Friday, February 23, 2007

Chennai - Day 3

This will be short because I am very tired and need to get some sleep. Today was the best day! We had two classes in the morning that went until about noon. The history of hinduism which brought the caste system and racism and hindu religion. I did not know they were different. It was very good. We had lunch at the hotel and then broke into three groups to go out. My group was joined by a young man that works for Opportunity International, a micro-finance organization. They give loans to women to start a business. We went with him to a weekly meeting of a group of 20 women who have recieved loans. We arrived by van, went through a gate and saw outside where they cook, bathe, and wash their clothes. We went into one woman’s home where their weekly meeting is held. The home was a cement floor and walls with a thatched roof and was about as big as my bedroom. A family of six lives in this home. There were about eighteen women present for their weekly meeting. They were so thrilled to have us. The smiles on their faces, the hope they exuded was so very cool. I was immediately reminded to why I love the poor. The people we met today have virtually nothing compared to me and yet they are so filled with joy and hope!

These were Hindu women. We observed their weekly meeting which consisted of them reporting their income, savings and loan re-payment. Next they recited a pledge. Then they had an interactive exercise to help them learn how to dialogue with clients and finished with a brief talk from the Opportunity International team leader about bribery. We were able to ask them questions. They did not speak much English. We were only there about 45 minutes and then had to go. We sat on the floor and took pictures with them. There were lots of hugs and then we left. I wanted to stay and talk with them more.

Our next stop was at a Baptist Church that partners with Compassion International, an organization which sponsors children living in poverty. The church lets CI run an after school program. There were about 140 school age kids that come from eight different slum areas. When we walked in all the children withn one voice were saying “hello” then “what is your name?” that is about all the English they know. They were adorable. We learned about the program but I mostly just sat with the kids, waving discreetly across the aisles at the boys and sitting with the girls that were smiling away.

I will have to journal more later. I think my extreme culture shock has worn off. Thank you for all your prayers. Today was a very, very good day!

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