Have you ever met someone for just a short time and your life has changed dramatically?
Or have you met someone who is so committed to helping others and is willing to go half way around the world for a year to do just that?!
Well, this is a story about one such person, Bridget Ellery.
Over the years, many volunteers have visited Nirvana School in Pondicherry, South India, either to teach, help out with other projects or to just be with the kids. I am always looking for volunteers, so if you are interested, just get in touch with me.
My friend Bridget visited the school in January 2001, having first heard about the school after a chance 2-minute conversation with me at Baker St tube station, London, in September 2000. That chance meeting changed her life and that of many of the Nirvana School children.
Bridget is from New Zealand and when we met she was planning to go back home via South America, and was learning Latin Spanish at the time so as to be able to help as a volunteer for six months. But after hearing about Nirvana school, she decided instead to go home to New Zealand via India and visit Nirvana school. Her example of selfless service, contribution and commitment is an inspiration to all of us. Since her visit, many others have also followed in her footsteps.
Having spent almost a year at Nirvana school and also all around Pondicherry, Bridget sent an email to me in October 2001, outlining her unique experience. Here is what Bridget said all those years ago:-
“Hello there! I will just explain how it was when I arrived here in January and how it is now after 10 months. Wow! I cannot believe it has been that long when initially I remember saying that there is no way that I would stay more than four months!
So when I first arrived I could not get over the children… whether it was the initial impact of them all dressed beautifully in their uniforms… standing to attention as you walked into the room… running up to me and say good morning madam, and I am certain that during the first few days there every one of the 200 children had managed to run up in front of me and greet me good morning.
Even though their manners, smart presentation and their good English was all very impressive….but what really captured my heart was their big open eyes full of so much emotion and love… and I straightaway felt that these children have been through so much more than I could ever imagine or handle. Above all I felt that they were my teachers rather than the other way around and it still is that way, believe it or not!
I came to India with the dream and inspiration to help children but I quickly realised that there is nothing much for me to do except just to love them and that was very easy.
Besides the school being there to give them an education…it is a very special school because it really loves these children and that radiates through from the inspiration and love from Vinu massi and her family and all the many loving and kind hearts in England and all over the world… I believe in my heart that this is not just any organisation that we all are involved in.. And actually I don’t like to think of it as an organisation because it is not that at all.
It really is one big family…we are the parents in the west helping the children in the east and it is not because of pity … it is because of love…
I spent a lot of time with 7 children in the fifth standard. They were the first children to attend the school and I became very attached to them and when they left at the age of teen to further there education at a government school I saw them sad to leave this special school that they had spent their important younger years in. But I also saw them full of much confidence, enthusiasm and love and I knew that what this school had given them would be in their hearts forever… it had given them a sense of invincibility, a certain strength and confidence and hope that will always be with them, no matter what comes up against them along the way.
In the West, we are all busy striving to be the best we can …to push ourselves and to be always improving ourselves and the opportunities for doing this in the West are immense.
In the East, there is not so much this striving (though it is there in the big cities as globalisation becomes stronger and stronger) but in the villages of India, because of the mass population and poverty the scope for opportunities are far less as most families are mainly concerned with who will marry their children and how they will be looked after…In educating these children they begin to see a few more doors opened to them and it doesn’t really matter whether they choose to go through them or not as that decision is for them to make alone. Just to show them another door is a great thing and gives these children a great hope and a realization that things don’t necessarily have to be the way they are…
I would also like to say a little about the improvements I have seen in the school and it’s progress… which by the way are many, and it is progressing minute by minute, and it will continue for a long time yet I am sure as it is god’s work that is happening here…
What I really felt in my heart to share with you all is the inspiration and the love that I feel here and that is clearly coming directly from everyone that is helping these children that cannot be physically here in India.
This love from you all is just flowing like a river and getting stronger and stronger and it is really felt in the school and I see that it really is touching the hearts of the children and the families …not in an obvious way but a very subtle and powerful way.
So after being away from the school for a few months and now coming back I can really see that this river of love is growing and becoming more confident and stronger and it is very evident in all the children here and I know that it will continue on and on…
I also feel very sure in my hearts that all whom are brought here to contribute to this big family is of no coincidence at all and that there is a much deeper significance and meaning within it that is for each of us to discover and inquire into ourselves.
So I thank you all from the depth of my heart for all your love and generosity and for giving me the opportunity to be here and to help with the wonderful work that without you all would not be possible.
With all my love and happiness
Bridget (October 2001)
As I said, I would love to hear from you too if you are interested in getting involved and helping out in any way.
They are so beautiful in their neat costumes. I wish them all well from the bottom of my heart. Were I single and free, I would have jumped at this opportunity to go and be with them BUT….
They shall be in my prayers tonight.