Being a participant in the Women to Women volunteer session gave me the opportunity to return to the Rising Star Outreach campus after an absence of six years. It was very meaningful and nostalgic and although I noted many changes, the most important aspects of the Rising Star experience have NOT changed: 1) Enthusiastic, beautiful students; 1) Capable and dedicated administrators, teachers, and staff; 3) Meaningful service in the Colonies; and 4) The kind and gracious ways of the Indian people.

I was first impressed with the new buildings on campus and the growth of the trees and plants. One quickly senses the beauty and peace of this extraordinary oasis of learning and positive change. I enjoyed staying at the Elephant House, a hostel with spacious rooms and storage, which blends Western convenience with ornamental elephants, plants, and charming décor. Each room has an Orientation Binder containing well-written information on pertinent topics, such as cultural sensitivity, hostel rules, and health and safety measures. Most importantly it provides details on all Rising Star Outreach programs –from Sponsorship to overviews of each Colony Rising Star serves. The end of the Binder has pictures and writes ups of the Rising Star team in India, including management, administration, and staff. I greatly enjoyed putting names to the faces of these dedicated people!

I also learned at the Volunteer Orientation meetings which not only outline the activities of the next day, but now volunteers are given a packet detailing each task to be performed in a simple step by step format, which lessens confusion and helps volunteers more ably perform their duties. I was very impressed with the Community Education meetings. As the term implies, volunteers received a packet containing valuable information on many aspects of leprosy and its treatment, including patient biographies, statistics, patient care, and rehabilitation efforts. Another highlight was the latest information on small business growth through micro-grants in the Colonies.

Meeting the child I sponsor was wonderful! Ostensibly my donation helps her gain an education, but learning her story and witnessing her tremendous efforts to complete her studies taught me much about sacrifice and courage. I heartily applaud the Sponsorship Program. It is a great way to help sustain the education of these resilient and amazing children.

For me, the most meaningful time at Rising Star was spent assisting students in their classrooms. The schedule is rigorous and they must be diligent at their studies. Education is the vehicle that will lift them and their families from poverty to employment and meaningful careers and lives. Education provides the opportunity for these Rising Stars to continue moving upward!

My gratitude to those who planned and arranged the Women to Women Volunteer Session. I feel fortunate to have been part of an experience that enabled me to give service, but the outcome is that those at Rising Star have given me more than I gave!      

–Suzanne Stott

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