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Afternoon joy

I stepped outside. 15 girls giggled. Several small children ran around their mother’s legs carrying small plastic containers filled with jars of beads. A few girls balanced their boxes on their heads. Other girls stood, arms clutched around their boxes like these boxes were their second child. The atmosphere was happy and I felt like Santa Clause. I distributed bead boxes Saturday.

Early Saturday afternoon, Suneetha helped me sort the beads by color schemes for each of the boxes. Medani, Arjuna, and Yuvani counted and weighed beads to make sure that each girl got the same amount. Manisha, a new girl, watched in amazement, a certain sparkle in her eye like somehow she had just arrived in her fantasy land. The girl’s matron watched happily and did her best to communicate with me in broken English. The beading, she told me, was meditative. They used to have problems with the girls gossiping and fighting at night. Now they sit quietly and do their own work. Better yet, they often work in groups and take time to help each other. Suneetha and Yuvani will help teach Manisha the skills we have been going over.

They are so proud of these boxes… so proud to have something to call their own. I find it unbelievable how such a simple thing, just a few dollars in the US, can make such a huge difference in the lives of people here. The boxes aren’t all that the girls have ownership over. Every day they seem to take more and more ownership of the program itself. We have become one large family unit. Yuvani and Damayanthi sat below the table Saturday for more than an hour picking up beads and carefully putting them back in their respective containers. Medani’s son, Pasan, slept peacefully on the floor under the table after watching them for a while. Roshenara’s son clung to me like a small monkey, his long arms wrapped around my neck. Every time I tried to put him down, he would scrunch up his legs so that his feet wouldn’t hit the ground and just hang on. I would laugh and return to my standing position realizing that he wouldn’t be going anywhere any time soo. It was heartbreaking ot have to pass him back to Roshenara before I left.

As I left Ma-Sevana late on Saturday, all the girls clustered by the gate calling out goodbyes and “good luck.” Even their kids were their waving. They were so happy, so incredibly full of life. When I think back to their faces a year and a half ago, it’s hard to believe these are the same girls. They are talking and smiling and their eyes are filled with joy. There are no more hollow stares and I hope there never will be. Consequently, I too am overflowing with joy just thinking of them.

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