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Thursday, March 20, 2014

Visiting families in Bangalore, India

Rainbow is one of our colleagues, but more importantly, she is a friend of the poor. Recently she decided that she needed to visit our friends in India and get an update on the work being done. These are some of her thoughts while on the ground:

"I arrived at the village we were working in to red-carpet fanfare. Better than red carpets, actually. More like, ornate hand-strung garlands of flowers around my neck (I think I collected about 10 of them when all was said and done), handfuls of fresh flower petals being showered on me with each step, women and children grabbing me by the hand and leading me through their village, ‘come and see!!’, a score of drummers enthusiastically banging out, ‘WELCOME TO OUR HOME!’ in roaring, thunderous rhythm. 

And while a whole village looks on, I am handed scissors to cut the ribbon of newly constructed homes…and given a coconut to smash on the front step, as is tradition, before everyone erupts in cheers and celebration again. 

I was only in India for a week. I met with dozens of women and their families in only a few days.

My encounters with each person I met were pretty brief. But in some ways, the time with each person didn’t need to be long, to know that we are in it together, declaring their worth, celebrating their dignity. To know that, with tears, fears, and the sweat of both our brows together, we’ve been moving together out of destitution, poverty, and binding debt, into something more beautiful and flourishing. They were not strangers. I’ve been working “with” them, each of them, for the last four years, advocating on their behalf, receiving their photos and stories of progress, packaging them into appeals and updates for supporters, transferring support to new families as others reach self-sufficiency. Meanwhile they've been doing the real work: stepping out into risk and vulnerability into the unknown; joining community “self-help” support groups; tearing down the only homes they have ever known, and with their own hands and labour, building new, sturdy ones in their place; taking small loans, learning new skills, and creating new, sustaining livelihoods for themselves.

And as I walk away, I don’t. Together, we look forward to the journey ahead and know that yet more good things are in store for each family and I will, over the next few years, journey with each of these families in seeking the resources to help that happen, following & sharing their progress with those committed to walking alongside."

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