August 15th was Independence Day here in India, celebrating 67 years of independence from the British Empire. The students practiced for many days marching round and round the track under the hot sun so they could perform well for their Independence Day program.
On the morning of Independence Day as teachers, housemothers, and volunteers came out for the festivities, each person was given a small Indian flag to pin on their shirt. There were two beautiful rangolies decorating the school grounds near the flagpole.
Each "house"--Emerald, Sapphire, Topaz, and Ruby--marched around the track in time to a steady drum beat provided by Vimal (10th Standard).
Then there was a drill done by each house and multiple pyramids by boys and girls groups. Some of these were quite thrilling to watch and we all held our breaths until it was complete. We are glad to say that no one was hurt! Phew!
We were so lucky to have Sara Garrett, niece of Rising Star President Sally Read, as our guest of honor and speaker. Sarah was here as a session volunteer with two of her children. She gave a beautiful speech about independence and freedom and was honored with a ribbon garland and a beautiful scarf.
They definitely saved the best (or funniest) for last...dancing by the younger children. It was SO fun and absolutely delightful to watch them shimmy and shake as they followed their teachers' movements. What adorable little children we have at Rising Star!
Happy Indian Independence Day!
The first city of modern India, Chennai, is celebrating its 375th birthday this week. The southern city will celebrate Madras Week by dedicating seven days to the history, culture and traditions of the city.
Chennai, then Madras was founded on 22 August, 1639. It commemorates the founding of the city by establishing Fort St George on a small piece of land acquired from the last King of Chandragiri in 1639 by the British East India Company.
Rechristened Chennai in 1996, the capital of Tamil Nadu is now home to more than 4 million people.
The idea of Madras Day was born when a group of Madras lovers got together a few years ago to celebrate the city, its history, traditions and culture.
Though called the Madras Week, the event, which started off as a half-a-day Madras Day celebration 11 years ago, has grown into a 'Madras month' with festivities and events planned through August and a bit of September.
Madras Week festivities will include heritage walks, photo exhibitions, lectures and quizes to commemorate 375 years of Madras.
One of the many unique activities being organised are heritage cycle rides by Chennai-based group Cycling Yogis. A DNA report notes that this group has in the past, charted out heritage rides to places that have Chola, Pallava or colonial histories in and around Chennai in areas such as Royapuram, Anna Salai (Mount Road), Chepauk, Triplicane, Mylapore, Pulicat, Mahabalipuram etc during special occasions like Republic Day, World Heritage Day and the Madras Day.
The Madras Day celebrations and all the bash culminates each year with the Madras Quiz, separately in Tamil and English. This is facilitated by the Mylapore Times.
There's in fact a Facebook page dedicated for the event too. Take a look here.
What do people living in Madras love about the city? For some, it's the beach and the sunset. As Baradwaj Rangan writes in this The Hindu piece, "Madras, to me, is the beaches of my childhood, the mornings filled with huffing walkers and the distant tang of fish being hauled in and, above it all, a sun that rises as it does nowhere else."
For some, it's the kanjivaram sarees, the idlis and the filter coffee.
Madras is one one of the oldest cities. Kolkata is 50 years younger than Madras and Bombay is about 35 years younger.
Chennai Corporation, the oldest municipal body in India, was established in 1688.
A historian, S Muthiah, told CNN-IBN, "...for the first 150 years, Madras was the chief settlement and it was here that almost virtually everything in modern India - the first municipality, the first technical school, the first western style of Education - began. After that they grew elsewhere but the beginnings were in this city."
As the summer nears to a close, we bid farewell to David McLaughlin, our Medical Coordinator for the summer. In addition to leading our session volunteers in the medical rotation every day, David created many friendships with patients in the colonies and among the medical staff. He has given so much of his time and effort to Rising Star and we are grateful for his service.
Session 4 was able to accompany Rising Star Outreach’s mobile clinic to several leprosy colonies and work in treating the patients there by washing their wounds and attending to medical check-ups.
“I love seeing how happy the people in the colony are, even when they are living a life that most people think hard” said Emilee Matheson.
Kincaid Garrett said,
“It’s sometimes hard to see their ulcers, but it’s good to know that we are helping them get better. The people are so proud and kind to us, hugging and kissing us, and are happy all the time.”
Kincaid came to Rising Star Outreach with his mom and sister and says that the medical rotation was an “amazing experience.”
This session saw the departure of Heather Horak, our volunteer physical therapist, who has been working hard with the leprosy patients in the colony. The loss of limbs and deformations caused by leprosy can create lasting problems for the patient in walking and working. Heather Horak helped the patients strengthen their limbs with exercises and receive assistive devices when they needed them. Heather also taught our campus nurses classes on physical therapy so that they can continue treating the leprosy patients after she has left. Rising Star Outreach is grateful for her selfless service for the leprosy patients here in India.
This video was posted on April 15, 2009. See Christraj in his UKG days talking on a rock that he is using as an imaginary cellphone.
Our family really enjoys doing service. In Rising Star Outreach, our family not only found a place to do service, but to also show love and do so much more. We have had the opportunity to work in the schools with the children. We have helped construct bathrooms for those who did not have a bathroom accessible to them. We have also had the privilege of working with those afflicted with leprosy. These experiences have penetrated our hearts and brought about such a change in each one of us. Here are a few ways in which each of us has been touched.
Micheal: We as a family came to India to touch others lives. Instead these wonderful people have touched our lives. I have found a great capacity for love here. Thanks you.
Claudette: I came here to help others. I came to help bring about change in these peoples circumstances and their lives. I see now that as I looked into the sweet eyes of a child or held the crippled led of a man afflicted with leprosy, I was filled with great love and a deep sense of understanding and compassion. I came to help change the lives of others and in the process I was changed for the better. There are not words the describe my gratitude for this experience.
Jocelyn: My experience at Rising Star Outreach is one I will never forget. It offered me the opportunity to look outside myself and serve the humble people in India. Furthermore, it truly helped me to dig deep within myself and discover the changes I needed to make in my life to reach my full potential. The friendships I made here are priceless and I can’t wait to come back to India!
Alicia: It was an amazing experience! I loved it! It really opened my eyes to how difficult people’s lives are, yet they stay happy! I love and appreciate this organization for what it does for people with leprosy, and the children.
Lindsey: I loved helping the children spell and sound out words. They love to learn, you can really tell. Everyone has a sweet spirit and it takes an impact on yourself. It makes you want to be kind, selfless, and helpful. You WANT to be a better person.
Adam: I have had a great time at Rising Star Outreach. I love doing service for people all over the world. It’s really fun teaching the kids because they get so excited to be with us. When we go to work at the colony work site and medical colony, we get to see and work with really neat people.
Zack: My greatest experience is that they don’t complain. They are happy. They are grateful for what they have. I have made lost of really great friends. I love Rising Star Outreach.
--The Jones Family
Support past volunteers Steve and Jessica Hart who are putting on their 2nd Annual 5K Invasion Run here in Provo, UT on Septeber 5th, 2014.
My name is Steve Hart. In 2011 my wife (Jessica) and I had the life changing opportunity to spend a summer in Chennai with Rising Star Outreach. Our time there and the people we met mean so much to us we want to give back in whatever way we can. We have started a community 5k in Provo Utah called the Invasion Run. It is an alien themed 5k through a corn field. The proceeds from the race will be donated to Rising Star Outreach. We hope you will support us in supporting them as we try and give leprosy a "run" for its money. To learn more visit us at www.invasionrun.com or see our facebook page at www.facebook.com/invasionrun
Registration is still open until September 3rd, 2014. Cost is $30 per runner and you receive a T-Shirt, Race Bib and Packets. Don't forget to dress up! This is a fun night for the whole family!
Here are some pictures from last year:
It's hard to put into words all that I have learned from my experiences in India. The people I have met and the things I have seen have left a huge impression on my heart and I couldn't be more grateful for all that I have learned in these few short weeks. As I spent time in the colonies and with the children I was reminded over and over again of a quote I had heard by an unknown author; "Someone else is happy with less than what you have." I came to India expecting to be serving a suffering people. I thought that my service would be life changing for them and that it would bring a smile to their faces that they hadn't had since the last volunteer came along. I thought I would be a light in the darkness that they so desperately needed. What I realized that first day is that we do bring a smile to their face and they are incredibly grateful for our service. But what I didn't realize is that with or without me they would still be smiling and be grateful for what they have. Despite their circumstances, these people are happy. I think of all the dumb things that I have complained about in my life. Stresses and trials that make us see all the bad things we've got going on make us depressed and frustrated. Coming to India has helped to re-open my eyes to a better way of living. I always have heard that happiness is an attitude and a choice, and the people of India are the perfect example of that. While they may be suffering from the effects of leprosy or living in little huts with little food to feed their family, they are happy to be alive and to serve and help others. They laugh, they sing, they dance, they serve, and they praise God. They are grateful even in the most difficult of circumstances.
The people of India will always hold a special place in my heart. The majority of that place is occupied by the beautiful children I have come to know at the school on campus. These children are so special and have taught me more about love and acceptance than I could have imagined. No matter who you are or where you come from or what you say or do they LOVE you. They pass no judgment; only hugs and kisses.
The lessons I have learned from India are ones that I don't think I could have learned any other way. I am so grateful that I have had this opportunity to meet and love these people. I hope to bring home with me a continued burning desire to serve and love the people I come in contact with everyday. Because serving and having an attitude of gratitude is what brings true happiness in life. --Jordan Harline
"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared.” --Buddha
Thanks for all you have given Jordan! We will miss you!
We have a new video released today! For parents thinking about experiences you want your children to have I think you will enjoy these thoughts from Christine. Christine has taken her three girls to India, and they have all seen a change. In themselves and in those they serve.
A thought for the day :
"All of you reading these words have loved someone, have done someone a kindness, have healed a wound, have taken on a challenge, have created something beautiful, and have enjoyed breathing the air of existence. Every moment you make a difference." -- Random Acts of Kindness
Session 3 has loved working with the children in the Education Rotation! Emma, Becca, and Madison have been best friends since they were little and decided to volunteer in India together. They loved working with the younger students and came to know them very well. When talking about the Education Rotation, Becca said, “UKG PE was the funnest thing I’ve ever done. They are so freaking cute!”
Playing “Human Knot” during 2nd Standard games and activities!
Thank you for helping in the critical process of establishing our students' foundation in English! Your work here will attribute to their sucess in their future education.
I’ve wanted to volunteer at Rising Star since 2009 when I first talked to Becky Douglas about what she was doing in India. I wanted to go myself, but even more, I wanted my children to go. I wanted them to see how others lived, to learn to love more, to have a chance to serve selflessly, and to appreciate a little more the blessings in their own lives.
My oldest daughter and I arrived at Rising Star’s campus in India in July 2014. It has been an amazing experience. At 15, my daughter is the youngest volunteer. She spends her days with an impressive group of older girls. We visit colonies to take care of leprosy patients, changing bandages, washing ulcers, using gestures to talk with them. We do manual labor to build latrines in a small village, moving sand and bricks while the brick masons direct our work with smiles and waving arms. And we visit the Rising Star school next door, tutoring 5-year-olds in English, helping older kids with pronunciation, playing games with them, reading to them.
It’s hard work. Hard physically and hard emotionally, to see people silently suffering great physical pain, to work with children who don’t speak much English, to be so far from everything familiar and easy and comfortable. But it is just that sort of challenge that gives me confidence in the outcome for our family. It is the process of quietly serving others, day 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.
-- Nicholas Wells
Volunteer Session 3 (USA)
This Throwback Thursday we are featuring a favorite of Rising Star. This video was compiled by Ember Hobi a volunteer of Rising Star Outreach. You might recognize her from when her family took the challenge and Lived Below the Line (less than $1.50 of food and beverage per day) for 5 days. She selected music by talented Bianca Merkley who was a singer at our Benefit Dinner in March 2013.
This video was first shared on June 22, 2011. I invite you to watch this amazing composition of two incredible people and supporters of Rising Star Outreach.
This video was first shared on June 22, 2011. I invite you to watch this amazing composition of two incredible people and supporters of Rising Star Outreach.
This session’s change agent is Melissa Brimhall. As coordinators we chose Melissa because she has been very proactive and involved here in India. She joined us in the middle of Session 2, but jumped right in with both feet. The first day she was here she went to the medical rotation on barely any sleep. Since then she has continued to share her infectiously positive attitude in all that she does, and especially during the education, medical, and community service rotations. Melissa has been very involved with the kids, and has been using her mad soccer skills to teach the soccer club 3 times a week. She is a natural leader among her fellow volunteers and practically oozes charity.
When asked what her time in India has taught her, Melissa wrote the following:
India has forever changed me. No one could have prepared me for what I have felt here. When I left the United States I was really confused about what I am supposed to be doing with my life. I was so worried about figuring out my future, and making a perfect plan for my life. I came with the expectation that I would leave inspired with a plan to conquer the world. I thought that is what I needed from India.
It turned out India had better things than a career path to give me. Instead it taught me lessons in humility, gratitude, and love.
I learned the lesson of humility through Dr. Susan and Navamani, two of the greatest yet most humble women I have ever met. They are both giving so much of their lives away in the service of others, but don't seem to expect anything in return. In fact they have a beautiful habit of turning all the credit over to God. Something I hope I can emulate in my life.
Seeing the poverty here was shocking to me, but even more shocking was the fact that the people are still so happy despite their circumstances. This, I think, is because they are filled with gratitude. While out in the colony I frequently am thanked for the simplest of actions. I'll take a picture of someone and they will thank me, I will sit down by a patient and they will thank me, I relayed a message to someone once and they thanked me, I was invited into someone's house and they thanked me for looking around. Never have I met people so quick to express gratitude.
Most of all, my trip with Rising Star had taught me about love. The people of India drew me in from day one. Opening their hearts to me, a complete stranger, in a way I have never experienced; especially the kids. They love without holding back. The way they call "auntie, auntie" and grab onto your hands and drag you toward the playground could turn Cruella DeVil into a saint. The love doesn't stop with the kids though. I have had experiences with the villagers, leprosy patients, house mothers, and other volunteers who have all, in their own way, made me feel loved.
I am going to be so sad to leave, but I leave with a heart full of gratitude for the wonderful opportunity to spend time with the beautiful people here. I hope I can take what I've learned here in India and share it with the world, because everyone deserves a taste of what I've experienced these last four weeks. I LOVE INDIA!
July 30, 2014 16:43 IST
India’s leprosy elimination programme has not been “successful” and it will take at least 40 years to completely eliminate the disease from the country, an international expert has said.
In 2005, WHO had declared that India had eliminated leprosy. However, India reported an average increase of five to seven percent in the detection of new cases annually over the last five years, with an increased proportion of cases seen among children. According to the National Leprosy Eradication Programme (NLEP) of the union health ministry, 1,27,595 new cases of leprosy are detected in India every year.
Rene Staeheli, director, International Leprosy Eradication Programme (ILEP), also said human rights of those affected living in lepers colonies are violated as they are denied jobs and health facilities.
“India should realise that leprosy elimination as a public health programme has not been a success as the number of transmission has increased,” Staeheli told IANS in an interview here.
“India has a high burden of leprosy patients in the interior areas of the economically backward states, where the medication for leprosy has not been extended yet. It may be due to various reasons,” said the head of the global organisation that works to eradicate leprosy in the world.
“First of all, it is important to extend the medication for leprosy in those areas. Before that eradication of the disease is not possible. At least it will take another 40 years to eliminate the disease,” Staeheli added.
According to the World Health Organisation, India accounts for 58 per cent of the new leprosy cases in the world. Leprosy is an infectious disease that causes severe disfiguring of the skin and leads to nerve damage in the arms and legs. It is still endemic in a number of countries.