Saturday, March 7, 2009

Spotlight on (and goodbye to) a volunteer -- "Kim Madam Kim Madam!"

Kim came to Mysore in 2006 to practice yoga and to volunteer at a charity. She started with Operation Shanti in the fall of 2006, and helped our kids and moms for two years, until mid-2008. Now, Kim is leaving Mysore for the "greener pastures" of Argentina, and we thought that we'd, along with our kids and moms, say goodbye to her and thank her for all of her contributions to our work. There were many.

with Pallavi, Apu, and Latta in our Street People Program in 2006

Kim started out volunteering with our street kids and moms, and she was involved with just about everything that we do -- from teaching our little kids their ABCs...

with Jyothi, Parveen, and Pallavi in early 2007 making monthly visits to the kids that we had placed in a residential school...

with Chumi, mom Kumari, and Venkatesh -- JSS Suttur 2007

...and to teaching yoga to our kids on Sundays.

Pallavi, Latta, Prema, Antony, Raguvendra, Nanjunda doing sun salutations

Kim also helped with taking our women and kids to the doctor when they got sick, made friends with the friendly ENT doctor who did Prema's ear operations, and gave it to the nasty doctor at Cheluvamba who insulted and abused one of our moms who had gone for  birth control advice.

Kim says, "There were many beautiful, heart-warming (and sometimes hilarious!) moments while I worked with Operation Shanti; however, to have witnessed how far the kids and moms have come over the past few years is the best overall experience. It's wonderful to see many of our kids now off the streets and living in Karunya Mane, a safe shelter where they're healthy, happy, thriving and getting a good education. And some of the moms have worked so hard and empowered themselves to turn their lives around by leaving dangerous and abusive domestic situations, for example. Now they're leading more peaceful and productive lives, taking excellent care of themselves and their children, and giving themselves the chance of a better future."

On the difficult times as a volunteer: "Definitely the most difficult part of volunteering for Operation Shanti was working with the terminally ill in our program--sadly watching them suffer while their lives slipped away, and then eventually saying goodbye. It was also challenging, and oftentimes maddening, to work within a system and a society that for the most part turns its back on the destitute--especially destitute women. To watch how inhumanely the poor can be treated here is just as sad and tragic as watching them die."

Recently, Kim paid a visit to the kids who are now at Karunya Mane to say goodbye before she leaves Mysore. Many of them remembered her fondly. When Prema saw Kim, she ran to her brother Venkatesh and said, "Kim madam! Kim madam!"

with little Vishnu

Even little Vishnu remembered Kim. She took him to the dentist after she noticed that his two front teeth had started rotting (mom was feeding him milk at night to help him sleep but often forgot to brush his teeth afterwards), and they spent quality time together during their several visits to the dentist.

And, what does Kim take with her to her next adventure from Operation Shanti and India? "All of the following but now to a greater degree: patience, tolerance, unconditional love, compassion, empathy, an open heart, and the joy in life's simple things."