Reporting from India…

The past few days I have spent in Rourkela, in Orissa in northeastern India. I’ve been with the Miracle Foundation volunteer group working in the orphanage that Dr. Manjeet Pardesi opened a few years ago. The 100-plus children who live there are doing well – healthy, happy, beautiful, doing mostly good in school – we had a blast with them!

mary

Mary

The Rourkela home is mostly younger children – here the program for unwed mothers was started, and so there are a lot of babies and toddlers. The rest of the children are pretty much between 4 and 10 years old, with only a couple of older children like Kalpana. The house mothers are great – well trained, and the children absolutely adore them. These women have one of the toughest jobs – they are on 24/7. They live, eat, sleep and breathe with these children with virtually no off time. They are absolutely amazing.

Most of the children here at Rourkela are sponsored, but there are a few who need sponsors. This is important, because Caroline and Manjeet cannot take more children in until all the current children are sponsored, with their needs being met and the financial ability to care for their needs. This was demonstrated to me vividly on Monday afternoon. I saw Manjeet sitting by the front gate of the compound with a woman holding a baby, and several men. Later, at lunch, we asked Manjeet who it was.

He told us it was a woman who had heard of the home and traveled a very long way, from neighboring Jakharnd state. Her baby was three months old, and she was dying. She felt she had only months to live, and she wanted to bring her baby to the home and give it to Manjeet. However, Manjeet had no ability to take the baby in – again, until they can care and provide for the children already living there, they cannot take more in. So, the best Manjeet could do was give her a hundred rupees to get something to eat and travel back from where she’d come – a day’s journey.

The housemothers with children

The housemothers with children

I had a lot of great moments with these beautiful children, but one of the best might have been with a four year old girl named Mary. She was very quiet, but attached herself to me and was all over me Monday, in my lap each time I sat down and raising her arms to be picked up every time I walked near her. I only found out later, from Manjeet, that Mary had once been blind. Danny Connor, a volunteer along with me on this trip, has a sister named Leslie who had also been with the two of us on a previous visit two years ago. Leslie told her circle of friends about Mary, and one of them paid for her and a caretaker to travel to Delhi and for her to have an operation that fixed her problem and allowed her to see. She now has 20/20 vision!

And the most beautiful eyes. Late in the afternoon, in a rare quiet moment, I was sitting on a mat in the toddler room and Mary crawled into my lap. For a few moments, she just stared up into my eyes while I looked back into hers. She reached up and silently stroked my hair, pushing my bangs back out of my eyes and then tapping my cheek gently, all the while just gazing at me with her huge brown eyes. It seems simple, but it was a magical moment – and I only knew how much so the next day, when Manjeet told me the story about how, not so long ago, those eyes wouldn’t have even seen me.

Amazing. Time and again, I am humbled by the things people have done, and the changes wrought in the lives of both these children and the people who are involved with them.

Visit the Miracle Foundation website and learn how you can sponsor a child today!

About Shelley Seale

I'm Shelley, a journeyer and learner of the world, freelance journalist and author, yoga chick and dog lover. I pound the keyboard from home barefoot every day, and while my boss is demanding she also occasionally lets me have the early afternoon cocktail. I think not going into an office or collecting corporate paychecks are very good ideas, though not always profitable. I have written for National Geographic, USA Today, The Guardian, Texas Monthly and CNN, among others. Neither the New York Times nor Johnny Depp have answered my letters yet. I love yoga, indie movies, wine, and books, though not necessarily in that order. I believe in karma. Mean people suck. If I could have any dream job I would like to be a superhero. I have performed a catch on the flying trapeze, boarded down a live volcano and was once robbed by a monkey in Nepal. But, I don't know how to whistle. My mantra is "travel with a purpose."

Posted on March 18, 2009, in India and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

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