about it. I had tears in my eyes reading his email, and we struck up a correspondence. As it turns out, Avdesh was also inspired by the chance encounter with Papa – in 2001, as he was in his final year of college, Avdesh was caught in the massive earthquake in Gujarat, India that registered 8.0 on the richter scale. The entire hostel that he was living in crumbled to the ground, and Avdesh was crushed in the pile of rubble.

For the next three years he was hospitalized, receiving medical treatment and trying to learn how to walk again. The doctors said he would be lucky to ever walk again – but he did; in his words, “Today I not only walk but dance, play and travel a lot.” He was extremely lucky, for most of his friends and teachers at the site died in the earthquake.

Avdesh went on to tell me that the people who rescued him from the rubble were “economically poor construction workers who we normally don’t pay much attention to.” Avdesh said:

I promised myself never to lose hope, be positive, smile,, enjoy life and help as many people as can in my life without any inhibitions, especially the less fortunate. But somehow in stabilizing my academic and professional career, undertaking research and fulfilling family commitments, things went out of my mind somewhat.

His chance meeting on the train with Papa and coming across my book telling of these amazing children helped remind him – just as they remind me every day. Thank you, Avdesh, for bringing such a smile to my face and reaching out to me. It is, indeed, a small world and I love when the connections grow closer every day.

On another note, now that we are nearing the holidays, I would like to share some meaningful gift ideas. iPods and the latest toys are very nice, but making a real difference in someone’s life? Priceless.

Here are some great gift ideas for the person who has everything – or who really wants to give something:

  • Buy your holiday cards at Scene East. Scene East has partnered with Akanksha, a non-profit organization in India that is dedicated to education of the poorest and most vulnerable children, to bring these beautiful holiday cards to the market. Scene East’s business is designed to share photos of magical places, while raising money to benefit worthy causes such as Akanksha’s work.
  • Gift card for saving the world. Best Buy, Starbucks? Sure, they have gift cards, but it’s not often you get the chance to give a gift card with which someone can change the world! A Global Giving Card is an amazing and unforgettable gift – in denominations starting at $10, the recipient can choose who the gift is donated to from a list of vetted, approved nonprofits doing everything from rescuing victims of child trafficking, to digging clean water wells. The cards are even bio-degradable, giving you even more reason to feel good this holiday!
  • Buy a backpack, mosquito netting or bike for an orphaned child in India. Through the Miracle Foundations “Gifts that Matter” catalog, you can purchase any number of needed items for children living in the Miracle Foundation homes in India, from $25 on up. This is the organization through which I met Papa, and since I got involved with them 5 years ago they have helped hundreds of children receive food, health care, shelter, and education – and most of all, love.
  • Give a gorgeous, handmade cashmere scarf. The nonprofit organization Citta has partnered with Tonic to offer beautiful Sutra pashmina scarves, all hand-made by artisans at the Women’s Center in Orissa, India – and each scarf features Sanskrit words of wisdom from people such as David Bowie, Natalie Merchant and Queen Latifah. Proceeds from the scarves go toward building a school for girls in Jaisalmer, India.
  • Become a Secret Santa for a child in need. One of the best lessons you can teach your children is the gift of giving. Have them round up those toys that have fallen by the wayside that other little boys and girls will be able to use, or take them shopping to buy new toys to donate. Then find the closest toy drive by going to www.secretsanta.org and to find a list of sites where you can drop off those gifts.

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World AIDS Day

Today, December 1 is World AIDS Day, a day when people around the world come together in a single, collective effort at eliminating HIV/AIDS. This year’s theme—’Universal Access and Human Rights’—highlights the need to protect human rights and attain universal access to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

Although much of the AIDS crisis is concentrated in Africa – and frightening increases in South America and Eastern Europe – India has the largest number of AIDS orphans in the world. Through much of my travels and research while writing The Weight of Silence, I came across child after child, and family after family, devastated by AIDS. I have spent several days with a man and his family, who try to provide a home to AIDS orphans, as well as food, education and medical care to the surrounding villagers – places where the infection rates are the highest in the country, and which have been absolutely decimated by AIDS.

I have visited entire slum communities where what was chilling to my heart wasn’t what I found, but what was missing. Places where the entire middle generation is simply gone – these are slums in which virtually all the citizens are the very old taking care of children, and vice versa. The parents have been almost completely wiped out, leaving their children in the care of grandparents. Many of these children are also HIV-positive, continuing the completely unnecessary legacy of destruction that AIDS wreaks when expensive Western medicines are not readily available.

Please take a moment today to think of those who live in a world so far removed from what we know – indeed, what we can even imagine – and renew your commitment to fighting this disease. Join the Global Fund, and learn what you can do. We’re in this together.

You can also watch an Alicia Keys concert on YouTube. Alicia is the co-founder of Keep A Child Alive, a people’s movement that provides life-saving AIDS medicine and surrounding care to children and families in Africa and India. KCA also provides support to AIDS orphans left behind to keep the most vulnerable children out of harms way.

The show’s proceeds will go directly to Keep A Child Alive. Click here to watch the show.

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