Wednesday, July 1, 2015

July President's Letter

We are pleased to welcome back Becky Douglas, Founder of Rising Star Outreach. She and her husband John have been serving the people of the Dominican Republic for the past three years.  Becky is anxious to reconnect with former and new friends and supporters of Rising Star Outreach.  Welcome home!


“Start by doing what’s necessary; then do what’s possible, and suddenly you are doing the impossible.” – St. Francis of Assisi


While visiting India in the year 2000, Becky was shocked and disturbed by the plight of those affected by leprosy. She and a few friends decided to “start by doing what [was] necessary” to assist the individuals and families suffering from the physical impact and social stigma of leprosy.

These women saw a need and in small ways they did what they believed was “possible.” They began by raising money and involving friends and educating them about the wide-spread existence of leprosy around the world. Then, they administered basic humanitarian assistance to the leprosy colonies in southern India by providing medicines, bandages, food, and clothing. As the desire to help increased, their reach exceeded their grasp and “suddenly [they were] doing [what some thought to be] impossible.”




A few stanzas from a poem by Joseph Norris describes their vision:
“Drop a pebble in the water
And its ripples reach out far.

Do a deed of simple kindness;
Though its end you may not see,
It may reach, like widening ripples,
Down a long eternity.”





Becky Douglas, Sharon Thompson, Padma Venkataraman and many others saw that one kind action lead to another. By doing something necessary, they saw the reality of what was possible. The ripples of their actions continue today as those involved in Rising Star Outreach achieve the impossible.

There is still much to do, but who could have imagined that from those humble beginnings Rising Star would see such growth. Thousands of individuals and families have received medical care and been given a helping hand to business ownership.  Hundreds of their children and grandchildren are now ‘rising stars’ because of the superior education they are receiving.  



Thank you for helping Rising Star Outreach make a remarkable difference in making the impossible ----possible!


  

Sally Read
President

Rising Star Outreach

Monday, June 22, 2015

Women-to-Women Volunteer Session Dates Announced!



In January of 2014, Rising Star Outreach President, Sally Read hosted the first-ever Women-to-Women volunteer session in Tamil Nadu, India. The poignant experiences of this unique gathering of like-minded women were replicated again in 2015, and now plans are in place to expand this opportunity to two sessions in 2016!
Sally Read and other members of the board of Rising Star Outreach will lead these exclusively women sessions this winter and invite other women to join them in an unforgettable and life-changing service experience to the leprosy-affected of southern India.
Those interested in attending either of these sessions, are encouraged to apply online right away. Space is limited.
Additional information about Rising Star Outreach’s Volunteer Program can be found here.
To share this news on social media and invite others, please consider using one of the sample messages below using #WomentoWomen hashtag:


We're excited to officially announce session dates for TWO Women-to-Women volunteer sessions next January! Spaces are...
Posted by Rising Star Outreach on Monday, June 22, 2015

Saturday, June 13, 2015

"What a marvelous experience!"



What a marvelous experience it was to return to Rising Star Outreach after 7 years.  This past April my 12-year-old son Sam and I spent the last week of a 3 month tour of Asia at Rising Star Outreach’s campus outside Chennai, India. It was a gift to be there and have an opportunity to serve and connect with people in a real way, which we hadn’t had an opportunity to do during this journey until this point. We had seen and done incredible things throughout the ten countries we had visited but nothing touched our hearts or was more memorable than our experience at Rising Star.

Our first trip to Rising Star Outreach was in 2008 and came as a result of me searching to find a humanitarian trip where our family could serve be reminded of how blessed we were. I wanted to travel in a whole new way where we weren’t just seeing the world but were interacting and in some small way making a difference. The stars aligned, and I ended up coming to Rising Star Outreach with 22 of my family members back in 2008.  It was the most memorable trip we had ever taken as a family. After seeing what the vision of Becky Douglas, Amy Antonelli and Padma Venkataraman has become, I genuinely feel that this organization is divinely inspired and that through the service of many the future of generations of leprosy affected people is being changed.

The stars of the organization are the students at the Perry Matriculation School. To see the change in these children after 7 years is a testament to the effectiveness of the school. The new curriculum, the volunteer tutoring, and the extra programs and clubs are all working in strengthening these students. They are not only smart and nearly fluent in English, but also confident and talented. It was exciting to work with them during our volunteer tutoring sessions and see how much they are learning and how much their English has improved. It was a treat to be able to play with them and spend time with them during story time.

It was exciting to see how the medical program of Rising Star Outreach has grown. The new medical clinic they have on campus, along with the reliable vans and doctors and nurses they have on staff, allow Rising Star Outreach to more reliably serve their students and the students' families in the colonies miles outside the Rising Star Outreach campus. What a humbling experience to join the medical clinics to wash and care for the feet of those with physical ailments associated with leprosy. What a blessing it was to feel of their gratitude and experience their bright spirits as we served them. 

We spent a day working in the fields planting trees and moving rocks for the new gardens that will serve the community and supply fresh fruits and vegetables to Rising Star Outreach. It felt good to work alongside other volunteers and locals building friendships through hard work.

On our last day as we toured the largest leprosy colony in the area. We had visited last time we were in India, so it was incredible to see the effects of the micro-grants and community support that Rising Star Outreach has provided. It was jaw dropping. This community of almost 400 people is now actively employed with help from the micro-grants. They also now have clean streets due to the permanent trash bins that have been built, a working clean water source, a community building where they can meet and congregate, and sanitary toilet facilities that improve health and hygiene. As we met and visited with people during our walkabout it was just amazing that we could not only see but also genuinely feel the difference in this colony.

I am grateful for the opportunity to return to Rising Star Outreach and am so glad to have brought our youngest son, Sam. What a blessing it is as a mother to see him find joy in serving and building friendships and memories that will always be a part of him.  It has been inspiring to see how as a result of the support and efforts of so many, Rising Star Outreach has grown. It has not only lifted those that have been considered  “untouchable” but provided a way for them to regain their self respect and stand on their own. Thank you for letting volunteers be part of this amazing work and for another most memorable experience. 

Karen Marriott and Sam Rafferty


Contact Heidi Lelle to learn how you can become a volunteer with Rising Star Outreach or share your volunteer stories on our blog at: hlelle@risingstaroutreach.org.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

"There are no words to describe the level of happiness and love I feel everyday when I am at Rising Star Outreach."

Monica Bertha, a volunteer who has been to Rising Star Outreach's India campus many times, shares her feelings of joy to visit the campus and colonies again: 

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This spring I returned to Rising Star Outreach for the third time. Even though each time there are new kids, new buildings, and new directors, it’s the same feeling of pure happiness every second of the day. Going to Rising Star Outreach, I expected to spend my time helping and changing the lives of others. I didn’t realize until I was there, though, that those gorgeous children and loving leprosy affected people were really changing ME. I know it sounds cliché, but I don’t know if there’s a better feeling in the world than holding the children’s little hands or wiping the grateful tears of the face of a beautiful woman who has no fingers or toes.

My favorite lady in one of the leprosy colonies is named Saral. It is so amazing how love speaks no language.  I know about four Tamil words, yet in a span of thirty minutes I loved Saral as much as a life long friend.  After I helped her walk through the different hygiene stations, we sat and she would rub my face and repeat my name smiling. Saral was so happy, yet she lived with almost nothing.  Saral, and every child at Rising Star Outreach, just made me realize how much I had at home, and how little I needed to be overwhelmingly joyous.

One of my main highs of everyday was having dozens of kids running towards me yelling, “Auntie Auntie! Come play!” and spending hours laughing the day away.  Every day there were so many kids holding my hands, giving me hugs, yelling my name, and quickly stealing my heart.

Though I am happy at home, there are no words to describe the level of happiness and love I feel everyday when I am at Rising Star Outreach. The experiences I’ve been given are memories I will treasure forever.


Contact Heidi Lelle to learn how you can become a volunteer with Rising Star Outreach or share your volunteer stories on our blog at: hlelle@risingstaroutreach.org.

Friday, June 5, 2015

"I will be returning as soon as I possibly can."


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I first expressed my desire to work in the developing world about a year ago. I first heard about Rising Star Outreach a couple of months ago through Amy Antonelli, a friend of my father's, and I knew immediately that it was exactly what I wanted to do. India had been a place I had desperately wanted to visit for years, so naturally I was ecstatic when Dad said that with Amy and Sally's help, we were going! In fact, India was all I talked about the months leading up to our trip. 

The daily routine at Rising Star Outreach consisted of breakfast followed by morning conclave, where the daily events and announcements were issued and discussed. Each day, the group was split into three different smaller groups, each of which were assigned a different area of work; education, medical care, and community welfare. Everyone would work until the early afternoon each day, and then each group would return to the Elephant House for rest. I'm sure I speak for most when I say that playtime was the highlight of the day. It is time designated for hanging out and playing with all of the kids from the school. 

Macintosh HD:Users:ksread89:Desktop:May/June Newsletter:10393941_901780849886878_8560349537518663372_n.jpgTo say that I connected with all of the children would be an understatement. I fell absolutely head over heals in love with every single child. All they wanted to do was to love you and play with you. The love that circulates the playground and the positive energy that is present is truly unbelievable. I feel so incredibly honored to have been given the privilege to love those kids and connect with them. Everyday a knew face would approach me and hold my hand and take me around showing me everything they were proud of. I realized that the volunteers were in fact their substitute families. Story time was the most emotional and special time of the day. At 9:00 in the evening, the children would get ready for bed and the volunteers would go over and tell them stories until bed time. I left the children in tears too many times to remember because I had experienced such love and affection from every single child. Saying goodbye to the kids was one of the hardest things for me to do. Every time I would start to tear up I would be stopped by "Aunty! No tears!" I think about those beautiful faces every single day. 
Macintosh HD:Users:ksread89:Desktop:May/June Newsletter:553238_901781049886858_980236624574650994_n.jpg 
My trip to India came at a perfect time for me. I was lost in the pressures of school and the confusion of being a teenager transitioning into an adult. I didn't know what I wanted out of life and was slowly losing motivation. Being in India and being surrounded by some of the most kind and caring people really helped me realize who I was and the kind of person I wanted to be. I found that through helping others, I was also helping myself. My life changed the day I arrived at Rising Star Outreach. My outlook on my life has been completely turned upside down. I feel so grateful to have been given the opportunity. Thank you, Rising Star Outreach, for everything. I will be returning as soon as I possibly can.

-Lydia Crabb

Contact Heidi Lelle to learn how you can become a volunteer with Rising Star Outreach or share your volunteer stories on our blog at: hlelle@risingstaroutreach.org.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

June President's Newsletter

CONGRATULATIONS TO THE 12TH STANDARD AND 10TH STANDARD STUDENTS  for passing the government exams with excellent marks! They are RISING STARS! A special thank you to the administrators, teachers, and staff that have contributed to the success of these students. The Peery Matriculation School is certainly recognized as one of the top schools in India!

10th Standard Class of 2015
“Isn't it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day
with no mistakes in it yet?”
                                                                      ― L.M. Montgomery

June is an exciting month on the campus of Rising Star Outreach. The students join their friends for a new school year! Their hearts may feel sad as they say goodbye to their family and the lazy days of the break, but they’re also excited to see friends and are anxious about the new school year ahead. It’s a new day, a new beginning, a fresh start, and a time to look forward to learning and growing in different ways this year.


Last year Dr. Susan Hilton, MD, Managing Director and Medical Director of Rising Star Outreach of India, remembered a song she sang at her school when she was younger. She felt the message of the song would inspire the students of the Peery Matriculation School, so she changed a few words, taught the students the song, and the entire student body now sings the song at morning assembly.

Have you heard of Peery School and of our little band,
The best of all the boys and girls on India’s pleasant land.
And we’re doing all we can for our dear motherland.
May our School live forever and ever.

Then here’s to Rising Star, we are not great or grand,
But we’re founded on rock, not on shifting sand,
And for justice and truth we will take our stand.
May our School live forever and ever.  

We are children of India, and we’re proud of it too,
Wherever we go and whatever we do.
We will love and work and serve
And be brave and pure and true.
May our School live forever and ever.

Then here’s to Rising Star, we are not great or grand,
But we’re founded on rock not on shifting sand,
And for justice and truth we will take our stand.
May our School live forever and ever.  

The message of the song helps the students realize they have a strong Indian heritage built on a firm foundation of rock, strength, and courage, and because they respect the beautiful country of India, they have a responsibility to be diligent students. It also shares a message that justice, service, and truth are as important as the academic education they receive.


Dr. Hilton also made the following comments about the goals of Rising Star Outreach.
“Good education is only part of the hope we have for our Rising Star Outreach students.
We want our students to be filled with goodness—a goodness which thinks
more of others. If they are selfless and inspire a future generation to have that
same selfless sacrificing service, I think we will have achieved our goal.”         

I agree with these passionate words and appreciate the educators and administrators at the Peery Matriculation School who strive for excellence in academics while helping the students develop strong character traits that will be foundational core values throughout their lives.


Rising Star also has two new professionals that have joined the Medical Team. Dr. Lovling Aarthy Maria, Medical Officer and Dr. Nivetha Venkatachalam, Medical Intern and India Volunteer Program Officer.

C:\Users\moorthy\Desktop\DSCN0430.JPGDr. Lovling is a highly competent medical professional who passionately serves the poor and the desolate of the society, driven and motivated by a heart that is committed to the welfare of humanity. Born in Chengalpattu, Tamilnadu, she was raised up in a family that was very devoted to serving and helping people. While helping her father, she was deeply touched by the pain and loss caused by diseases to patients and their loved ones. It was then that she decided to become a doctor. She received her MBBS degree from Rajiv Gandhi University of Heath Sciences in 2009. She is married to Dr. Enoch Xavier, and they have a daughter, Anugraha Selah. Dr. Lovling is gifted with an excellence in women and children's healthcare.

C:\Users\moorthy\Desktop\DSCN0432.JPGDr. Nivetha Venkatachalam was born in Erode (a small town in Tamil Nadu). Her father is a driver for the government dairy and her mother is a homemaker. She also has an elder sister named Priya. Dr. Nivetha is the first doctor in her family. Becoming a doctor has always been a dream of hers, and she is very proud of accomplishing this remarkable goal. She graduated from Danylo Halytsky Lviv National Medical University in Ukraine. She speaks Tamil, Hindi, Marati, English, and Russian, and she enjoys dancing and singing. She especially loves helping people. In her words,“When I was a kid, I had dreams of settling in the US or UK but that changed during my last year of medical school. At the time I was training at the Indian Government Hospital where I saw a lot of patients who were very sick and very poor. Working with them helped me decide to return to India. My new dream is to one day own my own hospital where I can help the poor by providing them free treatment. “ 

We welcome Dr. Lovling and Dr. Nivetha and are impressed with their medical qualifications and touched by their desire to help those in society that have been repressed and marginalized.

Recently, Rising Star Outreach had the privilege of hosting a special session for dentists, dental assistants, and their families.

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As you can see, they used their expertise in cleaning the student’s teeth and gums and checked for any problems the dentists could attend to for those students. Because of the new KikIndia Health Center for Rising Stars, the medical and dental needs of the students are being well taken care of throughout the year. Thank you, Dr. Collins, Tara, and your amazing team!

Volunteering at Rising Star always evokes such beautiful emotions. Karen Marriott and her son Sam, Stuart Crabb Brooks and his daughter, Lydia, and Monica Bertha shared their feelings about their recent experiences as volunteers:


Karen Marriott and her son Sam reflect on their most memorable experiences at Rising Star Outreach of India:



What a marvelous experience it was to return to Rising Star Outreach after 7 years.  This past April my 12-year-old son Sam and I spent the last week of a 3 month tour of Asia at Rising Star Outreach’s campus outside Chennai, India. It was a gift to be there and have an opportunity to serve and connect with people in a real way, which we hadn’t had an opportunity to do during this journey until this point. We had seen and done incredible things throughout the ten countries we had visited but nothing touched our hearts or was more memorable than our experience at Rising Star.

Our first trip to Rising Star Outreach was in 2008 and came as a result of me searching to find a humanitarian trip where our family could serve be reminded of how blessed we were. I wanted to travel in a whole new way where we weren’t just seeing the world but were interacting and in some small way making a difference. The stars aligned, and I ended up coming to Rising Star Outreach with 22 of my family members back in 2008.  It was the most memorable trip we had ever taken as a family. After seeing what the vision of Becky Douglas, Amy Antonelli and Padma Venkataraman has become, I genuinely feel that this organization is divinely inspired and that through the service of many the future of generations of leprosy affected people is being changed.

The stars of the organization are the students at the Perry Matriculation School. To see the change in these children after 7 years is a testament to the effectiveness of the school. The new curriculum, the volunteer tutoring, and the extra programs and clubs are all working in strengthening these students. They are not only smart and nearly fluent in English, but also confident and talented. It was exciting to work with them during our volunteer tutoring sessions and see how much they are learning and how much their English has improved. It was a treat to be able to play with them and spend time with them during story time.

It was exciting to see how the medical program of Rising Star Outreach has grown. The new medical clinic they have on campus, along with the reliable vans and doctors and nurses they have on staff, allow Rising Star Outreach to more reliably serve their students and the students' families in the colonies miles outside the Rising Star Outreach campus. What a humbling experience to join the medical clinics to wash and care for the feet of those with physical ailments associated with leprosy. What a blessing it was to feel of their gratitude and experience their bright spirits as we served them. 

We spent a day working in the fields planting trees and moving rocks for the new gardens that will serve the community and supply fresh fruits and vegetables to Rising Star Outreach. It felt good to work alongside other volunteers and locals building friendships through hard work.

On our last day as we toured the largest leprosy colony in the area. We had visited last time we were in India, so it was incredible to see the effects of the micro-grants and community support that Rising Star Outreach has provided. It was jaw dropping. This community of almost 400 people is now actively employed with help from the micro-grants. They also now have clean streets due to the permanent trash bins that have been built, a working clean water source, a community building where they can meet and congregate, and sanitary toilet facilities that improve health and hygiene. As we met and visited with people during our walkabout it was just amazing that we could not only see but also genuinely feel the difference in this colony.

I am grateful for the opportunity to return to Rising Star Outreach and am so glad to have brought our youngest son, Sam. What a blessing it is as a mother to see him find joy in serving and building friendships and memories that will always be a part of him.  It has been inspiring to see how as a result of the support and efforts of so many, Rising Star Outreach has grown. It has not only lifted those that have been considered  “untouchable” but provided a way for them to regain their self respect and stand on their own. Thank you for letting volunteers be part of this amazing work and for another most memorable experience. 

Karen Marriott and Sam Rafferty

Monica Bertha, a volunteer who has been to Rising Star Outreach's India campus many times, shares her feelings of joy to visit the campus and colonies again: 

Macintosh HD:Users:ksread89:Desktop:May/June Newsletter:IMG_5902.jpeg

This spring I returned to Rising Star Outreach for the third time. Even though each time there are new kids, new buildings, and new directors, it’s the same feeling of pure happiness every second of the day. Going to Rising Star Outreach, I expected to spend my time helping and changing the lives of others. I didn’t realize until I was there, though, that those gorgeous children and loving leprosy affected people were really changing ME. I know it sounds cliché, but I don’t know if there’s a better feeling in the world than holding the children’s little hands or wiping the grateful tears of the face of a beautiful woman who has no fingers or toes.

My favorite lady in one of the leprosy colonies is named Saral. It is so amazing how love speaks no language.  I know about four Tamil words, yet in a span of thirty minutes I loved Saral as much as a life long friend.  After I helped her walk through the different hygiene stations, we sat and she would rub my face and repeat my name smiling. Saral was so happy, yet she lived with almost nothing.  Saral, and every child at Rising Star Outreach, just made me realize how much I had at home, and how little I needed to be overwhelmingly joyous.

One of my main highs of everyday was having dozens of kids running towards me yelling, “Auntie Auntie! Come play!” and spending hours laughing the day away.  Every day there were so many kids holding my hands, giving me hugs, yelling my name, and quickly stealing my heart.

Though I am happy at home, there are no words to describe the level of happiness and love I feel everyday when I am at Rising Star Outreach. The experiences I’ve been given are memories I will treasure forever.

-Monica Bertha

Lydia Crabb from our 2015 Spring Break Session 2 shared her feelings about her incredible experience at Rising Star Outreach:


Macintosh HD:Users:ksread89:Desktop:May/June Newsletter:11136663_901780469886916_8726272663863526692_n.jpg
I first expressed my desire to work in the developing world about a year ago. I first heard about Rising Star Outreach a couple of months ago through Amy Antonelli, a friend of my father's, and I knew immediately that it was exactly what I wanted to do. India had been a place I had desperately wanted to visit for years, so naturally I was ecstatic when Dad said that with Amy and Sally's help, we were going! In fact, India was all I talked about the months leading up to our trip. 

The daily routine at Rising Star Outreach consisted of breakfast followed by morning conclave, where the daily events and announcements were issued and discussed. Each day, the group was split into three different smaller groups, each of which were assigned a different area of work; education, medical care, and community welfare. Everyone would work until the early afternoon each day, and then each group would return to the Elephant House for rest. I'm sure I speak for most when I say that playtime was the highlight of the day. It is time designated for hanging out and playing with all of the kids from the school. 

Macintosh HD:Users:ksread89:Desktop:May/June Newsletter:10393941_901780849886878_8560349537518663372_n.jpgTo say that I connected with all of the children would be an understatement. I fell absolutely head over heals in love with every single child. All they wanted to do was to love you and play with you. The love that circulates the playground and the positive energy that is present is truly unbelievable. I feel so incredibly honored to have been given the privilege to love those kids and connect with them. Everyday a knew face would approach me and hold my hand and take me around showing me everything they were proud of. I realized that the volunteers were in fact their substitute families. Story time was the most emotional and special time of the day. At 9:00 in the evening, the children would get ready for bed and the volunteers would go over and tell them stories until bed time. I left the children in tears too many times to remember because I had experienced such love and affection from every single child. Saying goodbye to the kids was one of the hardest things for me to do. Every time I would start to tear up I would be stopped by "Aunty! No tears!" I think about those beautiful faces every single day. 
Macintosh HD:Users:ksread89:Desktop:May/June Newsletter:553238_901781049886858_980236624574650994_n.jpg 
My trip to India came at a perfect time for me. I was lost in the pressures of school and the confusion of being a teenager transitioning into an adult. I didn't know what I wanted out of life and was slowly losing motivation. Being in India and being surrounded by some of the most kind and caring people really helped me realize who I was and the kind of person I wanted to be. I found that through helping others, I was also helping myself. My life changed the day I arrived at Rising Star Outreach. My outlook on my life has been completely turned upside down. I feel so grateful to have been given the opportunity. Thank you, Rising Star Outreach, for everything. I will be returning as soon as I possibly can.

-Lydia Crabb


As most of us know, there’s something magical that happens when we stretch our hearts and participate in meaningful service. It not only transforms and lifts the lives we touch, but it's life changing for those who serve. I express my sincere appreciation for all of you that support this remarkable organization, an organization that is truly transforming many lives.

With appreciation,

Sally Read
President

Rising Star Outreach

Friday, May 22, 2015

The Marriott Courtyard Ahmedabad Auctioned Collector's Edition Cricket Bat for Rising Star Outreach

Our friends at the Courtyard Marriott in Ahmedabad, India recently auctioned off a collector's edition cricket bat to help serve those affected by leprosy by donating proceeds to Rising Star Outreach. The following is an excerpt from the official Marketwired Press Release:

The cricket bat, signed by the renowned international cricketers, including Rahul Dravid, Shane Watson, Steve Smith and James Faulkner, was won by Mrs. Aparna Garg. The signed bat was presented to Garg and her family at a high tea at the Satellite Road hotel. Her win is also a win for Rising Star Outreach, a US-based nonprofit organization that focuses on helping India's leprosy communities.


"Courtyard by Marriott is committed to achieving excellence, not only in hospitality and surpassing guest delight, but also in increasing its outreach to support community-based issues and their solutions," Gaurav Singh, General Manager of the Ahmedabad luxury hotel, says. "We have been actively involved in raising funds for the Rising Star Outreach, which supports the Marriott Home based out of Chennai."
Marriott Home is one of the pioneering efforts of Rising Star Outreach, which rented a small house in April 2004. The house became home to 27 children from surrounding leprosy colonies, and was the start of the organization's success with helping India's leprosy communities. Marriott Home can now accommodate nearly 400 children, who learn English, computer skills and other subjects at an onsite school. This is just part of helping the children reach the organization's goal: to see a day when those affected by leprosy are no longer consigned to begging on the streets, but can instead enjoy a life of dignity and productivity.