When Barbara Tickner signed up to travel to India last fall, she knew it’d be an eye-opening experience. What she didn’t know was, from the time she first stepped out of the airport, how powerfully transformative the trip would be for her.

Barbara was invited to join the trip by LPGM’s program director and a long-time friend, Mary Peterson. She had heard stories from Mary and other friends who had been to India, and was intrigued. “Even from people’s descriptions about going to India, you never really know what to expect until you get there,” she recently said. “The sights and sounds, the couple riding an elephant on their way to their wedding ceremony. My heart was in my throat so many times driving along, that I thought I’d never come out on the other side.”

Then Barbara met Manjumatha and Madhumitha, the two girls she sponsors who are the same ages as her granddaughters. Before visiting, Barbara had been emailing these girls, telling them about herself and explaining that they’d get to meet. Seven-year-old Manjumatha wrote back, describing how excited she was to sit on Barbara’s lap and kiss her cheeks.

Barbara and Manjumatha met each other and exchanged hugs when Barbara traveled to India last February, a powerfully transformative experience for all of them.

As she walked into their boarding homes and was greeted by hundreds of dancing and singing girls, it was the personal connection of her students that stood out. “Honestly, I felt like I was there with one of my grandchildren. It was the same love that I have for my own family.” At Siloam, when the girls struggled to pronounce “Barbara”, she offered the same pet name her own grandchildren use. Everywhere Barbara walked on campus she’d hear girls calling out “Mumsie! Mumsie!”

She was able to sit ad talk with both Manjumatha and eleven-year-old Madhumitha. She got to visit Manjumatha’s village home and meet her grandmother, describing the two dozen women in colorful saris who met them at the bus.

Barbara had started to build a relationship with these girls that can transform the boundaries between sponsors and students, rich and poor, American and India.

“To experience, in person, the world in which a sponsored child resides—to visit the families in the student’s home villages; meet the dedicated teachers in the boarding school classrooms; support all the loving caregivers of these children; immerse yourself in the culture with all its unique sights, sounds, tastes and smells—can only enhance and expand the deep emotional bond that you share with your student.”

Author Naomi Staruch

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