This blog post was written by President of Rising Star Outreach, Brett Caywood.
I met an amazing group of students at Rising Star Outreach when I volunteered there in 2005. These students were around five years old, full of energy, and often struggled to listen in class. Class, after all, was new to them. One of these kids was Saran (seen in the picture below).
Since they had leprosy in their backgrounds (either themselves or a family member), these kids weren’t expected to be in school. Odds were that these kids were destined to be day laborers at most. Day laborers are limited to back-breaking manual labor with very little compensation.
But the founders and directors of Rising Star Outreach saw something more. They had plans to help these kids, and hundreds more like them, graduate from high school and college. They had a vision of breaking the stigma that followed families like a shadow – a stigma historically attached to all those affected by leprosy.
I didn’t know if their audacious plans were possible. But the more I got to know these kids, the more I began to hope. Maybe, just maybe, these dear children had a chance.
I stayed in touch with Rising Star Outreach and these dear kids a little bit throughout the years as much as my schedule would allow. But it wasn’t until a fortunate moment in January of 2020 that I got a chance to really see what Rising Star Outreach had done for these friends of mine. Below is a slightly edited email that I sent on January 19th, 2020, after meeting these dear students again:
I met with some of the alumni that I used to wrestle with when they were five-year-olds. They are now rocking full beards and have either good jobs (Joseph is working for Amazon and supporting his family!) or are studying in college. They have such good things to say about Rising Star Outreach. I asked them where they would be without Rising Star Outreach and their answers were touching. The difference is vast. Many would just look at the ground and shake their heads.
A day laborer would have been all they could have expected out of life for most of them, but now they are doing so much more. Naveenraj gave a speech today, and it was fantastic. Joseph is so bright. Saran has a heart of gold. Arun is still as gentle and considerate as he was all those years ago.
It took me a minute to recognize many of them, but I almost can’t believe they are doing so well. Rising Star Outreach has accomplished what it set out to do for these dear friends of mine! Furthermore, Rising Star Outreach currently has hundreds of students enrolled, offering the same opportunity for bright futures.
Thanks to countless people contributing their time and money, Rising Star Outreach has become what the founders of this organization envisioned. Hundreds of kids like Saran have become much more than anyone expected and have beat the stigma associated with leprosy. And as Rising Star Outreach continues to grow and reach more children and families, we need your support more than ever to help the next rising generation do what many consider to be impossible.
Rising Star Outreach President