Rameswaram is an island 35 km long, just off the coast of India, connected to the mainland Tamil Nadu province by a 4km bridge. We partnered with BCM Ministries, an organization doing incredible work reaching out those who fall through the cracks of the caste system. We met girls who had been abandoned by their mothers at birth because poor Indian mothers cannot afford the dowries for their daughters. We met girls who had been left on the edge of railroad tracks as babies left to meet their fate by an oncoming train. These kids and many others will be the ones to benefit from the first sports court on the entire island of Rameswaram. The community was so thrilled with the court, they planned an enormous opening celebration complete with ribbon cutting, traditional dances, speeches, while 700 kids in addition to parents and other community members watched in anticipation. Once the ceremony was over, the kids stormed the court and began to shoot baskets. For most, if not all, it was their first time to dribble or shoot a basketball. When one of the kids made a shot, the other kids would burst into celebration, arms pumping into the sky. It was a sight we won’t forget for a long time.
The group we brought was made up of people primarily from Southwest Washington, with a family from Central Oregon as well as a family from Yorba Linda, California. Kevin Ryan, Courts for Kids board member, assembled the team, many from an organization called Christian Youth Theater in Vancouver, Washington. Below are some quotes that describe the impact this trip had on their lives.
The big take away for me was to see uniformed children and American teens working to push wheelbarrows of concrete together, crossing cultural, spiritual and generational boundaries.
Ultimately it was me who was blessed. With each smile and hug and small hand I held, tears welded in my eyes. These people have only known me for just a few days, some only hours and yet they love me and welcome me as family. This made my heart more full than it has ever felt.
The lasting mark we made with innumerable twist-ties, rebar and concrete will last a long time, but the individual ramifications of services and love given freely here on both sides are eternal and will live on in my heart and imagination for the rest of my life.