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Help Street Kids in India – Win Great Prizes

Today’s post is about a project currently underway by my friend and fellow writer, Mariellen Ward. She is currently raising funds for Deepalaya, a non-profit organization that has educated more than 44,000 underprivileged children from the slums of Delhi and surrounding rural areas. She is also trying to win a contest, through the charity fund-raising, that would allow her to travel in India.

Mariellen spends a lot of time in India, and loves it as I do. She has also done some amazing volunteer work there – read my story about her work at Art Refuge in northern India, with refugees from Tibet.

And even better – when you make a donation, you automatically go into a drawing for several fabulous prizes – including an autographed copy of my book, The Weight of Silence.

More about Mariellen’s contest is below:

I have spent more than a year traveling in India, and months living in Delhi. I love India, and I love Delhi. In fact, I think Delhi is one of the most under-rated cities of the world. It has incredible richness of culture, layers of history in the form of monuments, gentle foggy mornings and iridescent pink sunsets, a jungle of greenery, great food, a treasure trove of shopping … and children, living on the streets. You see them at traffic lights, skinny bodies, huge eyes, wearing shabby clothing, sometimes no clothing at all. They turn somersaults, cling to their mothers, sell toys, flowers and magazines. They sleep under bridges, on the railway platforms or in blue-tarp juggis.

The street kids of Delhi always tug at my heart strings, and I sometimes find myself dreaming of finding ways to help them. I dream of giving them proper food, clothing, health care and shelter, and of educating them and giving them a fighting chance to rise above their status and at least earn a living making handicrafts, driving an autorickshaw, selling chai … and who knows what else. There are stories of former street kids who, after earning an education, had successful careers, made money, and seriously challenged the stereotypes.

What would it feel like to know that you helped a child beat the odds? You can help by donating to the fundraising project for Deepalaya through The Intrepid Foundation before October 26, 2011.

It is estimated that Delhi alone has over 100,000 street children. Deepalaya started in 1979 to help these children for whom the street is their place of work and home. The sad reality for most of these children is a life of hard labour and work in environments that no child should  be exposed to, such as prostitution and drug trafficking.

Deepalaya social workers counsel these children and place them at the  Home for Boys in Deepalaya Gram in a village called Gusbethi, 60 kilometres from Delhi. Deepalaya has educated more than 44,000 underprivileged children from the slums of Delhi and rural areas in Haryana. At present the Home for Boys has 52 children staying there. The school in Gusbethi imparts formal schooling to the boys and children from the surrounding villages of Tayru. The school has more than 250 children.

Donate $10 to help street kids in Delhi

By October 26, 2011 I am hoping to raise $2,000 for the fundraising project for Deepalaya through The Intrepid Foundation. For every $10 you donate, I will enter your name into a draw. So, for example, if you donate $50, you get five ballots. I will put all ballots in a hat and draw randomly. But the more ballots you have in the hat, the more chances you have to win!

To read more about this fundraising project, please read my post Help the street kids of Delhi — and send me to India. And see below for more information about Intrepid Travel and Deepalaya.

Here’s where you can donate online. There are 17 prizes so you have a great chance of winning! Prizes include:

  • A stay at the Fairmont Royal York Hotel in Toronto
  • A framed photography print
  • Two tickets to the musical Bharati
  • T-shirts, books and more – click here to see all the prizes!

If you have $10 to donate, I recommend Mariellen and this cause. Breathe, Dream, Go!

Winner for Best Travel Writing

Solas AwardsI am excited to report that an excerpt from the book, titled Lost and Found, won the Bronze prize in the Family Travel category for the Solas Best Travel Writing Awards 2009, sponsored by Travelers Tales.

Click here to read the story and view more about the awards; a short excerpt is below:

Lurching along the dirt road, I gazed out the window at rural Orissa in northeastern India as the car bounced over potholes, sending plumes of red dust billowing behind it. The small villages we passed were as familiar to me as if I had been there only last week. The shacks that lined the river, their plastic or tar paper roofs held down with rocks. The smell of curry and incense hanging thick in the air. The tiny shops and vendor stalls selling sarees or pots or candies, the mangy dogs and cows nosing at piles of trash, the rickshaw drivers pedaling through traffic alongside schoolgirls with their braided hair and backpacks. People seemed to fill every square inch of space. It was exactly as I left it a year ago.

I glanced at my daughter sitting next to me, trying to gauge her feelings. She was looking out the far window with eager eyes. It wasn’t the street life passing by that had Chandler enthralled; although it was her first trip to India we had been traveling in the country for over a week, and she had grown familiar with the scene outside the window. Like me, she was excited to be on our way to the orphanage, at last. The reason we were here in the first place; the reason I brought my fifteen-year-old child halfway around the world. To spend a week with a hundred children at the Miracle Foundation home who had captured my heart the year before. My desire to bring my own daughter to this place, this experience, had led us to this moment.

I turned my head back toward the passing palm and ashoka trees, and the river glittering in the afternoon sun. Questions ricocheted silently inside me. What would the kids look like? Would they have changed? Would they remember me? What would Chandler’s reaction be? Then we were pulling through the gates into the ashram. The large open space in the middle of the compound was empty, no one there to meet us. I realized they weren’t yet expecting us. We climbed out of the car and started up the little pathway that led between buildings to the interior courtyard.

One by one, they began to spy us; I saw little brown faces peeking out around corners and through bushes. Slowly the ashram came to life. Word of our arrival spread and dozens of grinning, jumping children surrounded us on the path and poured into the courtyard. Within seconds I was engulfed by barefoot children grasping for my hands and clambering over each other to smile up at me. Ten feet away, yet separated by twenty bodies bouncing between us, Chandler also stood with several kids holding each hand and more clinging to her arms, her pale skin and long blonde hair almost lost in the sea of them. She knew many of them on sight, familiar with their stories and the pictures that line the walls of our house. The amazement on her face made her look even younger than her fifteen years.

“Hello,” “Welcome,” “Good Evening,” the children greeted us. Small hands reached for me. There was Santosh! And Daina, Mami, Sumi…I picked up the tiny ones like Salu and searched for other faces I hadn’t seen yet. Children ran up to show me small things I had given them the year before – stickers, crayons, hair clips. They displayed these cherished treasures; such simple possessions, so proudly owned and taken care of. They asked for nothing from me other than being there. In many ways they were just like other children with homes and families of their own – except for their neediness, their raw hunger for affection, love, belonging.

They had been imprinted on my soul forever.

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