Rising Star Outreach continues to grow and expand! Last October I traveled with Dr. Susan Hilton, our Managing Director and Medical Director in India, to the town of Trichy. We visited colonies about five hours from our campus to assess needs so that Rising Star Outreach can establish programs to provide much-needed medical expertise, housing, and support to the residents of these colonies. It was an incredibly humbling experience.

As we arrived at the Lourde Nagar Colony we were greeted by its leaders and the families living there, including fathers, very young mothers carrying babies on their hips, and clusters of anxious, timid children. The leaders were weary and cautious and they generated an overall demeanor of hopelessness.
The homes in this colony were crammed together along a strip of land located next to a garbage-filled swamp. The walkway was so narrow we walked single file, stepping to avoid litter, clumps of dirt, grazing goats, and daily essentials that help them survive. I was overwhelmed to have a firsthand glimpse of so many families living in that deplorably small, crowded, and unsanitary space.

Initially the colony leaders were hesitant to discuss their needs, but as Dr. Hilton kindly and aptly shared information about Rising Star Outreach and its programs and they felt our genuine interest and concern, they became more comfortable. From that first meeting a trusting relationship has developed between Rising Star Outreach and Lourde Nagar and our social workers have now helped the residents form a Self-Help Group.
In March, Dr. Hilton and I returned to that area to a new colony she had previously visited, the Panchapur Colony.  Although Dr. Hilton tried to prepare me for this experience I was shocked and visibly shaken by the lamentable living conditions.  These dear people are living in a remote area that has scant water, with minimal food available, and no electricity. Their dwellings hardly provide protection and shelter. Many of the residents are elderly and suffering from the affects of leprosy.  The beautiful children—always there are beautiful children—timidly peeked at us.  We immediately noticed their extended stomachs and thin and discolored hair – both signs of malnutrition. 

I have visited countless colonies and have always been able to somehow temper my reactions to the injustice and agonizing conditions knowing that Rising Star was trying to offer help and assistance, but that day at Panchapur Colony the wretched panorama of suffering and despair overcame me.  I could not accept that people are living like this, especially in the twenty-first century!  The thought came to mind: this is not right! The same words Rising Star Outreach’s founder, Becky Douglas, expressed when she traveled to India many years ago and witnessed similar conditions. She chose to do something about it and Rising Star Outreach was born.

            On that day in March, just a few months ago, I was grateful beyond words that Rising Star Outreach would offer the necessary help and resources to the people in Panchapur Colony because the mission of Rising Star Outreach is to assist those affected by leprosy!And this is accomplished by not only addressing physical needs, but through a holistic approach that gives HOPE to the colonies—hope for a better life and the crucial knowledge that their lives are of worth and that those assisting them genuinely care about them. Hope continues to inspire all of us at Rising Star Outreach. It is the light that pierces the darkness of doubt, discouragement, and unbelief when we witness situations such as those in Panchapur and we say—this is not right! We must do something about it! We can make a difference in the lives of those who suffer and we will begin today.


            With the grace of God and by the dedication of our team in India, the Panchapur Colony is now receiving services from Rising Star! The Lourde Nagar Colony is now benefiting from small loans to help start micro-businesses.  The sad and hopeless mothers and fathers who greeted us on our first visit are now excited to show us the positive changes in their lives: a sewing machine that helped start a mending business, a new snack shop, or a small business of packaging beans and rice!
HOPE was visible that day and is now felt throughout the colony! HOPE has dispelled the darkness and brought light into their lives! We have now opened the Trichy Branch Office and staffed it with a medical team and ten new colonies have been identified that need immediate assistance. What a miracle! Please contact Tyler Vigue, Rising Star’s USA Executive Director, or Dr. Susan Hilton in India if you want to be part of this miracle! Rising Star Outreach would welcome your support!
Becoming involved is the best way to change the world for the better. In a recent commencement address at Duke University, Melinda Gates stated:
I want you to connect because I believe it will inspire you to do something, to make a difference in the world. Humanity in the abstract will never inspire you in the same way as human beings you meet. Poverty is not going to motivate you. But people will motivate you.
In 2008 several of my children and their friends volunteered for the first time at Rising Star. It significantly changed our lives. We traveled to India with the prospect of helping people in need, yet we quickly learned that we were actually helped by those we had come to serve, because they inspired us by their strength and resilience.  We connected to a fascinating culture and a beautiful people that helped us appreciate education and the simple things we took for granted each day. Since that time we have continued to be blessed by being part of Rising Star.
Don’t miss out on an opportunity to make a difference in the world and in your own world.  Volunteer this summer or this year with your family or your friends. Visit our web site for more information and watch videos about our program. You will be inspired! risingstaroutreach.org/volunteer.php
            Many times inspiration comes from people who have given meaning to their lives by serving others. Shawn and Annette Bradley are members of the Board of Directors at Rising Star Outreach. We appreciate their talents and good will. Below is a link to a 12-minute film about Shawn Bradley from the award-winning documentarian Andrew Jenks, of 30 for 30 Shorts. Shawn worked hard to be successful in the NBA. But the real success in his life has been off the court through his service to others—especially those at Rising Star Outreach. Enjoy!
After you watch the feature about Shawn mark your calendars for the Shawn Bradley Charity Golf Event on September 16, 2014 at the beautiful Red Ledges Golf Course in Heber City, Utah. Shawn Bradley, Randy Rigby, and other celebrities are among many who will participate!
****And, look for a special announcement on our web site for a surprising event in October 2014. You will not want to miss this event!
Thank you for being connected to Rising Star. Your support motivates and inspires us to continue our mission of helping those affected by leprosy.

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