As I wake each morning at 4:45 to Muslim prayers over the loud speaker in the nearby town, I am immediately enthusiastic about the day that lies ahead. After a brisk cold shower and breakfast, the red team heads out to the Tata’s for the daily exhilarating ride to the village of Tongtala. As I return to this place that stole my heart years ago, I see familiar faces and smiles that light up as we enter the school and when they call out my name, my heart melts.
I watch as the red team takes to teaching children of all ages 2-17. Abbey, Cassidy, Izzy, Jessica and Sam (or Robb as he is known in the village) are up to the task. I am honored to share this journey with them as their friend and leader and I am inspired by them daily.
Abbey is outgoing and energetic and the children love her enthusiasm. She has connected with the older girls in the village and is busy teaching them to believe in themselves and follow their dreams. She loves playing with the kids and can always been seen with a smile.
Cassidy’s kind heart and quiet demeanor keep the children engaged and feeling loved. They adore her and have nick named her “Candy”. She has found herself and is sharing brilliantly with all those around her.
Izzy is caring, compassionate and sensitive. She has a heart of gold and shares it beautifully with the children. She is warm and loving as well as patient and insightful and always has a young girl on each hand and often several in her lap.
Jessica (or Rebecca as Izzy calls her) is kind and gentle with the kids. You can often hear the children calling out her name from a distance as they can’t wait to spend time with her. They love dancing with her as she teaches them.
Sam has taken on the role as our protector. He is a complete gentleman and watches over our team with great care. He is loved dearly by the older boys in the village school and has become a great teacher and friend to them. He is caring and passionate and is loved.
Together as a team they are a dynamic group of teens and I am truly honored to be sharing this journey with them.
Once we finish up teaching in the village, we move on to village tours where we are welcomed into homes and the lives of those who surround and inspire us. This is a gift we hold dear. Afterwards, we head to the Day Boarding School where we spend the afternoon teaching and interacting with the girls. Evenings include shopping in Baruipur, dinners, touring and planning lessons for the following day.
As we now prepare to leave, we feel the weight of the goodbyes. We have given all we have and we will most definitely be leaving a piece of our souls here. We have allowed ourselves to be vulnerable, hence the pain of missing those we love even before we are gone. We have taught, we have shared, we have learned and we have been inspired. We have listened, we have loved, we have gained perspective, we have set new goals and we are forever changed.
Thank you to the parents that took faith in the leaders and allowed us teach your children. Your trust in us has given your children a new haven for growth. They are each beautiful and amazing.
As I share my heart here, I must thank my family. My boys inspire and teach me daily. Your letters have moved me beyond words. I am so very grateful for a new daughter in the family and can’t wait for a new baby boy to join us. To my parents, your unconditional love and support allow me to be who I am. Thank you all for believing in me and supporting me on yet another journey. You make my life complete.
Five years ago my son came to India and shared these words in his blog post. His advice was to “interact, serve, try, experience, live, show compassion and have the time of your life”. I believe that we have done just that.