I think my favorite experience so far has been visiting an orphanage here in Hyderabad. We went during summer holidays, so half of the children were off visiting other family(in order to be considered an orphan you have to have one or no parent). There were about 50 children there, boys and girls, all adorable.They sang us songs and recited poems. They wanted us to sing for them, so we sang twinkle twinkle little star and they knew it so they sang along. They asked us each what we did in the US, so we told them what we study. I love telling kids I study film - it makes them think I'm famous.
The orphanage is run by an amazing woman and her husband. We didn't get to talk with her much beyond hearing what the needs of the orphanage were. We got to know her husband, Dileep, much better. He used to play pro cricket for Hyderabad! He's such a nice man. He always says "God is great!" When talking about the kids in the orphanage. The people who run and work in the orphanage love the children so much. It's wonderful to see children who come from such difficult backgrounds find a happy and loving place to be.
The children themselves are just beautiful, wonderful people. Two children in particular stood out to me - Malesh and Lakita.
Malesh is about 10 years old and was the first kid to have enough guts to stand up and talk to us when we arrived at the orphanage. The kids were all sitting in neat rows, and we asked them if they had any questions for us. Malesh was brave and raised his hand. He asked where we were from and what we were studying in English (a little broken English, but still impressive). He then proceeded to sing a couple of songs for us, at first solo. The other children usually joined in. He and his friend asked us if we would come back and teach them English. He wants to be so good.
Lakita is a tiny adorable girl, about five years old. She was recently rescued from the red light district where her mother was a prostitute. When we visited the hostel where the orphanage houses the girls, we discovered she has two older sisters who were also rescued. They are all beautiful and so sweet. Many of the children are in the orphanage with their siblings. It's nice to know they have each other.
One of the most impactful elements of our visit was realizing that our country director, Ben, was once an orphan in a place like this. He and his twin brother were adopted at 15 months from an orphanage in Goa (an Indian state). Knowing his background turned every little boy in the orphanage into a little Ben. And now Ben gets to return to India and serve children like himself. So wonderful. One of the boys drew a portrait of Ben - they call him Ben 10 because of the TV show (it's very popular here).
These kids are amazing.
Our visit to the girls hostel also included dancing, singing, and henna - a woman who works there is also a
professional henna artist for weddings. On our palms she drew an Arabic design, and on our forearms and the back of our hands she drew and Indian design. She is quite the artist.
They fed us lunch, they danced with us, they kissed our cheeks, and they did more for us than they will ever know. We visited to assess the needs of the orphanage, and we came away with a few things we could do. I hope we can help them like they have helped us.