Dear Friends, Family and Supporters,
I arrived in India about a week early to prepare for our group of volunteers to arrive in the beginning of this new year. You can do a lot via Internet but with so many wonderful people joining us and full schedules, you always have to remember it is India and often times people say "most certainly, madam that will not be an issue" but they really mean "no not a chance in hell!" So it's best to see with our own eyes before we firm the plans.
As I entered India I am reminded of last year being here and what a different space I occupy now. I have gone through some major personal changes in my last year both painful yet absolutely amazing. But as life has it, both allow for growth. So it begins! Let India make me grow once again. One of my greatest changes over the last year is that I have moved to Thailand and have been studying the language. Learning a second language at 31 years old is again both painful and amazing. I have been spending a lot of time over the past 11 years in Asia and a bulk of it in India. It still surprises me coming from one Asian culture to the next when I know both so well that I still experience such deep adjustment. I guess you find your rhythm no matter where you live and have to adjust to the new life that surrounds you. Upon arrival to Delhi, my first experience was getting into a cab and having a group of children push their faces against the window begging for food. I usually am so in tune with these situations that I even save the crackers on my flight, bars of soap from a hotel room and have my purse packed full of goods upon arrival. Reliable in the way your grandmother always had candy in her purse to sneakily pass to you when your mom wasn't looking. Not this time!
I had lost the awareness which ultimately made me so grateful to revisit my roots...I was back. We all need reminders to keep us on track and I am so lucky that mine comes so often because and I am ready for some grounding and eye opening reminders to connect me with the world after this whirlwind year. I also have the heaviness every year that last year's volunteers aren't with us this go around. During each project, within such a short time you develop an amazing bond that runs deep regardless of time and space. How often in adult life do we spend an entire two weeks day in and day out with the same friends doing something as satisfying as important as a heartfelt volunteer program? It's probably the equivalent to five years of cultivating friendships in our so familiar world. So it's always a little sad that your friends weren't just there frozen in time waiting for you to come back for them. But then the magical thing is that you realize the memories are revisited. I often find myself laughing out loud in public when I see something that reminds me of something we did or get choked up when i see the kid that bonded with one of prior volunteers...and a child asks for a volunteer by name. Ultimately, this is what makes India wonderful for me because it's full of people I love whether they are physically there or it's memories of each of them that comes to life in my imagination and ultimately that's what makes India like a second home. Every year it runs deeper and the excitement for new friends to come and more memories to be created grows. Just to see all the connections growing and feel the energy that only happens when you have so many open-hearted people join forces and do something to connect with another open and loving community on the other side of the world. So I wait patiently and prepare myself for the adventure to begin. It's like waiting for your birthday when your a kid... It's hard to be patient when you want the fun to begin!
My days have been full with purchasing supplies for our projects this year which include, a free dental clinic, a teacher training program, fixing up class rooms, building edible gardens, putting on a play, and a "love animal art project" which involves have the children create a quilt promoting animal awareness. So there is a lot of preorganization that happens but again it's India so everything takes a little more patience and a good sense of humor. There are no Home Depots or Targets...not even a really stocked corner bodegas with a small selection of items for life's necessities so you have to go to the paint store or the pen, pencil paper store or the tooth brush store. Let me just explain the tooth brush store! Yes, they do sell some body wash and tooth paste but mostly shower items! And literally each shop is in what we would consider a garage. So when I go to purchase 150 tooth brushes for Dr Sissy's dental clinic, the first shop owner and I negotiate pricing based on the cost of 1 tooth brush. We finally settle on 20 Rupees each (about 30 cents) and then have to negotiate when exactly I can receive these tooth brushes. We finally settle on tomorrow morning! He, of course, will contact his friend and upon arrival I should hopefully have 150 tooth brushes! Yippie!
I was also so lucky last Sunday because someone opened the school special for us to drop supplies as Sunday is a holiday. So we went to the slum for a visit-which is where the Vihaan School is located. At first glance, it made me sad because there's been so much surrounding construction and a lot of the leftovers have been dumped on to the slum. Then, of course, I being greeted by smiling familiar faces climbing over the rubble, suddenly nothing looks like trash; instead, it just looked like love. Really it's amazing how quickly your mind adjusts and your heart breaks open. So Pooran (our faithful driver), about 15 children and I walk through the slum carrying goodies and doing our secret hand shakes at about least 100 times...clearly making up for lost time. It was absolutely wonderful to feel at home in this space with these little ones and have them all inquisitively asking "madam how many friends you bring us this time?", "madam what is your grandfathers name?", "madam does it snow in Australia?" ,"madam does your sister have a baby?","madam does your sisters have a baby?"....and the list goes on with irrupting giggles.
Our wish is that we can share this experience and these children with many present and future volunteers. Even if you cannot travel with us but care to send a life line of love to these children, email Geni or myself for donation details. Or participate in our next Bazzar! This community is for all of us because we are all connected and the volunteer services that Yogamour offers would exist without our community support at home and abroad.
Stay tuned for more stories as we will be volunteering through northern and southern India through January and February! We have two new projects including offering services at a disabled children's homes in Kerala!
Thank you all for your love and support!
Lead with your heart,