Thursday, August 30, 2012

Second Day Video

Some of these videos might make you car sick because I took them while we were on the road, but I just thought it would be fun to show a bit of what we are seeing so much of as we travel.  The last one is a cute one of two of the girls I played with on Day 2.

Third Day: A little bit of school

I'm a bit behind on this blog, and so I'm taking my sister Emily's advice and I'm giving a Top 5 list for today.   Hope that works :)

Kay - one of us volunteers.  I just think she's so beautiful - she's a really neat part of our group.

Top 5

* Running early in the morning through our Rising Star Outreach campus - this consists of our "Elephant House" hostel, the school, the student eating/performing outdoor building, the students' hostel (the kids put out their laundry early in the morning so it's fun to see them), and the grove of palm trees.

For play time, Marilyn put together a fun group of "Olympic" games.  Although it was a little crazy, it really ended up to be quite the fun afternoon with all of the students.  They just looooove to have fun :) 

* Tutoring Davidraj math ("raj" apparently means king so a lot of boys have that as part of their name, super cool) - he was so focused and interestied in figuring out the math problems, and you could tell he was into the test we did on the computers - he reminded me a lot of myself as a kid because he loved it so much.

* Tutoring English - we spent 5 or 6 periods reading individually with students the story Hansel & Gretel - got that one memorized now!  It was really fun to see when the kids were into it, when they wanted to figure out how you say different words they were reading, and when they were comprehending the story...and then tough for me when certain ones wanted to be doing anything but reading ;), but it was a really great experience overall.  I looooove education.

* Math & Reading with my group during family time in the evening (7:30-8:30pm).  Something about that time is super sweet and I love how all the boys wanted to play with my head lamp.  They would all swear to me that they would use it for just one minute and be very careful with it :)  They got a big kick out of that light - thanks Tim!

* Getting to know their names and hearing them call out my name.
Setting up for dinner.  We eat here on top of our hostel roof each night at about 6pm.
I brought my little notebook with me everywhere I went and wrote down all the names of the kids I worked with and played with along with a description of who they are.  I won't remember all 235 of them, but hopefully, I can get to know a good group of them.  They love it when you remember their names.  And they are really such good kids.  I know they do this to everyone, but I also really love hearing them call out my name with their happy voices, even if they are just saying my name because I'm a white girl, it just makes me happy.

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Second Day: Humbling and Beautiful

Some of us in the morning before heading to the colony

Polambaakam Colony

Yesterday, we went to the leprosy colony called Polambaakam.  Once we arrived, we unloaded all the supplies and set up the stations.  There were a number of Indian nurses there that work with Rising Star Outreach and they did the work needed to be done by a nurse. 

We had sevearl stations: giving eye drops, taking blood pressure/glucose levels, removing old bandages, soaking and washing feet, oiling feet, cutting off old/bad skin, and re-bandaging the wounds with nice, clean bandages.

As we headed over, I kept praying in my heart that love would flow from me to those we worked with and got to know.  Even though I'm not a super duper clean person, I've noticed through the years an aversion to dirty hands and feet, especially feet.  For so long, I've wanted to meet those with leprosy or affected/afflicted with the disease, and have felt this burning desire to come here, and yet, I have had this other fear that I would struggle with the very reason I wanted to come.

In my prayers, I kept thanking the Lord for this experience and asking Him to please soften my heart and help me get over myself and be able to give love and give their feet the care they needed from us.

As we began with the first man who was missing most of his foot and simply had his big toe left, and as I lifted his legs and feet to clean each ulcer, I felt completely free and felt so very happy.  It was peacefully thrilling to be with these beautiful people, if that makes sense.  And there was no problem with working with their feet.  It was my privilege to wash their feet and it was such a sweet experience.  We would try to communicate with each other, them in Tamil and me in English, which is funny to watch, but that went as far as hello ("vanacum") and thank you ("nandri") for me, and it was okay, there seemed to be enough communicated through our smiles and hand gestures :)

The last guy who is in the picture with me above, and below, he had a very special spirit.  It was so strong that we all sensed it and commented on him afterwards.  Man, such beautiful souls, and it almost felt like you could see right into them as they looked down at you.  Such a happy experience.

Our beautiful singing and praising friend.  He clapped his hands towards the heavens and very energetically and enthusiastically thanked the Lord after we finished working with him.  Huge spirit in his little body.

Random monkey we passed on the road.  She's carrying her baby in her pouch-like thing.

Some of us on our way up to the Christian Holy House
Play time: 4:30-5:50pm
Students' Hostel: One side for the girls and the other for the boys.  They are divided into families and at night time from 7:30-8:30pm I'm assigned to one of the boy side "families" for the end of the day family time.  They are such great kids, many study so hard so that they can do well...and they play hard too :)  This "evening family time" has been one of the sweetest times with the kids for me thus far.  The smaller group dynamics is nice because it's easier to give focused and individual attention to them than when they are in a bigger group.
They're so beautiful!  Quite smart too :)
Many of the children getting ready for prayer time and then dinner.  They rotate 3 types of prayers: Hindu, Muslim, Christian.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

First Day Videos

I forgot to upload some fun "beginning of the trip" videos, so here you are :)  While taking these, I thought I was talking loud enough, but it's actually hard to hear what I'm saying.  Mostly, I wanted anyone watching them to get a sense of what it is like here as we drove out to Rising Star Outreach.  Fun times. :)

First Day: India with hints of Thailand :)

Major hints, that is... :)

Last night I meant to finish this but fell asleep trying.  It was a great first day in India - and I can tell there is much for me to learn from this wonderful country, people and culture.  And we have an awesome group - and it's neat how each has had a strong desire to come and has a story on how they got here at this time.  There are other more long-term volunteers at RSO as well.

Our group leaving the hotel :)  We have Kay, Toni, Cassidy, Allison, Nusly, Marilyn, Birdie and me
First off, I flew from Seattle to Frankfurt, Germany to Chennai, India.  That was quite fun - awesome folks on the flights - people from so many countries around the world - so many fun languages filling my ears throughout both flights.  One of my favorite scenes from the Frankfurt airport was watching a little family as I walked behind them - with I'd taken a picture.  The man was in his native dress, a full white colored, long shirt type outfit that went to the ground, his young son in a similar white long shirt/outfit, and then the wife/mother, in her black dress, long sleeves, outfit to the ground, head and face covered except for her beautiful eyes, all in black.  I don't remember if the dad wore a white hat-like thing or not, but I just remember feeling great vibes from their little family conversation that all three were having with each other, happy, friendly, loving and a little funny.  They all three walked together, side by side, and I appreciated seeing that.  
After arriving in India and getting through the fun airport pickup experience, Allison,  Nusly, Cassidy and I all made it to the Marriott hotel where we had a wonderful room with a hot shower and very comfortable beds.  Such a great set up!  In the morning, we ate an amazing breakfast, and then headed off to the Rising Star Outreach campus, a couple of hours from Chennai.  
As you'll see in the pictures, it is a fun place.  And man, it reallllly reminded me of Thailand...except with folks from India, not Thais :)  So fun.  I truly can't believe I'm here.  I've wanted to come here for so many years, always feeling a tug in my heart to come, so many times praying that I could find a way, and here I am, so humbled and grateful to get to know a little of this blessed spot on earth, and especially, to finally meet the beautiful leprosy affected people I've read about and longed to meet for so long.  We all literally are a family on this earth, and there is something amazing about meeting family that you've perhaps not know in this life, but who is filled with light and love that is so familiar.  More on that later.

Love this woman on the back of a motorcycle as they weave through lanes of traffic :)

They have tuk tuks here!  Some call them tuk tuks and others call them rickshaws.  So fun!

Good times and big fruit :)

Beautiful souls - Nusly and Alli

We stopped for gas on the way to RSO and these folks were super fun to smile and wave at - they were probably headed to work or something.   Look how fun and bright their clothes are!  Well, the women's clothes are bright - they are such beautiful people!  Happy smiles :)

Yep :)
There are fields like this everywhere.  The cows are also everywhere :) 

Gotta love this little shops - they are everywhere!  So reminds me of Thailand, El Salvador, Guatemala, and other places.  So great!

As we arrived at RSO, we were oriented by Callie and Julie who are over the work we're doing here, and then we got settled in our rooms.  We had play time with many of the 235 students/kids after that - so great.  There are so many children here...and I'll have pictures of them later.  They are beautiful.  Many have parents or grandparents that have leprosy and so they live here in this gated campus like they would at a boarding school.  There are house mothers for the kids and they do a wonderful job of keep order and love here at RSO.  And that is the theme here.  "It's all about love."  That is so good for us to remember.  It isn't about being perfect or doing the fanciest thing around, but it is about truly loving each other, treating each other as the Savior would treat us.

At dinner time, which is on our roof top, our director asked each one of us to state the "high" and "low" point of our day. A volunteer shared that his low point was that today, he went to one of the many leprosy colonies and saw some of the people who had lost their legs and thus had to drag themselves across the ground to get assistance. He said he felt so sad that we couldn't get these individuals wheelchairs. Then one of the other directors said, "Well this session isn't doing construction. Usually a portion of the program fee that you pay goes towards construction. That money went to purchase 3 new motorized wheelchairs for these people. So your low point just turned to a high."  That really was neat to hear and it was obvious it touched and excited everyone at the table.

Before going to bed, we split up into "families".  Mine was a house (3 connected rooms) of boys.  That was honestly one of my favorite parts of yesterday.  I felt like I really connected with them - they wanted me to throw all types of math problems at them for our time together (7:30-8:30pm).  That's the type of "playing with kids" I can do well at - learning activities.  Their beautiful faces were eager to get the addition, subtraction, multiplication and division problems correct.  It was all in our heads, or sometimes they would draw with their finger on the ground so they could see the problem better in their head.  They are so smart and their eyes danced excitedly as they successfully worked out the math :).  Note: In that picture showing my hair, they gave us Jasmine flowers as we arrived and put them in our hair.  So fun, and they smelled soooo nice!

Alli and I
It was sobering as we sent them to bed as I looked in the next room and all they were sleeping on was a covered cement floor with a few thin blankets to kids slept on, but even then many didn't have that.   Sometimes cloth was used as a pillow...and I realize they have it good compared to everyone in the surrounding villages.  It was just a little reminder of how blessed I am.  I have sooooo much to be thankful for - and these kids, they have so much as well even though they have so little compared to me.  But they don't see it that way.  Like I said earlier, the school here has about 235 students from standard 1-10 (kind of like 1st - 10th grade...but some kids get in early because their parents' lie about their age so they can join early).  And the school boards most of them because they often times can't live with their families or they'll most likely eventually contract Leprosy themselves.  Here their bodies area much stronger and more healthy - and they are really trying so hard to learn all they can because they realize that it will free them from the poverty cycle...or at least help them :)

Alli, Nusly and I room together in the Elephant House.  I really admire them and their desires to love and serve others.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Stand By...'s pretty cool that I haven't blogged on here since last January...2011!!  But, guess what, times are finally changing.  Why?  Well, I'll tell you.  Two reasons:

  1. I'm heading to India in a little over a week (wow, that makes me smile) and so I will be blogging some of my experiences from our location there in/near Chennai.  For years, I've dreamed and wanted to go to India to volunteer with the Leprosy colonies, and it almost makes me cry because I am finally going to go.  I can't wait to learn from them...and hopefully it will be one of many similar adventures.
  2. This year, I have been reading the Bible, cover to cover, in a new way, not some here and some there, and I have just got to say, I LOVE the Bible!!  It lifts me, it brings so much light to me, and is absolutely fascinating.  Whoever said the Old Testament is not interesting surely needs to give it another try - it's incredibly captivating for Becky Castleton!  One day recently, I was just thinking that I would love to blog about why I've loved this journey through the Bible so much, what it is teaching me, the connections I'm making to my own life, etc.  If that's not your thing (not that I have many readers ;)) feel free to bypass that stuff, but if you're interested please read on.  I'd love your comments as well.  Right now I'm in I may do a little backtracking to share a few gems from earlier pages.
Thanks and bless you to anyone who reads my blog  :)  It impresses me to see that folks used to, and I hope that what I post will be uplifting and fun for any future readers.

Love Flows  ~  Rebecca, Becky, Bex, Becks, the  :)