Thursday, July 17, 2014

Throwback Thursday: India~ You make me smile!

This video is from talented Ember Hobi who has done so many amazing videos for Rising Star Outreach.  This one is so cute and will have you dancing along in no time.  Check out these kids and she is right, "Rising Star Volunteers: You are Remembered in India!" -- Ember Hobi

Posted January 5, 2013

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

News: Leprosy Persists in Texas, But the Disease Is No Longer a Death Sentence

Most people view leprosy as a disease that is not found in the United States, we wanted to share this article from last week that talks about its existence in our own country.  You will notice that the stigma we see in India is still felt right here at home.

Original Article HERE
Originally published on Mon July 7, 2014 11:53 am
Debbie Mata is one of the few leprosy nurses in the country.
Filipa Rodrigues for KUT
For thousands of years, people have had an image of what life with leprosy is like. You might think it's been eradicated, but leprosy — now referred to as Hansen's disease — still affects hundreds of people in the U.S. every year. Many of those victims are in Texas but, with treatment, a life with leprosy is no longer a death sentence.
Leprosy causes numbness. That's its signature. One of the ways Debbie Mata determines how much damage the bacteria has caused is by running the fine fibers she's holding on the patient's arms, legs, fingers and toes.Filipa Rodrigues for KUT
The disease causes disfiguring sores and nerve damage. While there's  no vaccine, 95 percent of people worldwide are naturally immune to the bacteria. For the rest, there's treatment. 
Linda Brown is a nurse consultant overseeing the four state clinics in Texas treating patients with leprosy. She treated her first patient with leprosy in 1968, and says patients most often associate the disease with its biblical connotations. 
"I, all the time, have had patients say to me 'What have I done that is so bad that God is punishing me by giving me leprosy?'" says Brown.
As Debbie Mata examines her new patient, she notices he has lost all feeling in some of his toes. She urges him to start wearing white socks. If he gets hurt and bleeds he won't feel it, but the blood will alert him. Filipa Rodrigues for KUT

While the history of leprosy in Texas doesn't stretch back to Leviticus, the disease is nothing new here. 
Texas has the second highest number of leprosy cases in the U.S., behind California, according to the Centers for Disease Control's most recent data. Texas accounted for 26 of 213 new cases in 2009. The agency calls Texas' relatively high numbers historically normal because, strangely enough, of one of the state's most iconic and prolific animals: armadillos. The disease has been carried by the nine-banded Armadillo since the 18th century. 
The examination lasted hours. During that time, James Landolt discovered he had lost feeling in some of his fingers. That may be why just a couple of weeks before, his fingers lost control of his steering wheel. He crashed into incoming traffic in Austin. Filipa Rodrigues for KUT
Scientists haven't been able to determine why some armadillos carry the leprosy bacteria. They also don't know if the armadillos transmit the bacteria to humans or if the bacteria is in the soil and both humans and armadillos get infected.
Treatment, however, has advanced. A mix of antibiotics for one or two years will cure most of the cases in Texas every year. But, because of the disease's infrequent occurrence, many doctors don't know the symptoms and often miss it entirely. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Parent's Day

Saturday, July 12th, was Parent's Day on campus. The children were so excited all week, looking forward to Saturday with great anticipation. On Friday, kids were excitedly telling the volunteers, "My mom is coming tomorrow!"

On Saturday morning, all the children were dressed in their very best and gathered on the school lawn. The parents are no less excited as they stream out of the vans that have brought them from the nearest bus stop. They all come carrying a bag of food and a blanket. The families spread out under the trees and share their meal. I noticed many children happily eating ice cream treats first, since they were already melting in the heat.

As I walked through the group, individual children would call out "Rebecca! Rebecca!", motioning me over to meet their parents. It was so fun to see that many of our students have little siblings that look exactly like them.
This is Roseline and her younger sister (whose "middle" name is Rebecca!)
This is Abirami and her little "Mini Me"
This is Pavithra and her family.
The families all seem to know each other very well and they happily spent the day lounging in the shade, visiting, sleeping, and watching the children play.

At the end of the afternoon, the parents and siblings pile (and I mean PILE) onto the vans that will take them back to the bus and their long journeys home.

Rebecca, Maria Catherine and Mother
A personal highlight for me was meeting this beautiful woman. 

She is the mother of Maria Catherine. We have been sponsoring Maria Catherine for the last year. She is in Second Standard and is a beautiful child. The mother, with the help of an older girl translating, expressed her gratitude to me and asked me to help Maria Catherine read better and learn English. I was touched and felt a deep conviction to continue supporting Maria Catherine until she graduates.
Maria Catherine and her Mother.

This mother and I are different in so many ways. We speak different languages, eat different foods, have different skin and hair colors. But one thing is the same. We want what is best for our children and are willing to sacrifice to make sure they get it. And for this woman, that sacrifice means only seeing her beautiful girl once a month.

As I looked through my photos from the day, that same love was evident in each of the parents' faces. I am sure that for the kids and their parents alike, Parent's Day is the best day of the month.

Velankanni R. and Mother

Ranjith and his Mother

Vinnarasan, Amirthavasan and their Mother.

Goutham, Father and Praveenkumar
-- Rebecca Young
India Sponsorship Program Director

Our Rising Stars: Stacy Hone

Lon and Rebecca Young told us about Rising Star and sent the video to me showing the founder talk about how she started this organization. This really grabbed my heart {I also lost a sweet child to suicide and Lon, Rebecca and their children going to India to serve there for a year inspired me and made me believe that I could trust that the funds sent to Rising Star would actually go to sponsor the children.

I e-mailed all of my women friends and told them about a fund raiser dinner I wanted to have to help raise money for at least one girl from the Leper Colony to go to school for a year. I named it “Women Lifting Women”. I felt that we would lift each other in this cause and this young girl will be a woman some day that hopefully we can help lift up and support in this world.

A friend of mine caught the spirit of this too and helped me plan and provide the dinner. We asked everyone to bring a can of food to put in our care box for the local food bank and  told them that my friend Cathy and I would provide the dinner hoping that possibly our they could come and donate what they may have paid to go out to a dinner. We told them that we knew we each have different circumstances so anything offered would be welcome.

We had a light buffet and I ordered one appetizer for us all to try out from our local India restaurant. We had two special guests arrive from the Hare Krishna temple. An Indian mother and daughter volunteered to come in beautiful Indian dress. They are from India and live and serve in the temple there. The mother explained some of their traditions and the cute little 5 year old daughter danced for us several times. We even included the mother in voting for the girl we would sponsor.

One of things I loved best was how we chose the girl we would sponsor. I didn’t want it to be about how a girl looked but by who she was as a person. I chose seven of my favorite girls from the Rising Star web site after reading about their personalities. I ordered photos of their faces to show around the house here and there with little signs that said “Be the Change”. I then gave each woman a sheet of paper that said, “This is Our Rising Star. It had the name, age and description of each one of girl’s personalities from the web site. The women marked their first choice with a number 1 and their second choice with a number 2.

Our top choices would get 2 points for each vote and our second choice got 1 point. After a friend added up the points I showed the photos of our top 2 choices and we cheered.  It was so hard to choose just one girl that they wanted to try and sponsor two girls.

Several women who lived too far away to attend the dinner and others who couldn’t make it that night sent in money. We actually made enough money to sponsor two girls for one year each!

After the party I sent everyone who donated funds the link to their photos, to other links at Rising Star and where to write e-mails to our “Rising Stars”.  

-- Stacy Hone

Friday, July 11, 2014

Colony Projects: Chettipunniyam Latrines

This year we are building twelve latrines in one of the leprosy colonies where Rising Star Outreach has been going to for years: Chettipunniyam. Chettipunniyam is a middle sized colony with 78 inhabitants, 30 of them are affected with leprosy.

We started on the 17th of June with digging and making room for the foundation. Also we need to dig 4 feet deep holes for the tanks. It is hard work but very rewarding. All the volunteers are putting their best effort in this physical labor. 

We have two Indian coworkers: Milo and Deverasj. They are hard workers and help us out a lot. Besides that they are the funniest people I’ve ever met. They goof around a lot and they make everybody laugh. The volunteers have already grown really fond of them. We are making great progress and I hope to see at least one of the latrines finished before I leave.

All the villagers are intrigued by our visits. They are all so loving and grateful. They all want to help out and make us feel as comfortable as possible. This project will help them live more comfortably. After the latrines are built their environment will be more hygienic and safe. This will make their lives a bit easier.  

-- Claartje America (Netherlands)
Community Outreach Coordinator

Raising Funds To Volunteer In India: A Success Story

Fundraising can be a daunting task but every year we have volunteers raise money to attend a volunteer session in India.  Often times its the preparation before the trip that really prepares the volunteer, their family and friends for the experience they will have.  For months people work hard and share the vision of Rising Star Outreach to then make their big trip to the other side of the world just to help those in need.  Months of selfless dedication is demonstrated and the growth that happens in a short time is remarkable.  

We have a story from Hadley Evans, a 2014 Summer Volunteer that raised all her funds using her personal donation page and received overwhelming support from those she did not even know.

This is what Hadley has to say: 

"Starting my fundraising journey I was a little wary that not many people would donate to my fundraising page. I was thinking of the people I personally thought would donate to me, who were mostly relatives. Even then I was worried they would only donate $20-$50, which would not let me hit my fundraising goal. I talked to my Dad about it and he came up with his own list of people who he thought would donate. His list was much bigger than mine, including his clients and personal friends! I thought because the majority of his people didn't know me personally or only knew me as his daughter that they wouldn't donate. But I sent out an email to everyone anyways. I just included my journey, what my objective of going to India is and a link to my donation page. Within hours of sending out the email I was receiving overwhelming support. Also, don’t be afraid to send follow up emails and make phone calls, people get busy and forget they wanted to donate.  The majority of my donations were people from my Dad, that didn't know me personally but wanted to support me and believed that Rising Star Outreach was a worthy cause to donate too.  I would say don’t be afraid to email people and ask for support, reach out to more than just family. You will be surprised how many kind people are out there willing to support your cause and passion to provide meaningful service."
--Hadley Evans 
         2014 Summer Volunteer (USA)

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Principal Sorensen at Rising Star Outreach

Nancy Sorensen is the Principle at Manila Elementary School.  Nancy and Manila Elementary School have been amazing supporters over the past years with fundraisers and sharing their knowledge that leprosy still exists and affects millions. This video is from Nancy's visit from 5 years ago to the campus.  We thank her and all the students at Manila Elementary for their example,  humanitarian work and for lifting those with leprosy.

"Manila Elementary's Principal, Nancy Sorensen, on her visit to India / Rising Star Outreach.The students and community of Manila Elementary in Pleasant Grove, Utah raised over $3,000.00 to buy bunk beds for all the older boys and girls at Rising Star Outreach."

Video posted:  July 18, 2009