Monday, February 8, 2010

Heroes and Heroines

I had just put the finishing touches on this blog after working on it for two hours on our long 14 1/2 hour flight from Dubai on Friday when some weird message came up to which I just pressed OK and the whole post disappeared. Josh and Eli can imagine my dismay! Without one of you computer whizzes at my elbow, I’m sure I’ve erased any chance of recovering it by now. But I just can’t quit this wonderful little chapter in our lives from the last month without talking about the amazing people who make things happen at Rising Star Outreach, so here it goes again!

Of course Becky Douglas is the Star heroine behind all the wonders involved there! Just a mom of nine (three adopted, two from Lithuania and one from an Indian orphanage…absolutely amazing) and a violinist…. who saw a dire need for the Leprosy Affected Colonies of Southern India. She determined that the unjust labels and shunning of that whole society which includes children and grandchildren, not to mention the lack of medical care for those affected with this horrible disease just wasn’t going to go on! She rolled up her sleeves and created a miracle!

I don’t have a picture of Becky, nor her able assistant- heroine Amy Antonelli but they have created something almost beyond belief! They have helped a great deal for the past few years to provide the clinics we have attended for those affected with Leprosy, as well as our new favorite doctor in the world, Dr. Kumar (seen in previous posts) who loves and cares for these people as though they were his own family!

They have plucked children out of these villages who otherwise would not have been able to go to school and have built this remarkable school and provided a crucial education for about 150 kids. Twenty or so are from the nearby village. Because of the wonderful facilities including a great computer lab, parents of kids unaffected by leprosy have decided that it wouldn’t be so bad for their kids to be seated side by side with the, until now, “untouchables”!


A new addition is being added so that their numbers can be doubled and the age limit can stretch to high school kids who will graduate with a great education!


Of course many contributors including a remarkable board of people wiling to help both financially and with expertise are also champions for helping to make this dream come true!


A fabulous Hero and Heroine who have been on site (as informal missionaries) for almost two years are Ron and Joyce Hansen who have brought so many dreams to fruition and have loved these kids as though they were their own grandchildren. They are even called Grampa and Grandma but the kids and are more wonderful than those kids will ever know! They are on the front row to the far right. Sadly they’ll be leaving for home on Tuesday!

Also see cute John on the back left, son of Becky and John who is running the sports program!


With the help of the wonderful board and generous donations they have just completed a new facility for the volunteers. We are sitting inside of what must be one of the finest facilities for volunteers of all of the third world! We along with Tal and Anita were thrilled beyond words after plowing through tons of rubbish and dirt beyond belief for quite a while in other parts of India to find this place immaculate and inspiring! No stepping over cow pies, dog doo doo, rubbish and open sewage here!


I can't believe I didn't get a close up picture of the new Principal of the school who is a Heroine in her own right! She is a beautiful Indian woman named Rodhika (sp?) who was raised in California and has a wonderful vision of what the school needs in able to make it a really fine education. Here she (as seen on a previous post), conducting the delightful formal morning ceremonies that begin each day:


See the Hostels for the kids, which includes housing for Joyce and Ron and the Hendershots as well as the kitchen and offices below:


And of course the playground. Wish I’d taken a picture of the new “track” created just in time for Sports Day on Saturday in the back!


These next Heroes and Heroines will just blow you away. Both will be taking over for Ron and Joyce and both were guided to Becky by the hand of the Lord. They are truly the best of the best!

This amazing Hendershot family pulled up stakes with their five beautiful little children from Mapleton, Utah, having had no experience at all in the third world and signed a year’s contract to help oversee the progress of the school and have added another 150 kids to their family:


And here are the Dennings with their four adorable kids who arrived just the week before we did and who have had experience in both Costa Rica and Dominican Republic before finding Becky and coming here from Atlanta to help “change the world”!


Their kids just fit right in with the other kids! The older ones attend classes that are on their grade level and are home schooled for the other things they need:


And of course there’s the wonderful Tal and Anita, H&H in their own right!


Just imagine the good they are going to do in the classrooms and with their clever minds to make things work better (more details coming on their blog soon.).IMG_4496

And now come these three beauties on the scene to help with computer lessons, teaching English, loving these kids and things they never imagined they could do!



There are also hard-working, dedicated teachers…this one below with Joyce being the cream of the crop. Shama is both a teacher, house mother and spiritual leader (what a beautiful service we saw her conduct with the kids in Tamil on Sunday morning). She has the quiet spirit of a gentle giant and has the kids in the palm of her hands. She will be married soon to a man who also works at Rising Star, to whom she has hardly ever spoken! They exchange sideways glances. As far as we can tell, that’s it! He seems like a wonderful guy as well. He better be, because she deserves the best! Sorry about her closed eyes, because they are beautiful!


Of course the kids live far away so are boarded at the school Let’s not forget the five amazing housemothers and 1 housefather who each have supervise 22-25 kids in three small rooms where they make sure they do their homework every night, brush their teeth before going to bed and maybe the hardest thing of all, lift several kids who are regularly wetting their beds to the toilets in the middle of the night (and also help those who “don’t make it” to wash out their bedding in the morning)! Can you imagine putting this many kids to bed every night?


Along with helping with homework:


And supervising brushing teeth:


Whew! What a job!

Then there are the often unsung heroines and heroes who help cook three meals for these kids and the staff every day:


And the terrific older kids who help with the younger ones. This cute boy wears a Jazz jersey under his shirt at all times!


And let’s not forget this little Heroine named Belle who gets her cheeks pinched about fifty times a day by every passing stranger in the shops, on the street and in the colonies. A pinch on the cheek is a Hindu kiss and she has finally gotten so used to it that she’s starting to pinch back!


There are darling drivers:


And the world’s most amazing guard…John, who preaches to three congregations from the Book of Mormon every week and is ready to be baptized (someday…it’s pretty complicated in a Hindu country). What an amazing Hero he is to all of us and who knows how many others.


There are also cleaning ladies and men and women who come to work on the construction every day with babies, with heavy loads on their heads and with delight I think to be part of something bigger than themselves! There are those I’ve left out I’m sure but what a group of Angels!

So there you have it. The best of the best Heroes and Heroines in a project that is truly a miracle in every sense. How very blessed we are to have been immersed in this life-changing experience for just a few days!

Rising Star Volunteers anyone? It’s the experience of a lifetime!


Rachel Denning said...

Thanks! There are so many amazing people involved in this work, it's great to be a part of it, and to be among them. I especially marvel at the housemothers who care for dozens of children everyday.

Carol Kaatz said...

Richard and Linda,
I am Rachel Denning's mom and I loved reading your blog of your experiences in India, especially with Rising Star. I hope to go there myself while they are there, and enjoyed your perspective!
I read some of your parenting books as a young mother, and I guess I did something right, to have a daughter so selfless as to want to devote herself to this kind of work! Thanks for sharing!