So probably the best thing about Rising Star are the kids that I get to work with everyday. These kids are not your average ordinary everyday kids. These kids are so full of love and kindness, and seem so innocent, yet they have seen more in their little life times than you or I will see in all of ours. Practically all of them are perpetually smiling despite the fact that they have seen death and suffering so much in their life. They are so giving and caring and grateful in so many ways, and I just can't blog about my time in India without devoting some time strictly to the kids.
First off there's Gracy and Theresa (and Shalini in back). Gracy and Theresa are sisters and they are both in LifeDance. I had no idea that these girls were sisters until I'd been here for about 6 weeks. There are so many kids here that are siblings, and its so fun to discover who's related to who. Gracy is the president of LifeDance and she is amazing. She is so nurturing and caring to the girls in her house, and she is so conscientious about everything that she does. She works so hard at her studies (even though she struggles) but also dedicates herself 100% to LifeDance as well. Theresa is also a rock star, and I can already tell that she is going to be as amazing as her sister as she grows.
Now meet Reshma. She's the littlest girl on the entire campus. She's like a pint sized Indian child. She hardly speaks any english, but she loves to come up and give big hugs. The big danger of picking up Reshma is that she had a tendency to wet her pants. Cute girl, but always a hazard to hold her. Gotta love her!
Here's V. Devi. Instead of having a last name the children have an Initial before their first name that represents their Father's name. This is V. Devi, because there's also G. Devi who I will introduce in a moment. V. Devi is a spunky girl in 6th Standard who is full of fire and spice. She's got a strong personality and knows what she wants, but also she is very loving as you can see from this picture.
Spunky V. Devi! All the walls in the hostels are painted with different images, and whenever we take pictures in the hostel they always love to pose in front of the murals.
Now meet Bujji. Here's she's studiously working on her homework, but that's not how you will usually find her.
She is full of life and joy. I affectionally call her bujji baby, because she loves to run and jump into my arms and wrap her legs around my waist. Then, she will pat my cheeks and call me Diana mummy. I love this picture of her. I think she looks beautiful here. She's such a little girly girl. She is also on LifeDance and my first week leading LifeDance with Anne, Bujji would stand directly across from me at wink at me over and over again throughout class. She giggles constantly and loves to make others laugh to.
Bujji really loves to hug and smile and be photographed and its hard for me to say no to any of that!
In LifeDance we've really been working on splits, helping the kids improve their flexibility, so Theresa, bujji and I thought we'd get a photo of us practicing!
Now for some of the boys. First up, Ranjith. He's in 2nd standard, and we became fast friends. All that it took was me sitting next to him in class one day. Every since then Ranjith decided we were buds. He's hilarious. Sometimes when he says me he'll ask to hold my bag, and then he starts calling me Ranjith and says that I should call him Diana. Also the first day I played with him, he taught me a cute little hand game that has some Tamil words to it (kinda like patty cake and other hand games that children play). I tried to learn the Tamil words but he kept saying them so fast, I was a lost cause.
Ranjith just wants so much love, and I'm so willing to give it. He's a really cute kid, and on some days once he's seen me, he won't leave my side :)
Here's Vishva. Boy is he wild. He is a bit of a punk, but he is absolutely hilarious. He is in 3rd standard, and I help the 3rd standard kids with their homework everyday. Well sometimes, Vishva will get a problem wrong, and when he does he'll smush his face up into the craziest expressions. He has the most expressive face I've ever seen.
Sometimes he just makes crazy faces for fun, like this one. He's just a goofball, and even though he's a bit of a punk, he really loves life. Gotta love crazy Vishva.
So like I said, I help with math homework. Meet Vijayabilagi (that's as close as I can get to spelling his name). He's in 4th standard, and when he comes in for math homework, he usually plops down somewhere close by, so he can help from me. He's a great kids, he really loves to learn, and I've enjoyed helping him improve on his math. Its amazing to see how much progress these children have made in the 9 weeks that I've been here. I can really tell that hes going to go far because he's dedicated to his work and willing to learn. So proud of him.
Meet Vimalkanth, affectionately known as V. V is in LifeDance, but he is also a wild child, he's middle name is trouble. He's in 6th standard, so he's your typical middle school boy, but for some reason you just cant help but love his wild antics. Really he's a charmer, and he uses that charm to get anyone and everyone off topic. For example, in the middle of LifeDance, he might randomly ask the question, "Where do babies come from?" or some other random question, and without realizing it you'll actually try to come up with a response even though its completely off topic and he interrupted the flow of your class. He's a passionate kid, and is a rock star when it comes to dancing. When he wants to, he can really tear up the dance floor.
Next up is my buddy Deepenraj. He's the one in the middle with a smile that reaches for miles. That smile is the embodiment of all that is Deepen. He's one of the older boys in LifeDance, and he's a total goof, but also just as sweet as sugar. One night the boys were in study hall, and as they were walking home they found 3 deserted kittens. They brought them over to the volunteer housing, and Deepen just grinned from ear to ear about these kittens. He just loved holding them and have them cling to his shirt. This kid loves to laugh, and is full of crazy ideas of one kind or another. Right now its fun to see him channel his ideas into choreography as he and one of his teammates are working on a couple of dances that they want to perform for us before we leave.
Finally, Ashwin. Ashwin is the newest kid at Rising Star. His mother was hired in late october as the newest house mother. It was amazing to see how quickly he adjusted to life at Rising Star. It's hard to come into a new school in the middle of the year. He's a charming boy. He's in 5th standard, and I teach his English class every day, and I also teach his dance class with Anne. Even though he struggles with English sometimes, he works so hard at everything. He's willing to try even if the other kids are goofing off and not working hard. He's very eager to learn. Here he is at the zoo, and let me tell you, even though he's been to the zoo several times, this kids loved it at the zoo! We spent pretty much the whole day together and he wanted to point out every animal and showed me everything there was to see at the zoo. He also shared his little bag of chocolates with me that his mom bought for him.
Ashwin's birthday was recently, and his mother requested that the volunteers come take some photos with him on his special day. Having your birthday at Rising Star is a very special occassion. You get to dress up in your best clothes, and at the start of the day you stand at the front of assembly and everyone sings to you. After that you go around all day, giving treats to everyone (instead of receiving gifts). It's very important that you have treats to give away on your own birthday. Well, I didn't see Ashwin on his birthday until later in the day, and he was devastated because he'd already given away all his treats, and I hadn't gotten one yet. Even though I told him not to worry about it, he made a special effort to find treats so I could get a special treat from him on his birthday.
Ashwin is awesome. Whenever he says me he'll come up and shake my hand. He really loves to shake hands. He is a great kid with a lot of potential, and can't wait to see what he makes of himself as he grows.
Ashwin has a special place in my heart as do the many of the kids here at Rising Star. I'm so glad I've had a chance to work with these kids while I've been here. I will miss them dearly. I only have a week left, and I'm already starting to feel emotional about saying goodbye to these kids. It kills me that these kids meet volunteers over and over again that they give so much love to and then they have to leave. Almost the first question the kids ask is when do you leave, cause they want to know how long they get to love you. Once you tell them when you're leaving the next question they ask is when are you coming back. I wish I could tell them I'm coming back right away, but who knows if I'll ever make it back. I love these kids, and I'm so glad I've had a chance to work with them, serve them and love them.