Our days start with a half a mile walk to the sea-foam green house where the girls stay, a long stone's throw from the construction site of their new home. Each morning the walk is the same, cool weather shivers on naked toddlers being bathed on street corners while school children in cardigans and strawberry jam colored v-neck sweaters squeeze in a little play time before their studies. Cows amble by, dogs lounge fur-matted and manged in the gathering sun and the lovely little town of Rayagada shakes itself from dust and slumber and slowly greets the day.
When we arrive there are girls in the road, others bathing or washing and still more inside studying or dressing, undressing, stitching tears, mending missing buttons, pinning broken zippers and then re-dressing in their smart blue uniforms. Everyday an ocean of blue-clad and beautiful girls, like waves swirling around our waists, but today maybe more like the sky, like clouds floating quickly past us that gives the sense of flying. My heart has never had wider wings.
The girls cook for each other in groups of five on a regular interval. It is a perfect democracy conceived in the tender heart and mind of Jainy. The food is incredible this morning, Mookta and Smita have made a lovely hearty earthy meal whose many shades of yellow conjure a bowl of sunshine, certainly as warm if only mostly from the tenderness of today's cooks. The Oriya name of the dish, which I have already forgotten, makes the meal sound so exotic but sitting here on concrete, fingers for spoons, eating with the girls, this meal more than any so far is deeply humbling. It feels as if it has been eaten by countless generations in the state of Orissa, a solemn feast celebrating the harvest or a long forgotten battle from some bloody war. But this morning it is a holy communion, served from one pot, the pot of sisterhood. And oh what sisters they are.
|Mookta in Yellow.|
The girls are dropped at the school's gate and after many kisses, some planted, some blown, they head inside and we backtrack again to the construction site. At 4 we return to gather the girls and then back home for a quick change out of school blues into a rainbow of dresses and then its all about play until 5 when English class starts. The principle contest involves a small stack of broken marble tiles and a plastic grocery bag wrapped round a bundle of rags to make a ball of sorts. Several girls stack the tiles while one girl hurls the bag-ball at the little white pile. If she topples the tiles she runs screaming giggling arms flailing and then a mad chaos erupts where the bag-ball is blurring by until it connects with a head or leg or passing cyclist. The rules of this game escape me, they seem as fluid as the girls themselves. The only true constant is the laughter and Assist has more laughter than any place I've ever been.
English class has the girls separated into two groups. I take the youngest 12 to one of the bedrooms or outside on the patio while Narges and the older girls sit in a circle in the main room. I try my best (read bribe) to keep the girls engaged in learning a language that will surely help them practically in life but will never be as beautiful to express their precious hearts as the vibrant color of their native language.
After 30 minutes the girls grow restless and it time for photos, the aforementioned bribe, so out comes the camera and dress up begins. Today they take turns with a couple of head scarves and my boots.
Pria above and Jumanu below.
6 o'clock brings prayer time and all the girls grab a paperback new testament and sit facing one girl who leads the songs and prayers. Tonight it is Nabya, she is gentle and soft-spoken but the sincerity of her prayers and the vulnerability in her worship is deeply moving. The girls sing mostly in Hindi I think with the occasional English song. Tonight I am trying to hear them, not as a whole but as 35 individual voices, 35 facets of the gem of this precious sisterhood. Each one revealing a perfectly unique spectrum of Love's light. All glowing in the loving gaze of a Savior basking in their praise. An aria of angels has never so captured the imagination of heaven, of that I'm sure.
I am thinking about the color of the orange liquid at her lips as it glows in the streetlights. I am thinking of the colors of other things too. The color of laughter. The color of worship. The color of innocence and sisterhood. All of earth's palettes and poets combined would fail to express those colors. They are from heaven's holy brush, the canvas of heaven itself, tenderly perfectly painted from the mind of God.
That is a typical day for the girls of Assist, now. It is not the typical day they once knew. Not the one where death and abandonment and sorrow punctuated every breath and punctured every hope. This is why this home is so important. Why supporting these girls is more than a charitable work. With out this home as a safe place for these princesses the world is dimmer, the colors are faded. Please continue to support this work anyway you can. Prishan Foundation is meticulous in their use of the resources they receive. There is no overhead, not one dollar. All of your donations go to help these girls, to bring others in to this family, to give lasting hope where their was only grief and despair. Thank you from the bottom of my heart.