I intended to write this story years ago! Both the title and the story were intriguing – Ramallama from Buruguwada!!! I’m not sure I’m spelling the name of the village correctly because I never wrote it down and it is NOT on a map. I know it’s there though because we traveled to it many times. It was one of my favorite journeys.
Years before I started Eternal Threads, I traveled to remote tribal villages in southern India with our Indian partners and friends. It was a long day leaving at 6 a.m. for a 4-5 hour drive and returning home very late at night. The only food along the way was the fantastic small bananas you get in India and cookies. Now you can get lots of imported goods in India, but not at that time. We boiled our drinking water.
We called Buruguwada the “tiger village.” All of the family huts had fences around them to keep the tigers from roaming through in the middle of the night. It was a beautiful, untouched part of India and the people were just as beautiful and untouched. Unfortunately, I never got to see a tiger!
On my first visit to India in 1988, my friend Anne Taylor and I decided to start a child sponsorship program to give children from villages like this one the opportunity to go to school. They were boarded in the family compound where our Indian friends lived and attended the school that they had started years before. We named the project, INDIA’S CHILD, and it is still being funded by the church we were attending in Lakewood, Colorado.
As time went on, I began to worry that these beautiful and untouched children might be influenced in negative ways by being brought to the “city.” Education was so important and their parents wanted it for them, but I questioned whether it was better than remaining in their own environment which I valued so very much.
Several years passed and during one of my visits I received the answers I was seeking. Our partners brought me up to date on Ramallama (the tallest girl in the picture above and as a young woman below.) When she returned to her village, she “scooped” up all the smaller children in the village and started her own school. She even started teaching the adults in the village to read, and she led the worship services for the Christians because she had learned how to do that while in the boarding school. She was only a teenager at the time. My Indian friend said to me, “You know, Linda, she is considered to be an elder of the village!” WOW, that statement stopped me dead in my tracks. Here was a young woman who was being elevated by male tribal leaders as someone who has brought value and worth to her community. This is what real equality should look like!
She was later hired by an organization as a health care worker in the area traveling by bicycle to visit remote villages. She has continued to find a way to serve those around her, but unfortunately her personal story had some disappointments. Her family arranged a marriage that was abusive which isn’t always the case, but can happen in arranged marriages. She is on her own now and due to her courageous spirit I’m sure her mission has stayed the same.
Ramalama’s journey wasn’t the exception for the children who came from villages like this. What I learned is that the children didn’t want to stay in the “city”. They longed to return to their villages, where many of them became teachers and civic leaders because of the opportunities they had been given. They were on their own amazing journeys!
Ramallama’s courage and spirit is something that I have witnessed many times in the years that followed. I look forward to telling more of their stories. Thanks for joining me on the journey, Linda