About Shelley

Shelley author photo1

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Hi, I’m Shelley. Many people ask how I got involved in this work and writing The Weight of Silence. So I created this page to give a little bit of background. You can also download my Press Kit.

I am a freelance writer based in Austin, Texas; but I vagabond in any part of the world whenever I get a chance. I have written for National Geographic, CNN, InfoChange India, and travel guidebooks for Globe Pequot Press, among others. I am the Sustainable Travel columnist at The Examiner. Besides The Weight of Silence, I have authored or contributed to 5 other books.

My mantra is “travel with a purpose.”

You can visit my journalist website and portfolio at www.shelleyseale.com.

I have been involved in nonprofit work and social activism almost all my life – particularly around child advocacy. When I was a young teenager my mother began fostering babies for the Edna Gladney Home in Fort Worth, and through the years we were a foster home to over 50 children. My sister, Katie, was adopted during that time – as she says, she’s always known she was special! So at a young age I was aware of child rights and advocacy issues. It must run in the family because both of my sisters, Amy and Katie, work at nonprofit agencies working with children and families.

grad dinner

My family: Daughter Chandler, me, sister Katie, sister Amy, mother Sandy & father Charles

As an adult I began doing a lot of volunteer work here in Texas, with abused and neglected children. I participated in a mentoring program for at-risk teens for several years, and worked with Child Protective Services. In Austin I have been a Guardian Ad Litem through CASA for almost 5 years, in which I act as a court-appointed advocate for children who have been removed from their homes due to abuse or neglect, and have been involved with The Heart Gallery to find forever families for such children.

Then in 2004 I read a story in Tribeza magazine about Caroline Boudreaux’s incredible journey that became The Miracle Foundation. After a trip to India caused Caroline to come face to face with hundreds of children living in hunger and filth in an orphanage, she turned her life upside-down and started the foundation that today supports five orphanages in India. I began sponsoring a child, and in March 2005 traveled with Caroline to India for the first time, to work in the orphanage and meet the children. As trite as it sounds, the experience changed me, too.

Me & Caroline with friends, 2006

I soon came to realize that most of the children living in the homes were not orphaned due to death, but due to poverty. India is home to more than 25 million children living without parental care, and three million more are added each year.* As I learned more about the complex, intertwining issues that make children vulnerable to orphanhood, the sex trade, child labor, HIV, or a life on the streets, I began to come up with the idea for this book. My simple goal is to help give a voice to these invisible children. View my 4-minute QuickTime movie featuring some of the beautiful children I’ve written about.

In August 2006 I was accepted into a residency at the Julia & David White Artist Colony in Costa Rica, where I began writing the book. I worked on the book for the next three years, involving hundreds of hours of research and four trips to India, where I traveled all over the country meeting children and interviewing social workers, doctors, orphanage directors and others who are working to change the plight of these children. I also took my teenage daughter, Chandler, with me in 2006.

My daughter, Chandler, in India March 2006

In July 2007 I spent a month at the Prague Summer Writers Program and the prestigious Gribner Nonfiction Manuscript Workshop, where I worked with a group of other authors, editors and publishers to edit and polish the manuscript. I am thankful to all of them for helping give this finished book its direction and voice.

This topic, and these children, are very near and dear to my heart. For those who ask, why India? my simple answer is, why not? I find most people who ask this question are really asking, why don’t you do something here at home instead of traveling halfway around the world? There are plenty of children here who are suffering and need help. And I do – I donate thousands of hours and dollars each year to children in need right here at home.

But besides that, why India? Because I believe that every life, no matter where it’s lived, has equal value. Because extreme poverty in India is not the same as poverty in the United States. Because there are very little if any safety nets for these children who fall through the cracks. Because the AIDS crisis in South Asia is reaching epidemic proportions and threatens millions of children. Don’t get me wrong – we have vast problems in my home country, including poverty and racism and inequality and child abuse. But millions of children in the U.S. aren’t generally threatened by malaria and tuberculosis, missing out on their entire educations, or trafficked into brothels and factories of inhuman conditions. Today there exists, for the first time in history, the real possibility of ending extreme poverty in developing countries.

And quite simply, because those 25 million children exist.

Purchase your copy of The Weight of Silence today!

* source: UNICEF

  1. Shelley, I am quite overwhelmed with what you have written here. Somehow ever since I was a teenager I have had a great sympathy for abused children, but I realise that I have done nothing but you have done so much. I am sponsoring a child’s education and yes, I have taught poor children free of cost (I keep doing this off and on) but nothing really sustained. I guess a lot of my feelings come out in my writing.
    What you are doing is wonderful and may God bless you and give you many many years of fruitful work.

  2. Hi Shelley,

    Greetings, I am so glad to your cristalized thoughts on the innocent hearts of India. I am currently living in Irving close to fortworh, our family is involved in bringing parentless children into greater light.

    Our website is not completely ready yet, it will soon be.

    I would like to get permission from to copy some of the contents and ofcurse your name and reference will be given in the site.

    Please contact me, i would love to meet with you.

    Blessings
    Stalin

  3. Thank you for existing. The world is blessed to have you in it. Many blessings on your work!

    Namaste,

    Kalliope

  4. Thank you
    Thank you soooo much for being there. Thank u for overcoming the geographical boundaries and helping India shape its future.
    It would be a soo inappropriate to call you a foreigner. You are more of an Indian than most of us.

    • True to the core….
      May be we Indians have seen it a lot that we just treat it as bad luck and move on….
      World is best to have people like you…

  5. I sooo agree with Minal. You are not a foreigner, not an american, not an indian. Ppl like you cannot be entitled with any nationality. I am grateful to you probably because I am an Indian. But you are not.
    Thanks for being there.
    Mehu.

  6. Nechama Goldstein

    Hey shelley,
    My name is Nechama Goldstein and I am an independant documentary director from Israel.
    Quite astonishing for me to come across your site & book, since I lived at CCD myself for a couple months and am now in the midst of making a feature documentary about child slavery with the gracious help of Swapan Mukherjee.
    I felt I must touch bas with you about this, since we have a passion to cry out the same cry, I would love to read your book. What is the name of the publishers? Can I puchase it in Israel?
    I have quite a few questions I would love to ask you, can I call you on the phone this week or next? I would really love to talk…

    Deeply moved and waiting for your reply,
    Nechama
    lilyfilm@netvision.net
    nehama.g@gmail.com

  7. shelley,

    i am touched! it is amazing how ladies abroad travel all over the world, helping people in need. whereas in india, it is so difficult for a housewife to make time for any extra activities of this kind. they are forever bound to their homes and families.

    i understand that your whole family is involved in social work and it was wonderful to know that your mother has fostered more than 50 children! it is all so overwhelming………………….

    may god bless you and may you bring light and hope to hundreds more children all over the world.

    in case you come to bangalore, india, please visit me. i would feel my home blessed by your visit. you find my contact add in my blog at http://empoweringall.wordpress.com

    love to you and love to all kids everywhere.

  8. So, what are the “small” things the rest of us can do?

    Namaste.

    S.E.

  9. Keep up the good work!

  10. It was such a blessing to find your web site. I’m back in the US after almost three decades of service as a Humanitarian Aid Relief Coordinator & Educator for First Responders. After entering numerous nations across four continents…I will never be the same…neither will anyone else around me. There are pieces of my heart scattered across the globe.

    Thank you for your work. A life lesson I learned along the way is: Every life touches every other life. For each child you touch, they in turn will touch another. Your service of love to them will, thus, be multiplied.

    When I read what you’d posted, it was as if I could “hear” an “explosion of joy” enter India through the work of your hands. I’d been to India on several occasions…the needs were on a scale that most would have difficulty understanding. Knowing that someone like you is there is a, personal, comfort to me. I must confess that as I read your post…I wept. It reminded me of something Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr had once said: “Undeserved suffering is always redemptive”.

    Michelle
    http://michelle2005.wordpress.com

  11. I am working on a research paper for school about child labor and I just came across your posting. I just completed my CASA (Child Advocate) training last week. All of the information that I have been reading about child labor is really weighing heavy on my heart and I know that this is a battle that I need to be a part of. I just thought it was really cool when I read about you and the work you are doing. I feel very encouraged on my path.

  12. hello shelly, great blog here, and great work you are doing! Have you read a book called “turning stones”? its an interesting first person account of a man working in child protective services in ny…

  13. It overwhelms my heart to read what you have written here. I feel more than happy to know about your participation in India.

    Keep it up and may god support you in all your initiatives.

  14. I reached your blog quite by chance and I am pleased for that. I learned about your auspicious work with selflessness and felt overwhelmed with gratitude and respect for one more citizen of the earth. I too lived and worked as a heart surgeon in the UK for over a decade and returned to India in early 2000, to work for children with birth defects of heart, in one the most backward and poorer part the nation, called Uttar Pradesh. Any way, it is not important as to what I do or doing. I can easily relate spritually and emotionally with you, to understand the kind of satisfaction you must be getting out of the work with disadvantaged children. May Almighty bless you and your entire family and ofcourse extended family too.

  15. Shelley, I gave you a blog award over at Linda’s Yoga Journey! shanti!

  16. Wow! So glad that we are friends on twitter. I have to admit I teared up when reading your bio here. Thanks being so awesome! Love mantra:

    ““travel with a purpose.”

    Hope all is well,

    Paul

  17. Chibuikem- Diala

    Shelley, this is great and I appreciate every bit of your efforts at saving lives. Yea, ‘saving lives’, thats what you are doing. I now appreciate it more when i see ladies with heart of Gold speak passionately of how its feels to save a life. Truly, because you are part of creativity being the access through which these kids are born. Chibuikem

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