Kerry, the brilliant young volunteer from South Africa, seems to have unlimited gifts, most notably her generous hospitality. It was her, who on our arrival at Sambhali Trust, gave us a warm welcome and valuable insights. She has repeatedly provided me and Jen and all of Setrawa with exactly what we want, delivered to the small village with a smile (namely chocolate and cake). As I struggle to package my last two months, she gave me a final gift: a gem of knowledge, to go with the 8 rings and other jewelry I was gifted on my departure. She shared with me that in sanscript, colour and passion are the same word.
Kerry is a charming teenage girl with a mature presence and a radiating beauty that draws people to her. She is bursting with passion; I have a theory that her visible beauty comes from her passion sneaking out of invisible holes with intensity. Her name, in Hindi, means unripe mango. This is exceeding suitable as her passion is a match for the brilliant green colour of the unripe mangoes sold on the street. Of course there is also the glorious promise that she will ripen into something wonderfully sweet. She could not have been more suitable for acting as our tie from the rural village to the headquarters.
Dear reader, we have transitioned and the colours of India have inspired passion in me.
I am coasting along a shaky train out of Jodhpur with a warm heart. The children of Sambhali followed us all the way from the school to the bus stop. We had treated them all to a parting gift of freezies, but I have a hunch that their affection for us goes deeper as we have shared more than just snacks. I am full of children's laughter from my memories of chasing peacocks and bakaris (goats) out of our lessons. I am also full of respect for the courage I have seen in the girls; they are standing up for themselves to their teachers and parents. They have insisted on equality and the right to learn. Although not an excessively oppressive society, options are limited and education is a privilege. The older girls are heavily burdened with chores and younger siblings; while the boys are more free, they struggle without guidance. Sambhali is magical because it transforms to be whatever it's participants need.
It was the bus stop rats that drew out my tears as we pulled away. Boys who spend their days peddling to the faceless hands that reach out of buses, these have been our most recent recruits to Sambhali. When I told them to watch out for the younger boys, they beamed big grins as it occurred to them that they are role models. It comforts me greatly to see their self appreciation exploding at the fragile age of 12 (although they consistently claim they are 9 to me, so that Sambhali can accept them).
The work of Sambhali touches many lives in many ways. Just the presence of an empowerment centre and foreign volunteers teaches locals to value themselves more. They are learning what they deserve and I have see that some of the Sambhali children and Sheerni women are going to claim better lives for themselves.