Friday, January 13, 2017

Rising Star Outreach--Visit 14 Nov 2016

Rising Star Outreach is located about 3 hours by car from Chennai, in Thottanaval Village. It is a residential K-12 school and home of the NGO which focuses on helping families affected by leprosy. 

We stayed in the Elephant House. It had several guest rooms with restrooms, kitchen and a library surrounding a courtyard. The elephant statue is its namesake.

We stayed in the "Banana" guest room.

They had signs welcoming us to their campus.

This is the school yard.

There are about 470 students attending school and living here.

Becky Douglas--from Provo, Utah--lost her daughter, Amber to suicide. As Mrs. Douglas was going through her daughter's papers, she found that Amber had been corresponding with an orphanage in India and had been donating some if the money they were sending her for college to the orphanage. Mrs. Douglas decided to visit India. While here, she saw how many people were affected by leprosy and how it affects the whole family for generations. She decided to do something about it. Rising Star Corporation was formed in March 2002. They began with a rented home in April 2004 and opened the school with 27 children. In 2005 they purchased 13.5 acres of land in Thottanaval Village. Construction began in Oct 2006. The Amber Douglas School for Girls and the Bill and Dick Marriott School for Boys were completed in July 2007. The Marriott Foundation has been a major contributor from the beginning.

There is a walkway on campus with the names of noted contributors.

There was a celebration the days were were there. As we walked to the dining hall, we saw the children decorating the walkways, building corridors and flower beds.

The children sang and danced at the opening ceremony in the dining hall.

Taylor, a visiting dance instructor from Great Britain who was teaching at the school for two months, had taught many of the children several different dances that were performed at the celebration.

Elder Newton was asked to speak to the children.

They listened intently.

Then it was time to light oil wicks on a ceremonial pedestal of brass, surrounded by flowers and colored sand designs at the school entry atrium. 

The children had prepared a science exhibition to show their knowledge of science, math and craft-making.

We saw demonstrations by children from grades 6 to 8...

and High School-age...

Dr. Susan Hilton--upper left here--was proud of her students.

All had unique demonstrations of science and math.

We quizzed them on their demonstrations and they all understood exactly what they had done and why.

These are students with excellent potential.

They all come from families affected by leprosy.

An Area Project was approved on 2 Dec 2016 to provide Rising Star Outreach with approximately one year's worth of topical medicines and bandages for them to distribute to people suffering with leprosy throughout India.

In addition, the project provides equipment and supplies for Rising Star to establish a Micro Cellular Rubber (MCR) shoe manufacturing unit so that they will be able to make the custom-fit shoes for leprosy patients at less cost than having to purchase them each time from a local cobbler.

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Pondicherry Wheelchair Distribution--Completed 19 Dec 2016

We flew to Chennai and traveled from Chennai by car and arrived in Pondicherry late the evening of 18 Dec 2016.

The next morning we discovered we were at the luxurious 
Windflower Resort and Spa. Very nice.

Mr. S.Venugopal, the personal assistant of our host, MLA Mr. Danavelu, took us on a sight-seeing tour of Pondicherry the morning of the wheelchair celebration and distribution.

Pondicherry was settled by the French and is still one of seven Union Territories in India. Most of the streets and many of the historical monuments and buildings have French names and heritage. Many of the local Indians speak French as well as Tamil.

The Immaculate Conception Cathedral (top right) has a 300-year history. It was built in 1692. It was demolished by the Dutch a year later and rebuilt by the local French people. In 1761 is was burned to the ground by the British. The French people rebuilt it again. 

The Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (top left) has become one of the famous pilgrimage spots for Christians in India. It was built in 1902.

The nativity shown at the bottom above is in the courtyard of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. The figurine of Baby Jesus is absent until Christmas Day--according to local custom.

We stopped at the seashore of the Bengal Sea.

Very relaxing.

We sipped lemonade at a local seashore cafe.

Then it was time to make our way to the wheelchair celebration and distribution in nearby Bahour Village. As we approached, we began to notice many large billboards with the names and faces of important people who were going to be at the celebration...
Then we saw it...a very large billboard with our photographs--over 20 feet tall!

Here is another billboard at a different location. The other embarrassing thing is that they referred to us as "Dr."--both on the billboards and, we found out later, on the full-color 8 X 10 glossy program:
We did not notice that until someone on Facebook pointed it out to us. So, we decided to go with it:

We have decided that we have earned--
Honorary Doctorates of Humanitarian Services has been quite a ride!

When we finally arrived at the celebration site, we went out into the crowd of over 5,000 people and began to say "hello" and "Namaste".

We love to talk to the people.

One lady saw me in the car on the way to the celebration and smiled and pointed at me. She recognized me from the billboards.

How embarrassing.

Here we visit with some of the recipients of new wheelchairs.

Just before the celebration began we found ourselves walking through the 100 chairs and marveling at the number of beneficiaries whose lives will be changed in the next hour or two. 

The celebration began with some excellent professional dancers and drummers. It was loud and VERY Indian!

A young and budding photographer tried to get his best shot of the dancers!

Well done, young man!

Then it was time to distribute the wheelchairs!

Smiles of anticipation.

Chairs lined up and ready to go!!

As the wheelchairs are distributed to the recipients, you can see the faces of appreciation.

Another NGO provided some people with new hearing aids.

Elder Newton was able to present one set to a man--and show him that he had hearing help as well.

The faces of happiness and new found mobility.

Visak and Srikakulam Wheelchair Distribution--Completed 8 Dec 2016

On 22 Nov 2016 we traveled north to Visakhapatnam (Vizag), about 3 1/2 hours by car, for a wheelchair assessment of 57 potential recipients.

We were at the United Christian Interior Ministries (UCIM) Campus, just north of Vizag on the highway to Srikakulam.

As people began to gather, a large bus arrived with over 40 disabled adults and children.

Our partner for this event was Bishop K.R. Singh, brother of Bishop Sinha, from the Pastor's Fellowship in Rajahmundry.

Johnson and Prasanth from Motivation India assessed the candidates and measured them for their custom wheelchair.

Here, Brother Veturi Srinivas--Vizag 3rd Branch Elders Quorum Secretary is measured for his new chair.

Each person...

Each family...

Showed smiles of anticipation for their potential of newfound mobility.

Raju Neelapu, our driver and 2nd Branch Mission Leader, helped with the assessment and measuring (top left).

The next day, we traveled north another 3 hours to Srikakulam, where we assessed another 60 people to receive wheelchairs.

This area is very remote. We were told that nobody comes this far north to help them.

On 2 Dec we returned to Vizag for final fitting and distribution of the wheelchairs.What excitement!

Sister Neelapu, 2nd Branch Relief Society President, was able to join us (top left). Raju came too (bottom right).

Big smiles, maybe a little apprehension, and mostly anticipation of new mobility!

We celebrated together.

It was time to demonstrate the chairs, do a little maintenance training...and let the recipients get the feel of their new chair.

We gave the school--the Eastern Visakha English Medium School--on the UCIM Campus, several pieces of sports equipment... soccer balls, jump ropes and ring tosses. We also gave them a box of 40 children's books of Indian fables, written in English with colorful illustrations.

The teachers received them with smiles.

Getting the feel for their new chairs!

On the 8th of Dec we traveled to Srikakulam to distribute chairs.

This is the opening exercise.

The chairs were all lined up and ready for their new owners...

Everyone was MORE than excited...

they were ELATED to have a quality wheelchair that fit them properly!

This girl could not stop smiling!

The smiles say it all!!