In October 2016, I visited Rishikesh with a group of fellow yogis. It was my first ever visit to India, and it was a pretty much full on sensory experience! It was th noisiest, filthiest, poorest, saddest place I had ever visited. It was also the most self-discovering, heart opening and uplifting experiences of my life.
Growing up in South Africa, I thought I understood Third World poverty. But nothing could prepare me for the abject poorness of India. People sleep where they beg, on the dirty streets. The smog in Delhi was thick as fog. You could taste the grit in the air. And in this, people sleep on the sidewalk, on roof tops, on pavements and on the ridges between dual carriageways. Everyone seems to own a moped with a hooter, and the hands are jammed down on these noise-makers constantly. Cows walk freely in the roads of Rishikesh, entering freely and causing traffic jams while residents patiently wait for the holy beasts to pass. And amongst all this, rows of beggard, skinny sadhus and bhabas offering blessings in return for something to eat, streetsellers loudly peddling their wares and the heat blanketing everything in a sweaty, slightly putrefying and deeply stifling blanket. And then the children …
The poor children of India broke my heart. I took a little girl into a shop to buy her a pizza, because I was so touched by her visible hunger. She asked the pizza man to wrap it up, so that she could share it with her brother and mother who were begging in the street. The children vie for attention, money and food, creating noisy diversions with acrobatic contortions. It’s impossible to help everyone. The poverty was overwhelming to me. The blankness of some of the eyes staring out of thin faces made me feel that I had to do something.
And then, we went to Ramana’s Garden.
My yoga students had brought chewable vitamins and children’s underwear to donate. As it happened, they all brought cotton knickers and I turned up with a sack full. The response was unexpectedly deep gratitude. I didn’t realise, until then, how important underwear is for a girl. (I wrote a blog post about the superpowers of cotton knickers you can read it here)
And as we left, after a wonderful visit that included a whole melange of emotions for the plight of this wonderful place that saves children from the most dire circumstances too awful to dwell on, I had my cause. Ramana’s Garden is a happy place. Children are given love, safety, security, education. They are literally given their humanity back here. The awfulness of their earlier lives, which may well include physical andsexual abuse, slavery, trafficking and abandonment (In some cases, all of these at once) is healed by the deepest care, love, service and education. But they are so poor, and there are so many children!
When I told Linda Huckle about this amazing place, there was no question about it. We started planning The Whole Woman Conference there and then.
All the money will be taken to Ramana’s Garden by me personally, to make sure it actually gets there. I will pack the knickers and sanitary products in a large suitcase, and carry that with me too.
Please give generously. It is so little for us to give, yet so much for those in need to receive.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart!
And namaste xxx