Wednesday, September 14, 2011

"GIVE" Thanks

Do something different this Thanksgiving! Come volunteer with Rising Star Outreach in India!! It will change your life.

For more information and to fill out the volunteer application go to:

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Happy Birthday Mama!!

Although living at Rising Star in India this summer has been a dream come true, I miss my family...especially my sweet mom. I am so blessed to have her not only as my mom, but my best friend, my go-to, and partner-in-crime. I couldn't ask for a better example, friend, and mother. You know how people say, "Oh no, I am turning into my mother!"...well, If I only half-way turn into anything like my mom, I will be happy. She is truly an incredible human being.

So, to my partner-in-crime....Happy, Happy Birthday. I am forever grateful for you and I love you more than I have the words to say.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Special Day With Sudha

Every other Wednesday the Medical Team takes some of our patients from the colonies & any of our children on campus who need medical attention to Ramachandra Hospital in Chennai. The volunteers are paired up with one patient and then assist them throughout the hospital, making sure they get seen by the doctor and receive the necessary tests, procedures, and treatment needed. India does not believe in organization or standing in line waiting your turn. So due to the stigma of leprosy, our patients could easily be overlooked and never see the doctor. Thus, having a volunteer assist helps avoid that tragedy from happening. I also realized on this particular trip to the hospital that not only are we helping our patients receive the care they need, we are also breaking the stigma by being seen with them in a public place. It is opening doors for us to educate the community about leprosy and spread awareness; lack of awareness and ignorance is the reason the stigma still exists. I will explain how I came to this realization later...

I was able to spend the day taking care of sweet little 6 year old Sudha. Sudha is one of the kiddos at Rising Star. In the past few weeks she and I have really connected, so it was neat to have a whole day to ourselves. On the way she demanded to sit on my lap, so the whole 2 hour bus ride I had Sudha on my lap. It was fun to see India through her eyes as she would point at things we'd pass and make little comments. At one point we were passing an open field and a naked man was walking right on through it. Sudha's face was priceless as she chuckled with her hand over her was hilarious. Eventually she fell asleep and not long did I. Another volunteer snapped the cute candid, which I love. When she woke up she gave a little kiss on the cheek and we geared up for the hospital visit.

After I paired all of the volunteers up with their patients and sent them  in the direction they needed to go, Sudha and I went to the registration desk to get her checked in. While we were waiting there were many stares in our direction, probably wondering what a white girl was doing with an Indian child. A woman I was sitting next to spoke a little English and started asking questions. First she asked Sudha in Tamil what she was doing here. Recently we found a white spot on the inside of her left knee; a patch of white skin is one of the first signs of leprosy. As Sudha was showing this woman the spot on her knee and telling her about it in Tamil, I saw it all over the woman's face when she realized what we were doing there. Immediately she started asking me in her broken English, "Aren't you scared?". I took the opportunity to try to communicate through the language barrier that leprosy is nothing to be afraid of and tried to spread awareness about it. That was when I realized what a huge door we are opening by bringing the volunteers along with our patients on our hospital visits. I don't know if she got the point, but at least I gave it my best shot.

After registration we headed to the dermatology department, where Sudha's skin was screened and evaluated. The doctor decided to do a skin biopsy. Knowing what that entailed, I asked if I could be in the room with Sudha while they did the procedure...gratefully they allowed me. I held her in my arms and covered her eyes while they took a scalpel to her knee, peeled a layer of skin, and stitched it back up. It was definitely my low for the day, hearing her sobs and pleas "Don't make them..." (meaning don't make them do this). I grabbed my iPod and showed her the video of my niece Katelyn dancing in one of my tutu's. (Side note: She ADORES this video; she watched it at least 10 times on the drive to the hospital. She gives Katelyn pinch kisses while she watches it--its what they do here, you pinch someones cheeks the kiss your fingers)  After watching it a couple time she calmed down and we were able to finish the procedure. She was a super trooper! She wiped her tears, grabbed my hand, and we both walked out of the room with smiles on our faces. I gave her boomer (aka gum) for being a champ. On the drive home, she slept the whole way. It was a wonderful day and so fun to spend it with my sweet little Sudha.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Long Overdue...




I am so far behind! The last time I blogged was before session one volunteers arrived, and here I am well into week 2 of session two volunteers...sheesh! Time flies. Things have been busy, but really great nonetheless. I am so exhausted and it is more than worth it. I love my home here in India. I love where I live--I love that my neighbors consist of  200 beautiful Indian children that I fall more in love with everyday. 

I love going out into the colonies each day as the medical coordinator  and witness the volunteers do something they have never done before and reach out to those who have long been forgotten. It is emotionally taxing at times, but I  truly adore our leprosy patients and never cease to be moved by them.

I love the Rising Star staff. Our drivers, housemothers, teachers, cleaning ladies, security guards, maintenance workers, cooks, office workers, medical team, managing directors (Jim and Pam), and the many other lives that dedicate so much time, effort, and love into keeping this place alive.  

I love the volunteers!You guys rock! Rising Star could not be where it is, nor could it do what it does without the volunteers. I am continually amazed by the caliber of individuals who come through the volunteer program. It is a privilege to be a coordinator and to learn from the many volunteers whose paths cross mine.

I love my fellow coordinators...a shout out to you--D, CJ, Kimmik, Kenna--I couldn't ask for a better bunch to share this summer with. I don't show my love, appreciation, and admiration enough for what each of you bring into my life. Just know I am humbled to serve along side are truly remarkable people.

Just when I think I can't love this place any more than I already do...I am proven wrong time and time again. I love Rising Star! I can't say it enough.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

A Quick Catch Up...

Derek, Kim, and I in Bethel Nagar colony
Wow! Things have been so busy!! I have not blogged in over a week, so I thought I would do a quick catch up. This past week has been a stressful, yet very rewarding week. Last Monday we got to go with Dr. Susan to the Bethel Nagar was so wonderful to be back in the colonies! I love these beautiful people; I love the warmth and love they share and the joy they bring to me.
The first volunteer session is all nurses/ med students. Dr. Susan has compiled a schedule of facilities for these volunteers to work at. So we spent Tuesday and Wednesday going around and meeting the doctors/ head of each of these facilities so that we will be familiar with them when we bring the volunteers. Some of the places we went to were a catholic hospital, a birthing center, a new colony we have not yet extended our care to, Ramachandra hospital in Chennai, and a school that rescues the begging orphan children from the streets. We spent quite a bit of time in the car, but I never tire of looking out the window here. The area I live in here in India is so beautiful!! On Wednesday we spent most of the day in Chennai, and we even found a Subway to eat at. I don't think a sandwich ever tasted so delicious.

School for rescued beggars...They didn't want us to leave
 Thursday we spent the day getting things ready around the volunteer hostel. We were busy little buggers getting things put together, moving bunk beds, making name tags, and putting the final touches on everything. At one point these two kids, Michaelraj (10)and Stephenraj (13) came and visited us. These boys  are two of the many Rising Star kids. Their father passed away on New Years, so they now live on the Rising Star campus. They have been helping us all week and have become dear friends. Stephenraj surprised us with a treat called "mango dream" while we were working. He and michaelraj cut up the mangoes, set up the kitchen table with plates, poured the water from our cold water bottles into glasses, and even put a few milk-bikis (indian cookie) on each of our plates. It was the sweetest act of kindness. I stand in awe at them...Stephenraj is my hero and I hope to be as thoughtful, self-sufficient, and kind as he is! I can't believe he is only 13!
Derek and I have come to spend some time in the evenings sitting on the roof under the stars, chatting, de-stressing, and soaking up India. We have a friend, we named him Junior, who always comes and visits us. Junior is a firefly; its just him & he always manages to swing by on the evenings when it has been a particularly stressful or hard day. I love fireflies and as silly as it may sound, he brightens my spirits when I am exhausted emotionally, physically, and mentally. Thursday night while we were talking on our yoga mats we actually ended up falling asleep...we slept on the roof. I find it funny that my most comfortable nights rest was on a yoga mat on a concrete floor. It was so peaceful...but I woke up with far too many unwanted mosquito bites. We are determined to sleep up there again, but next time with mosquito nets... 

Friday was a fun day! We had a retreat for all of the Rising Star Family: the staff, drivers, teachers, housemothers, cleaning ladies, name it!  We went to Mammalapurum, a beach town about 2 hours away. It was fun, very hot, but fun.My favorite part of the day was seeing the staff having so much fun outside of RSO. It made me happy to see them having a good time and enjoying themselves. We first went on a boat ride, then we went to a crocodile zoo, then to lunch, and then we shopped. It was super!! The crocodile zoo was interesting; I think it is funny how cuddly they with one another, but how viscous and dangerous they are. Here are a few pictures:
Snuggle time!
Workin the shades...
The Wonderful Pam and Jim Gates!
Sportin' the  huge good lookin' life jackets
A video for your enjoyment by the wonderful Kenna! 

Saturday was a great day...why?? Because the kids came back!!! It was a long day getting them all registered and settled back into their rooms with their housemothers. The bus went and picked up the kids from the colonies along with their parents, they would come in waves throughout the whole day. It was neat to see the kiddos come with all their life possessions packed into a tiny backpack. It was also hard for me to see them say goodbye to their parents. I got emotional at one point watching a mom saying goodbye to her son as I thought about what a sacrifice it is for these parents to send their kids to Rising Star. When contracted with leprosy they lose everything--homes, jobs, money, societal approval, and often times even family. All they have left is their children; the one thing they have to bring them joy they send to us. What an act of sacrifice and faith these parents are making...they are giving up what they love most, for the hope that these children, through Rising Star, will be given greater life...full of opportunities, education, health, and success. It is so good to have the kiddos back. To finally have my arms around them and to remember their names, and have them remember mine brings an overwhelming amount of joy to my heart. I love them so very much. Every Saturday night we have a movie night for the kids where we project a movie outside for them to watch. We watched how to train your dragon...I became a mattress and several of the kiddos fell asleep on my lap. I love it!

On our way to pick up the volunteers with our super balloons!
Sunset from the roof during dinner
As of today, Sunday, the volunteer program has officially begun! We woke up this morning at 5am in order to leave campus by 6 to then embark on the two and a half hour journey into Chennai. This first session is a medical session and majority of them are from the BYU nursing program, so they requested that they be picked up before church so they could attend with us. On the way to the Marriot (where we pick up the volunteers) Vel, Shankar, and Vikram decided to stop and get balloons at a market to decorate the Tempo (aka Van) to welcome the volunteers. It was so funny, these guys are the greatest! We also stopped and got jasmine to put in the girls' hair as a "Welcome to Rising Star" type of thing.  Church was wonderful! Vikram works for Rising Star and he came to church with us today...and even better...we had a baptism today and he wanted to stay after to watch it. It was neat to see him experience church for the first time. After church we all headed back to Rising Star where we got the volunteers all settled in, gave a tour and gave orientation, then we ate dinner on the roof! As I mentioned earlier, the roof is my favorite place, so it was really great to finally have all of the volunteers here, eating together on the roof as the sun set. It doesn't get much better than that! Oh wait...maybe it does...because after dinner we went to family time with the kids. I went to see my family from last year & when I walked in they all ran around me and grabbed my legs with those huge brown eyes and precious smiles looking up at me saying "Kimmy Aunty! Kimmy Aunty!". They were so happy I remembered all of their names. Ah!! It was so wonderful to be with them again tonight. Tomorrow the craziness begins...Bring it on!!

Sending much love from India!

Saturday, May 21, 2011


I couldn't have asked for a better way to start out the day than by waking up to this stunning sunrise! There was a wicked storm last was nutty, but it made for quite the dramatic sunrise today. The pictures are beautiful, but even these don't fully capture it. It was so peaceful to sit on the roof of the hostel and watch the sunrise over the campus. The trees on the land have grown so much since last year, it is so full and green. I love, love, love it. 

After the sunrise and two bowls of crunch berries, we went straight to work. Today we attacked the office/storage room. We took inventory on all of the Sarees & chudidars (the traditional Indian clothing we provide for the volunteers), pants, bedding & linens, towels, and scrounged through all of the junk past volunteers have left behind that we have compiled over the years. At one point we came across a dead dried frog....and we kept getting caught off guard by our pet gecko, Bob (aka in Derek's words..."The worlds biggest the world"), crawling all over the walls. While going through all of the random things I came across a scale. I was laughing pretty hard when I saw it. It is totally the epitome of TII. (Side note: TII is a phrase we use around here. It stands for "This is India" and is used in moments where nothing can describe it but the fact that it is so India. India is a funny is so unique and strange and sometimes words just can't encapsulate its oddness. So we just say TII). The scale says "I'll present you with nice slim body". Say that with an Indian accent, and its pretty hilarious.

After cleaning up the storage room, we decided to start the looming task of assigning all of the volunteers to a room for each of the sessions. It may seem like a simple task, but don't be deceived. We spent a good 4-5 hours sorting through and assigning rooms to each volunteer for sessions 1,2, and 3. We still have to tackle down sessions 4 and 5! But, in the middle of all of this it started to RAIN! As if the sunrise hadn't made today even more awesome than usual...the rain just took it up to a whole other level. Rain in India is like an all-or-nothing kind of a deal. Very rarely is it just a light sprinkle; when it not only pours, it dumps! Me, Kim, Derek, and April (an off-season volunteer that has been here for two months..she's awesome) surrendered to the torrential downpour and played in the warm rain for over an hour. We went up on the roof of the hostel where we danced in the  huge puddles and made "rain-angels". Then towards the end of the storm we just sat in the puddles and talked for a while, since we were already drenched. It really doesn't get much better than this! I keep saying that everyday, but everyday seems to present its own way of making it awesome. Life is good over here in India. I am so happy!! Today was a pretty super day! Here are some photos from the rain dancing...


                                 INDIA IS AMAZING!!!!! 
                                       Wish you could all experience it, too.
                                                  Much love always!

Friday, May 20, 2011


It is strange to be here on campus without any kids or volunteers. Campus is so quiet! I am used to coming here and being surrounded by people and the hustle and bustle of Rising Star... so it is strange being the only ones here in the elephant house. But we are having a blast and soaking it all up now, knowing that come next week things will get crazy! We have quite a lot of things to do to get everything ready for the volunteer season to begin. Today we got all of the volunteer rooms cleaned and set up: moved beds around, made  up the beds, swept the floors, wiped down the shelves, etc...We started out the morning planning on setting up the rooms and then doing inventory for the kitchen and the office. But cleaning all of the rooms took us all day. So starting bright and early tomorrow we are cracking down on the kitchen and the office. 

So since it is the break for the kids, our cook is not cooking dinner until next week which means we have to scrounge together what we have hanging around in the elephant house and try to make something filling for dinner. It took us so long to even focus long enough to think what we could make. Derek took initiative and made us scrambled eggs while Kim and I were off in our exhausted lala-land, singing and laughing at everything the other person said. The eggs were yummy, but I am still hungry.

I finally showered. Until about an hour ago I was in the same clothes I left my house in on Tuesday morning and its Friday night..go stinky me! Some things never change, right? I have been pretty non-functional and since I knew we were going to get so dirty and sweaty cleaning today I decided to wait until tonight to shower. That puts the bucket shower count at 1. I am now officially unpacked and moved in...I brought two suitcases to India. A smaller one for clothes and all the other needed items and then a large suitcase for the more important things... food! Woo!

We are having a really good time together. It has been so fun to bond as coordinators as we prepare and plan for what we hope to be the best volunteer summer Rising Star has ever seen!  I am anxious for the other two coordinators, CJ and Kenady, to get here. We have been so obnoxiously slap happy, especially today. It has been hilarious.  If anyone were to be a fly on the wall and see us today, they would probably think we are lunatics...which may not be too far from the truth, haha. My abs are sore from laughing so hard and my jaw is sore from smiling. It is super! I love India...and this is only the beginning!

Much love to you all.