Promethean Spark (the organization with which I work) was originally brought to India to work and dance with those with Hansen's disease (leprosy). While our president was here for the first visit, there was an addition of a school-based program. As the program evolved with our volunteer teachers, the school has become our primary focus. We love these children, and it is a beautiful work of which to be part. However, as an organization, it is still our desire and hope to help those on the leprosy colonies. In the past, this has meant one day a week on the colonies. This semester, we've been able to increase that number to two days a week. That means regular visits to four colonies.
Yesterday, we visited Walajabad. Walajabad is a smaller and poor colony. There are about a dozen patients, and others who have been affected but are not currently being treated. The day that Melana and I went to Walajabad, three other volunteers also went to help the medical team. It was great, because we got to focus on the dance instead of trying to do double duty. It was a blast!
I became friends with a woman named Charama. She was clearly nervous about the medical treatment, but she smiled as soon as we started moving together. I loved seeing her smile, and I could feel her gratitude as she hugged me. Mostly, we sat and moved our hands together to the music, but it was enough. She was happy. Another man (I think it was her husband) also moved to the music, but he would get a shy and nervous face as soon as he saw us watching him. Then he would smile like a boy caught doing something mischievous. Melana tried to get him to dance with her, but he just laughed at her. It was amazing how much happier everyone acted with the music on. Sometimes they would just watch us dance and ask us to do more.
The children were adorable and a few of them were brave enough to play with us. One little girl, Rani, bonded with me before I got into my medical gear. We were having so much fun together. After I got geared up (gloves and mask--the doctor insists), Rani wasn't so sure about our friendship, but she eventually warmed up to me again. Her mother is a patient, and Rani became very upset as her mother was being treated. So, I picked her up. She was naked except for a shirt, so I kept praying she wouldn't pee on me. But I couldn't put her down. She needed someone to care for her, and I wasn't going to ignore my new little friend. As the music continued, we danced and waltzed together. I may never see that girl again, but she will always have a place in my heart. I can't wait to visit another colony tomorrow.
Photos by Jamie, Melana, & our friend, Rebekah Ellsworth
(the pretty ones are by Rebekah)