Wednesday, March 14, 2007

India: A Rich Tapestry

Posted on behalf of Deron Denton...

Among the many images I recall from our staff trip to India last year, one remains with me the most: a trash heap by the side of the road. It stood 2 or 3 feet high and must have been 8 or 10 feet long. The first thing I distinguished was a cow: it had found something to eat in the pile and was chewing lazily. Then I noticed a person was also rummaging through the same mound of refuse. As we passed by in the van, I was startled to see a large crow as well as a mangy-looking dog…all of them sorting through the trash for something they could eat or use.

It was a sad scene, to be sure - it left me feeling like the wind had been knocked out of me. It was also symbolic of the India I experienced: an amazing kaleidoscope of cultures and religions and eras…seemingly chaotic and random yet amazingly harmonious and…well, functional. Over a billion people living (mostly) peaceably in the world’s largest democracy. A truly ancient culture quickly adapting to globalization and a world economy.

What touched me most deeply, of course, were the people we met. The people – on your behalf – we were there to help. Particularly, I was moved by the strength, courage and perseverance of the girls and women we met in India…

…women like Sahida, mother of 5-year-old Rukhsar. Rukhsar had entered our sponsorship program the year before our visit. The girl’s father died when she was just a year old, leaving the household without a definitive breadwinner. Sahida had been forced into an arranged marriage at the age of 12. Now, because of Rukhsar’s sponsorship, Sahida had been given the courage of hope…hope for her daughter’s future. Despite her own numerous hardships, Sahida expressed confidence that her daughter would now be able to stay in school, receive a good education and live a happy life. These were opportunities Sahida didn’t have.

The problem of early, arranged marriages arose often in India. And it is a challenge that youth leaders and our staff are successfully confronting. Rukmini, who is now 21, was a sponsored child for 16 years. She became active in our youth program, eventually becoming a youth council leader. She now works as co-facilitator of our Youth Health Corps.

As a sponsored youth, Rukmini told me she received a great deal of training on leadership, reproductive and sexual health, and nutrition. “I then began giving that training and the knowledge I acquired to others in the community,” she said. Rukmini led seminars and workshops for youth and mothers, helping to empower them. “Now the girls have started coming out as a visible force in the community,” she added.

Rukmini, and others like her, are shaping the future of India. By helping prevent early marriages, empowering women, and educating those who will listen, they are elevating our India sponsorship program in ways that were probably unimaginable 10 or 15 years ago.

I am so grateful to have witnessed all the wonderful changes taking place in India. And it genuinely touches my heart to be a small thread in the colorful tapestry that we – our sponsored children, their families, our sponsors and our staff – are weaving…enriching the lives of everyone involved.

1 comment:

Paula said...

Great article! I sponsor a little girl in India because I've seen documentaries about the many challenges that women and girls face in India. So obviously these types of articles about what CI is doing in India are very interesting to me. There is no way to see the future but I hope my sponsorship of this little girl in India will give her the opportunity to have more options and knowledge available to her as she grows up then her mother might have had.