July 19, 2015

India trip with Rice Bowls!

There is so much to tell about our recent trip to India! I have a ton of pictures and a ton to tell. So I've tried to break this into sections so you can scan this quickly and get a tiny taste into the amazing experience of traveling to India!

What we did
My art studio is partnered with "Rice Bowls", a organization who feeds kids around the world ( more info to come about rice bowls below). For every kid or adult who comes to P'zazz we feed a kid for a day. Last year we were able to travel to Honduras to visit one of the orphanages and this year we had the opportunity to travel to India to visit over 1000 orphans from about 20 different homes.

Our main goal was to simply show love to these kids. We traveled to several locations ( Chennai, Bangalore, Guntakal) and orphanages from around the surrounding area would come to us. We hosted anywhere from 3-5 orphanages a day. We had a fun day camp planned for the kids where they rotated stations doing art, craft, and sports. They also were fed lunch, ice cream, and at the end each child got a toothbrush and toothpaste and Upward Sports donated a ball or lunchbox to each child. 

Scroll through the pics below to see some shots of our day camps and all the precious kids who attended!

( I always love a little impromptu dance session with the kids )

....and check out this awesome artist! One of the girls from Violets children home gave me a super cool henna tattoo!

The Beautiful Colors and People of India
Most of the girls were wearing their "Christmas Dress" to our camps. These camps were a big deal to these kids. They don't get programs like this every day. In America we shuffle our kids from one activity to the next and often take things for granted. But in a country stricken with poverty and a huge orphan crisis , this camp was a real treat. So they got all dressed up and wow-ed us with their beauty!

I could seriously keep posting and posting... there was so much beauty!

The Culture

There are so many things that are different about the Indian culture compared to America. I will highlight some of the main things I noticed.

First of all, tea time! Oh, how I could get used to this! Every day they would come around for a 'tea break' and serve the most delicious hot chai tea. Most of the time it was in small little paper cups but sometimes the got fancy and served it in tiny tea cups which I loved!

This was a completely normal sight to see.. anywhere from 3-5 people would be riding on motorcycles and often times with no helmets. We saw babies on motorcycles, older ladies in saris ( they sat sideways instead of straddling it), people of all ages would just pile on. This would be totally illegal in the US but completely normal in India.

The Indian toilet. I am so thankful that  most places also had a Western toilet to choose from. There was just one day out of the 11 days that I had to use a squatty potty. But this is it folks. An Indian toilet. And they don't use toilet paper so we had to be sure to pack our own. They "flush" with that bucket you see in the picture. You just kind of pour water down and it makes it go down. 

Goat crossings! I thought this was crazy the first day I saw it. We were driving down the road and came to a sudden stop to let all these hundreds of goats pass. But then I saw it several more times after that! Crazy huh?

The food. Indian food is also very different. I honestly can't remember the name of everything pictured. The majority of the time we ate chicken biryani ( a rice dish with spices and meat). Everything was super spicy but usually our sweet hosts would tone down the spice for us and then it was delicious.

They eat with their hands. Everybody. Again, this is something we teach our kids not to do in America but in India everybody does it. (Our sweet hosts usually had forks for us to use if we wanted to but we all gave it a try with our hands too)

You would think a McDonalds is a McDonalds.. but not in India. No Hamburgers here! 

The majority of India is Hindu so there were little Hindu temples everywhere. This was one within walking distance from the place we stayed in Bangalore.

Next to Hindu, Muslim is the next most popular religion in India. So  this is what the streets looked like outside where we stayed. Muslims, Hindu, and Christians. You will also notice the Rickshaws in the road. These were a popular mode of transportation in India.

The kids would wash off their plates here at this water spout. They would also wash their own clothes and scrub them there on top of the concrete and then hang them to dry. We take dishwashers and washing machines for granted here in America. 

Babies are pretty tough in India. Here you see this little one on the back of this bike just hanging on. I would personally be scared that my child would fall off. But he was fine. He just balanced and rode the bike like this. You would also see kids his size outside within inches of cars, buses, and motorcycles driving by.

Shoes come off before going inside. I could get use to that too!

Everything was done on the floor. No need for tables and chairs. Art was on the floor, eating was on the floor, "Indian Style". Honestly, you could fit a lot more people in like that. Often times I would look around and would be teaching 50 kids in a very small space. 50 kids in my studio sitting at their own chair would fill the whole studio. I wonder if my students wanna try Indian style art class. It could be kinda fun!

There were really no rules for driving... or for seat belts.. or for cramming as many people could fit into a vehicle. Ha!

The work of our Christian Indian friends.. Wow

One of the biggest takeaways from the trip was how our Christian Brothers and sisters are living all around the world. In India Christians only make up about 3% of the population. Yet, they are not silent, they don't bury their head in the sand and try to blend in with their culture. Instead, they are  an absolute light.. showing Christs' love everywhere they go. Below is a picture of our the family we stayed with. Epratha ( the father) is a pastor, has a school where he teaches other young Indian men how to go out and start churches, he has a ministry to take care of widows ( which in their society are also women who have come to know Christ and are then disowned by their family). In addition to all of this he and his wife built their house 3 years ago and on the top floor they have converted it into an orphanage taking care of about 20 children. Y'all, this is what living out the gospel looks like. It was a part of their every waking moment, the loved others, took care of others, and pointed others towards Christ... every, single, day. This was not a once a week come to church lifestyle. This was a living and breathing the gospel kind of lifestyle.

They lived in a neighborhood surrounded by Muslims and Hindus ( of course... every where in India is predominantly Muslim and Hindu). Within walking distance from their house was a small Hindu temple and within ear shot was a Muslim mosque. We heard the muslim  noises over the loud speaker each day to remind the Muslims to pray.
I have no idea what it's like to grow up and live in an area where my belief system is in the minority and challenged by everyone around me. It doesn't seem to affect the Christians of India though. Time and time again, we met with orphanage directors who just radiate his light. They take children in off the streets because that's what we are commanded to do.. " do unto others as you would have them do unto you".  

These are a few of the kiddos from the orphanage upstairs from where we stayed. Someone from the states donated all these stuffed animals and it brought smiles to their faces!

And this is Violet.. another amazing children's home director. See that cute boy kissing her on the cheek. He was found as an infant on the side of the road. A rickshaw driver was driving and noticed him. He picked him up and tried to find his parents. When he couldn't he brought him to Violets. She is so full of love.. all the kids call her momma. Look how cute and healthy this boy is from getting love, protection, and 3 meals a day. 

Raksana Childrens Home. Again, more great people loving on kids. We worked with about 20 orphanages so I couldn't post them all. But this one serves as a visual representation of how God is using P'zazz. Each month, we give to Rice Bowls..for every painter at P'zazz we feed a kid for a day. An orphanage this size consumes about 1,620 meals a month. ( 18 kids X 3 meals X 30 days in a month). This year P'zazz is on our way to fully funding this orphanages food budget through the partnership with "Rice Bowls". It's a cool thing to know that they don't have to worry about where the money is going to come from. They can concentrate more on loving the kids and taking care of their day to day activities instead of stressing about how to feed them all. 

Violet keeps a book of how the kids were when they came to her and how they look now. Look at these pictures. Wow! Some of these babies don't even look alive. I can't even imagine how long they had gone without food. But again, 3 meals a day and a lot of love make  a huge difference in their lives. 

This cutie, Vani, was sitting next to me as I was flipping through the book.. she got so tickled when we got to her page! She was so full of excitement and laughter!

P'zazz kids making a impact!

Part of our mission at P'zazz is not only to create awesome artist but to help nurture awesome kids who can early on in life understand the importance of giving to others and of living a life of service. A few of our students came to the studio to paint crosses,  then we  turned them into banners, and applied the simple message " You are loved". These banners were taken to each orphanage that we visited. They will take these and hang them in their homes as constant reminders to the kids that Christ loves them, Rice Bowls loves them, and kids they don't even know in America love them and are thinking of them. 

Here is one  hanging in Violets Childrens Home.

Bridgewater Candles
I don't want to end this post without taking just a second and telling you about Bridgewater Candles. The founder of this company also founded "Rice Bowls". Back 35 years ago after a mission trip he and a few friends took, he saw the huge need around the world and formed the plastic rice bowl piggy bank. The original rice bowl bank was in churches for years back in the 80's. At that time the money raised went to world hunger. A few years ago, they focused their attention more towards orphanages as opposed to just world hunger in general. 
For every jar candle you buy from Bridgewater they also feed a child for a day. So go stock up here.www.bridgewatercandles.com ( Or if you are local to my area "Blessings" inside Laser Copy sells these.. 'Sweet Grace" is my favorite scent!)

How can you help?

This is the second trip I have been on with Rice Bowls and each time I am amazed at what they are doing around the world and also how responsible and accountable they are with the money that comes in. Sometimes when you give to an organization you aren't sure where your money is going or if it's making a difference. I can tell you that with this company your money feeds orphans.. period, end of story. If you want to get involved it's so easy.. There are several ways.. 
1. Go here and simply donate online 
2. Host a rice bowl party with your church,  classr, small group, neighborhood kids, sports team .. anybody! Everybody takes the rice bowl piggy banks home.. fills them with change and then comes back together to break them and count the money! Then you send it in to Rice Bowls. Our studio did this and my awesome students raised over $1000 to feed kids around the world. That's a pretty cool thing! 

This was a trip of a lifetime and I am so glad I went. Rice Bowls also takes trips every year if you want to go next year! It's sure to bless you big time!

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