I have been asked many times, why India? I could have chosen to spend my summer break by the beach, drinking margarita's but I didn't just want another vacation, I wanted to be part of something. This something was almost halfway across the world, where one third of the world's poor reside.
There were months and months of planning and saving money and as noted above, I was still a student which means limited funds. I held local fundraisers with family and friends and managed to raised over $600!! This money was not used to fund my trip, but instead, all proceeds went directly to the orphanages . I used an old luggage and purchased tons of hygiene products, toiletries, books, arts and crafts supplies, literacy activities, food, clothes - you name it, it was in there! As this seemed like a good idea at the time, traveling through India with large luggages was not the best idea. Lesson learned.
I did a bit of research before I travelled to understand this new culture and might I tell you, nothing could prepare me for what I was about to see. I flew into Mumbai, which is known to be the "New York" of India. Boy, was this a culture shock. I jumped into a cab to take me to my hotel which was unknowingly right in the middle of the slums. I still remember the drive so vividly. We drove down a gravel road and all I could see were families sleeping in makeshift homes, barely clothed children and stray dogs everywhere. All of my first world problems disappeared.
I checked into my hotel, unpacked and let reality set in. This was India.
I woke up the next morning and snapped a photo of the village outside of my hotel.
I spent a few days touring Mumbai then jumped on a plane and made my way to Goa, the smallest state in India which is along the Arabian Sea.
I began volunteering at El Shaddai Orphanage, an organization dedicated towards educating and feeding the slum children of India. I was excited to spend my weeks with them!
Every few days I would bring in a bag of goodies for the children!
And yes.... I brought them candy! She loved her Jujubes!!!
I planned many arts and crafts activities with the supplies that I brought. I planned many literacy activities as well!
That smile though......
It was tough to say goodbye. I will forever carry all of their little smiles in my heart. Here are the many goodbye cards they made....
I carried on my journey and made my way to Mother Teresa's Roses, another orphanage in Goa. I spent a few days assisting the nuns with the care of their orphaned infants.
In addition to working in the orphanages, I also spent many hours at the International Animal Rescue Center. The number of stray dogs in India has grown to frightening proportions which makes the role of the International Rescue Center very critical. To put it in perspective, I had seen more stray dogs in India than I see squirrels in the US. I spent time walking the dogs, removing fleas and ticks, bathing them, and of course giving them tons of hugs and kisses!
During my time at the International Animal Rescue center, I met John Hicks, one of the founders of Primate Trust India. I was invited to his home which is known as the Tree House. His home is the rescue center, a long term care orphanage for abused, injured, or orphaned primates. It was amazing to see how many primates he rescued.
They would just climb all over him!
Little Ella was hungry!!
My time in Goa had come to an end but I couldn't leave India without visiting the Taj Mahal. I flew into New Delhi and spent a few days touring the city. I traveling from New Delhi to Agra, a city a few hours away where I would get to see the amazing Taj Mahal!