Monday, September 10, 2012

Shanti Dan

On Saturday morning I was talking to Sister Mercy Maria, telling her that I love working at Mother House but feel like I should get out and see the other houses, maybe go back to working at Prem Dan a little more. "How about you go to Shanti Dan tomorrow?" She asked and wrote out a pass.

Shanti Dan, meaning Gift of Peace, is not one of the houses I had originally wanted to work at because it is a home for girls and women with mental disabilities, not a group I thought I would work well with.  I love working at Prem Dan with the elderly women, but they are cognizant and able to communicate fairly well with me to tell me what they want. Shanti Dan is very different. The youngest girl at Shanti Dan is 12 years old, but looks like she's four. The oldest is 50, but looks like she's 12. Their physical and cognitive abilities vary widely. Some girls are bed ridden, contorted in painful looking positions because of their muscle spasms and stunted growth. Others are in wheelchairs, most of them with very little ability to communicate.  Still others will grab your hand and walk you around the yard, like they are giving you a tour everyday, speaking to you in English along the way. But most all of them have smiles that will shatter your heart.

When I arrived at Shanti Dan on Sunday morning, I met the Sister in charge who had just gotten back from two months in Sri Lanka. She asked if I knew of any long term volunteers, and I told her that I happened to be here for the next three months. She smiled wide and said, "Good! We need to get ready for Christmas!" It takes the girls a long time to prepare for Christmas because they have a hard time remembering dances and songs, so they get everything going in September. Sister then gave me a box of face paints and I walked around painting hearts and flowers on the girls' cheeks.

We then got everyone ready for the dance, tying sashes around some of the more able bodied girls and wheeling the girls in wheelchairs onto the playground to watch. When the music started, the girls didn't seem to be too into it. But then they turned on The Macarena and all the volunteers began doing the popular dance moves, getting even some of the girls in wheelchairs to raise their hands up in the air, dancing with us!

After this, Sister gave me my first craft assignment and I went to work. I thought about the irony of my situation. I had gone from being alone in a room at Mother House working on crafts and writing down information to being alone in a room at Shanti Dan working on crafts and preparing to write out a Christmas play.

Lord, You work in strange ways. 

After being at Shanti Dan and thinking about the lives of these girls and the women who look after them, I think about the friends I know who have children with mental and physical disabilities, parents who do everything possible to give their child the best life they can, even at their own expense: sleepless nights, rearranging your entire schedule so you can pick up your kid in a wheelchair accessible van, accommodating every aspect of that child's life. My heroes are the parents of disabled children. I don't understand how you still have energy, but I love you and am so grateful for you.

That night, after Shanti Dan, a few friends and I visited my friend Ravi's church. The church is a two story house with peeling Pepto Bismol pink wallpaper in the high end of town where the highest caste lives. The service was full of the Holy Spirit, genuine people, a lady preacher who preached a fiery sermon, and a testimony by one of my friends. It was one of the best services I have been to. And it was all in Bengali.
On our way to Salt Lake for church

Afterwords, my friends decided to take a rickshaw driver on a ride in his own rickshaw. He was pretty amused by this.

On our way back from church we were all a bit tired, so I gave my friend Jes a massage, and Sam decided that was a good idea, and Ravi apparently thought that was a great idea!

And a few more pictures because my blogs have been lacking pictures lately:

The new kittens outside my bathroom window

Some of my current and previous roommates

Updates: Ahad is now reading small words on his own, is being impacted by the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and is trying to find meaning and purpose in the events of his life. Please keep praying for him. 

Thank you for your love and prayers, friends. 

No comments:

Post a Comment