Jean started volunteering with Rising Star Outreach in 2006. She didn’t have much in the way of financial resources, but as a photojournalist she knew could visually document the growth and challenges as RSO grew from a few rented rooms on the side a busy road, to a beautiful, sprawling campus on the outskirts of Chennai. From humble beginnings, RSO has become a much sought-after school and source of pride and help to many people suffering from the scourge of leprosy. She had no idea where this journey would take her, but Jean is so grateful for the opportunity to be a part of this amazing organization. Every part of her experience has been wonderful, but for Jean the best part by far has been spending time with the children and watching them grow.
To see Jean’s complete 2014 photo collection visit her blog or watch the video.
|Jean and Dhnalakshmi|
What make you pledge to sponsor Dhanalakshmi?
Each of my trips to India were spent mostly taking photographs. I didn’t get to spend as much time with the children as I wanted because there was always something to document. On my fifth trip to India, I saw a posting with photos and names of all the children who needed sponsors. Over the years, I had donated my time and photography skills to helping RSO spread the word about the great work they were doing, but I had not sponsored a child yet. As I looked through the names and faces of the children, one in particular stood out for me because we share the same birthday! I just knew that Dhanalakshmi would be the little girl I sponsored.
|“But when I … met the children and saw that they were real and that the sponsorship directly impacted their lives, I wanted to be involved.” – Jean|
How did you volunteer experience change the way you felt about sponsoring Dhanalakshmi?
When I was in high school I did a report on a non-profit organization that raised money to help children. They would send you a photo and bio of the child you agreed to sponsor. I never knew if that particular child actually received help directly from their sponsors, or if the same few photos of children were used over and over again. But when I got to RSO and met the children and saw that they were real and that the sponsorship directly impacted their lives, I wanted to be involved. I love that I have met Dhanalakshmi and held her in my arms and played with her. My heart sings every time I receive one of her precious letters.
|Editor’s Note: We love this picture so much that we have it hanging in the office|
Why are programs like Sponsor-a-Child so important?
They are important because they directly impact the children’s live for the better. While they come from loving families who want the best for them, the children at RSO don’t have much in the way of financial means. Sponsorship gives people a way to help the children receive a quality education and good medical care, as well as help for their parents in becoming self-sufficient. It’s also important for the children to know that they are people outside their family who love and care about them.
|“It’s also important for the children to know that they are people outside their family who love and care about them.” – Jean|
How has sponsoring Dhanalakshmi affected you and your family?
It has reaffirmed my faith in the goodness of people. And by having a personal connection to Dhanalakshmi, and so many of the children at RSO, I look forward to watching them grow and seeing where life takes them.
What is the most meaningful part of the Sponsor-a-Child program?
I’m just grateful that I am able to help in any way I can. We are so blessed in this country and it’s important to know that not everyone in the world, especially females, is as fortunate. Like everyone who experiences India or Rising Star Outreach, it helps put everything into perspective.
|“I look forward to watching them grow and seeing where life takes them.” – Jean|
Jean’s video about India:
Jean’s blog can be found here: http://www.shifrinphotography.