Tomorrow morning I board a plane headed for South Asia (first stop: Thailand), and I couldn’t be more excited. My boyfriend, Keith, and I are going to spend more than two months in Asia, including of course India, as well as Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. We will arrive in Calcutta, India on October 21, and from there take the train down to Orissa to spend four days with my darling, beautiful children of the Sishu Sadan orphanage outside Cuttack. It’s been a year and a half since I’ve seen them, and my soul is already rushing out for Daina, Pinky, Salu, Babina, Rashikanta, Rohit and the other kids who stole my heart over five years ago, and started the entire journey of this book.
After that, we will meet up with the Miracle Foundation volunteer group at Sooch Village, to spend a few days with the kids who are living in that wonderful children’s village full of individual cottage homes, a school, and a great lunch-and-learn program for the children in the surrounding village. I will stay on with Caroline Boudreaux for several days after that, at Sooch and at Rourkela, where many familiar faces will greet me such as Amir and Sumitra.
I will certainly be posting from India, and updating you on the children as well as sharing photographs taken during the visit. So please come back to see how they are doing and how much they’ve grown!
Before I go, I also wanted to let you know about some recent exciting happenings with The Weight of Silence. On September 23 I was featured as a return guest on Conversations Live radio show. I appeared on the show last summer, after the book’s release, and host Cyrus Webb invited me to return to discuss the issues of invisible children, and what’s been going on with the book over the last year. It was a great interview, and you can listen here if you’d like! (15 minutes).
A great new review of The Weight of Silence was also published on Luxury Reading. In part the review reads:
Author, Shelley Seale, takes us on an emotional journey, showing us the lives of children living in poverty, toiling as child laborers, and those struck with diseases such as AIDS. In the modern world, children are subconsciously taught to take for granted many basic things. Children in the slums of India truly see some of these basic things as privileges and luxuries. This book is likely to evoke feelings of heartbreak and tears of sadness, but is ultimately one of hope.”
So bon voyage, and the next time you hear from me will be from India.
I have been invited to return as a guest this week, on Conversations Live Radio Show. I will be the guest on Thursday, September 23 at noon CST – you can listen online at the link above.
Conversations LIVE! is an interactive way for those in entertainment and the arts to come together to discuss whatever unites them in life. Conversations also addresses current events and conducts discussions based on them.
I hope you’ll stop in to listen as Cyrus and I talk about what’s been happening with the book, and my upcoming trip next month to visit the Invisible Children of India again!
Back in May, I was a keynote speaker at the Tamil Nadu Foundation‘s annual convention outside Philadelphia. This organization of non-resident Indians who support initiatives in their home state of Tamil Nadu, particularly centering around education and health, invited me to speak about my work and my book.
The convention’s chairman, Som Somasundaram, and his family were extremely welcoming to me. They are also a highly philanthropic family. I was especially impressed with Som’s daughter, Lakshmi, an 18-year-old girl who already has big dreams – and has accomplished big goals – to help further the education of less fortunate children.
Two years ago, Lakshmi arrived at Vedaranyam in India, to spend her vacation at the Kasturba Gandhi Kanya Gurukulam (KGKG) home and school for girls. Two years later, she returned to KGKG to fulfil a promise she had committed to herself – dedicate a science centre for the girls of Gurukulam.
For the young Lakshmi altruism came naturally, as the girls voiced their aspiration for careers in science and how they were handicapped by the lack of a full-fledged science laboratory. “During my stay here, I learnt about their way of life, what their needs and aspirations were…It was essentially sharing of experiences,” says Lakshmi.
Inspired by their stories, she came out with a DVD on the Gurukulam and played it out to the audience at the Tamil Nadu Foundation convention.
“After my DVD presentation, I went around amid the audience with a collection box and it began with few dollars and someone dropped a cheque for USD 10,000. That gave me the confidence and finally we had collected over USD 40,000 over a period,” an elated Lakshmi told The Hindu newspaper.
This is just one more example of someone being the change they wish to see in the world, and a bright spot in our future generation.
Today on CNN Asia, the Mumbai home page features my article as one of its main rotating headline articles.
The story, “India’s New Untouchables: Children Living with AIDS” tells my personal experience in a village outside Vijayawada, with families who have been devastated by AIDS/HIV. This was a place in which much of the middle generation was missing, wiped out by the epidemic; it was elderly people raising their young grandchildren – some of whom were HIV-positive themselves, in a wholly unnecessary legacy of destruction.
My visit to Yesu’s family, and others, was three years ago – but to this day, I have never stopped thinking about them. I can’t forget the way their eyes looked; beyond tears, just despairing, and struggling to survive.
This article is published on the eve of the International AIDS Conference, which is preparing to meet in Geneva. Won’t you take a moment to read Yesu’s story, pass it on to others, and visit the World AIDS Campaign to learn how you can impact the fight against this disease, which is so devastating for children.