It’s not much to look at, really. Just a green and white bracelet. Yet this simple pair of strings twisted around my wrist connects me to India. I never want to take it off.
Two weeks ago, my 13-year-old daughter and I returned from the trip of a lifetime. I have always been fascinated by India, and getting the chance to visit this exhilarating country with other donors to the Kiran Anjali Project (KAP) was the perfect blend of culture, charity and sightseeing, organized by Global Family Travels and partner, Creative Journeys. What I didn’t realize, though, was how powerfully this trip would affect my outlook on the world.
We began our trip in Hyderabad, a chaotic, noisy city in the southern part of India. It’s a place that sees fewer tourists than other cities in India do, and as a result our group felt a bit like celebrities. Everywhere we went, people wanted to take our picture.
The highlight of our stay in Hyderabad was visiting the Wings School, a school for underprivileged girls that our group has supported via our donations to the Kiran Anjali Project. Before our visit, our group stopped at a local supermarket and bought supplies to make 130 toiletry kits for the girls – providing basics like shampoo, deodorant and soap. These are things we take for granted back home but which are luxuries to the girls who attend Wings School. Getting the chance to see this school in person, and to meet some of the girls, was heartwarming.
Next it was on to Bangalore, India’s high-tech capital, and I was surprised at how green and lush it was. Walking through the 300-acre Cubbon Park, a quiet oasis amid the urban hustle and bustle, was such a surprise. It was full of flowers, plants, trees and even monkeys! Of course, this was still India, and outside of the park Bangalore’s traffic jams and crowded streets lived up to everything I had heard and read.
While in Bangalore, we visited the Carnation Learning Center, a preschool located in one of the city’s slums and another project that KAP supports. I was so enthralled with this school, a bright, cheery place that is a haven from the incredible poverty of the slum neighborhood. We watched as the children sang songs and proudly showed off their English language skills.
Then, we toured the slum. We visited the home of one of the children – a tiny one-room shack that was the dwelling for the little girl, her mother, father, baby brother and grandfather. Although I had certainly read and seen pictures of Indian slums, to actually be in one and to see what it is like to live there was a profound experience for me and my daughter.
On another day, we visited Baale Mane, a home for girls who have been abused, orphaned, abandoned or who were in other dangerous situations. This is the third organization supported by KAP, and one that made an incredible impact on me and my daughter. The girls who live at Baale Mane are warm, happy and loving, We toured the home, saw a performance of a drum dance, sang songs and ate snacks. And it was here that I received the gift of a string friendship bracelet, so simple and yet so meaningful.
My daughter and I were paired with a girl who was about 12 years old. She had lived at the home for four years. I showed her a picture of our family and we talked as she worked. Soon, she had completed the bracelets. As she tied one around my wrist, and another around my daughter’s wrist, I knew that this was a place that I needed to stay connected to.
Delhi and Agra
Our final stop of the trip was Delhi, then a trip to Agra by train where the highlight was a tour of the Taj Mahal. This majestic building was even more amazing in person than it was in the pictures I had seen over the years.
But now that I am back home, I realize that what touched me the most about this trip were the one on one experiences of seeing the projects that KAP supports. After visiting the Wings School, Carnation Learning Center and Baale Mane, I have a better understanding of what life is like in India if you are a child of poverty. I knew that I’d come home with a lot of meaningful memories, but the little string bracelet made by a girl in India trumps them all.
A note from Global Family Travels: Thank you to Debbie Williamson for sharing the highlights of her trip! To learn more about KAP, visit their website. If you are interested in doing a similar trip to India in support of KAP's worthy projects to educate underprivledged girls in India, please visit our trip website page: KAP Donor Trip to India.