Brayden Forbes: A Jubilant Return

Exactly one year from today I found myself in a verdant, modest town called Chamba, nestled in the Himalayas of Northern India.  It was there I spent everyday amongst some of the purest youth I’ve ever met, who lived in the humblest of cirumstances.  Twenty-two anxiously engaged girls—ages 4 to 17, who, of no fault of their own, were born into poverty—sat in front of us to be taught skills to improve their future.  What I did not know then was they would be the ones teaching me.  Reflecting upon this life-altering experience, I found this excerpt from August 8th, 2011: “Finding the words to describe what I’m experiencing is beyond me; no composition could paint the scenes of the last four days… we have spent the morning and afternoon teaching these amazing girls from the orphanage here.  We have taught English, first aid, math, dental hygiene, done medical exams, and shared supplies brought from America.  I am so impressed with the girls we get to help; they are so happy with life in spite of the challenges of poverty.  Happiness really is a choice.”

I didn’t realize the profound effect this initial expedition would have on my life.  After this episode with these innocent children, I knew I wanted to see them again. Today, after traversing from Salt Lake to Houston, from Houston to Qatar, from Qatar to New Delhi, from New Delhi to Manali, from Manali to Dharamshala, we concluded our 48 hours of gallivanting when we drove from Dharamshala to the happy village of Chamba—a town that has found residence in my heart.

As we entered the inner city, our driver maneuvered the large vehicle through the congested and narrow alleyways.  Unaware as to where our first stop was to be, I could faintly recognize the route we were taking; they were familiar to me.  As we pulled up one final alley, I saw a large white building at the end.  It was a college that we would park in front of last year to go shopping in Chamba.  Fortunately, it was also where we would park to visit the girls, as it was right next to their orphanage.  After parking, the flood of emotions came from the thought of where we were, how far we came, and how close we were to those I loved.  Being the first vehicle to arrive, our little band made a nervous dash for the misshapen pile of wood and stone that housed these little ones.  As we entered the front door, we received greetings from the wardens, who graciously ushered us into the next room, as they knew why we had come.  After walking into the next room, a scene to beautiful to describe unfolded.  One by one, the girls lined up in front of us relieving the anxious anticipation apparent in their posture and smile.  In unison they bowed their heads and welcomed us with the cultural greeting of ‘namaste’.  As we stood there, we could feel of their genuine love and excitement.

A joyous shout came from one of the girls: “Brayden!”  Bobi, a 9 year-old girl who became one of my best friends, ran from the group, and embraced me.  I could not hold back the tears that proceeded.  Seeing and hugging her was worth more than any dollar amount I could’ve raised to make it here; more than any lawn I could have aerated or mowed; more than any fence I could have built; more than any landscaping I could have done; more than any garage sale I could muster.  It was a moment never to be forgotten.

I want to thank everyone who has helped me get here.  Your support and influence does not go unnoticed.  These next few days will again write a sacred chapter in my life as we spend our time serving these underprivileged girls.  This is the beginning of my jubilant return.