Leslie Canter is a long-time friend and Ambassador to the Miracle Foundation. In 2011, she traveled to India with her family to meet the children at Bethel orphanage. Today, Leslie continues to share her experience with friends and family, encouraging them to get involved and create their own miracles for orphans.
One of the greatest gifts my parents have given me is the opportunity to give of myself.
In 2011, my mom, brother, baby sister and I ventured outside of traditional tourist zones to visit one of the Miracle Foundation’s orphanages. A few hours outside of Chennai, the roads turned to dust and the air smelled like a mixture of tobacco and burning wood. It was incredibly hot. When we arrived in the village, it looked like most other towns we’d seen since arriving on the subcontinent: Cinder block shelters, brightly colored saris contrasting with brilliant blue tarps and open stalls filled with labels in a script I couldn’t read. Tuk tuks and Tata trucks honked and “beep beeped!” over the sound of the afternoon hubbub.
As we turned into Bethel orphanage, nuns in habits pulled open the gates while children danced around the sisters and sang songs of welcome. My family sat with our faces pressed against the van windows until Sister Lily, the head nun and our gracious host, whisked us away for a tour. Thrilled to meet a guest their age, some of the younger children at the home led my baby sister by the hand to show her their bunk beds. When we returned to the front porch and were seated, the children started to sing.
Their performance was beautiful. The girls wore saris in vibrant colors: Turquoise, magenta, gold. The boys wore their best pants and buttoned their tiny shirts to the top. When the children sang, the yard filled with joy. When they danced, the patio was transformed into the most wonderful stage.
All week we played with the children. I couldn’t keep up in a game of chase and my brother was pitiful at cricket. It was one of the most wonderful, fulfilling weeks of my life.
On our last day at Bethel, we said our sad goodbyes. As the van pulled out of the yard, the children chased the car, waving furiously and singing another song. We waved back, bumping along the rocky dirt drive, each of us feeling a little different than when we’d arrived. Each in our own ways, we’d been reminded that the love of a family is something special, and through the songs, dances and smiles of the children, we’d learned more about ours.
The experiences of traveling and giving alongside those we love bring us closer, and leave us profoundly changed. The trip with the Miracle Foundation provided my family the setting to learn, grow and give together.