James Baird: Progression

Sometimes in life it’s easy to not see how much progress has really been made. We forget where we began and don’t fully appreciate where we are. Today I was able to really see how far these girls have come.  For the past two years, we have been focusing heavily on the girls in this orphanage because they were in such bad shape. This morning was very eye opening to me because I was able to go visit two other orphanages in Chamba that we used to work with and follow up with their needs.

The first orphanage I went to was Kalsuin, and I felt many mixed emotions. When I first came to India, Kalsuin was the orphanage I worked in.  First of all it was good to see that their facility was in fairly good condition. There are a few things that we need to do, but all in all it was in good shape. My heart broke when I saw the children though; they had just returned from a month-long summer break with whatever family they had. It was very easy to see that most of them had not been eating well at all because who they were with obviously could not afford to feed them the way they needed. Their bodies were skinny and their clothes were filthy.  It was a very reassuring thing to know that our next YMAD team coming to Chamba in November will work with them.

I had a very similar experience at the next orphanage I visited, Mehla. We hadn’t been to Mehla in a while.  I was sad to see how poorly many of the things we had donated had been treated over the past years.  For example, five years ago we bought them a washing machine, and each year we teach them how to use it but they just never do and all the boys clothes are covered in filth. The boys all seemed happy and looked like they were in a little better condition. They had 36 boys living in the facility and most of them were new.  I took several notes of things we needed to fix and do for the fall expedition so that they can get the best help possible.

After visiting those orphanages, I came back to have one of the neatest experiences.  I came in to where my team was working with our girls and saw beautiful, intelligent, healthy, and—most importantly—happy girls. I had a flash back to what these girls looked like when I first met them seven years ago: they were skin and bones, covered in soot and grime, spoke very little English, and had little hope for a bright future. I didn’t realize the progress they had made until today, and while it is sad to see how much help is needed in India, it was good to see that we truly have made a difference.