We drove for twelve hours before reaching Ongole. The roads wound through village after village, down paths and onto highways, and in the early hours of morning, we reached our destination. Ongole is bustling with activity even in its quietest moments — filled with street vendors, children, bicycles and animals. And on a small road out of town, is ICM’s school, where we lived during our stay.
Team India hailed from all different parts of the U.S., and we were all united in our utter confusion — we had no clue what was in store. In early 2015, we were Team Nepal, going to work in the streets of Kathmandu, until the earthquake destroyed most of the city, and wrecked the majority of the country of Nepal. In the few weeks before we left, our team was diverted to Hyderabad, India, where they redirected us to Ongole.
Our team was told in the rickety van, “when you work at CCDC, your one goal is to reach Ongole.” I thought this was clever. And sweet, because they knew their purpose. It was full of kindness and generosity towards children. Before we even entered into a center, I was already face-to-face with ICM’s love for the young ones of India, and love for their mission.
Arriving at the centers was the most solidifying experience of all. I was unsure, at first, of my role on the team and my role in the country. But sharing an afternoon with these children, as the sunset dimmed over the village and crept into midnight, changed everything. They are so full of life. They love to shout, and dance, and share everything they have.
I brought my polaroid camera along with me — it was a graduation present & I was keen on using it here. And if only I could describe the shrieks of joy when the children found out just what this thing does. Before I knew it, I was surrounded and mobbed by children — even the ones who initially shied away in a corner — all who were shouting, “me!!!! me!!!!”
Within minutes, I had run out of film. I loaded in another & away they went, snatching the camera from my hands and dancing with it around the room and out the doors. I didn’t see it for the rest of the night, but a girl named Bibi returned it before I crawled into the car to head back to the base. The film had been used up once again.
When I think of heaven, I think of people like Solomon, who keeps the grounds at the school base, sweeping and mopping on his hands and knees. This will always be my picture of good work on earth. I think of the children who are living beautiful and full lives, thanks to CCDC’s work. Materialistically, they may not have much, but in their hearts, most things are precious.
Before I left, a boy of about six tugged on my arm and asked me to follow him. It was nearing midnight by then, and most everyone had gone home. We went down a dirt path with no light to guide us, and into a house with no doors at the edge of the village. He took me into the room, all painted blue, and motioned towards his mat on the ground. We both fell to our knees on the stone floor and he flipped it over, showing me a hole that had been cut into the material. Inside the mat was a polaroid from that night, of all of his friends and me. I keep a copy of it in my wallet to this day.
Today, I am so happy to be a part of CCDC’s work in a long-term way. It seems difficult for us to clearly imagine the world in which these children live, when most of us come from a place that is far more comfortable than villages outside of Ongole. It is hard to imagine what our donations and prayers look like to CCDC on a daily basis. So if nothing else, remember what I was told a year ago: “our one goal is to reach Ongole.”
Share in this beautiful opportunity with us. Just like the widow’s mite, there is no offer that is too small.