Sunday, 28 January 2018

Chennai: Rishi Valley

After yesterday’s distribution in Vellore, we travelled about 6 hours to Rishi Valley.  The drive was slow as there seems to be traffic at all hours of the day in India. However, the long drive was totally worth it.

We arrived at Rishi Valley in the dark so I could not see much of the surroundings but I could feel the difference.  We emerged from the van to cool, fresh air and quiet.  A quiet we had not yet experienced in India.  We could no longer hear the horns and engines of the constant traffic that had accompanied us everywhere else.

When the sun rose in the morning we had the pleasure of seeing our surroundings.  We had spent the night in a building meant for the visiting parents of students at a boarding school.  The school, Rishi Valley School, is situated on 300 acres in a rural area, and it is a simple and beautiful campus.

We started our day with breakfast in the main cafeteria for the school.  For the senior students it was an examination day, however before their examinations they were having some fun at breakfast.  We arrived at the cafeteria building to see the students dressed up in costumes.  Cat in the Hat with Thing 1 and Thing 2, Alice in Wonderland, Star Trek’s Spock, and the entire main cast of Star Wars.  They paraded into the cafeteria full of smiles and applause.

After a cheerful breakfast we went to the site of the distribution, a field at the school.  The Rotarians had set up beautiful tents to provide shade for the volunteers and the children.  The sun was hot but the shade from the tents and the breeze made it quite pleasant.  Of course, the weather is completely secondary when you see the smiles of the children.

I was asked to hand the bedkits to the children at this distribution. The bedkits themselves are larger than many of the children who receive them.  Fortunately, we had many older students from the school there to help the children carry their kits.  Most of these children, however, did not need help.  

A few of the first children I met hoisted the bedkits onto their heads and walked off like they were wearing nothing more than a hat on their heads.  Just one more thing that brought a smile from my heart to my face.
By the time the children reach the end of the process, where they receive the bedkit, many are overwhelmed, confused, maybe even a little scared.  They realize that we do not understand their language and very few understand English.  They are told to say “thank you.”  A few of them even said to me, “say thank you.” And so I tried, without holding up the line, to connect with each child by looking deep into their eyes and letting love shine up from my heart and out through my smile.  Most of them understood this and responded with the biggest smile; a smile that shouted their gratitude.

I can only hope that these bedkits make as much of a difference in their lives as they have made in mine.

Team Chennai 2018
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