Compassion International

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For several months now, I have been working with Compassion International to arrange a visit to the child that I have been sponsoring for the past few years.  It is my hope that while working with the orphanages in India, I will be able to divert myself to the little town of Vijayawada to see the child I have sponsored.  Today, with a little pushing, I was finally able to receive my itinerary.

The processes to see my child was actually quite involved, and in my opinion, a little disorganized.  To lay it all out as I remember, I first called Compassion to inform them of the visit request.  I was told that I would need to provide them with at least 3 months notice, which I did.  At which point I was given yet another phone number to a voice mail message system, and I was instructed to leave my contact information there so that they could return my call again.

Once my call was returned, I was then instructed by both email and by phone to go to three different websites to pay application fees and to do background tests.  Once I submitted all my information, I was then instructed to go to some more websites and fill out some more information.  My applications were submitted, and summarily forgotten about after being told that they would get a hold of me later once they pass the information along to the Child Development Center in India.

Time passed and I received no response at all.  Further inquiries were made to the voice mail and email addresses (about one week before my initial departure) that I now had received a reply to, stating they would get back with me once they have contacted the center in India once… again…

This went around and around a few times with many delays until recently, where I was then instructed to log on to yet another website and to view the suggest itinerary as well as pay additional administration fees and agree to pay even more fees for when I arrive on-site.

I still have not been informed of a contact name or location, but have been assured that I would be picked up at my hotel at a certain time and location.  Of course, nobody seemed to notice yet that I hadn’t supplied them with the name and/nor address of any hotel just yet, but at least I was able to get an itinerary and cost layout for when I finally arrive.

With all the administration fees, application fees, background check, and even more administration fees, I believe I have paid approximately $200 or so for my visit so far; and now according to my itinerary, I will have an additional $143.58 to pay for meals and administration for when I arrive, and this also does not include any costs and fees associated with spending time with my Compassion child.

I still also need to arrange for train travel to reach my child in Vijayawada, to which I am having great difficulties doing primarily because the governmental website for the purchase of train travel tickets requires that I provide a cell phone number in order to register with their website, and that cell phone number is required to be a number listed in India.

I cannot find a travel agent that can get the train tickets for me so now I am trying to get things done through several friends I met online through Skype that live in India.  The problem is however, that since I have yet to receive my Itinerary for my work with Homes of Hope, I am unsure of the start location of my train trip, though I have ‘some’ reference that it may be in Hyderabad (which actually isn’t very far from Vijayawada).

I can honestly say that I have having a wonderful time in trying to wiggle through all this administration and red tape and wonder much about how things could be so much worse once I have arrived in India, as I have heard that the administration of the Indian Government is second-to-none in professional red-tape and political delay.

Below is the child I will be visiting in India, I believe this picture was taken near her home, perhaps even a back yard.  She has grown through the years into a lady now and is currently 18 years of age.  Her birthday is November 13th.  It is my understanding that Compassion will continue to sponsor the child until the early 20’s.

Alekya

My suggested Itinerary has been laid out below:

Date Location Description
04-Jul-2014 09:00:00 Hotel/Common place Host to pick up sponsor
04-Jul-2014 10:00:00 Project Reach project, welcome by child and project staff
04-Jul-2014 10:30:00 Project Project tour, child’s file, Q&A
04-Jul-2014 11:00:00 Child’s house Child’s house visit
04-Jul-2014 12:00:00 Project Fellowship lunch with child, parent, host
04-Jul-2014 13:00:00 VMC DIsney Land Travel to nearby Disney Land
04-Jul-2014 18:00:00 Project Bid farewell
04-Jul-2014 19:00:00 Hotel/common place Host to drop sponsor back at the hotel

 

Believe it or not, there really does appear to be a Disneyland park in the small town of Vijayawada.  This park might actually be the reason why I had to pay such higher-than-usual rates when looking for a hotel.  In larger towns, I was able to find hotels for as little as $40, for a 4-star rated hotel, and as little as $10 for less than that.  Some of my research even found hotel rooms (with a curtain for a door, not kidding) for as little as $3 / day, but without air conditioning nor a personal bathroom (probably no TV nor WiFi either).  In Vijayawada however, I was not able to find anything online for less than $30 / day, and that was with hotels with very bad ratings.

Below, I was able to find pictures of several Hostels in Vijayawada that I ended up deciding to NOT go to.  It is my understanding that the Hostels of this area are primarily used by temporary seasonal workers.

Hostel_1 Hostel_2

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The Mission; The Calling

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Para usar el traductor de Google y ver esta página en español, haga clic aquí.

I had long since wished to visit India.  It’s culture and traditions being amongst the world’s oldest, and for me it always seemed so difficult to understand from my Western perspective.  So when I felt led to perform missionary work, India was at the top of my list to look into.  I wished to learn about India, it’s people, and it’s culture.

Though my inspirations to travel to India date back much further, I would say that my journey on this trip began some time around two years ago.  I had been doing work in a prison ministry for some time and felt that it was time to expand my work in the field.  Having been a Christian for over 25 years, the teachings of Christ came to mind time and again, especially his teachings in Matthew 25:31-46 where he spoke of the last days and of judgment.  He spoke of those he rewarded for having fed him, visited him when he was sick, and visited him when he was in prison.  At that, I often began to wonder often if I had done my work in Christ as well.  How many of us have actually visited someone in prison?  Invited someone into the home that was in need of a home?  Fed someone who needed to be fed?  I’m not talking about donating food or money to charity, but actually digging in and doing the work.

So, when I started working at a public school it seemed to be a window of opportunity.  The circumstances of my working at the school were interesting to start (and an entirely different story), but not so much as the fact that there seemed to be an enormous opportunity to do other things during the summertime when most of the staff and students were away.  So, right after my first summer at the school and right before the renewing of contracts, I expressed my desire and plans to do work in India for a time.  I informed them that though I was interested in signing on for another year, that I asked them to also keep in mind that I wished to step away for a time to do work in the missionary field.  The response seemed favorable and encouraging.  The director of the school, also being a professed Christian, expressed some interest in my desires to do work in this field.  My contract was signed and I was to stay on for another year.

However, as often happens in life, circumstances changed and plans were changed accordingly.  For one, I ended up in a car accident.  The accident wasn’t serious, but it did divert some of my personal funds toward getting another vehicle.  Also, there was a big change in the leadership at our school and many decisions of change were taking place as a result.  Still, I kept looking for the opportunity and the calling for the work I would do while in India.

Some time in January, I got the notion that I was to somehow work with children in India.  I had already inquired around to several churches and organizations about the opportunities of missionary field work and several opportunities did present themselves, but none really seemed like the calling that I was meant to do.  I had been sponsoring a child in India for several years through Compassion and the idea to look her up and visit her came right about the same time that I had been looking for missionary field work.  Through my inquiries between the two, I came up with the website to an orphanage organization named the Homes of Hope.

At the website for the Homes of Hope was a link calling for volunteers to work at the several orphanages throughout India.  There was also a map which indicated the locations of several of their orphanages, one of which was quite close to the home of my sponsored child.  I sent an inquiry about the possibility of doing work for them and no answer came, at first…

After waiting for a few days, I contacted the director of the Homes of Hope to ask about my application.  He informed me that he had seen the application but had some reservation about it because his orphanages were entirely for girls and were all ran by women, and as such they usually try to find other women to work with.  However, he said, he recognized a useful skill set in my experience and work with computers and felt that there was opportunity to overlook my gender in light of the experience that I could bring to the orphanages.  Working with orphan children in the field of my expertise sounded so much like the calling that I was meant for and a renewed hope starting building in me that I would do something I had so much set my heart into doing.

The next day, I made a re-inquirement with the school that I worked for in regards to the possibility of my leaving for a short period of time to do work abroad.  I had continued to mention it from time to time in meetings and in conversation, but as time was getting close I wanted to reaffirm my desire to leave for a while.  A few days later, an answer came back to me.  I was told that the new director of the school had made changes to the summer schedule.  He had changed the schedule so that people could have their days off, but still had to work during the entire summer…  a schedule of 3 days per week, every week, until school started again.

The new schedule change was very much different than that from last year where it pretty much had allowed for people to make their own summer schedule, with days off accordingly, so long as they kept everyone informed of what their schedule was.  The surprise of the change and it’s incompatibility toward what I was wanting to do made me wonder whether or not I was actually meant to go or not.  I remember also that the news of this change came to me on a Friday, as I had the entire weekend to ponder this new development.

Come Monday however, my day was very much brightened when I received a call from the director of the Homes of Hope.  He had informed me that he had spoken with his team regarding my desire to work with them and that it had been expressed to him that they felt that my calling very closely coincided with a project that they were working on and that my coming into the project at this time may actually be God provided.  Whoa….   what an honor!  I was reminded of my work with Mission Medical Clinic a few years back when I helped them to get their servers and network running.  The director there had once told me a story about how God had often met her needs before she even knew that she had the need.

I was renewed in my sense of whether or not I was supposed to go, as the director shared with me the details of the project and the work that they had planned for me.  THIS definitely appeared to be the niche of my calling.  I was told that the Indian education system works primarily in ‘memorization’ of facts rather than the use of critical thinking skills.  Many Indians leave the school system with a familiar knowledge of fact, but without the skills needed to think it through.  The new project that they had planned would address this exact issue.

A new educational curriculum was being designed to address the important factors of critical thinking when it came to educating the orphan children.  It was to be designed and placed on a website in an orderly fashion to such that would allow all the orphanages access to the materials simultaneously as needed.  However, there were many factors that needed to be addressed to make this work.

Aside from the occasional consultation on how to digitally organize its dissemination to the orphanages, there were also the factors that many of the orphanages were lacking in the infrastructure necessary to reliably access the information.  I was told of stories about how many of the classes and computer labs were usually two-students-per-computer or more, and about how the electricity in such areas was often unreliable.  All this appeared to be EXACTLY the type of things that I have worked with in the past, especially and including the notion of having set up reliable computer networks for remote regions that were often off-the-grid.

With a renewed enthusiasm and reassurance toward the direction that I was to take, I approached the school I was working at once more about my plans and began to negotiate with them about exactly how I could work to provide my services to both the school as well as to the Homes of Hope.  I was nervous about my meeting with the director of the school as I did not know how he would react toward my approaching him a second time for something I had already requested and been denied, but I was encouraged by the fact that I knew that all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose, and that anyone who has ever sacrificed or lost anything for the namesake of Christ would receive much more in return.  In my opinion, the negotiations went well under the circumstances as he began to work with me in a positive way which would allow me to finish my 210 day contract with them in time to do my work in India.

My first day in India is scheduled for June 24th, and my flight is set to arrive in Bangalore, India at 11:15 am.  According to my preliminary research, I will need to bring three passport photos and go through a waiting period of 3 days before I will be allowed to activate the sim card (and internet) on my cell phone, at which point I should begin further documenting the experiences of my travels and the work done in India.

I will be arriving in India during the rainy season, the average temperature is expected to be around 90 F.