Sunday, November 30, 2014

President's Letter: Holiday Giving

December 2014 Newsletter

“Leprosy work is not merely medical relief. It is transforming the frustration in life into the joy of dedication, personal ambition into selfless service. If you can transform the life of a patient or change his values of life, you can change the village and the country.”  
-Mahatma Gandhi
While we prepare for a joyous holiday celebration with family and friends, let's pause to reflect on those who are not so fortunate and remember Rising Star Outreach on our gift-giving list. Rising Star Outreach has a deep impact on the lives we touch in India. You and your family can be part of this meaningful work by contributing to the many giving campaigns we have. Visit our website and get started on your own giving campaign!

For less than the price of most candy bars—a dollar a day—you can help give a child proper nutrition, medical care and dental care, and the blessing of a quality education. Eight years ago when I first volunteered at Rising Star I met Sonya, a student at our Rising Star campus. Because she was so shy and had limited English, she struggled in school. Today Sonya is one of the top students in the 12th Standard and is looking forward to attending a top ranked university to study medicine.  She wants to use the opportunities she has been given to give back to her country. Sponsoring a child like Sonya gives the gift that keeps on giving throughout many generations! A friend of Rising Star lost a teenage daughter in a tragic death. She decided to sponsor a young girl in honor of her daughter. She wrote:

I took the opportunity to sponsor a teenage girl. That means that I will pay a dollar a day to help support her and others at the school. She is a member of the school dance group. I felt [my daughter’s] nod of approval as I watched [my sponsor child's] passion for dancing. I couldn't stop the tears when I observed her smiles and joy when she performed—very much reminding me of [my daughter’s] joy and passion for dance. I feel so connected to this young girl [and also my daughter]. She wants to be a teacher one day, and I plan to do everything I can to make that a reality for her.”
                            -- E. Knell

Click here to sponsor a child!

If you’re looking for a meaningful experience for yourself or your children, if you're looking for an opportunity to serve as a family, please volunteer at Rising Star Outreach. Serving side-by-side with your family or friends makes memories that last a lifetime! It certainly was life changing for my family. One parent shared his thoughts about serving with his daughter at Rising Star Outreach:
“My oldest daughter and I arrived at Rising Star’s campus in India in July 2014. It has been an amazing experience. We visit colonies to care for leprosy patients. We do manual labor and we visit the school. It’s hard work. Hard physically and hard emotionally, to see people suffering great physical pain, to be so far from everything familiar...but it’s just that sort of challenge that gives me confidence in the outcome of our family. It is the process of quietly serving others, dad after day that builds the qualities every parent wants to see in their children; a caring heart, a selfless attitude, and the confidence to do hard things. These are qualities that we talk about but struggle to teach when we are engulfed in our own easy lives; yet they develop naturally when you spend your days serving someone else far from home, and far outside your own comfort zone.
It’s a wonderful thing to watch my daughter work to build up others and know that they are building up her as well, in ways that my wife and I can hardly do without their help. I look at the other volunteers and smile, as I think of their parents worrying about them. I watch them all serve and I see how well they are doing. And I wish every parent could experience what I’ve been through here. “
              --N. Wells

Click here to be a volunteer!

Last October while visiting a new colony I met a beautiful woman, a mother named Nithia. She shared with me that begging in the streets was very difficult, but it helped feed her children. She had no hope that life could be different for her.  Because Nithia has received a micro-loan from the self-help group in her colony, today she has a small business as a seamstress and is no longer humiliated by begging in the streets. She is lifting her own life and filling her children’s lives and her community with hope! Please consider contributing to the micro-grant program and empowering individuals with the gift of dignity and productive work.

Click here to contribute to the micro-grant program!

This year our wish list includes ways you can help Rising Star purchase specific items that are needed in the colonies and on the campus. You and your family might be interested in providing assistance for the Medical Program, which helps thousands receive essential medical care, bandages, and medicines. You can make a donation to help purchase clothing, blankets, or items for the classrooms, or donate to help purchase a sewing machine or even a goat! (Now that’s a great way to get your children excited about helping others!)

Click here to “Buy a Goat” and other gift guide items!

Heartfelt thanks for helping Rising Star Outreach transform lives through these generous gifts. Our own lives are transformed and enriched when we care enough to reach out to others.

Happy holidays!


Sally Read
Rising Star Outreach

Thursday, November 6, 2014

President's Letter

November 2014 Newsletter

Paul Zak, a neuroscientist, has demonstrated that acts of kindness are like using a muscle: each act strengthens the capacity for others.

        Rising Star Outreach continues to be strengthened by the contributions of those who believe in our mission of helping thousands of people affected by leprosy.  In October Dr. Susan Hilton, Managing Director of Rising Star Outreach of India, travelled to the USA, during which time she met with friends of Rising Star Outreach and attended a Board Meeting of the USA Rising Star Outreach Board of Directors.  Dr. Hilton is a remarkable woman in her own right, but as the director of our India campus she leads with vision, grace, and fortitude.  She and Padma Venkataraman  (Chairman of the Board of Directors in India) are taking Rising Star Outreach to new heights.
India Presentation For US Board Meeting
Rising Star Outreach of India Medical Team and Dr. Susan Hilton
(Courtesy: Dr. Susan Hilton)
Dr. Hilton shared with the board how Rising Star Outreach continues to make progress in medical care, micro-grants, and in the education of the students.  The Volunteer program and the Sponsorship program also strengthen the organization and move Rising Star Outreach forward because they increase the capacity to reach more people and assist them with the care they desperately need.  Rising Star Outreach is fortunate to have the leadership of Ms. Padma Venkataraman and Dr. Susan Hilton!  Rising Star Outreach is also privileged to have board members that share their time, energy, and resources in supporting the work of Rising Star Outreach.

Lexi Walker and David Archuleta (Courtesy: Bry Cox) 
  On October 24, Rising Star Outreach hosted a special evening with David Archuleta and Lexi Walker at the lovely home of Scott and Karen Keller in Bountiful, Utah.  It was a gathering of friends: friends who have supported Rising Star Outreach for many years through volunteering, sponsoring students, or donating their time or resources.  New friends also attended to gain a greater understanding of Rising Star Outreach's mission.  Si Foster, creator and chef extraordinaire of A Bountiful Kitchen, generously donated her time and resources to prepare delectable menu with glorious hors d'oevres and mouthwatering desserts.

       As President of Rising Star Outreach I was thrilled to welcome everyone and express appreciation for the support they've given.  I spoke about my frequent trips to India and the privilege I have had of associating with individuals and families living in the colonies that are affected by leprosy.  While visiting with them I see faces of hopehope because of the assistance of Rising Star Outreach. I see hope on the faces of the patients who have their leprous ulcers washed, cleaned, and wrapped with new bandages.  I see hope shining on the faces of those who have received micro-loans and now have the ability to lift their families from poverty.  Our students experience hope when education increases their confidence, intellect, and determination. At Rising Star Outreach, we understand that hope is lifting individuals, families, and communities.

       Lexi Walker, a gifted 12-year old singer, opened the musical portion of the program with the song “Tomorrow” from the musical Annie.  She visited Rising Star Outreach’s website and found two students to sponsor—one her age and one her brother’s age.  She was happy to have the opportunity to help them receive the gift of education.  Lexi’s voice is beyond her years, and her love of music and appreciation for Rising Star Outreach was a gift to all those who heard her perform.

Kendra Lowe playing the piano (Courtesy: Bry Cox)
David Archuleta, a remarkable musician and celebrity, spoke about his experience in January 2011 volunteering with Rising Star Outreach in India.  He recalled spending special time with the students and had tender feelings as he gave medical care to those affected by leprosy.  He delighted us with his rendition of Somebody Out There,“ a favorite song of Rising Star Outreach supporters, and other beautiful songs with his extraordinary voice.  David is a dear friend of Rising Star Outreach, and we are grateful for the way he constantly shares his gift of music and compassion with us. 

The talented Kendra Lowe accompanied Lexi and David as their musical director and as musical arranger for Lexi.  She is an accomplished musician, and Rising Star Outreach is grateful to her incredible musical talents.  The guests enjoyed personal photos with David and Lexi taken by the talented Bry Cox.  What a great evening!

unnamed Tyler Vigue, Executive Director of Rising Star Outreach, introduced a new way to donate to Rising Star Outreach through the Amber Douglas Circle of Hope. Here's an excerpt of his speech: Rising Star Outreach would not exist if it wasn’t for the empathy and compassion of Amber Douglas and the tragic way that her life ended.  The mission of Rising Star Outreach is to lift a population of people who suffer much like Amber Douglas suffered. Amber understood the sadness and isolation that comes when you feel that you are alone.  While Amber was blessed with a loving family and many opportunities throughout her life, the unfortunate reality was that she felt isolated while battling the demons of loneliness and depression.  The inspirational way that Amber still demonstrated compassion for others led her family to India and brought her mother, Becky, literally face-to-face with people who suffer an indescribable stigma because of a disease and cultural pattern that truly should have no place in the world today.  Amber’s example of compassion and service led to the creation of an organization that now invites donors and supporters the world over to learn to empathize with those who suffer and to be part of creating needed change.  The Amber Douglas Circle of Hope has been established to invite friends and supporters of Rising Star Outreach to help broaden the circle of support demonstrated by Amber’s loving generosity.

        Following Tyler’s remarks, David and Lexi joined together to sing “A Whole New World” from Aladdin and ended the evening with the moving song ‘The Prayer of the Children” by Kurt Bestor.  David and Lexi also graciously volunteered their time so attendees could have a photo taken with these two talented young people.  On behalf of Rising Star Outreach, I express sincere appreciation to all who helped make this event so beautiful and memorable—especially to those who are now part of the Amber Douglas Circle of Hope.  With continued support Rising Star Outreach can continue offering hope: hope of a hand-up, not a hand out, hope to a heart who needs mending, hope to a life needing a lift and love.  Come join us in donating to the Amber Douglas Circle of Hope.  (Contact Tyler Vigue at

1cce86fIn October, changes were made to the USA staff of Rising Star Outreach. Callie Reagan, Director of Programs and Outreach, made the decision to seek education opportunities in another state, and Heidi Lelle has filled her position.  The halls of the Provo office and the campus in India have been filled with the sounds of Callie's infectious laugh, which we will miss dearly.  Energetic, gregarious, and totally committed to Rising Star Outreach, Callie was enthusiastic about her job, yet always mindful of the struggling volunteer, the student needing a boost, or the older person with leprosy in need of a hug.  Thank you, Callie, for sprinkling Rising "Stardust" wherever you went during your time with us.

28933e7We welcome Heidi Lelle, a native of Connecticut to our team as the Director of Communications and Outreach.  Focused on working in the non-profit sector, Heidi has extensive digital and communications project management experience from previous roles at Wake Up World Communications, United Nations Foundation, and BYU-Hawaii's Student Affairs.  Throughout her studies at the American University in Cairo, The 2nd Inaugural Voyage of the Scholar Ship, and Brigham Young University-Hawaii, Heidi has traveled to over 20 different countries, including India where she volunteered for a short time at a school in Kerala. Her experience there inspired her to serve 18 months as a community service volunteer in Greece and Cyprus and instilled her drive to be an agent of change for the greater good. Heidi graduated with a B.A. in Political Science, minoring in Intercultural Communications, and received an Intercultural Peace-Building Certificate at the David O. McKay Center for Intercultural Understanding. We are excited and look forward to her sharing her talents to further the Rising Star Outreach mission to lift those with leprosy.

As Mother Teresa so beautifully shared, “I never beg for money. I only give you the opportunity of doing something beautiful for God.” On behalf of Rising Star Outreach, I express sincere appreciation during this month of gratitude to so many of you for your continued support, which always does something beautiful for Rising Star Outreach and for God.
Sally Read
Rising Star Outreach

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Music Instruction at the Peery Matriculation School

The following blog post was written by Lon Young.

Eighteen students at Rising Star currently receive music lessons in one-on-one or small group instruction. An after-school club on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays provides instruction on violin, percussion, piano, and guitar. Two paid instructors come from off-campus consistently on Tuesdays and Fridays. A long-term volunteer teaches on Thursdays. Another long-term volunteer gives early morning piano lessons each weekday morning to a highly motivated student. Additionally, two long-term volunteers conduct a weekly choir on Sunday afternoons to a group of girls.

Music instruction remains extra-curricular, and no systematic, school-wide curriculum of instruction is provided. Inevitably, musical skills are largely undeveloped in most children. Those coming to small group instruction as older students frequently lack fundamental skills such as the ability to match pitch with their voice, or to keep the beat. There are also logistical constraints that prevent daily personal practice, which severely hampers skill mastery.

Nevertheless, the after-school Music Club fills a vital need. We are very fortunate indeed to have a variety of quality instruments and a room dedicated to instruction. Most importantly, the paid music teachers provide consistent and qualified instruction for older students who show an interest in learning an instrument.

We at Rising Star Outreach are very grateful to our volunteers for what they do for our students. Lon and his fellow instructors are creating a change in these children's lives that will last for a long time. You can get more stories like this by following our Google + page, where we'll post all our blog posts!

New Video: Everyone Can Help

Rising Star Outreach is HOPE. Kaye shares her feeling about coming to India with her family. You are able to do physical things that provide value and each time you serve you see more that you can be doing.

Give us a thumbs up on YouTube and subscribe to our channel!

Filming and Interviews: Josh Cross (, Evan Carpenter (Evan Meets World)
Editing: Scott Wilhite (Big Sherpa Film Co.)

Monday, October 13, 2014

Dance Masters: Emily Hoffman and Katie Homer

We were so blessed this summer to have a wonderful dance teacher here through Promethean Spark. She was well loved and the kids and patients alike enjoyed her spunk and great teaching abilities.

Here is Emily teaching Life Dance, the audition-only dance troupe at Rising Star campus.

And this is Emily dancing with Jayaraj at Mogalvadi Leprosy Colony...

and visiting with another patient at the same colony.

We are so happy to have a new Dance Master join us for the Fall.  Her name is Katelyn Homer.  She also comes from New York City and is so happy to be here serving the kids and patients of Rising Star.

After saying sad farewells to Miss Emily, the kids are settling in and getting used to their new teacher.

The students at Rising Star are so blessed through this partnership with Promethean Spark that provides such a rich dance curriculum and a meaningful forum for teaching life skills.  We are so grateful for wonderful, talented teachers like Emily and Katie who come here to enrich the lives of our students with their knowledge and skill.

Our 5th Standard students learning a new Indian-style dance....and loving it!!

Saturday, October 11, 2014

The Day of the Girl

In 2011 the United Nations selected October 11th as International Day of The Girl.  This day has been set aside to acknowledge and discuss issues surrounding girls around the world. 
One of the issues that Rising Star Outreach likes to address is that of education. We educate girls who could possibly be denied opportunities. Not only that, but we also do it every day.

You can help us celebrate this day by donating to help us out with our mission of educating these girls when you click here. We also invite you to comment on this post with your favorite memory from volunteering with us and interacting with these wonderful girls! Have a wonderful Day of the Girl and donate today!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Common Questions About Leprosy

Let’s face it, the average person doesn’t know very much about leprosy. That's why we have compiled this handy reference guide focused on helping you answer the questions we frequently receive. If any of your questions are not answered here, we encourage you to leave your question in the comment section below, we would love to answer those.

Is leprosy contagious/will I get leprosy if I go to India?

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 95% of all adults are naturally unable to get leprosy, even if they are exposed to the bacteria that causes it. In other words, leprosy is mildly contagious, but it is unlikely you will acquire leprosy when you go to India. When someone with leprosy starts treatment, they quickly become non-infectious. Those at greatest risk of contracting leprosy are the family members of a person who has the disease and is not being treated.

How is leprosy identified?

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services reports that the first signs of leprosy are usually pale or slightly red areas on the body, particularly the abdomen or extremities. Frequently, there is a decrease in sensation of light touch in the area of the rash. Loss of feeling in the hands or feet may also occur. The infection can also be associated with changes of the skin on the face, such as thinning of the eyebrows. Today, doctors are also able to diagnose leprosy by doing a skin biopsy of the rash.

How soon will I know if I have leprosy?

It is difficult to identify when someone contracts leprosy. The reason is due to the bacterium that causes it. Mycobacterium laprae multiplies slowly and has a long incubation period. Therefore, the infection may not express any symptoms for five to twenty years.

How is leprosy treated?

Leprosy is treated with a combination of three antibiotics commonly referred to as multi-drug therapy (MDT). The antibiotics most commonly used are Dapsone, Rifampin, and Clofazimine. Since 1995, the World Health Organization started providing MDT to all endemic countries free of charge.

Is leprosy curable?

Yes, leprosy can be cured with Multi-Drug Therapy (MDT).

How is leprosy related to Hansen’s disease?

Hansen's disease is another name for leprosy. This is due to the following:

Leprosy has existed for thousands of years, but the cause of Leprosy was not discovered until 1873 by a Norwegian scientist named G.H Armauer Hansen. Until that time, most experts on the subject considered leprosy to be a hereditary disease. Hansen, however, suspected its cause to be a specific, contagious agent and, with this in mind, set out to study individual leprosy patients. He decided to first look for variations in the blood of his patients. Finding nothing, he moved on to examine his patients skin cells. Here, he discovered a foreign bacterium not found in uninfected skin cells. After prolonged studies, these were found to be the cause of Leprosy, now known as Hansen's Disease.

Where is leprosy most prevalent?

Leprosy is most common in India, Angola, Brazil, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, Mozambique, Nepal, and the United Republic of Tanzania. Of these countries, India has the highest number of new leprosy cases in the world.

Where can I learn even more about leprosy?

The following websites contain more information about leprosy:

Rising Star Outreach is dedicated to making your experience in India as safe as possible. We will provide high quality personal protective equipment for every volunteer interacting with our friends afflicted with leprosy. We are excited to have you join us in the fight against leprosy, and know your experience in India will be a memory you will treasure for the rest of your life.