Sunday, March 24, 2013

Life Dance

The Boys (Vignesh, Vimalkanath, Krishnamoorthy, Saranraj, Joseph, Naveenraj, Ismail, Ansari, Arun)

Just take a look at these names. It took me a good week to learn them. 

The Girls (Vijayalakshmi, Sangeetha, Theresa, Shalini, Paptha, Vinodhini, Ambiga, Angelai)


Welcome to Life Dance. This is an after-school club. I was the supervisor. We met 4 times a week and it was one of the best parts of the day.

What is Life Dance?

The following is taken directly from Promethean Sparks, the creator of Life Dance.

"Promethean Spark teaches life skills to impoverished youth worldwide through ongoing training in the performing arts. Discipline, focus, concentration, perseverance, self-esteem, responsibility and ambition. Teaching dance to youth in leprosy colonies in India, and in slums in Kenya is changing them from the inside out."

The children take their dancing very seriously. In fact it is the most prestigious student club. They work very hard and are quite disciplined. During my time here there was no instructor, so their peer leaders directed their activities.  Hopefully the organization will be able to send over a volunteer dance instructor next semester so they can continue further with their dancing.

We met in the dining hall, kind of the multi-purpose room for the campus. Notice how the girls dress. The red and white outfits are the school uniforms. The scarf (which is pinned on) is part of the uniform and no one would think to remove it.
The majority of the time is spent on warm ups, a quite extensive workout with stretching, yoga moves, aerobics and core strengthening. These kids are incredibly strong and fit. They love to dance. Their favorite singers are Michael Jackson and David Archuleta (Hard to put those two in the same category, but David visited Rising Star a couple of years ago and the kids love him.)

Saranraj, the strongest of the bunch
Saturday is "gymnastics day". The kids love to practice cartwheels, backbends, forward rolls, etc. It is hard to do much improving without a teacher.

 Here are a couple of videos.

This last video, though not that great of quality videoing is quite touching. The song, Somebody Out There is song by David Archuleta. He actually came and sang this as the kids did this dance. It is kind of their theme song. As you watch the group perform keep in mind that the majority of them have leprosy in their families. The words and actions together are quite powerful.

Friday, March 22, 2013

The Colonies

Rising Star Outreach of India has as its main goal to serve the leprosy-afflicted in India. This goal is accomplished through several different programs.

First, a little background on leprosy in today's modern world. If you haven't watched this video, it gives the best introduction.

There are over 1 million cases of leprosy in India today. There are over 700 colonies where the leprosy-affected live. There is a cure for the disease. But due to the stigma attached to it, many do not disclose they have the disease until it is much harder to treat.

A typical sign to the entrance of a colony
Outside one colony. It literally is on the side of a busy highway.
Another colony is located in an isolated area.

A colony scene. Trash is everywhere in India, not just the colonies

a much cleaner scene

                    A typical wash day in India.
 I loved watching the little girls do their part.

 Many of the children of the leprosy-affected live at Rising Star where they receive an above-average education. But there are still plenty of children who live at home. Indians have a very strong sense of family. With many of them having lost most everything, including jobs, homes and friends when leprosy is discovered, their families become their most prized possession. It is hard for many of them to send their young children off to a boarding school.


Each day Rising Star sends out a mobile  medical unit to visit a colony. Many of the patients there need medical care, but are unable to get themselves to a doctor. Run completely by a team of excellent Indian doctors, the unit travels to the colonies and provides leprosy screening, medicines for treatment, wound and ulcer care, and medical treatment for non-leprosy related ailments such as TB, typhoid fever, and diabetes.

Typical community center where we set up shop

Some of our patients
More patients

1st stop - pick up your chart
2nd stop - blood pressure and blood sugar testing

Bandage removal
Washing Feet
The "nurse" takes care of the ulcers
Our own little pharmacy

At one colony there are two businesses which have been started which provides employment for the patients and their families. This is the Pearls With Purpose, a jewelry making group. There is also an art school and studio. It is amazing to see someone without fingers create a beautiful piece of artwork.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Church - Indian Style

I have been able to attend Church nearly every Sunday since I have been in India. It takes about 1 1/2 hours to get there, but it is worth the drive. Before my first visit I had no idea what to expect. I didn't even know there were LDS congregations meeting in India. I am happy to report that congregations are meeting all over India in an orderly fashion under the direction of 2 Mission Presidents, 1 Stake President and around 6 District Presidents. The information I found said there are about 10,000 Latter-Day Saints in the country.

                  Anita and I getting ready to head off to Chennai

                    Entrance to the Chennai Ward Building

India is predominately a Hindu nation with about 80% of the population. There are approximately 13% Islams and only 2% Christians. The Christians live predominately in the southern portions of the country. Chennai is in southern India, therefore you see signs of Christianity all over.

                          The Chennai Ward Building
                            3 Branches meet here.
Except for a 7 Star Hotel that I have seen, this is the nicest building in   Chennai.

Church is conducted in English. It takes awhile to get use to the accent. Probably about the time I leave I will have figured it out. There are a lot of full-time missionaries. They speak and teach in English, but with a Tamil accent. There are a large number of male members. This seems to be a little unusual as it seems there are always more women to convert to the Church. But because not as many women speak English, the men are the ones that lead their families into the Church. Most of the members are first generation LDS. I am impressed with their knowledge and commitment.

                   The Relief Society or Women's Organization

                   Celebrating the birthday of Relief Society

Relief Society is an interesting experience. Women in this country for the most part keep a low profile. But in Relief Society, with no men present, they come to life. There is much discussion and laughter. The lessons are all taught in a combination of English and Tamil. Some teachers are very talented in going back and forth without breathing or pausing. Today I was asked about how we "do" things in America. I said that for the most part they are running there Ward just like in America. It is inspiring to experience the early stages of what someday may be a really big thing. With 1.2 billion people, there is alot that lies ahead for the growth of the Christian community in this country.