Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Cheerleading Dreamers

Visiting with hundreds of brown eyed children and teens here in Hyderabad during this season’s Youth Camps, I learn their names and then ask, “What are your dreams for your life?”
(Visiting a joyous family in their hut. Hindus, they recently shaved their heads for religious reasons. I wonder, would I be able to smile as they do, living in the slums?)
Raised in the poorest conditions, few of these kids appear to have considered their dreams.

Looking to India’s high earning 20 and 30 year olds for an answer, many boys and girls reply, “IT (information technology), engineering, computer software.” But are these professions what most teens are passionate about or even possess any natural ability for doing?

This past three weeks, I have been volunteering with the Care Foundation for Children and Aging, an international charity that supports more than 250,000 worldwide. My family sponsors children in India; we’ve had sponsorees in the Philippines and Guatemala, too.

What makes CFCA unique and successful is that it focuses on educating children and their mothers. Mothers who have learned a trade and bring needed income to the family view the world more positively, and are a great asset to the family. We all know the power of an encouraging parent, teacher, coach or other authority figure in our lives. I still salute my eighth grade English teacher, Mary Vinton, who told me, when I was 14, “Of course, you are a writer.”

“I am?” I thought with excitement. Up until that moment, I had thought of myself in the traditional ways children do…as a daughter, sister, Girl Scout. I was actually a writer? What a mighty woman Mary Vinton was in my life. She saw something in me and woke me up to myself.

When I consider what small contribution I can make in the lives of India’s children, I believe identifying and underlining their strengths, talents and interests can be a great gift. Beyond sending $30 a month to children through CFCA, we sponsors pray for and uplift poor families, knowing their health and well being will shape a large part of beloved India’s future.

(Mr. and Mrs. George Reddy with daughter Mary, of Hyderabad We learned yesterday Mary passed her exams and is now a medical doctor! Our family joins Mary's celebration, as my husband was blessed to fund her medical school education.)
If you saw Slumdog Millionaire and were moved by the plight of slum children, why not move from merely watching the life of India's poor to improving it? Families who live in slum housing that is smaller and far less comfortable than an old van or SUV await your love and attention.

Oh, let us all remember the power of encouraging words, and express them often! While I wish I was heading up the Gates Foundation, my resources are limited….fortunately, my capacity to cheerlead dreamers is limitless.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Bethany,
    who can say life is boring? Your life definitely isn't! It is full of adventure, inspiration and positiveness!
    Thanks for sharing these beautiful stories and pictures with us. And good to have you back in Bangalore.
    With love,