Archive for the ‘Volunteering’ Category
One of the things my family will miss most about our time in India are the opportunities we have had for volunteer service as a family for causes that really matter to us. We spent time Saturday afternoon at Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity where we volunteer on a regular basis and as ever, we were warmed and humbled by the terrific work being done there and the joy of all of the children. The sisters of the Missionaries of Charity are doing unbelievable work, not just in Delhi, but throughout the world and making proud the legacy of Mother Teresa. We just finished sponsoring a clothes drive in the United States and had the pleasure today of delivering four boxes of summer clothes from America for the children with four additional boxes on their way.
Taking advantage of the beautiful weather, several volunteers, my wife Sally, and I took 32 children from a local settlement to the National Zoo. These students are enrolled in an English language program started by Sally so this was a great way for them to practice their English outside the classroom, learn new words, and see some really great stuff! We saw white tigers, one-horned rhinos, black bears, chimpanzees, and so much more. The staff at the zoo did a great job showing us around and letting us visit all the animals. I am not sure who had more fun – the children or the volunteers – but we all had a fantastic time. Tell me, what is your favorite animal to see?
Over the weekend, we volunteered to sing Christmas carols and deliver presents to the children at Jeevan Jyoti, Mother Teresa’s home for disabled orphans. The children are cared for 24 hours a day by the Missionaries of Charity sisters who perform difficult tasks all day to care for and nurture these kids. The work is constant and intense, as cleaning, feeding, and helping these orphans, all with significant handicaps, is extremely challenging. We thoroughly enjoyed leading choruses of “Jingle Bells,” and “Silent Night,” and watching the children’s faces shine with bright smiles as they opened their gifts. Even receiving a single Christmas cookie pleased these children as if they were receiving a bicycle! The Sisters are living out Mother Teresa’s adage, “do small things with great love”.
I was especially impressed by two vital organizations of public service on my recent trip to Leh. Both are reflective of the vibrant institutions of military and religious life in India that remind me of common values shared with America. One is the Indian Army and the critical role they played in rebuilding the roads and infrastructure after the devastating floods in August. Led by the talented Lieutenant General Singh, AVSM, General Officer Commanding, 14 Corps, they linked the community back together by connecting to the hearts and minds of the citizens and constructing new bridges in record time. The second group is the Missionaries of Charity, started by Mother Teresa and now led by the wonderful Sister Prema in Kolkata. We were not surprised to see these Sisters in Leh assisting the families and devoting their skills in a time of great need. Military, civil, and religious organizations complement the dynamic private sector in both the United States and in India.
We are quickly approaching Gandhiji’s birthday on October 2nd. Last year I participated in the very moving and spiritually uplifting event sponsored by the Government of India at Raj Ghat. This year we honor Gandhiji and America’s tradition of service by organizing volunteers to help paint a school in a very poor neighborhood in Delhi called the Sanjay Gandhi settlement. Joined by several members of my family and students from the American Embassy School, we worked to freshen up the walls of this small school house. We splashed bright yellow paint on the plaster walls and some occasionally ended up on our fellow artists! You always feel like you can make a small difference when you dedicate some time and energy to a worthy cause like children. Give me some more ideas for volunteer service and put me to work!
I am traveling today on a flight up to Leh, where nearly 200 people were killed last month in torrential downpours resulting in terrible flooding and damage to the local infrastructure. We will be delivering $50,000 worth of bedding supplies, pillows, and blankets to scores of families in the community that lost their homes and possessions. The area we are visiting is over 12,300 feet in elevation, nearly four times higher than the Blue Ridge Mountains outside Washington, DC. Just as India helped America after the devastating hurricane of Katrina in 2005, we will extend America’s generous hand to India in a time of need. These transnational events, such as flooding, terrorism, and cybersecurity, are increasingly reflective of events that can challenge the world and demand more strategic attention. Give me your top three transnational priorities today.
The monsoon rain pelted down on the five and six year old children, but still the smiles and excitement could not be washed off their exuberant faces. They were lining up outside the gates of the American Embassy School to get fitted for their school uniforms. As we volunteered for the American inspired “Reach Out” program to help provide education opportunities for children who live in a near-by slum, we greeted both boys and girls into the gym to meet the tailors. It is especially encouraging to see the increase in the number of girls who are being instructed by their parents to attend school. This is a great way to begin a Sunday morning!
During this past week, I volunteered some time at the American Embassy School program “Reach Out”. It is innovative and effective yet simple in its philosophy–give some help to citizens living in the colony across the street from the school. We hosted 200 children, providing some snacks, basketball lessons, an art shop, and a health unit. The kids loved the “biscuits” and “beauty shop” and it was easy to put a smile on their face. The best part was that most of our volunteers were comprised from our student body.