The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission is a orphanage home for Children in North India. We have around 100 kids and give them the love, support and guidance they need to become great people. Mission is to care for the abandoned children of India and Nepal.
There is perhaps no word that conjures up more emotion than the word “mother.”
No matter what our backgrounds or beginnings, mothers shape our destiny and forge who we will become. In a very real sense, they are our first home. We are all knitted together in our mother’s womb and pushed into this world by a force she alone can channel.
For most of us, “mother” or some baby-babble equivalent is the first word we say. For good or for bad, we are tied to our mothers, even when that connection is just a distant dream.
Here at the GSAM, “Mother” means many things. For orphaned children, a mother’s love is often a construct, a gift from a collective group who steps in to fill the void. Just as “Family” is a fluid concept for us, the word “Mother” is equally as pliable.
And so, this Mother’s Day, we are dedicating this post to the powerful nurturing mothers on the Mission. Collectively, they act as a single force, working day in and day out to bring a mother’s love to life.
We must begin with our longest serving member and the oldest member of our staff: Auntie Violet. Though she never had children of her own, no one has had a longer or a wider mother’s impact than her. Over her 67 years of service, hundreds of boys have passed through her doors. Today at age 83, she continues to care for more than a dozen young boys in the Small Boys Hostel.
Crazy boy energy is the stuff Auntie Violet’s life has been made of.
Auntie Violet and her latest batch of boys.
But not all mothers care for children. Auntie Josie has worked in the dairy for more than 50 years, nurturing the ever-changing herd of cows that give us milk every day. An animal lover with a mother’s heart, Josie cries when her cows pass away and worries about them when they’re sick, proving to all of us that a mother’s love is just as strong, whether your child has two legs or four.
Spending sunset with a few of her younger children.
The herd definitely knows who is in charge.
Mothers shape us into the people we will become, and for this we are grateful. Saru has been Eugene’s mother for the past 40 years, helping him to be the man we depend on for so much here on the mission. In this way, mothers are the foundation that help to lift us up, the strong support we can lean on when life on the mission gets challenging.
Saru with her big boy, Eugene.
Since the very early GSAM days, Auntie Sonia has been a part of Mission life. Today, her daughter Joanne lives a few doors down, and Joanne’s daughter Kushi lives in Sonia’s house. Together, these powerful women raise their family, combining their motherly love to help raise the next generation.
Sonia and Joanne.
Kushi and Sonia.
Joanne deserves a metal for putting up with her son William.
Auntie Lucy has become our kitchen in-charge after growing up here on the mission. Lucy arrived at the farm when she was just three years old, and eventually married Benny, another child of the mission. Today, Lucy not only raises her son Amos and daughter Annette, but acts as a motherly force for the many older girls who learn from her cooking experience.
Amos and Lucy.
Lucy with some of her older girls.
For one more month, Katie will be the in-charge of our Nursery, and for the last ten years has been the mother at the center of a diverse collection of love that has helped raise our youngest children. On top of this, she has three children with her husband Anish, and one soon-to-be adopted daughter to care for. Luckily, there are dozens of satellite mothers always eager to carry, play with or nurture her kids, should she need a bit of a break…as all mothers do.
Katie with her youngest daughter Nessa.
With her collection of monkeys on the monkey bars.
Sohalia hit her head stepping into this shot. A mother’s job is never done.
Auntie Esther is the other consistent force in the Nursery, helping to guide and shape the next generation of mission kids. A child of the mission herself, Esther is married to Suresh and together they raise a family of five, focusing her boundless mother’s love on her youngest son, Micah, who is the last child living at home.
Esther with the nursery girls. They all call her “Mumma.”
When you give love you get love.
Esther and her son Micah who works at our school.
Being a mother takes patience and no mother’s job requires more patience than Priscilla. Blessed with three energetic, imaginative, rough and active boys, there is never a dull or a..
‘Parents Day’ at an orphanage sounds like it belongs in the definition of oxymoron; it just sounds impossible… but we assure you it is a real thing. You might wonder: what type of parents would give their child to an orphanage anyhow? What type of organization would split up a family? These are legitimate questions, and ones we are more than happy to answer for you this week.
Less than half of our kids have no living or known relatives, so for those who do have family we set aside special days twice a year in which they can visit, share a meal, some laughter and a whole lot of love. The program starts at lunch time as a steady stream of visitors enter our gates and join our kids out on the playground for the day. Our kids often group together by the office, looking out over the yard, desperate to see a familiar face.
For 11 year old Rampal the wait was unbearable, the possibilities of a visit from family seemed more and more unlikely as he watched the sun set across the sky. Finally, at the eleventh hour, his white bearded grandfather hobbled into sight. Rampal ran across the yard and launched himself into his grandfathers open arms, hugging him with all the strength he could muster. His grandfather, who was a regular on Parents Day, had missed his bus and had to find other transportation to the mission.
For others, like Roshni, Saloni, Shivani and Cynthia, their mothers visits were a pretty sure thing: as members of our local community Priscilla had traveled to their homes the previous day to ensure their presence.
However not everyone has family coming to visit. Even some who do are overlooked, forgotten or ignored by those they share blood with. Parents Day can be a reminder of abandonment or loss and while we make every effort to affirm our love to all our kids, while we give out snacks and treats to every child who has not visitors…it does not take away the pain. Many children sit waiting on the side-lines, holding on to hope as they look to the front gate for Uncles, Aunties or Parents who never arrive. It can truly be hard to endure.
Princess Diana said “Family is the most important thing in the world” –here on the mission we cultivate a culture that teaches that family is so much more than just who you share blood with. It is the people in your life who love you, who care for you. It is the ones who pick you up when you are hurt, the ones who hold your hand as you walk to school, the ones who you share breakfast with every single day.
Despite our different bloodlines, our different skin tones, our different religions and last names…we are a family. And family is what makes an orphanage like ours a home.
Under a blazing Indian sun, with hundreds of parents and students in attendance, with honored guests and longtime friends in town for the occasion, the ceremonial ribbon was cut, the doors were opened, and our beautiful new space was officially open for business.
There were songs and dances, speeches and prayers, and a celebration worthy of the effort that brought this project to fruition. For those of you who missed it, here are a few pictures from the day along with a speech made by our very own Kelly Bahadur, ex-head girl at the Maxton Stong School. Great job, Kelly!
Excerpts from Kelly’s Speech
“Today we are here to celebrate the opening of the Samartha Saxena Memorial Learning Resource Center, to thank those that made it possible, and to throw the doors open wide for the current students of the Maxton Strong School. Yet while we marvel at the beautiful new building and look back on the challenging road that brought it to life, I would like to look forward to the future and all the potential that this day and this new space represents.
Personally, I’ve always loved books. In fact, it was my great honor to write an article for National Geographic recently entitled “Sanctuary of Paper” which was my tribute to the small library we have at the Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission. As I have grown up, that small growing collection of books, many of which now reside here on our new library shelves, were my constant companions. If I was scared or lonely, bored or confused, I always could escape into a good story.
It’s like the great writer E.B. White, author of Charlotte’s Web, once wrote. He said, “A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your questions answered. Books are good company in sad times and happy times, because books are people. People who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.”
Kelly continued…” And that’s the real power that this new building represents. It’s so much more than a collection of books. As Carl Sagan, the great author and astronomer once wrote, ‘Books permit us to voyage through time, to tap the wisdom of our ancestors, to connect us to the greatest minds that ever were and inspire us to make our own contribution.’
This inspiration will be the real legacy of this building we dedicate here today. Not only are the students of the Maxton Strong School excited to use this new facility, but who knows what ideas, what dreams, what inspiration will be found within these walls. And not just with the current students, but with generations and generations of students to come. In this way, libraries represent so much more than a place to read. They are a place to grow.”
Those who have been following for a while now know that we have been working for the last year on constructing the Samartha Saxena Memorial Learning Resource Center. This new building will be a huge asset to our orphanages school campus. Contained within it’s walls is the largest library in our district, a computer lab and endless possibilities for our students.
We count ourselves incredibly blessed by the people who have made this building possible. We thank God for bringing each and every one into our lives, and while it would be impossible for us to list every person who has helped to make this happen we want to make special mention to the Samartha Saxena Foundation and CenturyLink India who provided the finances for the construction. The official opening for the building is just one week away. We are so proud of the way it has all come together, it is truly a great testament to the many loving hands who continually lift us up.
For many years now we have been collecting books for the library, some we have purchased ourselves but most have been generously donated by friends from around the world. We want to again thank Manjul and Alka Saxena from the Samartha Saxena Foundation as well as Mathias from Booklinks for their support. While there is still room for more, our shelves are certainly not empty. Thank you for making this happen.
The work is far from over on the new building. There is still much for us to do in the coming week. The final few pieces of furniture are..