The Weight of Silence:Invisible Children of India

Ms. Shelley Seale, a humanitarian and now guest blogger, shares with us a moving piece on the price and plight of innocence. It is a piece born from the heart. As you approach the end of Ms. Seale’s narrative, she also graciously shares with us general statistics on the day to day societal warfare waged knowingly against children. May peace be with you as you share your moments with Ms. Seale and pass on her moving piece, information and website to all that you know.

With no further introduction…

“The plane started its final descent, and my heart began to race. It was March of 2005, and I had been traveling halfway around the world for nearly two days to volunteer in an orphanage in northeast India, with the Austin-based nonprofit The Miracle Foundation. I had been sponsoring a child who lived there but had never visited the country before, and my stomach tightened as the plane touched down and I waited impatiently for the exit doors to open.

I had never expected to be in India. It wasn’t the exotic beauty that had drawn me. It wasn’t the storied, ancient history of the country or its rich and varied culture. It was not the colors or the spices or the sounds or the spirituality of the place. India is all of these things, to be sure; but they were not what pulled me close, made the place somehow a part of my soul before I had even arrived.
It was the children.

They are everywhere. They fill the streets, the railway stations, the shanty villages. Some scrounge through trash for newspapers, rags or anything they can sell at traffic intersections. Others, often as young as two or three years old, beg. Many of them are homeless, overflowing the orphanages and other institutional homes to live on the streets. Amidst the growing prosperity of India, there is an entire generation of parentless children growing up, often forced into child labor and prostitution – more than twenty-five million in all. They are invisible children, their plight virtually unnoticed by the world, their voices silenced.

And in the small town outside Cuttack, a hundred miles south of Calcutta, one man named Damodar Sahoo had dedicated his life to providing some sort of family for one hundred of these children, assisted by donations and volunteers from the United States. I had no way of knowing just how much they would change my life.
Eleven dazed Americans emerged into piercing sunlight and walked across the tarmac to the small terminal. As we entered Caroline Boudreaux, founder of The Miracle Foundation, was immediately spotted by Damodar – known to all simply as “Papa.” He pulled Caroline into a hug across the metal bars separating the passengers from those waiting for them. He lifted his large, thick 1980s style glasses from the bridge of his nose and dabbed at his eyes with a handkerchief, overcome with joy at seeing his American “daughter” again and the group she had brought along to visit the children he cared for. Alongside him were his wife, two women who worked at the orphanage, and three of the children. As we showed our passports and entered the gate, one by one, the little girls handed us each a bouquet of flowers, kissing their fingers and bending down to touch our feet in a blessing.

The visitors and our luggage were crammed into vehicles and we zoomed down the main road, which was dirt peppered with potholes, narrowly missing bicycles, pedestrians, cows and rickshaws. India was everything I had imagined it would be – only more so. More colors, more noises, more smells, more people, more everything. It was an assault on all the senses at once: The throngs of people, the muddy dirt roads, the constant beep-beep of the horns. The deteriorating buildings, the ragged street vendors, the ramshackle homes for which hut was too grandiose a term. The wonderful and the abject co-existed side by side, for the most part peacefully. There was what everyone, myself included, expected – poverty, ugliness, despair, filth.

But there was also much beauty, in the midst of it all. The warmth and shyness of the people, the colorful saris, the upscale shops next to the vendors, the swaying trees surrounding it all. I was enchanted by a brief glimpse into an ornate Hindu temple, candles glowing and people bowing their heads to the ground in prayer. Beauty was not its own thing to be separated out, sanitized, and kept apart for its own sake. The true measure of beauty lay in its imperfections; to see it, one must embrace it all. India immediately wrapped itself around me and refused to let go.

And in the children beauty seemed to come alive, almost making me believe it was a living entity I could capture in my hands.
Without warning, we lurched around a village corner and turned into the orphanage entrance. In a second the cars had stopped and a hundred children lined around in a semi-circle, waving and chanting "welcome" over and over. I opened the car door and they were all around me, touching my feet in blessing. The children were shy at first, obviously excited but reticent. One little girl, about seven years old, summoned her courage and touched my arm, then grasped my hand. "Hello," she said softly, looking up at me and just as quickly dropping her eyes, giggling. As soon as she did this, the crowd of surrounding children shed their reserve and instantly moved in closer, putting their hands out for me to shake. There was a never-ending supply of hands raised in front of me and I shook them over and over.
I was overwhelmed and unsure what to do, blindly following behind Papa and Caroline as they moved into the ashram. It was almost surreal, and happening so quickly. I didn’t have time to look around or get any sense of where I was in the darkness. There were just the children, all around, and my feet moving forward until we arrived in a courtyard. The children, as one, left our sides and began climbing a staircase in an orderly fashion. We followed with the dozen staff members, removing our shoes at the top of the stairs and entering the prayer room.

The children were already lined up and sitting on rugs on the floor, boys on one side and girls on the other, ages progressively going up toward the back with older kids sitting behind younger. I was handed a small bouquet of red roses and marigolds, and led to a spot on the mats. At the front of the room was an altar holding flowers, small trinkets of devotion, a picture of the guru Sai Baba and a statue of Vishnu, an ancient Hindu god. Tacked to the walls on all sides were pictures of other Hindu gods – Ganesh and Krishna – as well as Jesus, Mary, Mother Theresa and Mohammed. Ceiling fans whirred overhead to stir up the warm air. A staff member lit incense at the altar while another blew a horn softly. The children sat up straighter and ceased any fidgeting or whispering.

Then the prayers began. It started with a simple chant: "Om….om..," the small voices resonating deeply. The chanting gave way to a song, a hundred sweet voices dancing in the air and filling the room. Beside me on the rug sat one of the smallest girls, with glossy black curls and deep dimples. She was sitting lotus-style with her middle fingers and thumbs pressed together on the knees of her yellow and green flowered dress, eyes squinted tightly shut in concentration. Her strong, clear singing distinctly carried to my ears apart from the others. The voice of this three year old rising so pure and true was one of the most powerful sounds I had ever heard.

Soon the singing faded into silence and Papa prayed. He said there were many religions represented and respected in the ashram. “Here, there are Hindus, Christians, Buddhists and Muslims. We pray,” Papa said, “to God and Allah and Jesus and Mohammed. The meaning of life is to love all. The purpose of life is to serve all.”

It was a simple prayer, reminding me that life need not be complicated unless we made it so. A soothing peace palpable in the air filled me, and I breathed out deeply. The past forty hours of travel and little sleep fell away as if they were nothing. There seemed no other world outside this place. As Papa spoke my eyes traveled over the faces all around me. I wondered when each of them had stopped wanting to go home, or if they ever had. As much of a loving community as the ashram seemed, it was not the family that most of the children had once known, distant and ghostly memories for the most part.

Home is a fragile concept – far more delicate than those of us who have always had one can imagine. When a person no longer has a home, when his family is taken from him and he is deprived of everything that was home, then after a while wherever he is becomes home. Slowly, the pieces of memory fade, until this strange new place is not strange anymore; it becomes harder to recall the past life, a long ago family, until one day he realizes he is home.

Post Script: Excerpts provided by Ms. Seal

What to know:
More than 25 million Indian children currently live without homes or families – in orphanages or on the streets, where they are extremely vulnerable to abuse, disease, and being trafficked into labor or the sex trade.
Another 4 million children join their ranks each year.
India is home to the most AIDS orphans of any country in the world – approaching 2 million, and expected to double over the next five years.
By some estimates, as many as 100 million child laborers work in India.
Hundreds of thousands of Indian children go missing each year, kidnapped or trafficked – and three out of four of those are never found.
A poor child in India is three times as likely to die before his fifth birthday as a rich child.
More than two million children themselves die every year from preventable infections for which education and medicine are lacking.
One of every three of the world’s malnourished children lives in India.
Fifty percent of childhood deaths there are attributable to malnutrition or starvation.

How you can help:
The first step is awareness – thank you for reading this article and for caring. You can sponsor a child at Miracle Foundation.
You can make a donation at UNICEF, the leading champion for children worldwide. Be a conscious shopper. Is it really worth getting something a few dollars cheaper if it is made by slave labor or children? Check out The Better World Shopping Guide. You can take action by signing petitions and/or financially supporting organizations that are working worldwide to end child labor. Some of them are: | |

Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness

I watched Fox News this morning while getting ready for the day, and first my eye was caught by the spectator jumping over the barrier to jump into the Popemobile and I was astonished that the Pope did not even appear to notice the commotion all around him, is that what they calling being in a state of grace?

A few moments later, I see another story, about a young 18 year girl abducted after shopping in Target in Kansas. The story on Fox News gives us a chilling video replay of this young girl who walked into Target like millions of people do day after day. She went to run an errand and then she didn’t come home.

I became so enraged. I am still enraged.

What gives anyone the right to take away another human being’s right to life and liberty and the pursuit of happiness?

“Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is one of the most famous phrases in the United States Declaration of Independence. These three aspects are listed among the “unalienable rights” of man.


Unalienable rights. Seems so simple, so direct, and our Society just can’t get it straight after all of these years.

I will pray for this family and wonder as I do, how many other families are facing similar horrors? Why is there not an answer? Why is there not some way to prevent this? Is it something we miss in the developmental stages, something that could be adjusted? Is it a byproduct of the way we live? I read about the collective consciousness theories, practices, the heralding of the Golden Age returned. I wish it would occur today, right this minute.

Madeline, Little Lost Girl, Portugal

Update:  June 13, 2007: News

Updated: May 29, 2007

Bring Madeleine Home

Because I can’t possibly say it any better, because I am a mother that would lose her breath rather than losing one of her own, or in the tragic event, that the world would deal me those cards, I quote from what I found tonight, because they say it better…

Update: May 15th: CNN

Question: have we forgotten how to pray correctly? I understand why some people lose faith.

Abducted Children

Updated thoughts from virtual earth:

I’m searching for new news, it’s not the media I’m finding, it’s blogs…

Quaequam Blog

May 11, 2007:

The original post follows below as well as the compassionate comments of readers praying, hoping and wishing for the return of this young girl to her family. In the meantime, for those of you still hoping, wishing and thinking of the truly unfortunate calamity that blindsided this family, I have provided more recent news at the top. For those looking for further background or the original post information, scroll down………… reports:

Police stress ‘no suspicions’ on McCann family.

Police searching for missing three-year-old Madeleine McCann tonight confirmed that family members and friends had been interviewed again today, but emphasised: “There are no suspicions upon them.”

In a statement the police also confirmed that CCTV images had been collected in several locations and have been looked at to check possible leads.

The statement issued by Chief Inspector Olegario Sousa said that there had been no arrests either in Portugal or abroad.

The statement added that ‘countless’ hypotheses flowing out of information which has arrived into the PJ each day continued to be checked.

It said that the searches were continuing with around 150 people involved each day.

It added that more than 200 kilometres square had now been searched more than once.”.

There are many differences of opinion. I found yet another right now on More A Way of Life who of course raises a question in many of our minds whether we want it to be present, it was the parents’ fault somehow, yes? The author raises a pertinent analogy, suppose something had happened to the family’s children because there was a fire in the hotel and no parent was present to assist? The author of More A Way of Life points out in that case the parents would be hounded by the media and/or charged with negligence. In our society, this point is a valid one. Here though, it is apparent, there is someone else to blame so it does not seem the media will go in that direction.

I wonder at the sliding scale of morality. It’s ok for me to stand at the edge of the yard, 50 yards from my front door, another 20 from where my child lies napping…how do I know someone has not come in the back window or door? (Yes, this depsite the fact that most likely they would all be locked as precaution). Suppose something happened, would I be negligent?

In my heart I would, if something happens to our child, we always feel at fault to some degree. Another child taunts them, our child cries, we didn’t teach them to be more socially acceptable or to be stronger not to be hurt by the words, etc.

A very light example, but viable…….where do the shades of morality begin and end?

I simply have no desire to judge this family, believing that positive thinking and prayer hold greater strength than negativity, gossip and judgment. And yes, I say this realizing many millions of prayers remain unanswered to our knowledge day in and day out. But some do get answered, maybe this one could too.


Unusually quiet today, I found there was little I wanted to type or say.

Taking a break from work, I checked out a horoscope site I like, Jonathan Cainer’s site, and saw a picture of a young girl, but quickly clicked away to my horoscope. I barely read my horoscope when I felt compelled to click back to the girl. This is what I found, that I didn’t know, that many of you probably do…a young girl was abducted while on a family holiday in Portugal. Her eyes from the photograph on this site are haunting me.

There is so much atrocity in the world, but I cannot begin to imagine, someone else taking your child.

Just today, I cut out the protective corners around the updated photos of my children to use in the event of abduction, complimentary snapshots with information as to what to do in the event of abduction, provided by the schools. I looked at my children in those photos and saw their beauty and wondered at the sickness in the world that would want to do anything but let them live unspoiled with their families.

The man who runs the horoscope site said that maybe when all else fails, (paraphrased), prayers can work.

I’m praying then, I am praying, this beautiful child is returned unharmed.

Madeleine McCann, abducted on holiday in Portugal

Like every other parent on the planet, I am deeply concerned about poor little Madeleine. I have been making astrological inquiries this weekend. So far, the charts confirm much of what already seems to be known but reveal little new that might be of use. I usually find that, when a horoscope appears unhelpful, it is because it relates to a situation that can turn on a sixpence in an instant. Whenever we face such circumstances, we also enter a realm where prayers and positive wishes can make a big difference. I’m sending all my love to all involved.”

Source above, Jon Cainer’s horoscope.

BBC Reports:


Toddler ‘abducted’ during holiday

Madeleine McCann

Madeleine disappeared while her parents were at a nearby restaurant

Sniffer dogs have been brought in to help search for a three-year-old from Britain who may have been abducted on holiday with her family in Portugal. Madeleine McCann’s parents, from Leicestershire, were at a restaurant near the Mark Warner Ocean Summer Club in Praia da Luz when she went missing.

Kate and Gerry McCann returned at about 2145 GMT to find an empty bed and the apartment door and window wide open.

The apartment has been cordoned off and local people are helping with a search.

‘Devoted family’

Gill Renwick, a friend of the family, said Madeleine’s parents – both doctors – had been having a meal in a tapas restaurant a few hundred yards from the apartment and had been checking on the little girl and her younger brother and sister (two-year-old twins) every half hour.

“They’re a devoted family and love their children to bits. They live for their children.”

Madeleine was reported missing at about 2200 BST on Thursday and tourists joined the police in an all-night search.

McCann family

The McCann family had been holidaying with a larger group

Her aunt Trish Cameron, who lives in Glasgow, said she felt certain her niece had been abducted.

“They last checked at half past nine and they were all sound asleep, sleeping, windows shut, shutters shut.

“Kate went back at 10 o’clock to check. The front door was lying open, the window had been tampered with, the shutters had been jemmied open or whatever you call it and Madeleine was missing…

“She’s an absolutely beautiful, wee blonde girl, blue-green eyes – one distinguishing feature is that one of her pupils runs into the iris of her right eyes. She’s an absolutely gorgeous wee girl.”

She added: “We feel that what’s been going on in Portugal has been ineffectual.

“My brother and sister-in-law are absolutely distraught.”

But the manager of the Mark Warner resort in Portugal, John Hill, said about 60 staff and guests at the complex had searched until 0430 GMT while police notified border police, Spanish police and airports.

Officers sealed off the area of the apartment for forensic checks and extra police teams were brought in from Lisbon.

‘Sensitive case’

“As you can imagine Madeleine’s parents are distraught and not doing very well at all,” Mr Hill said.

“It’s still questionable as to whether it’s abduction,” he said.

“We are hoping that Madeleine is found as soon as possible and safe and well.”

Map of Praia da Luz

The holiday firm has offered to fly other family members out to the resort.

A spokeswoman from the Portuguese police said they were being careful with the information being released.

“It is a sensitive case, it involves a child and we cannot give more information for now.”

The British Embassy confirmed it had been informed about the toddler’s disappearance.

The family was on holiday with a group of nine adults and eight children.

The toddler’s father is a consultant cardiologist at Leicester’s Glenfield Hospital.

Doug Skehan, another consultant cardiologist there, said: “(Dr McGann) is a popular hard working colleague, for whom we have great affection.

“The mood in the hospital is one of great concern and we hope that Kate and Gerry will have their daughter back very soon.”

Many of you out there, may say, what were you thinking? I wouldn’t leave my kid ten feet away, let alone a “few hundred yards”, but that would be beyond the point, right now, wouldn’t it?

Another report from Reuters states the couple were 50 meters away and there were signs of a forced entry into where they young girl and her twin siblings were sleeping.

I can believe, I cannot believe, I can read scientific studies, only some mind you, that refute the power of prayer. Right now I’m thinking, it’s worth a shot, why not pray with us?

Further resources:


The Observer


BBC News: May 6, 2007


NZ Herald


May 7, 2007:


United Press International: The Washington Times

News Monsters & Critics

News Monsters & Critics, additional article




The more I read the less I can post, as much as I wanted to give you further updates.


Is there one certifiable psychic out there that can track this girl and get her back to her family?

Page two of today, May 7th’s Reuter’s article, contains a link to a video of the prayers that the family joined in with thousands of others praying with them. If you watch the video, use the deepest part of yourself to pray along.


May 8th:


May 9th: Journals UK: Even More Unpopular Views


The author of the post above has written what I wanted to but could not articulate. Haven’t many of us parents and/or sitters done what the McGann family has done? Been lulled into a false sense of security…and yes, I recognize many of you may say…what false sense of security…they simply didn’t care. I have to be honest, I’m not much interested in exploring that position, I prefer to believe that this family did in fact love its children and did feel it was safe to leave them sleeping 50 or 100 yards away.


Does it matter whether I as a parent would have done it or not?




I believe as the author above in the link provided stated, that there are many ways, conscious or not, where many of us, could have been victims of fate. A stroller next to us; yet, absorbed by the cell phone conversation; a resistant weed bed in the ground, believing we were safe in the garden or yard with our beautiful child “not far” from us….the examples would exhaust me to provide. For any of those out there that wish to condemn these parents, search yourselves with the best part of you and see….could it have been you, but under “slightly” different circumstances?


Convert that judgment to prayers or warm wishes or hope for this little girl and her family, and let that same energy embrace all others similarly afflicted.