Building a Framework for Compassion

Jul 21, 2016

Steph Duff

Neha, a Hindi word meaning love, is a quiet girl with soft, brown eyes, who watches intently as people talk and laugh around her. Receiving a smile from her is a gift – it happens slowly and is always intentional; her smile is something to be savored.

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At fourteen, Neha lives with nine “sisters” around her age in the Elijah Home on the India Hope Campus. When she arrived, Neha was quite subdued, according to Back2Back staff. Protective and cautious, Neha had a select few friends and remained reserved and observant as she transitioned into her new home and life with the other children.

But as time moves forward, staff and house parents are noticing significant change in Neha. The once quiet, attentive girl is slowly softening her edges and revealing dimensions of a personality laced with mindfulness for others and deep compassion.

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She is benefitting from the love and concern of a caregiver who’s been on campus for three years now. The consistency provided for Neha, and the other children on the India Hope Campus, is allowing guarded walls to come down and comfort to settle in to the framework of their stories.

Recently, staff Dan and Mariah, were working alongside the older girls in a mock-interview. One of the questions the girls were asked was “what’s the most generous thing you’ve done to help someone?” While many of them understood the question as “what is the most generous thing you will do for someone?” their answers were moving, nonetheless.

Neha raised her keen, brown eyes and asked, “What is it called when a child has no mother and no father?”

Staff were taken aback at her boldness to ask this out loud, additional evidence of her growing security on campus, and responded with, “you mean an orphan?”

“Yes, orphans! I want to help orphans. That is what I will do,” she responded firmly.

Neha is not alone in this desire to give back. Many of the older girls shared her same sentiments, expressing a desire to help children and those less fortunate. As their levels of comfort grow, the children are expressing aspirations to be difference makers in the world around them.

As she continues to grow within the physical and emotional security afforded her on campus, Neha is slowly revealing a more compassionate, fun-spirited side of herself.

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Recently, another girl on campus was ill and the other girls hesitated to sleep in the same room with her, but Neha spoke up, saying their sister shouldn’t be left alone in such a large room because it would be too frightening.

Neha can be found enjoying bike rides with her friends and Back2Back staff, Adam and she can often be heard exclaiming “I-OH!” – an expression of surprise – and then laughing at the unexpected turn prompting the response.

Neha is a young girl who is realizing the value of her voice, the delight in loving others, and the capacity within her to leave a mark of compassion in the world.

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Steph Duff is a writer, daughter, sister, and really loud laugher. By day she lends her voice on behalf of orphaned and vulnerable children with Back2Back Ministries. By night she is readily found with her nose in a book and spending time with her dog, Telulah. At all hours, she can be found consuming copious amounts of coffee. She feels most herself in the heat of India and prefers her mugs big, her books long, and her words intentional.

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