Folks often ask me why I am drawn to do the work I do in India. The answer is complex, with many parts… but the story starts not with the day that I landed in India to begin a jewelry income generation project with orphan and impoverished girls, but before that—the day I met a little girl at a temple in North India.
I had come to a temple set on top of a hill, with a breathtaking view of the valley below. As I reached the top of the steps and stood waiting for the doors to the temple to open, a crowd of unruly beggar children surrounded me, demanding US quarters. One little girl stood apart from this loud scene. She was about 4 years old, dressed in a terry cloth romper, covered in dirt. There was something timid, quiet, shy and gentle about this girl. I noticed her right away. As the children left to beg elsewhere, the little girl approached me, slowly. She reached out and tentatively touched me, gently, with one finger, asking for money with no words.
The unruly children came back and scared her away, but later, she came and sat next to me while I meditated in the temple. She was a quiet, sweet presence, periodically gently touching me with one finger. Later, as I left the temple, I thought about her. I wondered, what happens to a little girl like that in India, born into poverty, with such a timid nature? It was clear to me that she was bullied by the other children, often chased away because she was the weak one. I wondered, does a girl like that survive in India?
I have never forgotten that little girl. I think of her and wonder what happened to her.
I came back from that temple trip feeling fortunate to have been born a woman in the West. In many parts of the world, women have little or no rights. As a Western woman, I have opportunity. I can be educated, work, run my own businesses, choose who I want to marry or choose to not marry. I have a voice, options and choices. My voice counts. My opinion matters. I can be anything I set my mind to. I am so very, very lucky.
When the opportunity arose for me to go to India and help impoverished girls, I jumped at the chance. I may not have been able to help that little girl at the temple, but I can help other girls, not by giving them quarters, but by teaching them a skill, so they can provide for themselves. It was one of the best decisions I ever made, and it is the very best work I’ve ever done.