Category Archives: children
You might think that going to India time and again, immersing myself in this orphanage and the plight of these children who have no one else, over years and years — the poverty and never, never ending need — would be an exercise in sadness. Depressing. Demoralizing, traumatic even.
In fact, nothing could be further from the truth. What has been the most surprising thing, and meant the most to me, kept me coming back all these years, is how readily this family accepted me into their home. This family of 120-plus children, all taken in by one man and his kin, a hodgepodge of castaways who came together to create a home — they, who had so little, welcomed me. Joyously. And they never once have asked for anything from, other than simply my self. My being. My presence.
My Papa has never once asked me for money. The children never care what I bring them, and when I do produce stickers or toys or coloring books they are, of course, happy and enthralled as children would be anywhere. But they are, by far, mostly interested in ME. In the fact that I am there, with them. That this is where and how I choose to spend my time, who I have chosen as my family, halfway across the world.
Believe me, this means more than you can know to me, as well. Their acceptance, their unconditional love and joy with me.
They have let me into a world that is a hidden world — not because it is secret, but simply because very few people really choose to look. But once there, if you had that sort of curiosity, if you opened yourself to the experience and the love, if you decided to have an involved interest in the welfare of children for whom childhood has been discarded — well then, you are in a new world. One in which your own petty troubles are so easily checked at the door. One in which you quickly come to realize how little, how pitifully, inconsequentially little, it takes to turn the world around for one child here.
$20 a month is all it takes to send one of these kids at the Servants of India Society orphanage in Choudwar, India to a good English school. Education is the key. They have already come a long way with having the basics of food, shelter and basic medical care provided. What they need now is education — which equals future hope and opportunities.
My very first night ever with these children, back in 2005, I wrote the following:
There seemed no other world outside this place. Papa spoke as my eyes traveled over the faces all around me. I wondered when each of them had stopped wanting to go home, or if they ever had. As much of a loving community as the ashram seemed, it was not the family that most of the children had once known, now distant and ghostly memories for the most part.
Home is a fragile concept — far more delicate than those of us who have always had one can imagine. When a person no longer has a home, when his family is taken from him and he is deprived of everything that was familiar, then after a while wherever he is becomes home. Slowly, the pieces of memory fade, until this strange new place is not strange anymore; it becomes harder to recall the past life, a long ago family, until one day he realizes he is home.
Will you help me in giving these children, so brave to find a way in their new home, the possibility of a bright future through education? I am asking people to pledge $20.13 per month in a recurring donation beginning this year, 2013. Think about it — for less than the price of two movie tickets, or about five lattes at Starbucks, you can create a bright and hopeful future in one of these children’s lives.
At my home, in fact right above my head as I write this, hangs a beautiful woven tapestry that I bought in India some years ago, made up of scraps of dozens of sarees. Each small individual piece of material, before it was sewn into the final product, is fragile and insignificant. It is not anything except a torn scrap of cloth, beautiful but delicate, easily ripped or lost.
Yet, when it is stitched together strongly to the next tiny piece, and then the next, suddenly the pattern of the whole begins to take form. The finished patchwork, all these scraps of what was once discarded, together are strong. Together they make something. They have a purpose — to cover a bed, to keep a child warm or, as in my house, to simply be beautiful.
And so it is with these children of India — the orphans, the street kids, the world’s forgotten throwaways. They may be fragile and easily lost on their own, but held together with the thread of those of us who care, they can be whole again — strong and vibrant, and above all, simply beautiful.
Help me create a strong tapestry to hold these children together. Have you ever despaired at the state of the world and thought it was impossible to do a little bit, that would really make a difference? Now is your chance. You’ll be amazed at what a difference your $20.13 per month can make.
Can’t commit monthly? Make a one-time donation here.
I thank you. I will keep you updated on their progress. And more importantly, these kids and their future families thank you. Now is the time to stop the cycle of poverty.
Last month, I returned from my 7th trip to India, visiting the awesome kids who stole my heart eight years ago. On this trip, I took my mother who has grown to know these children through me, and understand that this place is my heart’s home, my second family. It was an incredible experience having my American mother meet my Indian family for the first time, in person.
I would like to share a photo essay of this wonderful time together. Peace, love and namaste.
The Miracle Foundation recently returned from India, and another successful (and fun) volunteer trip. This was the first group volunteer trip to the Bethel Home, TMF’s newest home in South India.
TMF Founder Caroline Boudreaux and Travel Coordinator Barbara Joubert
share their Top Moments from the trip:
The boy who couldn’t smile
One of the housemothers was taking his picture and told him to smile. He said he just couldn’t. Then, TMF paid for these kids to go on their first ever outing. They went to a park, got a special treat and got to see some animals. On the way home, the little boy went to the housemother and told her that a miracle had happened that day: he learned how to smile.
The pink bandana
Shubashree received a hot pink bandana. All day long, she would take off the bandana and carefully unfold it, smooth and then refold it. She would ask everyone to tie the bandana back around her head; but soon she would be taking it off and refolding it again, and asking others to refold it. She was so proud of that bandana!
Photo: Shubashree and TMF volunteer
The social status of kids living in an orphanage home is low; they are usually only the recipients of charity. The kids at Bethel were never asked to do anything, until TMF showed up and started a children’s club and Life Skills Education. “We gave them duties and make them responsible by implementing these clubs,” Caroline says. “The children take the clubs very seriously. They have a sense of themselves that the housemothers have never seen before. They’ve got a team spirit about them now.”
A paint brush for every child
The big project for the volunteer group at Bethel was painting murals in the school building. Many artists shined, and Barbara says that the kids are so talented that each one should have their own paintbrush, with their names on them!
Photo by TMF Ambassador Joanne Connerty
Hula hooping nuns
The Bethel home is run by nuns; one day, a field trip to the beach was planned for the volunteers, nuns and children. Volunteers had bought hula hoops for all the kids; but perhaps the nuns had more fun with them than the kids do. How often do you see nuns hula hooping on the beach?
A special goodbye
As the volunteers were getting ready to leave, one wanted to say goodbye to the child who had been his painting helper. He asked for the child, and everyone went searching until that child was found, and brought to the bus so the volunteer could say goodbye to him. “That kid looked so honored that he was searched for,” said Barbara. To be sought out, to be asked for by name, to be noticed as special, is a very powerful thing for these children without their own homes and families.
Maybe you’ve seen the documentary film, Born Into Brothels. A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in the red light district of Calcutta, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Zana Briski, a New York-based photographer, gives each of the children a camera and teaches them to look at the world with new eyes. When it was released in 2005, the film by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.
The film’s producer, Geralyn Dreyfous, was kind enough to write an endorsement for my book, The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India. Geralyn said, “Weight of Silence makes visible children who remain invisible to the rest of the world and reminds us of each child’s right to dream out loud and in color.”
It’s been 7 years since Born into Brothels was made, and many of the children have gone on to pursue their dreams. One of them, Avijit Halder, himself aspires to be a filmmaker. And he’s raising money to fund his project, Before The Sun. Now a senior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Avijit has come full circle and is making his own film.
Geralyn Dreyfous wrote to me about Afijit:
Avijit Halder came into my life as a subject in one of the first films I executive produced called BORN INTO BROTHELS. He was a young determined 12 year old determined to get an education and pursue his dreams of being an artist. Several years later he came to Salt Lake City to visit and was offered a scholarship at a local day school Rowland Hall Saint Marks and then landed a scholarship to the Tisch School at NYU, majoring in filmmaking.
Today he is worried about starting his senior thesis, graduating and finding a job in a city he has come to love. He is a remarkable young man. Fearless and not afraid to try new things, Avijit will make his mark in the world as a photographer and filmmaker.
Before the Sun is an undergraduate thesis short film, written and directed by Avijit. It is a visual poetry set in the colorful neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens – a place where languages, beliefs, and traditions are piled on top of one another and identity is easily erased – it is the story of three immigrants, imprisoned in their mundane lives.
The three strangers – a Mexican teenage boy, an old Russian man, and a middle aged Bangladeshi housewife – slowly become entangled in a web of inevitability. In their daily lives they intersect one another, and through silent observations, hidden enigmatic bonds are formed.
They have never met one another nor they communicated in any way. Yet everyday expectations are formed as they long for one another. What will happen to these relationships when life takes its toll, shattering it’s fragile existence?
Born into humble beginnings in Calcutta, India, if there’s one person who’s been to the ends of the earth to do what he loves, it’s Avijit, one of the children documented in Born Into Brothels. The documentary’s prestigious Kids With Cameras Program and the amazing Geralyn Dreyfous helped him follow his dreams and his art, and he’s spent the past four years learning every aspect of filmmaking.
Here is what Avijit says about his film:
As an immigrant living in America, I know how hard it is to adapt, and to suppress feelings of nostalgia. When I first arrived to this country, it was easy because everything was so new and exciting; but after a while I began to feel isolated. I missed everything about Kolkata, my family, my friends; but most of all the feeling of being understood/ the feeling of belonging.
This film is important to me because I believe that it gives a personal voice to immigrants living in America. Many people in this country have misconceptions about immigrants. Some believe we are the cause of many problems, while others just feel pity for us; but we are never accepted for who we are .
From experience I would say most of us are here to pursue the ‘American Dream’, and to better our condition. We sacrifice a life at home, but try to re-create a new home in America. This film will give a glimpse inside the mind of immigrants.