Our last day in Bangalore was spent at a micro financing firm called Janalakshmi which means money for the masses. Basically they do micro lending for families or small businesses to help grow the developing classes of India. They were such an awesome firm that works with only women applicants. The company was so awesome, they arranged to have cars come take us in small groups out to the slums and go meet some of the families that janalakshmi finances.
My group drove through Delhi to an urban slum where we wound through some very sketch neighborhoods and through a lot of small corridors and dingy places until we came to some stairs. We walked up them turned the tiny balcony corner and then came to a doorway with a sheet as the door. We stepped inside to a 6 ft by 8 ft room with a floor “mattress” a little desk stacked to the ceiling with cloth and a couch that you couldnt sit two comfortably on. THere was one more sheet that led into a kitchen that was just smaller than that room.
This was their home. 7 people lived in that room. The parents, their 3 daughters and their two sons. They had married their oldest daughter away about 4 months prior, she was 19. She had dropped out of school after grade 7 and their oldest son worked random jobs around town, he had dropped out of school after the 5 grade. THeir youngest daughters were still in school and were hoping to study through high school. The parents were tailors and made skirts to sell on the street for $1.00. It cost them $0.40 to make one skirt. Hell of a way to live…
They were a muslim family and they were extremely kind, welcoming and open. I had so many questions for the family about their lifestyle, about their attitude towards their daughters and sons, about their attitudes towards sports, marriage, education… everything. I asked about a million questions and had a million more when we had to leave an hour later. It was one of the coolest experiences i have ever had because I was allowed to ask so many of the questions I have had for so long!
After that we headed to the airport and headed out of Bangalore to New Delhi. Our flight was delayed two hours and we didnt end up getting into Delhi until pretty late in the night. We went right to sleep because we had to wake up early for our first clinic in the New Delhi Stadium the next morning.
We were greeted in the morning by a bus full of 20 peppy, bright little indian girls from an organization called YUWA. They were a team from a city 40 hours from Delhi, they trained two days to come to our clinic! We swept the sleep out of our eyes and put on our best smiles to make them feel welcomed and excited about the day!
We arrived at the stadium as the sun was rising… there was fog on the field, the sun was shining through the stadium outside right onto the field and it was one of those moments where you are blown away by the beauty of something. Like breathtaking, and indescribable. There were girls playing soccer, being empowered, smiles, and perfect beauty. All was right in the world. It was amazing.
The day only got better as about 120 girls from all over and all different ages showed up to play with us! We ran them through a series of drills in groups of about 20 girls teaching them basic skills like passing, heading, shooting, dribbling etc. Then we ended the day with a huge tournament with any girls who stuck around after lunch. There was news from all over India, CNN, IndiTV, ESPN, it was amazing!!
By the end of the day we were beyond exhausted. The YUWA girls fell asleep, like passed out on the bus within 5 minutes. But everyone had just played their hearts out and loved every second of it! It was such a special day.
The next day we again woke up early… but this time it was to get on a bus and drive 5 hours away to a city called Agar to visit…. the TAJ MAHAL!!!!! Cross that one off the bucket list!! It was so cool!!! What a beautiful structure and one of the girls said something after that I thought was really cool. She said that she thought it was really cool to see this huge imaculate building that was built for this king’s wife whom he loved so much… but now everyone says how the Indian culture has no respect for women and treats women so poorly. I found it awesome that she realized that, and I also found it fascinating to think about when and how that changed, did it change? Its interesting to think about and consider.
Anyways, the Taj was so cool! Today we attended a conference of some awesome people and organizations to discuss what the implications of female empowerment programs like Goals for Girls, YUWA, and so many others do. How can we make it better, how can we make each other better. It was an absolutely fascinating and empowering conference and I am so happy I got to meet and listen to some women who are making big changes in India and the world.
Tomorrow we have a tournament in the morning with the girls who came out to the first clinic we put on in the stadium earlier in the week. We will spend one last day playing with them and encouraging them to play soccer and get their friends playing soccer. Then we will come back to the hotel, shower, pack up the last of our gifts and head to the airport to head back to the US.
I cant believe this trip is coming to an end. I am literally blown away with how quickly the time flew by. It seems like we just got here yesterday, but with the amount of things we have done in two weeks it seems like we have been here for so much longer than 2 weeks.
Thinking back about when I was asked to go on this trip I was really wondering, should I go, should I go? And I went back and forth a thousand times, but I am so glad that I did. I have learned so much about myself, I have faced a lot of things that I really needed to face while I was here and I did it on my own. I have seen so much beauty, I have literally fallen in love with India and the Indian people. I have fallen in love with myself and I am now so excited to come home and get back to my friends and family!
Its incredible how things happen at the right time to challenge you to live your life, truly live your life. Its simple reminders that are always around us but often overlooked in the routine of our lives. Just as Russia, Europe, Africa have, India has given me new perspectives, new things to consider and new things to be happy about. Life, what a roller coaster. I am so happy to have the life I do and thank you to everyone who is a part of it.
I look forward to seeing you all again in the US very soon!