Peace in the Path

Two mornings ago I was driving in the crazy traffic to the slum to get the girls for school and to meet one of the mothers for a doctors appointment. Horns were blaring, busses were cutting me off, goats were standing obstinately in the road and the guy on the motorcycle next to me was trying to talk to me about my tattoos as we were driving. I have to admit, I have found myself asking for peace within myself a lot lately. Sometimes, like two mornings ago, I wonder how I thought I would ever find peace amongst the chaos. But two mornings ago was different. I was running over the miles long list of things that needed to be done for Pratyasha Foundation and Operation Smile. I was trying to ignore the hives that were overwhelming my body. Oh and, yes, I was dealing with the aforementioned driving obstacles when out of nowhere I was hit with a complete sense of peace. I don't actually think I have ever felt so calm and so assured that everything is going to be okay. I needed that feeling, I needed that re-charging of my self-confidence. All of a sudden that list of things to do, to think about, no longer seemed like it was miles long and required a marathon type endurance to complete. All of a sudden, it felt like walking along the bank of the river at sunset. A peace along the path, a sure and steady pace.

Photos by Richard Ek


The Long Way to School

The Long Way To School from Creative Media Production on Vimeo.

It is incredible how sometimes people just come into your life at the right times. Lately it seems that over here in Guwahati I've been meeting a lot of really amazing people. They all offer knowledge, support and talents in one way or another. April and May were especially filled with people like this. One of them is a man named Michel from who came to visit the center with Operation Smile Sweden. He is a videographer and while he was here doing a video for Operation Smile, he offered to make a video for us as well. In the video you see Olivia, a young woman from Sweden who lived here from September up until lasa few weeks ago. She describes taking Kasitan to school, and how hard it was in the start. As you know by now, what started with Kasitan is growing! She goes to day school and afternoon school (featured in the video) and four other kids go with her!  I hope you all enjoy it... it makes me cry of course hearing Kasitan talk abut her dreams   


Where your seeds may fall

Ever since I can remember, I have had vivid recurring dreams. The kind that you wake up from and for a few minutes you're not sure if what you dreamt was real. I will have the same few for years and slowly they seem to fall out of rotation and are replaced with others. The most recent one I just can't seem to shake.

In the dream I am at work in Guwahati when some sort of huge disaster happens. The building is shaking and crumbling around me and my co-workers. As I run out of the hospital, I reach the main gates to find every child from Lakhtokia standing there perfectly calm and serene. I run to them, still terrified, and ask what they are doing there. One of the girls looks up at me and says "We're waiting for you to take us to school..." In the dream I turn around to my coworker and tell them an exact day that would be my last working at the surgical center and then I wake up... 

So thus comes the decision, the leap, the push, the revelation that I have some big choices to make. I know I am coming up on my last stretch working at the surgical center and full-time with Operation Smile because I know without a doubt that I need to be dedicating myself to growing Pratyasha. All of these vivd dreams, I believe there is a future in the positive aspects of them. It is so hard to come to a decision to say good bye to a huge facet of my life, the magnetic force that is the cleft center which brought me here. It is my full intention to continue to volunteer with them both in Guwahati/India and internationally as much as possible but it is time. I have been wrestling with the decision for months but finally I swallowed my fears and December 1st will be my last day at the surgical center. 

I get scared, giving up a job and choosing to possibly be without a real income for the foreseeable future. Yes I get scared until moments like this afternoon when I was picking up three of the girls from afternoon school. I stood there waiting for them to finish their school-provided dinner when one of the teachers came up to me. She looked at Kusitan and told me that Kusitan and Kumila had done an excellent job on their reciting today. She told me she couldn't believe how expressive they were and what talent they have. Kusitan was beaming, and I told her I was proud of her as tears welled up in my eyes. I can't be scared because I know what the futures of families in Lakhtokia face is scarier, I know that not developing a way to empower the other kids and their parents is scarier. Any problem I face deciding to do this full time is tiny in comparison and I know that somehow I will manage.

 The handful of girls that started going to afternoon school regularly have done so well that they are going to full time day school as well. They are the stand-outs, the exceptions, they are the dandelion seeds that we blew into the wind, not knowing where they would land. Now, they are turning around and planting seeds in the other kids around them, motivating them to try school. It is still hard and it is going to take a lot of time, power and patience to start growing those seeds. Whole communities are already changing, but we want that change to be permanent and so effective that one day I will actually walk through the slums and not be able to find one single child during the day. I want the children in my dreams to know that I do not want to just take them to school... I want to make them a school. I want to actually help them develop the potential in them in a way that is tailored to their unique needs. It is already happening with Kusitan and Kumila and Pinky and Heena and Hasina and Moromi. I know that more beautiful things will only grow from here.