Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Panoramic View

The entire team hiked to a trekking hut high up in the Himalayas. It was a tough hike, but everyone made it! The view was spectacular above the smog and smoke of the villages. There were tents set up for them in advance. Today they hiked down to our friend Mr. Dahmi's Place. It is called the Orchard Hut. He and his family help run YMAD in Chamba. He works with our Orphanages, his children are our interpreters, they are an amazing family and they own the Orchard Hut. It is a great place to relax after working as hard as the team does. I added a link for you to be able to see where they are. The chances are good that there will not be anymore posts from the team because there is not access the internet. We will try to post updates for you. The leaders are so inspired at how amazing your teens are. Thanks for your efforts in raising teens who want to make a difference.

Monday, November 28, 2011


Yesterday we were given the opportunity to go and visit everyone’s schools. Of course mine was the biggest hit because we know how to party. First we sang and danced for all the kids and then they took us into the their 10 x 10 classroom and starting busting out their Indian dance moves and music. I was so impressed by their intricate hand motions and the way they could move their hips. After they presented their dance they invited everyone else up and taught us some moves. I caught on a very fast and every time I hear a song I start practicing. So lets just say I can wait to get back to the USA and show EVERYONE how I can shake my “money maker” – Indian Style.

Aside from the fun we’ve been having there is also some serious business. At one of the schools, Nihan, I didn’t know any of the kids but immediately connected with a little 2 year old that would cry if I set her down. It made me feel so special and just looking in her eyes brought an instant smile. During this trip I have discovered that you can learn so much just though eye contact. While doing the medical exams at my school ERA, I was in charge of taking the kids blood pressure and pulse. In order to make the kids focus I had them wear the blood pressure cuff and then look me in the eye so I could take their pulse. By having them look at me it wether brought on a staring contest or just loud laughs because of the silly face contest we would have. It brought me so much happiness hearing their sweet giggles and knowing that the simplest of the things can bring eternal happiness. These kids know what happiness is and although we are teaching them English basics, they are teaching us so much more. They’ve taught me that a smile can be passed on, a laugh can be contagious, a compliment can brighten a day. When I get home I’m going to make sure I pass on what I’ve learned and make sure everyone know its not the money that can buy happiness it’s the people you surround your self with.

I want my mom and dad to know I love them very much and I am grateful that they have given me an incredible life to live. I want Annie to know I miss her so much and love the fact that she is always there for me, even if she is a continent away. I want Sammy to know that although we fight I’ve realized I miss his crude humor and bright smile and I love him. Lily, I look at these older girls I’m working with and immediately thing of you and how you would love it here just and much as I do. Last but not least, Granty, I love you so much and the little Boys here are just like you. I hold them and just imagine I am holding you. You have so much light and spread it to the family; I don’t know what we would do with out you. I want to thank all the other family and friends I have in my life and I want them to know that I feel so lucky that I have so much support from them. You all give me things to hold on to and things to reflect. You are all incredible and I can’t wait to see everyone’s beautiful faces!

Much Love!



The Ecstatic ERA Children

Working at ERA this week has been spectacular. I absolutely love the kids at my school. Every kid is completely unique and wonderful. There are some that are extremely outgoing, while others are reserved and quiet but outrageously smart. Most of the time I feel like they are teaching me more than I could ever teach them just through their attitudes and smiles. A lot of them speak English really well and I have been able to connect with them in ways I never thought I could before I came to India.

One kid that I have really been able to connect with is Artix. He is one of the smaller kids at the school and he is picked on a little bit by the older, bigger kids. It was a little hard for me to get him to open up in the workshops, but after working with him I have discovered that he is extremely smart and curious. Now, he answers all my questions and is very confident about it. I have noticed that he is kind and giving to all of his classmates. He will give up his spot in the circle to make room for others. His little smile lights up everything around him and the other kids just feed off of his positive attitude.

I fel that in many ways kids in India are the same as kids you would see anywhere else. I thought that the kids would be organized and focused on their studies, and they are most of the time. But they do like to have fun.They love paling games and sports just like American kids. In fact, a lot of my day is spent playing basketbal and "Ride that Pony" with kids at the school. I 've been told that the kids in India are amazing and loving and I'm happy that I have been able to experience that and learn to love them.

Matt Hogan


I am lucky enough to be one of the people that has had this amazing experience 2 times. I am just soaking up every moment here. This time we IDarner, Shuki, Jordan, Anika, Hannah, Sarah and I) were able to open a school that YMAD hasn't ever been to before called Nihan. There are so many things that I absolutely love about Nihan but I want to share my top 5.

1. The drive up into the middle of the Himalayan mountains is impossible to describe unless you have been there. They are so immense and grand that words can't describe them.

2. Lunch on the edge. By edge I mean we all sit out on the edge of the road and have a 360 panoramic view of the mountains.

3. The drive home listening to the YMAD kids talk about all of the children at the school and how much they love them.

4. Priyanka. This little girl that I want to put in my suitcase and bring her home. And yes, my wife has already approved of this:)

5. Teaching English to the kids. They all want to learn so badly and they try so hard. I have already been able to see a lot of progress in the short period of time that we have been here.

One last thing that I want to mention that really made me realize how much we are able to influence the lives of these people is an experience that I had yesterday. We were able to go and visit all of the schools that we are teaching in this year. In 2008 I was assigned the Sahoo School. When we went to visit the teacher saw me and yelled my name and he was so excited to see me. Just a good reminder to always be positive and try and give it your all.

We can make a difference.


One Day

One day (soon,soon,soon) I will be back in India. Before I ever heard about YMAD, I remember making a list of places in the world I wanted to travel. On this list was basically every country even Antarctica, but I specifically remember saying I never wanted to go to India. The idea made me cringe!. Then a few months later I found out about YMAD, and I was sold with everything about this group of amazing leaders :) well, everything but the fact that we were going to India. I went ahead and applied anyway, when I was accepted I was really excited! As the year progressed and I got more involved with the leaders, our group and our mission, India didn't make me cringe anymore, but I never felt excited about going. My excitement was more about why we were coming. I'm not going to lie even on the plane ride coming over, India didn't appeal to me. . . Then we landed. I've never fallen in love with a country, it's culture, or it's people this fast in my life! The way these kids (YMAD and the kids in our schools) have touched my life and changed it forever is (here is comes the word we've been forbidden to use) indescribable!!! One day (in the very near future) I WILL come back to India!
Mom, Dad, Marco, Nan: I know you will all understand when I say I am absolutely NOT home sick! Your the best family anyone could ask for! I can't wait to try and attempt to tell you guys all about this.


Early Christmas

It is weird saying goodbye to someone who you may never see again. Today was our last day at the school and orphanage and saying goodbye to those kids has been the most difficult thing for me so far this trip. It started off like every other day at the school with the prayers, exercises and then lessons. The lessons were fun to teach but my favorite part of the school day was giving away all of the gifts.

We brought large duffle bags full of gifts for the children and teachers. We gave out blankets, hats, gloves, bags, school supplies, and new uniform sweaters for all of the students. The look of their faces when they received these gifts made all the hard work to get to India worth it. Nothing could make me happier than the smiles and thank you's from each of the kids. It was like an early Christmas for me. I'm excited for them to put these gifts to use during the upcoming cold weather and during the school year.

Saying goodbye to the kids was heart wrenching. I can usually say "I will see you later" but this time was different. I may not ever see these kids again and knowing this made saying goodbye so much harder. Seeing the tears in their eyes while saying "I love you" was difficult to say goodbye to. I will miss these kids more than they'll ever know and I hope someday I will get the opportunity to come back and visit them again.

My time in India has been fulfilled and I believe I really have made a difference. This has been such a humbling experience and I will never forget the friendships I have made here. I am really going to miss India.

Mom thank you for answering your phone! I loved talking to you. I miss you soooooooo much. Tell everyone at home hello and that I miss all of them too. I love you so much and I will see you Saturday!


XO means love.

When I heard that we were getting letters from our parents I became very excited. Little did I know that I would receive a gift that can now act as a reminder to the love that I share with Praveen. I opened the letter from my mom and found an X and an O out of metal inside. I immediately thought about Praveen and how I could somehow give a part of me to him as a reminder. Then it hit me to make two necklaces so that WHEN we meet again we can reunite the X and the O. I showed him what they were and he excitedly chose the X as his necklace. He looked at him curiously waiting for me to explain what they meant and not 10 seconds after I had finished, he said,"I love you." I have been told that by quite a few people in my life and few have had as much impact as that one. As soon as his comment registered, the tears started flowing. He then told me to sit down and proceeded to wipe the tears from my cheeks. He said,"Why are you crying? Please don't cry. Be happy not sad.". I then realized why mourn when I could rejoice about the experience of this week. It dawned on me that I'm supposed to be the teacher but instead I have learned far more than I could ever have taught them.

I've said a fair amount of goodbyes in my day and they never get any easier. I was crying in sadness but also crying in happiness because I knew I made a difference in these kids lives, and I will continue to. Praveen, BJ, Kalsuin, and Chamba all have a new found place in my ever-growing heart. I love those kids and I love this place.

I will be back one day. I will be back to my Aum Sweet Aum. We will reconnect our XO one day Praveen. I love you.

Matty T

Newfound Sense

After over a week into our trip the scents of home--freshly laundered sheets and crunchy orange leaves--have long since dissipated and new foreign smells have replaced them. We smell like India. Like sweat and dirt never fully washed off by bucket baths every few days. Like the rice and curry we eat for dinner each night. We smell like stuffy jeeps and well worn shoes. Like a fresh coat of paint on the dingy walls of a school and clean hair washed in a river. We smell like coloring markers and wrinkled paper, mountain air and dirt roads, and popped corn and suntanned skin. Like chai tea and peanut butter sandwiches. Like salty tears on tired faces. We smell like sunshine beating down on a hot day and smiles that light up a face. We smell like joy and hope and souls fulfilled. We smell like love and laughter and contentment. We smell like India and I've never loved a smell more.

Nurse Erika

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

I am lucky enough to teach at the Sahu school. Our school has the second most kids, and we are in the poorest region. We had the opportunity to go to all of the schools on Saturday, and although they may have been the craziest, it was easy to see that our kids were the most loving. This was when I had the opportunity to show off the long-bragged-about Naveen, aka Charlie Brown. I gave him this nickname on our first day because of the little yellow and black sweater that he was wearing. He is the youngest in our school and he may be the youngest of any of the kids. His mom is the school cook, and even though the younger kids are usually bullied, he is everyone's favorite. His little ears stick out so far that if he was falling from a plane, he could probably glide to safety. His voice is adorable, and I'm not sure what it is about the language, but that makes it about one gazillion times cuter. He's always wearing these sweaters that make me want to curl up with him and take a nap (family, you know what I'm talking about). He reminds me of my cousin Ian: shy at first, sweet soul, wants to do his own thing, and facial expressions that suggest he can't believe he has this old of a brain stuck in this young of a body. It took a lot of hard work and attention, but now whenever we show up to the school, he runs up to me and grabs a finger or two, and I'm basically with him the whole time. The kids call the guys "Baya," which means brother, and when he loses his patience with me (usually trying to get my camera), Naveen sort of growls it then yells the second syllable (baYA!). It's basically the cutest thing I've ever heard. He has a firecracker older brother named Vivek in the second class, who's smarter than most of the kids in the fifth class. I decided I'm going to take the two of them home, which may be hard for their mom (who loves them almost as much as I do), but I'm sure something can be worked out. Of course, the other kids are fantastic, and I love all of them, but there is a special kind of love I have for Naveen that I haven't had for anyone else before, and I probably won't again. Tomorrow is our last day with the kids, and I am dreading it. My family knows that I'm not a cryer, but I've never been put in a situation like this, and I may just break down when I have to say goodbye to him. I'm safe and healthy, and India gets better every day. Family, I love you and am excited to see you, and when I get back, be prepared to set two extra places at the table from now on.


We Shall Overcome Someday

by, Elise Anderson

One of the best days was created by a vote. We had the choice to either do the cultural exchange at the high school in Chamba, or visit each of the schools and have little cultural exchanges at each one. I was set on doing the exchange for the high school since I wanted to see their dances and hear their songs; however the other choice was more appealing to the rest of YMAD.

We began at Kalsuin and came when the kids were performing their morning exercises for us. They began chanting and marching and moving and it was a neat experience to see. After we performed one of our dances, all of the YMAD kids pulled the Kalsuin kids up to dance. Everyone loved it so much and there were plenty of smiles flashed throughout the song.

Our next stop was ERA and it definitely had the most kids. When we finished our performance, the older kids sang the song "We Shall Overcome" and it goes like this:
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
We shall overcome,
Deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome someday.

It was really neat to hear these kids sing this song and I hope they take these words to heart. After their song they took us into a building and the older kids showed us one of the coolest dances I have ever seen.

Next was my own orphanage of Sahoo, I didn't think it could compete with the display that ERA gave us since our kids' strong point isn't in organization. When we arrived, all of the kids were so excited to see my and my group and they were jumping on us and hugging us and clinging to us; this didn't only happen to me and my group, but to the rest of YMAD. Our kids are so friendly and loving and at the end of our brief visit, they were calling all of the girls "didi (sister)" and all of the boys "baya (brother)". It was so hard saying goodbye because we only have one more day with them.

The last school was Nihan and it is built on the edge of a cliff with a drop of about sixty feet from where the kids play. These kids also sang "we shall overcome" and it only drove that thought further in my mind. We had some extra time left to spend playing with the kids after our final performance and they were so welcoming of the YMAD members who aren't in their school. This was the only school that we sang our song "You'll Be in My Heart" and I started to cry. It surprised me that I cried singing to these kids that I just met but the words were true none the less.

All of the kids in each school are so incredible and loving and I have come to love all of the kids in all of the schools even if I hardly know some of them. These words still ring in my head, and I know I will never forget them:

Deep in my heart, I do believe that we shall overcome someday.

Sometimes, I Can't Tell If My Goosebumps Are Real Or Just A Side Effect Of Doxycycline.

Bawl my eyes out.
Monday is our last day at our school. I could not be sadder. Seriously. Our kids are the smartest, kindest, talentedest (pretty sure that's not a real word) kids in all of India. It's been so inspiring to see them learn so much, despite the language barrier. They're so sweet. I've acquired quite a few gifts and they are even teaching us an Indian dance after lessons on Monday.

I've just been acting like the end isn't coming, because know I'm going to cry. And I know I'm going to be embarrassed I'm crying. And then things are going to get awkward. I'm just going to miss them so much. I'm going to miss (say with Indian accent) "ma'am baby pink" and "my favorite color is skin color". I'm going to miss the little second graders yelling answers to the flash cards at the tops of their lungs. I'm going to miss the teacher with the worst malocclusion I've ever seen. I'm going to miss talking with the older girls and exchanging rings. (And dare I say it, I might even miss playing Ride Ride Ride That Pony every thirty minutes.)

They have so much potential and I'm so extremely grateful I have had the opportunity to help them progress in their lives. It's been a life changing experience teaching them. I don't think I could say that enough.

I just hope I've touched their lives as much as they've touched mine.

Emily Peterson

P.s. Happy late birthday Ashley. I will sing and dance for you when I get home. We can make that.

Genie Wish

Tonight was such a great night. We had the girls from the temple ashram come up to the NHPC. We watched Aladin and had dinner with us. I went to their ashram to pick them up. Each of these girls were so excited. The saw the cars aproaching and the smiles were ear to ear. I jumped out of the jeep to greet them and I had a dozen little girls huging me and pulling me into the car so that they could get to thier movie and to their YMAD friends. As I got my seat in the car one girl grabbed my hand and held on so tight. She would look at me then just squeze my hand and smile. She did not let go of her excited grip for the whole 25 minute drive. Then we joined up with all of the YMAD kids. We had popped popcorn and were ready to start. Megan and I had our little girl Saroj sit right in between us. It was like we were a little family watching the movie. Saroj would take tuns looking at Megan and I and smiling. It was a smile that would put warmth in your heart. As the movie went on she would lock arms with me or she would snuggle upto Megan and put her head on Megan's shoulder. This was such a great experience. We have Loved her form so many years and this was the closest that we have been with her. She is so excited everytime she sees Megan. I know that there is a language barrier but no word could express the feeling or love that was felt this night. In the movie we watched, Aladin gets three wishes. If I only had one wish, I would have wished that this night would never end.

We have had such an amazing expedition. I have been most impressed with the youth on this trip. They have been challenged and have stood up to the challenge. I wish the parents of these youth were here to see their kids in action. I have seen their hearts grow bigger and the light in them shine brighter that they thought possible. Megan and I are lucky to have such a great group. The leaders have been so neat to watch as they encourage the youth. They build them up daily. They have been a huge support to the youth and to us to make this trip fly by.

We send much love and full hearts from India.
Greg Davis

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Sunday Images


Every morning I load into a car with my driver Sunesh and my translator Mr. Dhami. We start with Hindi lessons—alk, do, teen (1, 2, 3) and ap kasey hai? (how are you?)—as we drive through the mountains to a remote village for first aid clinics. The workshops are off the beaten path, focusing on teaching those who have limited access to medical facilities and are held in a home in the village. It never fails that when we plan for 10 or 12 people and 25 end up coming. And always, Mr. Dhami is a hit. He loves talking, joking, and laughing with the people when they hear me attempt to practice the few words I’ve learned in Hindi. Just as an FYI barf in Hindi means ice, and even I laugh when I say that one.

Overall, the workshops have been a success. Everyone loves the first aid kits we hand out and ask me when I will come back again. I have thoroughly enjoyed sharing with them, learning their time-tested remedies (ground potato paste for burns), and hearing them laugh when we practice the Heimlich maneuver. The people are grateful and generous, always inviting us for chai tea and biscuits and offering anything they have to give. The children are always quite curious about me, but usually too shy to come up to me at first. I’m sure being white and standing at least half a foot taller than all the adults (you can imagine how tall Gardner is to these people!) makes me stand out quite a bit.

On the drive home from the workshop my favorite part of the day transpires. Mr. Dhami tells me about his life in India. Mr. Dhami is a small man with a jolly looking belly, ear hair so long you could probably braid it, and eyes that hold a lifetime of wisdom. He has a kind, cheery face but his stance tells you he is a man who gets things done. He has lived in the Chamba area for all of his life and has worked in various career fields, but always, he has helped people. He shares with me his life philosophies and insights and helps me understand the way of life here in India. He tells me over and over, “Helping the people is good for the soul. When you are down, you can remember the good you have done and it comforts your soul.”

If nothing else, I will remember this about India. That life is always better when you are reaching outside yourself. And wherever you go, if you seek to do good, you will always find yourself in good company. India and its people have seeped deep into my soul and I am better for it.

Nurse Erika

PS Mom, Dad, Mike, Char, and baby Ryan I miss you all and can’t wait to see you in a few short weeks!


Instead of doing a culture exchange with the high school here at the NHPC, YMAD had to the opportunity to go to all four of the schools we teach at to sing and dance.
It was a neat experience to see the YMAD kids interact with their own kids that they have been teaching all week.

When it came time to visit Sahoo, I got butterflies in my stomach. The kids did not know we were even coming to see them. When they saw us walking down the mountain they jumped up and ran to us. Those were the greatest hugs I have ever had. (Sorry to all those at home… but my kids hug better.)

My girl, Sheetal, ran and jumped into my arms. She held onto my hand the rest of our visit. We sang our songs and I admit I got a little teary. When YMAD sang ONE DAY, I had Sheetal’s hand in mine. She was like an angel. Our interaction with each other is mostly felt not said. When we danced Sheetal had her eyes hooked on mine the whole time. I did not know I could get so attached and love someone so much after a few days. These kids are so loving. They have taught me more than I could ever teach them. Saying goodbye is going to be rough. I hate Monday afternoon already. I’m coming back here… one day.

Family I hope everything is going great! I’ll do bed treats when I come home. ☺
Comment below and let me know how things are.

I love you MTWCT!

P.S. If you have time…before I come home, I’ll probably need what goes in the second green basket in my closet. Please and thank you.

Maddie Taylor

First off, I want my family to know that I love them so much and I am so sorry that it looks like I haven’t written anything! I was the first to blog and there had been no internet so it didn’t get loaded! But no worries, I am alive and well- you can probably tell by the pictures.

India is incredible. There really is no way to describe it other than experiencing it. The first day we arrived at the schools the kids greeted us with a huge hello and then went into a clapping pattern. The second day they said “hello!” but then added in a “we love you!”

I never realized how fast you can realize you truly love someone until I met these kids. For everyone here we all find one kid that we automatically draw to. For me, I have fallen for all of them, although there is one kid named Shubham that has become my special buddy. He is seven years old, covered in freckles and full of light. Ever since I was a little girl I have dreamed of becoming a Mom because I love kids so much, but these kids here have made me want to become a little kid again. They have given me a whole new perspective on life and have helped me forget about all my problems back at home. I must admit that I was really nervous the week before coming here. I didn’t know what to expect and I was stressed about everything that was going to happen back home with me away. I even had nightmares that my parents would be that one family that doesn’t show up to pick me up when I got back because they had forgotten I was gone. So, hopefully they read this and know I really do not want that to happen and I would really appreciate it if they came with a nice 32 oz. Diet Coke from Shivers with a slice of Lime. We have looked everywhere in Chamba for a nice DC but unfortunately no one seems to know what that is.

Anyways, being here has made me realizes how good I have it. I realized I need to stop stressing about the little things and take them in. I know I have a family that loves me and friends that are there for me and I am so grateful for them. These kids have nothing and I have everything. I wish so badly that I could give them everything that they want but I can’t. I hope that I can come back here one day and hold my little Shubham again and tell him everyday that he is special and that he is loved.



Mads <3

PS- Thank you mom for the lovely Tuckett issues with restrooms. Thanks to it I have now made every kid in YMAD see a side of me they probably never wanted to see.

Saturday. Jenny Rouse

We have now spend 4 wonderful days with the children at Kalsui.
Our days begin early. Greg offers an optional Boot Camp, Megan and Abby lead others in a vigorous and scenic run through the hills. Erika has become our resident Yogi offering rooftop sessions of Warrior One and Down Dog at dawn.

We leave the NHCP at 8:30 each day. 6 jeeps are loaded with duffle bags containing supplies for the day. Everyone piles in and heads for their schools.

Our team is pretty convinced that we have the smartest, most affectionate and enthusiastic students of all. Each day that we have spent with them has made it more difficult to imagine leaving. How is it possible to love someone you just met?

I am so lucky to have this wonderful group of YMAD kids!

Matt is the Gentle Giant. He painstakingly prepped his math lesson the night before and helped each child thread and triple-tie their bead bracelets after an expert, interactive lesson on addition.

Caleb really knows how to connect with the kids. He was very creative with his group when he walked them around the schoolyard looking for geometric shapes to reinforce his lesson. It is obvious how much he loves them!

Andrea has such a great teaching style. Its a combination of an open, friendly approach with a natural flair for keeping the kids in line when the afternoon wiggles hit. Her positive outlook has been a constant since day-one.

Chloe conveys a gentle kindness with each student. Her lesson on sports and hobbies was enhanced with a rousing game of charades.
She is always prepared and great at improvising when unexpected things pop up.

Zippy shares her sunny personality and easy smile with all of the kids. They yell "Zeepy!" when they see her. Besides having a wonderful way with the kids at Kalsui, Zippy has been a huge asset to our team with her talent for planning and problem solving.

Zach is a unique individual with an uncanny talent for making music anytime, anywhere with anything! Whether it be a ukulele, wooden flute or two long sticks with assorted buckets trash cans or bowls, if Zach is around, there will be music. He is a fantastic teacher to all of the kids as well!

Our team has been able to accomplish so much in the short time we have been here (with the support of Greg, Megan, and the incredible people they work with here in India as well as all of the people in SLC who donated time, supplies, funds, etc.)

Each child has (or will on Monday) received:
a hygiene kit
Medical exam
School supplies
Warm hat
Fleece blanket

Our team has taken on the daunting task of painting the interior walls of the one-room schoolhouse. The YMAD kids bought posters and a calendar to hang as the finishing touch.

We are also working on providing screens for the ashram and coal to keep them warm this winter. The kids also painted a beautiful mural on ashram's wall.

Sending all my love to my wonderful family I miss you all so much and can't wait to see you on December 3rd! XOXO

Tanner Jensen

Captains log: start date 11/25 in the 21st century, Chamba India, eighth day into the India expedition. As an adult leader of the ERA school, I look back on our most recent adventure and realize I could not have asked for a more dependable and dedicated crew: Renae, Madeline, Emily, Tommy, and Matt. Our operation had been compromised by an experimental project designed to triple the kids in our teaching pool. Being put into a new and alien territory without sufficient man power and supplies left the crew with low moral. However, with the extreme efforts of the crew, success was achieved and 70 extra kids are now being taught, medically checked, and provided basic hygienic needs. More importantly, the crew has dedicated efforts to install running water and new lighting into the school. The difference the crew is making on these children's lives in such a short period is remarkable and only reflects the true nature of these young men and women.

Friday, November 25, 2011

Building a water line to the bathroom at Temple Ashram

Namaste from Chamba!

I hope you are all doing well back home, I love and miss you all. We left just over a week ago on this wonderful, amazing journey that we have spent so much time preparing for, and every day of the trip thus far has been beyond what I can describe with words. I don’t want to say anything cliché, like, “I am having so much fun here, its so surreal, I don’t even know what to think!” because I know exactly what I’m thinking and feeling, and it is incredible. The feeling evoked by being here, and being with the children we have spent the last year preparing to see, is simply put, eye opening. They have so little here, and yet they are so happy. I am working at Sahoo, and the first day we came to teach we saw the children just over the crest of the hill on the way to the school, leaning out the windows, erupting into huge cheers and spilling into the school yard upon seeing us. Here we are, about 30 strangers from America that these kids have never met nor know anything about, and yet they were so happy to see us. Spending time in the school these last few days, its been me trying to teach the 57 kids we work with, and yet I’ve found that its them that has taught me. I know that may sound strange, or hard to believe, or probably even cliché, but it couldn’t be more true. They’re so humble, and they’re so easy to love and willing to love back, that I feel every one of us could learn something from them and their hope and joy. Every morning I wake up, tired from jet-lag and lack of sleep, not to mention consuming nothing but curry for the past week and taking cold bucket showers, but every day I have more fun than the day before, and I know that there is nothing that I would rather be doing. This is one of the best experiences I have ever had, and as we move into our last few days with the kids I’m going to make the most of every minute. Though it will break my heart to reach the day when we can no longer say “kal milenge” to the children at the end of the day, I know that I’ll always remember the experiences I’ve had here, and I know that the kids will never forget either. I love each and every one, and I am so happy to tell all you back home the memories and experiences I’ve had here. I love you all and I’ll see you soon!

Love, Jacob

PS-Mom and dad, I really need you to register for me at the U by December 1st, sorry about that, love you!


I AM ALIVE AND HAPPY!!!! :D Don’t worry I am doing very well, actually great and loving it here!! I apologize for not blogging until now! I love you all. I am here, in India, Chamba to be precise. The traveling was long and it was difficult knowing what time it was, it was dark outside, then light… then dark. We arrived in New Delhi and it was very smokey and was like after 12 am! We stayed the first night in a house in New Delhi and I have been eating Indian food which isn’t bad! I’m very grateful for a good stomach and have been doing very good! I experienced Culture Shock yes, garbage in the streets, stray dogs and animals, and so much poverty. People will sleep in the streets and I want to help them. So on a great note I absolutely love the people here and EXPECIALLY the KIDS!! I met the Kids at my school Niham on Tuesday I believe!!! I was nervous beforehand but immediately fell in love with them. The cutest people in the world are those Children. I have had such special connections and bonding with them. I am learning their names and doing great with them!! I teach educational workshops and am loving it. The craziest thing is that there is only one real day left of being with the kids. Tomorrow we are going to go around to all of the schools and sing and dance. Then finishing our last day on Monday, way crazy and I don’t want to think about leaving the kids. I am having like reversed Cultural Shock for sure. I love it here and it never gets old and is gorgeous here. We also go to the Temple Austrum (Orphanage) and I love it there also, this little Girl Nisha, oh my goodness she is the sweetest and so darn cute. She will just hold my hand and we play games and it’s hard to describe the connection felt here, I imagine it could be like being a Father in a way. I love these Kids so much and want more than anything to see them succeed in life and be so happy. They are such a great example to me, they can live without luxuries we have in America like fresh tap water, indoor plumbing, fresh air, instant heat, etc, but they can smile and be happy. It’s so crazy and these kids are incredible, and humble. So much has happened and don’t worry I have wrote everyday in my journal. I hope all is going well back at home and that it continues to be that way!! J

P.S.- Happy Thanksgiving Mom hope your B-day it was way great!!

Jordan Biesinger



Denali Hale


It has been four days of teaching in the schools. Everyday I wake up excited to go and see the children that I have had the opportunity of getting to know. They were so shy when we first got there; I wasn’t sure how I was supposed to get them to open up. It turned out that I didn’t need to do anything. Once they got to know us they transformed from shy, quiet children into the most energetic and fun kids. There is this one little boy named Rafi, he is so cute I couldn’t help but hug him from the second I saw him. He is five years old, and has the biggest brown eyes and the most amazing smile. Rafi was too shy to give me high fives for the first three days, but today, he finally held my hand. The whole school, which is about 41 children, played hot potato. Every so often I would look over at Rafi and catch him looking at me. I would smile and wave and he would get this huge grin on his face. Seeing him light up from just a little wave and a smile makes me so happy. I will never forget holding his little hand and seeing him smile at me. It is hard to describe the feeling I get when I help the kids. When past YMAD kids come back and say they would do anything for the kids they taught, you never realize how serious they are. I would do anything for the children I have come to know. They have helped transform me into a more patient and humble person. I love these kids with all my heart; they have truly changed my life.

Zippy Ford

PS. I miss you family and Max hope all is well!!

Susan Porter's team at the Sahoo School. Amazing View!

Derrick's Team at their village school.

YMAD with the Girls from Temple Ashram.

Raj, the man, the legend.

Here are pictures with Raj. He works for YMAD in India and sets up our expeditions in the North. He is amazing and works super hard for the children in India and your teens. We could not do what we do without him.

Let's hear it for the boys!

The eye's have it!

Dancing through life!


He's got them eating out of the palm of his hand.

Matt Turner

Changing Lives

Chloe Workman

Hangin with the little buddies!


She has got them memorized!


Thursday, November 24, 2011

Dark Muddy Water

It is difficult to express what an amazing experience we have had! The Sahoo school is nestled on a cliff . . . high on the mountains. Our teams consists of Denali, Cedar, Eli, Caleigh, Elise, Jacob and Emily. Each day we hike down to the school to teach 57 beautiful, smart, and energetic Indian children. Our drive to the school is about one hour from where we are staying. Even though I feel my life is at the hands of our driver . . . Lalou. He successfully negotiates the cliffs, cars and if you can imagine buses on the one lane roads. It is not unusual to have a herd of goats and sheep cause us to a complete stop for a few minutes. However, Lalou is a master with his horn ... as is every Indian driver through the entire town of chamba.
Our group decided yesterday to try a new experience while teaching the hygiene and health lessons. While the children come to school with a thin shirt and sweater ... their hair is combed perfectly. . .it is obvious that baths and washing comes at a premium if they can afford shampoo. Our group took on the challenge of wanting to wash hair with shampoo and conditioner, wash faces and ears. . . leaving each child feeling clean and fresh from the neck up! We went to the village to purchase pretty hair clips and colorful elastic so the each girl could have a hair clip to take home. The rain ponchos were a hit and we purchased a few towels to make sure that their bodies could stay dry in the cold and hair way dry. Our group even thought of using the one electric source to bring blow dryers so the children's heads would not get cold. Many of the kids have colds coming on with the winter approaching. The beautiful hand knit hats that we brought from the USA were place on each child's head. It has been the talk of the village. Cedar spearheaded the head washing. Needless to say each bucket that was filled up for washing was filled up with dark muddy water after each child had their hair cleaned. Raj, our interpreter, said that the parents my only be able to wash hair once every few months or so . . . that is why they are go grateful for us to do this act of love. Caleigh was on hair styling detail... Eli, Elise, Jacob and Denali were working on medical exams. Emily was in charge of dental hygiene! It was amazing how hard working our team was to get everything done.
Today we are taking the children into town to purchase a new pair of shoes and two pairs of socks. Each student will also receive a sweater that can help them stay warm through the harsh, cold winter months. It is cold and the kids are coughing with the thread bare clothing that they have. But despite all of the simple and basic needs they have . . . they are happy, inquisitive and most of all, incredibly gracious and full of gratitude for our presence and help.
This Thanksgiving. . . I am grateful for all of the parents of YMAD... for the incredible children you have raised, for shoes, for socks, for my health, and my American citizenship, which provides me a lifestyle of comfort and security. I am grateful for my children and husband, who have been supportive of me being away. I have had a life changing experience and know each one of your children are . . . truly making a difference in a country that ives with so little, and works so hard to sustain themselves every day. Happy Thanksgiving to all . . . and finally I want to give thans for finally getting the internet, which has not been available for days! India has been a fabulous life experience.

Susan Porter

In the Blink of an Eye

Each day as I wake up, I get to take a 20 minute ride through the mountains of Chamba. These mountains are like nothing I've ever seen before. They are so steep and treacherous but there is a certain majesty in their presence. Looking at them at night, you can't tell where the night sky starts and the mountain peaks end. Each mountain has thousands of people living on it and their thoughts of years of handiwork make for breath taking views. Terraced farms can be seen from all angles scaling the mountain peaks with the blots of vibrant color splashed on homes dotting the mountains. There is a green clear river running through he canyon. On the drive you look down to see it's clear waters and vicious rapids combine to form a breathtaking display of God's beauty on this earth. And just as you think it can't get any better you see the sweetness of God's creations running up the street to meet you. The first time I saw this it made it all worth it. All the time, all the sweat, all the money we had to earn, when you see the joy and love that the kids have for you and see Shaffis big brown eyes looking at me, it all went away in the blink of an eye.

Zach Johnson

Shuki Cooper Harris

Being in India has been surreal, life changing, amazing, powerful, humbling, eye opening, etc. India can't be described by a one word description or a phrase, just as the feeling that I have felt can't. Experiencing the beautiful country will be one which I will never forget and one that I will cherish forever. The children in the school I am visiting consist of 30 kids ranging from 4 years old to 10 years old and I can truthfully say that I love all of them. I can now say that I know why we must liken ourselves unto a child. These children are happy, innocent, humble and loving, and have the ability to warm anyone and everyone's hearts. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to serve these kids and help them live fulfilling lives. Mom, I want you to know that I am healthy and completely intact. I feel great and am having the time of my life, so stop worrying about me and go have fun. I love you and miss you, but I will be home soon enough.

S. Cooper Harris

I am getting dual citizenship!

I love India. I love the kids. I love the people. I love the food (except for the peppers that are so spicy that they make you cry). I love the atmosphere: the mountains, the colorful houses, and the roaming cows, dogs, and occasional MONKEYS. I love the extremely skinny roads and the crazy horns. I might even confess that I love the squatter toilets. I love Sahoo, the school I visit each day. I love it when the kids fight over who gets to hold my hand and it resolves to everyone clinging to my arms. I love it when the kids call me didi which means sister in Hindi. I love the Temple Ashram. I love playing tickle tag with the youngest girls. I love talking to the older ones. I love my twin Debali. I love the people I am surrounded by. I LOVE INDIA.

Denali Hale

Jenny Rouse

"So Close You Can See Their Souls"

This is one of my favorite quotes from one of the kids in my group.
You might think he was referring to a deep and meaningful connection between himself and beautiful the kids at Kalsui. But actually he was commenting on the teeth-clenching proximity between our vehicle and the large buses that inch past each other on narrow mountain roads and crowded city streets. In the city The drivers are eyeball to eyeball and could easily exchange a quick kiss without much of a stretch.

The school where we teach is about 25 minutes away from the NHPC. The children there are beautiful and intelligent. They are so very excited to see the YMAD kids arrive but at the same time they show such discipline and restraint when our group walks through the gate. Three children stand in front of 5 straight lines of their classmates
And lead them in morning prayer, chants that sound so sweet with all of their voices in unison. They never break form or even look our way until they are finished. Next they do an impressive amount of exercises. After this, it is our turn. The teens in our group are able to achieve a perfect mix of teaching and joyful fun with the kids (Zach, Chloe, Zippy, Matt Turner, Andrea and Caleb).

So much more to say but we are about to leave. Singing, teaching, painting and playing with the kids. Will try to write more soon. Love love love to Bill, Amanda, Adam, Andrew, Mom and Dad and everyone else! I miss you guys!

Celebrity Fame

Well I have finally had a little taste of the celebrity fame. Everywhere our group goes people stare at us as if we are aliens. I have never had so many people be intrigued by my dirty clothes and greasy hair. Although I get some interesting looks, the people and kids here are amazing. I have never felt so much love for kids I have only known for two days. They are brilliant in so many ways and although this may sound cliché, I feel I have already learned more from them than they will ever learn from me.

Working in the schools and orphanages has been a very eye opening experience. The school I work in is a tiny room filled with about forty kids. There is a short ceiling, dirty floors and spiders everywhere (ha my luck). Outside is a small front area where we teach the lessons, play games and eat lunch. Cows and sheep also live in this front area of the school…. It is a little unappetizing eating here while cows and sheep are wandering about. Although there is much chaos, none of this has seemed to bother me because of the relationships I have been building with my school kids and group members.

Akshay is an amazing little boy with a brilliant mind. He is the smartest in the school and has a smile that could warm anyone’s heart. Every morning Akshay leads the school kids in their prayer and exercises. On the second day of working in the school, Akshay became one of my forever-best friends. He was my helper during the lessons and always seemed to understand what I was saying even when my language was foreign to him. Although we don’t completely speak the same languages and live completely different lifestyles, we are able to connect and really get along. He is such an example to me through his polite and delightful attitudes.

I have been very humbled through my experience in India so far. Although there is a constant smell of burning garbage and human waste, curry for every meal, and cockroaches in my toilet I have loved every minute of this moment in my life. I have taken a lot of things in my life for granted and I am happy to have a wake up call for how good life is in America. I am so happy to have this opportunity and I am so grateful for the support I have had from my family and friends. I love you all so much and I am excited to see you all when I get home!

P.s. I would really appreciate a Rio Grande bean and cheese burrito with beans on the side when I get home....Cough Cough J

Andrea Webber