Yogis are some crazy people. They talk about chakras and eat lots of weird stuff and are extremely open about bowel movements. (Don’t hate. We’re in India; it’s inevitable.) But they’re also capable of doing some beautiful things, of bringing people together and shining light on things that may otherwise go unnoticed.
My afternoon on Friday was one of those things. A group of yogis in Mysore have been volunteering with Odanadi, an organization that rescues and rehabilitates people affected by human trafficking, and has a home for girls just ten minutes away from our cozy little home here in Mysore. Odanadi is currently working on building a home for boys as well, since the boys currently live in what I can only describe as a dilapidated shack. So the beautiful leaders at Odanadi worked with some volunteers to organize a fundraiser where we were able to meet the beautiful young women – and kind young men – who lived there.
We arrived by rickshaw and were instantly greeted by smiling faces and a beautiful oasis within the outskirts of Mysore, all palm trees and beautiful buildings and bright colors and laughing children. Throughout the afternoon we were treated to performances by some of the girls, a renowned flautist, and a beautiful dancer. We got henna and ate delicious food and enjoyed beautiful music as the sun shone down on us.
But the true beauty of the day was meeting all the sisters (as they call each other): receiving a tour from the spunkiest and toughest 15-year-old i’ve ever met (“come, sister, come on!” I couldn’t follow quickly enough), getting countless hugs and waves and smiles, partaking in tickles and songs and dances and warm embraces that didn’t require introductions or words or anything more than human contact, than “you are loved. you are loved.” surging through my brain.
I literally cannot imagine what these girls have been through. Not just the small ones, the delicate ones, but the tough ones who look like they could be my friends but have seen a lifetime’s worth of ugliness that I may never begin to understand. I wanted to ask them more about themselves, their lives, where they come from, but I knew that the slight language barrier wasn’t the only thing holding me back. Those are questions I couldn’t ask. Answers I didn’t want. Memories I didn’t want to bring up.
I have given time, money, clothes, assets to nonprofit organizations before. I’ve seen pictures of orphanages, seen their smiling faces, and thought “these are God’s children too. they deserve our love and our compassion”. But I’ve never felt so taken aback by my desire to do something, to help a specific community. As I sat there, listening to the program director explain how proud they were of their brothers and sisters, of the women who have graduated college and gotten married and the men who have become such good, moral people despite being given so little, tears didn’t come. Emotion didn’t come. All I could think of was action. What can I do? When can I come back? Has anyone ever given these girls cooking classes?
There are endless answers to these questions. But I realized that one of the most useful ways we can contribute after an experience with such a wonderful organization is to share. Share stories, share information, share ways to help. Please take five minutes out of your day to look at Odanadi’s website. And if you’re so inclined, please please consider donating just five or ten dollars to the organization. Funds raised will go towards building a home for the kind young men we met today. It will go towards funding programming for the beautiful sisters I met. It will go towards children, towards their future.
At the beginning of the afternoon, we all joined two older girls — with such poise! — in reciting a prayer that they say each day at Odanadi. Translated into English, one of the last lines announces the following: We are children. We will conquer the world.
Let’s give what we can to ensure that they do.