Surface Earth is pleased to be a stop along the way of Ms. Shelley Seale’s virtual book tour.
Imagine for a moment, that you had a chance to be all who you are, not just all you could be and you seized that moment and never let it go. Perhaps then, you would know, what it is to step into not just Ms. Seale’s shoes, but the children, who continue to benefit from her love. Take a moment and reflect on this piece, a short quote from Ms. Seale’s book:
“Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
–Martin Luther King, Jr.
When have you become silent?
Can you even recall?
I wish I could, I wish I knew that moment so I could reverse it, I just know now, that it did occur and it stayed within me, my human being, but not within my soul. I read the words, the quote, Ms. Seale hand selected, Mr. King’s words: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent…”.
Begin to end?
Did we always have ourselves slated to end, is that how we became numb?
I can’t be numb any longer. I found Ms. Seale and her work by accident. I then stopped onto her site and was gifted with such charity of spirit, I will remain a fan from that day on.
Ms. Seale is a courageous humanitarian and author. She maintains a website: The Weight of Silence
She has been unrelenting in her efforts to spread the word on the plight of children in India who are homeless or orphaned for a variety of reasons. Her efforts are not exclusive to the children in Indian, her resume details her vast experience and efforts advocating for children also in the United States.
While we could extol her virtues for countless pages, we instead invite you to click on some of the links, read her works, read her blog, see the comments that are posted as she travelled on her journey and continues her journey.
Without further ado, Ms. Seale:
S.E.: How did you begin?
Shelley: I got involved with The Miracle Foundation locally here in Austin in 2004, volunteering for them and sponsoring a child. The Miracle Foundation is a nonprofit that raises money to support children’s homes in India – currently they have 5 homes and are supporting about 700 kids.
After a while Caroline Boudreaux, the organization’s founder, invited me to go to India with her, to meet the kids and work in the orphanage for a week. In March 2005, she and I and a group of about 10 other volunteers arrived for the first time in Choudwar, Orissa. It was such an amazing experience – these children who were beautiful and joyful and gave me complete unconditional love, for nothing more than just showing up. They all had difficult pasts, painful and tragic stories behind their smiling faces, and yet they have developed such a community of peace and sharing and family there. I had never been a part of anything like that.
S.E.: When did it become more than a thought and turn to action?
Shelley: When I began to realize that most of the hundred-plus children living in the orphanage were not there because they were orphans in the true sense of the work, because their parents had died. They had been largely orphaned by poverty – abandoned there or on the streets because their parents were too poor to feed them. I had trouble wrapping my head around that. I started learning the individual stories behind the faces and names, the issues such as child labor, trafficking, disease, gender and caste discrimination that had affected all these kids in ways that interwove together. I saw there was a much bigger picture to this than simple orphaning – and found out that there were 25 million other kids just like them, in just the same circumstances, all over India. They are invisible children because they are largely ignored and don’t have a voice in society or to the world at all. I starting thinking about writing this book, and then began an outline and structure to the book, in the hopes that I could tell their stories and help to give them a strong and powerful voice with which to make themselves heard.
S.E.: How could you tell others how to turn their thoughts to action?
Shelley: I always say to start small, and just do something. I think that often times we all get overwhelmed by the enormity of issues and problems facing humanity as a whole. It’s easy to feel powerless and give up before we even begin. I think that the first step is to really think about, and discover, what it is you are passionate about. It’s hard to stay involved and committed to a cause if you don’t have a true passion for it. For me it’s these children of India, but it doesn’t have to be that for everyone. If I could inspire someone to find their own passion and cause, I would feel rewarded. Figure that out – and then just start small. Maybe make a small donation or do a tiny bit of volunteer work. Even just signing a petition or letting others know about a cause or issue can make a big step. I have been constantly amazed and inspired by how much of a huge impact can be made by enough individuals just taking their own small actions. As Mother Theresa said – If you can’t feed a hundred, then feed just one.
S.E.: How, in these times, when we are all struggling, can we give back?
Shelley: There are plenty of ways. We may not all be able to contribute financially, and at different times such as these difficult economic times, we may be able to donate much less than usual, if at all. But money isn’t the only thing nonprofit organizations need. There are plenty of ways you can give your time by getting involved in supporting a cause through volunteer work – even from your own home. Be creative, and just give of yourself. It doesn’t have to be money. I think you might be amazed at how much comes back to you when you give.
S.E.: How do we not judge, but rather, contribute?
Shelley: I don’t think it’s the role of anyone to tell others how they should solve their own problems. For example, I have been very aware of being a foreigner writing about India and its problems. But my own culture has plenty of its own on which to focus, and so how can judgment come into play, morally? Most of the western world’s knowledge of India’s shortcomings is derived from western media and foreign development agencies, whose goal is often to please donors or people in power – in a word, outsiders. Not Indians themselves. Us outsiders, the humanitarian agencies and foreign aid programs, will always fall short in one important way. We do not and cannot know what is best for India. It is not a matter for us to come and instruct or order; for efforts undertaken in that way, no matter how well intentioned, will always fail in their arrogance. Foreigners rarely fully understand the society they think to “improve,” and the potential for imposing their own cultural bias can result in negative consequences for those whose lives they seek to change. We should come to listen, to learn, to assist where and when asked; and so the goal of this book is simply to allow us to hear what those voices have to say.
S.E.: All the best Shelley.
READ AN EXCERPT OF MS. SHELLEY SEALE’S BOOK: EXCERPT
JOIN THE VIRTUAL TOUR AND PASS ON AND ON AND ON, LET’S KEEP THE NUMBER OF CHILDREN HOMELESS AND ORPHANED FROM GROWING: PASS ON THE LIGHT