India is a land of many contradictions; chaos and order, despair and hope, poverty and generosity, and we experienced it all. Arriving in Hyderabad in the early morning, our first adventure was simply getting to the hotel. Driving along a very busy highway, we passed a truck packed with sheep and a shepherd who could have stepped out of the pages of the Old Testament. I soon learned that the painted lines on the highway indicating lanes were merely a suggestion!
After changing our route due to a parade in progress (yes, at 7am), we finally made it to the hotel. From the hotel, it was a challenge to walk around the area to stores. There were no sidewalks, so walking meant navigating muddy paths next to crazy traffic that was a mix of buses, cars, scooters, pedestrians and little motorcycle-car-taxi things called autos (pronounced “aw-twos”). In a word: chaos! But then, in contrast to all of this chaos, was the campus of Asha Jyothi.
Asha Jyothi is the organization that runs Hope Girls’ Home where our ten girls live with their housemother Rebekah. When we visited the campus we found the building scrubbed clean and the beautiful children dressed in their ‘Sunday Best’ in preparation to perform a show just their guests. The order and organization was a stark contrast to the world outside of the walls of the campus.
As the guests of honor, we sat in the front of the room to watch the show. Children of all ages proceeded to entertain us with memorized Bible verses, song and dance in English and in Telegu. Each number was well rehearsed and the children did a wonderful job. We were humbled and touched by these precious children. To see them happy, healthy and thriving was a very sweet reward. Many of these children came from unimaginable circumstances, but they have been given the chance to heal with the expert and compassionate care they receive at Hope Girl’s Home.
We then toured the tutoring center, which is located in a working-class neighborhood in the home of the teacher who runs it. The neighborhood consists of rows of very simple concrete huts that are connected. The teacher rolls up her family’s bedrolls in order to fit the children into the small room for tutoring. Even in this sparse home/classroom, we were offered refreshments.
Finally, we visited Hope Girls’ Home. The girls were so excited to have visitors and each one wanted to show us their bed and their shelf—even though each was identical to the others, it was ‘theirs’. We sang and played with them for a short time before they had to eat dinner, although some of us would have liked to stay there for hours playing with the girls!
The Home had many mouths to feed, but they still offered us something to eat and drink. The Home did not feel like an institution, but truly like a home. This is one model for orphan care that we try to support and encourage.
Our following days were filled with meetings with Pastor Z, Pastor Abraham and Bach. They operate a children’s home and community center in Palakol out of their church that Global Hope helps to support. These gentlemen travelled all night by train to meet with us and managed to lavish us with beautiful fresh flower garlands upon their arrival. Such generosity! We discussed the needs of the children in their care and developed a plan to help provide a good education for more of the children. We identified needs that we hope to address on the mission trip in March 2015. The children in this remote village are in desperate need of health and dental exams. We are currently searching for medical personnel to accompany us on future trips.
The experience in India touched my heart on many levels. The poverty and general chaos in India can be overwhelming, but it is possible to make a difference. Just look at those beautiful faces in the pictures. You can make a difference!
After our time in India, two of us attended a conference in Romania to learn about how to best care for children who have experienced trauma. The presenter said that when you receive a gift, your brain releases a shot of dopamine, but when you GIVE a gift, your brain releases TWO shots dopamine. So, get your dopamine flowing and give the gift of your time and travel with us on our next mission trip. It just may change your life!