Going Deep for Lasting Impact

Hands of Hope Blog

When it comes to international work, Hands of Hope’s philosophy is to go deep rather than wide, choosing to partner with a few organizations that are embedded in their communities doing excellent, long-term work. One of those partnerships was the impetus behind the most recent Faith in Deeds trip to India.

In February, six team members from Indiana traveled to India to visit a children’s home they have supported for many years. The home’s founders, Thomas and Dana, were proud to show the team the new facility that has been built since the last time they visited. The home sits on about fifteen acres of land and is working to become completely self-sustaining. It holds a fish pond and an enormous garden, along with chickens, guinea hens, sheep, and even a water buffalo mama and baby.

While the team was there, they helped plant fruit trees like papaya, mango, and coconut to begin cultivating a grove. The facility itself has three floors with beautifully organized residential areas for the children. It also has the capacity to be expanded to seven floors in the future, with a goal of adding a school right there on site.

The facility is only one part of the work, though. It is the people who really make the difference. Thomas and Dana have made caring for these children their life’s work. Thomas himself grew up in a poor area of India and spent time in a children’s home before being adopted to the United States. In his early twenties, he returned to India to reconnect with his roots. While he was there, he was presented with serious needs and he felt called to give back. He returned a few years later, now married to Dana, and together they started the children’s home to work with children from the community.

Their example is making a life-long impact. One of the home’s current staff members used to be a resident. After completing her university studies, she returned to work with the children. The Faith in Deeds team also met another former resident who lives nearby and is finishing up his mechanic’s certification. Ann Marie Bicknell, one of the Faith in Deeds team members, describes the work that Thomas and Dana and their staff are doing. “They not only give the kids safety and love and Jesus,” she says. “They follow through to help them find jobs and independence and a future.”

That kind of deep commitment to excellence and long-term follow through is what Hands of Hope wants to foster and encourage. That’s why the Faith In Deeds team members try to build a real relationship with Thomas and Dana and their children. The idea is to return many times, to come to know and support the work well. During their visit, the team worked to love on the staff and the children, playing games and doing crafts, serving food and spending time getting to know the area. “The children run down first thing in the morning, still in pajamas, put on robes and do morning meeting. Their faces light up, shouting ‘Aunty’ and wanting hugs. They get ready for school, then pass you on the way to school yelling ‘Aunty’ and ‘Uncle’ again.”

For Ann Marie, the joy of getting to know the children in person and seeing the beautiful work that is being done makes all the discomforts of international travel well worth it. Certainly there is poverty, suffering, and danger, but that is only part of the story. “India is a beautiful country with beautiful people. I would encourage anyone to go and see and do and be involved,” says Ann Marie. The privilege of walking alongside people like Thomas and Dana and experiencing life at their flourishing children’s home is an experience she will not forget.

~ Deb Dunlevy