“I’ve heard it said that people come into our lives for a reason bringing something we must learn, and we are led to those who help us most to grow if we let them and we help them in return. Who can say if I’ve been changed for the better, but, because I knew you I have been changed for good.”
–Stephen Swartz, playwright of “Wicked”
These poignant words reflect the feelings of Rising Star Outreach participants. Throughout the years their lives have changed for the better by working with those affected by leprosy. It saddens us that in the past few months many dear friends have died, but we are touched by their goodness and legacy.
Our beloved Chairman of the Indian Board of Directors and Co-Founder of Rising Star Outreach, Ms. Padma Venkataraman lost her husband, Dr. K. Venkataraman, on January 16, 2015. He was an avid supporter for those affected by leprosy. Through his support of Padma, he touched and improved many lives. We express our deepest sympathy to Padma and her family.
We are also saddened at the passing of our patient and dear friend from the Mogolvadi Leprosy Colony, Saroja. Saroja contracted leprosy when she was very young and lived with this disease for over thirty years. She lived with the incredible challenges and struggles caused by leprosy, but found the strength to share her love, which touched the lives of her friends in profound ways.
Saroja was known as the “bird lady” because she shared her meager supply of food with birds, squirrels, and other animals. Her fragile body was ravaged by leprosy and she constantly suffered from pain and discomfort. Despite this, she greeted all with a contagious, bright smile. Many medical workers and volunteers went to Mogolvadi to lift Saroja, yet she was the one that lifted our spirits and touched our souls.
Karupiah, a patient in the Kalvarinagar Leprosy Colony, also passed away this year. He finally had his eyesight restored after 20 years of blindness. He lifted others by his devotion to praise God for His goodness and mercy.
Muthushah, the carpenter in the Bharathapuram Leprosy Colony also passed away this year. His beautiful woodwork was well known throughout the area near the colony, and because of him the stigma associated with leprosy was lessened.
Muniyamma, another patient living in the Bharathapuram Leprosy Colony, passed away in January. I have known Muniyamma for over eight years and always looked forward to my visits with her. She was a strong woman who faced the disease of leprosy with a positive attitude and quiet strength. I appreciate her friendship and will miss our visits together.
We express our sympathy to the families of these dear friends and to all others that have passed this year. Their legacy of resilience and love lives on, and we honor them by helping others.
I am writing this newsletter from the Rising Star Outreach campus in India. It is after-school playtime, and I can hear the gleeful voices of the children on the track and the playground. The sound of their happy voices is music to my ears because I know how diligent they are in their studies, not only during the day, but also in the evening. Playtime is a wonderful way for them to develop their creativity and imagination, which in turn invigorates their bodies and enlivens their brains. The Rising Star Outreach campus is a center for learning. We want our students to be in an environment of physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual growth and development. We also believe that value-based learning is integral to a child’s education. I am grateful to the professionals and staff at Rising Star Outreach for their hard work and dedication in changing these lives for good.
In January I had the opportunity to attend the second annual Women to Women Session (W2W) on our beautiful Rising Star Outreach campus. Volunteers come from all over the world to share their skills and talents with Rising Star Outreach. It’s humbling and exciting to watch as they immerse themselves in this remarkable work, gain an understanding of a new culture, and experience the heat and humidity. As many of you know, they experience emotions that range from heart wrenching to joyous, and as they witness the extremes of India they don’t spend time asking why, but rather how? How can I help? It’s heart-warming that volunteers focus on the positive aspects of this work, rather than dwelling on the aspects that could be perceived as overwhelming.
Volunteers are humbled when a patient’s face lights up with gratitude as their ulcers are washed and cleaned. Volunteers are gratified when they work on a colony project and realize how significant these projects are to those living in the colony. Volunteers thrill to see the delight on a child’s face when a new concept is understood or mastered. They feel these heartfelt emotions because their help makes a huge difference in the lives of the students and the patients they assist.
If the words from the above song resonate with you in being led to those who help us most to grow, come join us as a volunteer. It truly is life changing. Ask a volunteer to share their story!
Your continued support of Rising Star Outreach is deeply appreciated. Because of you, Rising Star Outreach has been changed for the good.
Rising Star Outreach