Wednesday, January 7, 2009

A Greatest Achievement

Apart from being a high-school dropout who went back, graduated with honours, went on to university and straight through the Masters program all while raising two amazing human beings, the achievement that I’m most proud of is what I refer to as The India Project.

When the tsunami hit and stunned the world, like so many others, my friends and I could not peal ourselves away from the news. The feeling was one of helplessness. However, I had already graduated and was unemployed so was in a prime position to do something. A dear friend of mine was in the final stretch of her master’s degree and suggested, “We should go.” I was so overwhelmed by the idea that I got tears. It was a strange experience in those moments. There was no decision to be made; the decision just was. The fundraising started with our group of friends on the eve of 2005 and stretched over our community for the next month and a half.

We raised funds at university poetry readings and in back-street bars. We also organized a manor event, “Two Women and a Mission,” in a wedding-size hall which was donated. For this event three sales people, plus my sons, worked to gain door-prizes, which resulted in so many door-prizes that we ended up selling raffle tickets on some and having a loony auction on other items. Now there’s a tip for you if you are ever fundraising. The loony action (or dollar auction, for my American friends) is interactive and filled with energy. People really had fun with that and we raised good money. Aside from all of this community fundraising (which resulted in 6 thousand dollars), I was writing letters to raise corporate funds.

Once my friend and I decided on India we looked up the India Times newspaper to see where we might be needed. After hearing the news about children being taken, abducted for the sex trade, my mind was set to focus our energy on children’s safety. We found an ad which was placed by an orphanage that was adopting 80 tsunami orphaned children into their care (The Indian Gospel Mission). Not wanting to use community donations to fund our way to India, I started the campaign to gain corporate money to fund our travel expenses (tickets were 15 hundren dollars each).

In the meantime, we had friends and family who not only pledge money for the children, but they suggested that we needed funds for a cooling off period after our stay because we had no idea what we were about to face, so they also made donations for us to have a week to wind down before returning home. We spent that time in New Delhi.

It was smoother than truth. Everything came together and came to pass. We stayed with 120 children in India for a month. Our community paid a lumberjack, mill-worker, and a master carpenter who came in and taught the young fellows at the orphanage how to build bunk-beds, a skilled trade. Another of our feats while we were there was to get these kids back to the ocean they once loved. We served meals, sang songs, played games, and tutored English. The children were amazing spirits.
In my life I have never met more resourceful people in general. We arrived in Southeast India in late February 2005. Already the people had a major bridge nearly constructed. They carried bowls of rock and cement on their heads, had assembly-lines set up in the passing of bricks. Smiles were seen everywhere, laughter was hear, but in the midst you could walk past a tent and hear wailing which, out of cultural respect, you could not slice into with your presence; you could not comfort yourself by comforting them: not in the moment. The same was true in night-time hours of our day-time dancing, laughing children. Night-time cries haunt me more than the massive grave site which held 15 hundred bodies. Cries haunt me as they should because the aim of the trip was not about my comfort but was about their. Grieving is an entitlement and in their culture it is private.

Would I do it again?

Does your heat beat?

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