Sign up for Meridian’s Free Newsletter, please CLICK HERE
EDITORS’ NOTE: Each year Meridian Magazine chooses a humanitarian project so that all the readers can participate. This year our project is to build a school for the children of the leprosy-affected in one of the poorest places on this planet—Bihar, India. We do this because we know if all do something—even a little something—together our influence for good is great. Donating to Rising Star Outreach so they can build this school means you can be absolutely certain you did something good today. Go to https://risingstaroutreach.org/meridian to make your contribution and you can know that all of your dollars will go directly to the school.
As we knew they would, your hearts have been touched by the plight of our brothers and sisters in India who have leprosy and in one week, since an anonymous donor is matching the funds, we have raised nearly one-third of the amount for the school. Thank you! If you haven’t had a chance to donate yet, don’t miss out on the great feeling that comes from knowing you did something really good today. Go to: https://risingstaroutreach.org/meridian
The school and hospital in Bihar are run by the Little Flower organization, first started by Mother Teresa. Little Flower reached out to Becky Douglas, founder of Rising Star and said, “Help! Our school is terribly inadequate, and we need a new one. We can’t do it without you.” Here is Becky’s story about what happened.
This story is for all of you
who have made contributions and want to hear more—and for all of you who need
to be nudged to press that donate button at https://risingstaroutreach.org/meridian Let’s
make this happen together!
–Scot and Maurine Proctor
I recently returned from a trip to India with my head spinning! We had been asked by Little Flower, an organization in the state of Bihar, to take over and run their school. This was my third visit to the school and this time, instead of just visiting, I actually stayed on campus. That’s significant because this school is in the middle of a huge leprosy colony!
Little Flower has a fascinating backstory. In the 1980’s the people in the State of Bihar, which is arguably the poorest state in India, decided that they didn’t want any people with leprosy in their state. Funny how lack of education and prejudice seem to go hand in hand! This decision was significant because even today, while India has 65% of all the leprosy cases in the world, the state of Bihar has more than 40% of those cases! It’s the most densely-populated leprosy-affected area in the world. Sadly and unbelievably, the people of Bihar decided to run the leprosy-affected people out of their homes and drive them into Nepal.
The problem was, that Nepal, of course, didn’t want them, and they were not allowed to enter, so a serious problem developed, with tens of thousands of leprosy-affected families stranded in no-man’s land, between the border of India and Nepal. There was no housing, no shelter, no food, no jobs, and no medical care available to them. The situation was dire. Many began to die.
Mother Teresa, hearing of this catastrophe, sent Father Christdas to this area. He had been in charge of her leprosy treatment program in Calcutta. Upon arriving upon this scene of terrible human suffering, Father Christdas began to construct homes and create jobs. He bought land and built cattle, pig, chicken, rice, and vegetable farms. He started some factories. Father Baba, as he was affectionately called, also started the Little Flower hospital, which now has given more than 200,000 medical treatments, yet unbelievably they have never had a doctor! Needless to say, medical treatments there are quite primitive.
Please join with us to build a new school for the children in the leprosy colony by donating here: https://risingstaroutreach.org/meridian
The children were just languishing without education, so he started the Little Flower School. The school had one qualified teacher, the rest are mostly members of the colony. He did the best he could with the limited resources he had. He essentially saved tens of thousands of people.
Father Christdas died six years ago, and on his deathbed, he asked a Nepalese Hindu nun, Kabita Khattarai, to run the organization for him. Kabita is the one who contacted us and asked for our help with the school.
My first trip to the Little Flower school was pretty overwhelming. The challenges seemed to be nearly insurmountable. Feeling that the challenges were hopelessly impossible, I politely declined to get involved. But then the Spirit began to work within me. Before long, I realized that God wanted to help these children. But how do you do the impossible?
We started by sending Celina Charles to help. Celina is a former part-time professor from Duke University and a brilliant educator. She raised our school in Tamilnadu from a low-scoring school, to a school where the students were averaging 95% on their national exams. If anyone could put together a program that would work in Bihar, it was Celina!
To understand the challenges at the school, you need to understand the leprosy colonies where the students come from. Kabita now works with 22 leprosy colonies in addition to the huge Little Flower colony. Together we visited five of those colonies. Again, I felt overwhelmed with the challenges. In this state, there is little support from the government.
The colonists were living in atrocious conditions. Many were huddling in no more than grass huts. It was common to see deep open sewage ditches just 20 feet from their water hand pump—the colony’s water supply. At several colonies, I was approached by people asking me for help for their children. One had a daughter, 12, afflicted with cancer; another had a son 15, with kidney failure. These two ailments were mentioned again and again at the different colonies. I finally asked why there was such a high cancer and kidney failure rate amongst the young children and was informed that in such cases, arsenic was possibly leeching from the soil into the water supply.
You can give hope where there would be none by donating here. https://risingstaroutreach.org/meridian
Nearly all the children had evidence of malnutrition. Instead of the beautiful jet-black hair of regular Indians, their hair was streaked with shades of brown and orange. Their skin had multiple splotches. None of the children we met were attending school. I couldn’t help ask myself, “What kind of future awaits these kids?”
The week spent at the school was eye-opening and made it very clear why we needed to build a completely new school. The current school building is just a cement shell. It has no windows or doors, no fans or light, old rotting desks, very few books and very few teaching materials. During monsoon, the rain blows in from the windows and the desks and the floors become soaked. The floor itself, was only bricks covered with dirt. In the rain the bricks became dislodged, creating a hazard and the dirt became mud.
There was a factory just outside the school that was spewing black smoke into the air, and it was blowing directly into the schoolyard. Celina told us there were days when she could hardly see the children sitting at their desks through the smoke. You could only wonder what it was doing to their little lungs!
There was mold on the walls and a musty smell in the air. It literally hurt to breathe. Again, I thought of the children’s lungs.
There were no fans, lights or electricity in the school. Obviously, there was no air conditioning. The days I was at the school the thermometer was hovering at 100 degrees every day. The children sweltered in their classrooms. I said to Kabita, “We need to get fans and lights in here.” She replied, “Oh no madam, that would be impossible because they will be stolen the same night.” What? There were almost no textbooks in sight. “Well, we need to get textbooks into the school.” Again, she replied, “Oh no madam, they will be stolen.” I looked at her incredulously. “How in the world do you run a school with no textbooks, no fans and no lights?” Her reply was simply, “It’s very difficult Madam.” No kidding!
When we went to the children’s dorm rooms, I was flabbergasted. They were dark and crowded. The wooden bunkbeds were old and rickety. As the girls climbed into their beds, the bed swayed under their weight, then came to rest at a dangerous angle. I had visions of the heavy beds collapsing and killing the girls. Again, no lights or fans. In this northern area, it gets dark very early. Study hour is from 5-7 in the evening. I was stunned to see the girls studying in the dark, without even a candle to light their notebooks!
I had noticed earlier that the boys had been playing cricket on a dirt field outside their dorm. I asked the housemothers if the girls got any time to play outside. “Oh no, madam, that would be too dangerous? “Dangerous?” Yes, the boys in the leprosy colony have smart phones and share images from pornography sites. The girls are sitting targets for them. We lock them in their dorm rooms every day when school ends at 1:00, until the next morning. We can’t possibly let them out. Last year two girls got pregnant.” My heart ached to hear of such things.
By now I was despairing of being able to change this environment. Where do you even start?
But then Celina got to work. Over the short period of a month, she had all the dirt & brick floors of the school paved over with cement. She cleaned out the mold and painted the schoolrooms. She had iron bars installed on the windows of the school and steel doors put in the entryway to the school so that no one could enter and steal things. She cleaned out a room stuffed to the ceiling with old bamboo logs and opened up a new classroom for teaching. She had the old musty German books stored for years in one of the old classrooms burned (yes, we had our first book burning!) She had electricians come and wire the school. Fans and lights were installed. The transformation was unbelievable!
The students and their teachers were so excited. For the first time, they began to talk about possibilities and dreams. There was a feeling of hope in the air.
Change the world for the children of the leprosy colonies by donating here. https://risingstaroutreach.org/meridian
It was clear to me that we needed to move the school immediately out of the leprosy colony into a safe area. Little Flower had eight beautiful acres of wooded land next to the river about 40 minutes away. Their Board of Directors met and agreed to give us the land on a 100 -year lease, to build a new campus. Suddenly the impossible looked a little less impossible!
That’s how I left a few months ago. Celina was working tirelessly to make the school usable for the time it would take us to build a new campus. The Board of Directors was busy clearing any legal hurdles to have the land title transferred to us. There was light and enthusiasm where before there had been despair and hopelessness. After Celina left, we’ve had a stream of dedicated, phenomenal volunteers dig in and continue the miracle.
Our challenge now is to find the funding for the new campus. I have to believe that God will provide. After all, who else knows better how to do the impossible?
Then an unbelievable turn! Scot and Maurine Proctor from Meridian Magazine had come earlier and visited the school. They also felt the possibility of hope. Unexpectedly they called and told me that Meridian Magazine would like to help with the school. It was truly like a miracle! We have now also had others offer to help in significant ways. When people come together, there is no limit to what can be accomplished. So yes, I believe in miracles! I’ve seen them over and over again in this work.
Rarely in our lives do we stand at a pinnacle where we have the chance to change history and impact thousands of lives. But I believe that this is exactly where we are standing currently in Bihar. I have a vision of a beautiful new campus serving 600 students—children of leprosy-affected parents or family members, where the students are not only taught what they need to pursue their economic dreams in life, but they are also taught to love and respect one another. There’s a thrill of possibility in the air. Cautiously, I am beginning to believe in the impossible!
You can be a part of a great thing. Donate here. https://Risingstaroutreach.org/Meridian