I was greeted by humidity. The baggage claim was filled with people from all over the world, some transient, some coming home, some leaving. After waiting in line for what seemed like forever the immigration agent asked me why I had come to India. “To do volunteer work,” I told him. He nodded his head in true Indian fashion, stamped my passport and sent me on my way. Stepping outside the airport my friends and I experienced something we had never encountered before. India.
India isn’t always an easy place, but it is beautiful. India is a rising power on the global stage. The country is a leader in technology and cricket, among other things. However, most of the country lives in densely populated, underdeveloped communities. Sex trafficking and disease are on the rise. Many lack access to the education and resources that you and I take for granted.
But I wasn’t thinking about any of this as I jumped in a taxi and headed for the bus station. We weren’t home yet. During the five-hour bus trip from Delhi to Jaipur I tried to make reality set in. I was in India. India.
When we arrived at our host’s home we were greeted by a young girl around the age 9, the same age as my little sister. She had a leg brace on one leg and a smile that consumed most of her face. She’s from a small slum in Jaipur. Her community is known to some as the “puppet people.” They make, sell and perform with puppets. The families in this community live in dire poverty. They have no access to sanitation, very little access to (dirty) drinking water and almost no access to education or medical care. The organization we were working with visited the community every week and brought food and vitamins for the children. On one visit they found this little girl in the corner of her home. She had broken her leg and her family could not afford her medical treatment. With no options they left her in the corner. The group was able to bring her home and fund-raise for her surgery. When I met her she was almost fully recovered, healthy, happy and alive.
In the same community I met a woman with a newborn baby. She explained through the translator that she and her child were sick but she could not afford medicine. At the time I was naive to the illness of poverty, but now I believe it was TB. Two months after my visit I learned that the baby died.
Another family in the community lived in a single room. The family consisted of a 12 year old girl and two younger boys. I believe the youngest was around age 3. They invited me to sit on their bed and immediately the youngest crawled into my lap. He snuggled in and would not let go, his heart obviously longing for a mother. The interpreter explained that their mother had died in a fire and the father was a truck driver. The daughter had been living in slightly better conditions with her grandparents and attending school. When her mother died she was forced to stay home and take care of her brothers while her father was away for weeks at a time.
As I sat with the women and children of the community we shared laughter. Not even able to speak the same language we still managed to talk about life’s hardship and beauty.
Before going to India I did not understand the concepts of global health, infrastructure or development. Now I am obsessed with them. Call it a calling if you will. I am devoted to the development of the global community that I am a part of and I am striving toward a future where resources are better allocated and utilized, and education, health care, and women's rights become fundamental aspects of community development.
I’ve been awarded a $500 scholarship to travel to India with a group of medical professionals, engineers, college faculty and fellow students. We will be working two hours outside of Jaipur, Rajasthan in clinics and helping build sustainable infrastructure including composting toilets.
To cover the cost of the trip I need to raise an additional $2500. I will be able to save a large amount of this money and have already received some donations.
My first trip to India was difficult. I had never before experienced such poverty or diversity. The longer I am away the more I want to go back. I'm excited to be apart of a program that is bringing medical care to those who usually cannot access it as well as implementing sustainable infrastructure that will have long-term effects on the well being of the community. This trip will invest in the people of Rajasthan and fuel my education in International Development. Please consider investing with me.
To donate via pay pal either click the button on the top left of my blog or send donations to email@example.com. You can also send a check to Jennifer Pekol, 2615 NW 56th St, #204, Seattle, WA 98107. Anything you can give will be helpful and used with integrity.
Global Impact: Experience Rajasthan