Jan Seva, the school for some 200 impoverished Indian children, is a sign of hope and a chance for a better life among the slums and soot of the busy city of Kolkata. Upon arriving we were told that many of the 3 – 5 year-old children were abandoned or orphaned as babies due to physical deformities or mental challenges. Others were sent to the school as a means of catching up to other children and being able to later join them after 3 years of assistance during their time at Jan Seva. English, Bengali as well as other subjects are taught to the kids. Other children with physical conditions additionally find success and progress. Today we saw one girl (pictured above) who upon entering the school 2 years earlier was unable to walk, but today can make it from one side of the room to another. The progress that we witnessed is astonishing and admirable.
How apparent it is that Christ dwells in the hearts, the laughs, the giggles, and the smiles of these children. We entered the gymnasium where the young students were lined up with their finely pressed red school uniforms made by some of the faculty and mothers of Jan Seva, and we were inevitably engulfed in a tidal wave of hugs as the children greeted their new visitors. Although we 18 American foreigners were embraced with the high fives of small sticky hands, our smiles were perhaps bigger as we were able to encounter Christ in these innocent souls.
After a brief tour of the school, we spilt into several groups and entered the different classrooms to make arts and crafts. Some of us were reminded of childhood as we reentered the domain of the playground, while others shared the joy of music: guitars, drums, and voices with the small flabbergasted faces of our guiltless audience.
Ultimately, we were once again awestricken for we visited one of the homes of the students. The small, simple, perhaps 150 square foot room that was constructed of tarp, newspaper, and plywood that served as a dwelling for three, was greeted by us curious visitors. I realized how lucky we are to live in the United States and how often we take the gifts that we have been freely given for granted. This realization became more evident to me as we had been asked to sing our national anthem at the beginning of the assembly earlier today. As the 11 seminarians, 2 Priests, and the other Americans ended our patriotic hymn in harmony, a tear rolled down from my eye as I realized how providently lucky we are to live in the land of the free, to be Americans.
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