My first week interning with Back2Back India has opened my eyes. There is no way I could have been fully prepared for my initial visit to this hostel (children’s home) in rural India. I was a little nervous when we pulled up, but was instantly comforted by familiar verses painted on the walls in English and the native language, Telegu.
Upon arrival, I was given a tour of the girl’s dorm. Each room (equivalent to the size of my bedroom) is meant to house eight girls. Since the children are used to sleeping on the ground, they are somewhat able to fit in these rooms. Some older girls came to greet us and they asked me to lead them in the song, “If you’re happy and you know it” which the kids knew even better than I did! I was especially amazed by the sanctuary. It was clean, open and bright—it made me happy to know these kids were getting the best when they were worshipping Jesus.
After we explored the girl’s side of the hostel, we went to check out a new project being started to expand the boy’s dorm. Seeing the method of construction blew my mind–hundreds of sticks were used to support the building while construction continued right on! Twice as many men were working on the building than were needed. Due to the low labor wages in India, this is not an unusual occurrence. I was just starting to pick up on the inefficiency behind a lot of what goes on in India!
We stumbled into some of the bathrooms on the boy’s side. They looked like they hadn’t been cleaned in years and the smell was something no child should have to face every day. Apparently, this kind of cleaning is meant only for the lowest of workers in India; therefore, a bathroom will be left filthy before anyone would voluntarily take care of these duties. I started to get overwhelmed and frustrated at the reality of how much there was to do and how much I didn’t understand about this country.
It was the first day of the new school year and it seemed a bit strange to only see a couple boys running around. The classrooms were empty, both of people and of any sort of wall décor. We talked with one of the teachers who informed us that the kids take several weeks getting back to school. For those that return on time, the month of June is a bit slow as government schools typically prolong starting school until the majority of kids have returned. We learned of the efforts to fund the teachers and the cost of buying enough books for the children. It astounded me to learn that it would only take about $100/month to finance a teacher and $3/year to provide each student their textbooks!
Following the tour, we were invited into the director’s home where we were served mangoes and authentic Indian food. It was evident the difficulties due to lack of funding are only the beginning. Several factors play a role that are not so easy for the American mind to fully understand. With the majority of India being Hindu, many people find the significance of “fate” very important. In other words, if a child is orphaned or disabled, they believe it is their fate and therefore people do not feel obligated to help them. Poverty is rampant, women face oppression on a daily basis, and the people look to false gods for answers. In the Christian community, however, there is hope.
At this hostel, so many difficulties these children would be facing on the street are being avoided. With a little support these children can receive even more attention–a better education, improved facilities and the spiritual care they need to go on to do great things.
While the poor situation at this hostel was disturbing to me, I am hopeful with the direction and support of Back2Back, paired with the love of Jesus in these workers’ hearts–this place can transform! Once I got past my initial frustrations and focused on the numerous projects on the horizon, it’s easy to understand why Back2Back is called to be in India. I truly cannot wait to see what God has in mind for this hostel, the future of these children, and India!