Back in 2001, when I was at University, something happened that really changed the way I see the world, people and myself. I wasn’t expecting it, and it smacked me hard in the face. I traveled to India to spend time at an orphanage that was started by some of my best friends, and which my family had sponsored. Due to the fact that I had been finishing up high school and entering into my university years, I had not even given the notion much thought – probably because at the time I was not a well traveled kid. (Believe it or not, I have made my way around the world on my own terms and in my own time as an adult…)
So I decided back then that traveling to India was something I wanted to do, even though it scared the pants off of me, and my doctor insisted that I take a million vaccines and preventative medicines. I traveled to India, and I saw things that both broke and warmed my heart. I had no idea what India was going to be like, I had no idea really much about the place, and to be honest [like a lot of things in my life] I just threw myself into the situation because something told me it was the right thing to do. I trusted that putting one foot in front of the other and letting it all play out naturally, no matter what was up ahead, was a good thing.
Although I can’t go into the full details of everything I saw and experienced during this trip, I will say that I was changed because I met hundreds of precious little children who’s stories and circumstances are impossible to ignore. Some had come from homes where their parents were killed, some from homes where they weren’t safe due to abuse, and some who didn’t have stories to tell, because they were found on the orphanage steps at such a young age they can’t remember what happened to them beforehand. I wasn’t sure whether I would walk into an orphanage filled with sadness, or major behavioral issues, or what – as I said earlier, I just wanted to see for myself. What I witnessed was an orphanage filled with children who had more joy, gratitude and optimism than any kid I’d ever met in Australia. Not to say that there wasn’t also immense sadness and brokenness too, but it was what they focused on. I was completely rocked and humbled that in my Aussie/Western mentality these kids had nothing, yet, they acted like they had everything they could ever hope for, and more. In fact, I may as well have been a legit King heavy laden in gold and emeralds and diamonds and all kinds of treasures as far as they were concerned [in comparison to these kids in terms of possessions] – but really I was a pauper in comparison to what they had in spirit.
This trip sparked the beginning of my family starting a refuge and training center for women–mainly widows, some of whom were legitimately destitute and ostracized. The plan was to provide literacy and training for the women in sewing and embroidery skills so that they could be self-sufficient, and not have to be concerned about being dependent in communities that were actively mocking them for their circumstances. The center began, and has already completed 9 classes of fully trained and literate graduates! Their graduation present since year 1 has always been a Singer sewing machine and their first kick-starter’s worth of sewing supplies.
In addition to this, my family has started medical and literacy programs in about two dozen villages in the region. There is such a massive need there for the simplest of things, that quite frankly, I take for granted. I made a second trip there in 2003, and due to other endeavors–[music, photography, love]–I have not been able to return, although Caroline + I have continued to support what is going on there. Not a day that goes by when I don’t see those faces in my head, and hear their laughter and their tears. The countless stories both terrible and marvelous will never leave me. I have been forever changed by the things that happened to me there, and the irony is I went over thinking I was the one bringing the help! Whilst that is partly true, I was really the one who left having been helped. Irony can be sweet.
So, this is the reason for my blog post today, [this, the final day of Woodnote Photography’s blog-a-day-in-March!] …to share some news with you. This is generally a private part of my life–and our life, but I wanted to share it because Caroline and I are going back! Caroline’s passion to travel there and give back has been growing since the day we met, and I want to return and continue what I helped start. So we are heading back this year, and we have some big plans we want to share with you very soon. This is the very tip of one of our dreams that Caroline mentioned a few weeks ago… We’re excited to share this little beginning with all of you, so stay tuned for more!!
(Oh, and if the title to this blog makes no sense to you, then you need to watch this asap …)
A sincere thank you to everyone who has read along with us this month through our blogging. We hope that you’ve enjoyed the little snippets that we’ve shared. It’s only the beginning! xx
*Added note: plans have changed slightly, and we’ll actually be heading to India in February 2013! The trip had to be postponed by a few months, but we are still very excited + anxious to get there.