What to stand for?

India is a vast melting pot of ideas and beliefs. The culture is like a giant ice burg maybe 10% visible to the eye. That 10% are the things like the food, there are many different varieties of curries, and where we are so close to Nepal even my favorite dish, mo mo’s! Other things the outsider might see are the beautiful colors that wrap India like a giant present, the dresses bright and unique. And how could we forget Bollywood and the distinct music. You have to love the 3 hour-long music video’s that are so painful you want to cry. Yet you still find you’re self-watching the whole thing.

This week we were able to experience that 10 % but more importantly learn about the rest of the ice burg, the 90% under the water. We have been working for the last week meeting with the local government and searching for girls to admit into the orphanage we have built. One of the reasons that we are focusing on bringing girls to orphanage is because it is very normal here for girls not to receive an education. Most girls if they go to school stop after 5th grade, then some go on to tenth, a smaller proportion graduate high school, and a select few go on to college. In this culture many believe that women are to be the homemakers and aren’t good for much else. If they don’t fulfill their responsibilities, their husband’s die, or if he cannot work they are regarded as useless and thrown out, and in some cases even killed. In the last several years there has been an up rise to fight for women’s rights. Within India there are great organizations like Nishtha, that empower women and help them become educated, gain skills, run business, and in many instances become the breadwinners for their families. There is an increase of women in India who are becoming political leaders, doctors, and scientists. To the educated community women have great worth, but much of India is un-educated and culturally still has the same old mentality. We have dedicated this orphanage to the educating of young women. Because it is through them that the future will be changed.

This is just one example of some of the underground things that occur here. Some of the other things I have come to learn are, though illegal the cast system is still very much in effect. It is something that has made an effect on us and put barriers up that we will have to climb when we get to them. Some times it is hard to know when you are forcing your culture on some one or when you are taking a stand for what is morally right. We are not trying to make India America, but I will not sit idly and watch a “culture” oppress a person’s freedom, ability to grow, and right to be equal. We have met with several girls from several different casts to offer them scholarships to our facility. They are all wonderful bright young girls, they all loved to play and laugh. They all have had struggles and challenges; some of them even have the same dreams of being a doctor or a teacher. Each of them is special and unique in their own way. They all have the same potential to change the world, no matter what society sees them as. One was not better than the other, they were all equal to us and that is how we will treat them.

-James Baird