Here are the highlights...
After our time at Asha Mission, and Asha House in Delhi - we headed to Kolkata for a few days to visit the third Children's Home we support - Asha Mission Kolkata (founded by the same people who founded Asha Mission Delhi). This is home to 15 little boys, and we loved spending time with them! While we were there we found out they were sleeping on the cement floor and getting sick from the cold weather (because they couldn't afford mattresses or warm blankets.) So we bought them all new pillows and thick blankets for the winter, and then (thanks to our awesome donors) we were able to raise the funds for new mattresses! Check out the video here...
Asha Mission - Kolkata from The Sound of Hope on Vimeo.
After 3 days with the kids in Kolkata, we finally took a much-needed day off. For some reason we didn't schedule any off-days between the 3 orphanages, brothel, and leper colony this trip, and we now know what a mistake that was! We would work all day at the Children's Homes, travel for hours in Indian traffic, and then come back to the hotel for 4 (or more) hours of video/blog/internet work before falling into bed around midnight or 1am. We were seriously worn out by this point (day 15 of the trip). We'll definitely do a better job of planning some rest into our next trip!
After our rest day we flew back to Delhi. I spent 2 days shopping for merchandise for The Sound of Hope, and let me tell you - that was an adventure all by itself! These ladies don't like to take "no" for an answer. At one point one saleswoman had me by one arm - Rusty had me by the other - and both were pulling as hard as they could! I felt like a human wishbone! (I seriously wish we had a pic of that - LOL!) But I am happy to report that we got some extremely beautiful handmade products that I know many of you are going to love! We're planning a big fundraising event for next November (in B'ham) where we'll be having a silent auction with these items - so keep an eye out to find out how you can be a part of it!
Our last day in India was one of the busiest, but best days of our trip. We spent the day with Babu John - the founder of both Asha Mission Children's Homes. He shared so much with us about his vision for these homes, the children we care for, and also about the issues orphans and vulnerable children face in India. He also took us to visit the Chauma Slum, and what we saw broke our hearts. I'll be reposting my blog about our time there soon, but I'll go ahead and share our video now. You see, we've decided to plant a school in this slum, and we want YOU to be a part of it!
Chauma Slum - Delhi, India from The Sound of Hope on Vimeo.
We said our goodbyes at Asha Mission (Delhi) later that night, and got some beautiful gifts from the children. We also got to celebrate 2 of the kids birthdays with them! It's tradition here for the staff to feed the kids all bites of the birthday cake (kind of like the bride & groom at a wedding in America). Of course, they also smash icing all over their faces and everyone has a good laugh!
Here's the birthday girl, Leel...
And the birthday boy, Ramlal!
We sure are going to miss these two (as well as all the other sweet little boys and girls at all 3 homes here!) India is a very difficult country to visit (it's really rough on your health), but being with the kids makes it all worth it!
The next day, it was time to fly to Thailand! The plan was to have 3 days to rest in Pattaya, before heading back up to Chiang Mai. Unfortunately, our plan didn't really work out. Our first day in Pattaya ended up being the only day Rusty's 81 year old cousin Sam could visit with us, so we stayed awake for around 36 hours straight! (It sure was good to see him and our Thai friend Thida though!) After that we were just going to sleep in for 2 days and lay by the pool... but our health issues kind of ruined that. We think we both got parasites in India (I guess that's a risk when you are eating in brothels and leper colonies!) and had to take parasite meds for 3 days. Then, I had a serious allergic reaction to the bedding in the hotel (I think it was the detergent the sheets were washed in). I was pretty much covered in a red, itchy rash from head to toe for 4 days. Pretty miserable to say the least! I'm glad to report that after our parasite meds, lots of benadryl, and prescription strength steroid cream we are both feeling much better!
After our (itchy) days in Pattaya, we flew back up to Chiang Mai and immediately hit the road! No rest for the weary! We drove to Mae Sariang to visit the new Children's Home we bought a few months ago (video to come soon) and then headed to the refugee camp to visit the 19 kids at The Refuge for a Christmas party! It was SO good to see them all again. We were really encouraged to see how well they are doing and also to see the new home. We can't wait to share the details with you!
Until then though - here's a pic of some of our kids at The Refuge in their Christmas hats. We had so much fun together!
... and now you're all caught up! (Well, with the basics anyway!) We still have a LOT more stories, videos, and pics to share - so I promise to post more later. I can't believe how fast time is flying by! We only have 6 days left in Thailand, and we still have so much to do!
I'll end for now by saying a big THANK YOU to everyone who's been following our work on our personal blogs, vimeo, facebook, twitter, and The Sound of Hope blog. It has been so encouraging to get your comments and messages, and to see you reposting our videos and blogs! It's great to know you are here with us "in spirit"! We really couldn't do this work without you!