Journal Entry

March 31st, 2004

Rishikesh, India

Volunteering at Ramana’s Garden Orphanage

I can’t sleep.

There’s a light inside my head that won’t stop flickering. It keeps me tossing and turning in search for the darkness that used to let me rest in peace.

The ideas that flash across my mind are the trailing sentences from conversations today…

The light flickers and I turn.

“…she can’t tell you how old she is because she doesn’t know. She’s new to our orphanage. She is a refugee from Nepal. Her father killed her mother and then prostituted the children. She was found stranded in their house in the woods. No one knows what happened to her brothers and sisters. We think that she might be nine years old…”

The light flickers and I toss.

“…we have to grow all our own vegetables here. We have no other choice. The vegetables grown by the Indian farmers are not safe to consume. When DDT pesticides were recognized as seriously poisonous and became illegal in the United States, no restrictions were put on the US manufactures on how to dispose of them. So they sold them to third world countries where there were no safety standards. The farmers here are completely uneducated as to the dangers of the pesticides. They only see that they work. They weren’t even properly informed on its need to be diluted. I’ve seen farmers take the amount that would normally be used on acres of land and sprinkle the deadly chemicals undiluted, directly onto their crops. The vegetables are poisonous. And these are the crops that are sold in the market.”

The light flickers and I open my eyes and stare blindly at the wall.

“…we used to move the children up to the mountains in May. But we had only one month of winter this year. The temperature has been steadily rising for years, but this is incredible. It’s only March and the kids are already sick from heat stroke and exhaustion. In combination with the pollution in the air, their skin literally boils. We have to move them up to the mountains as soon as possible. But without the winter, even the mountains are dry. Forest fires are already consuming it. And the great glaciers of the Himalayas are melting. They won’t be around much longer. Why? Because of global warming of course….”

The light flickers and I throw my sleeping bag over my head.

“….water is scarce and Coca Cola, Pepsi, Fanta and all the big soda manufactures are tapping majority shares of what’s left of ground water sources while the wells dry up and the people go thirsty…”

The light flickers and I sit up in bed.

“…one day twenty children, refugees from Nepal brought from across the border, just showed up on our doorstep. We don’t know their history. But what could we do? That’s when we became an orphanage…”

The light flickers and I put my hands over my face.

“…many of these children have one parent living, but they can’t live with them. Sometimes the father has killed the mother. But they don’t really have laws against that kind of thing here. And the Nepalese refugees are exploited. They are forced to take the harshest jobs — often of construction. The men cut concrete and bricks. The woman haul it on their heads. They work all daylight hours. They haven’t the time, resources or choice to care for these children….”

The light flickers on and off.

I toss and turn.

And finally, without the comfort of a lullaby, the lyrics of the song the children all sang together before going to bed begin to cycle through my head in more open-ended sentences…

How many times must a man look up — before he can see the sky?

And how many ears must one man have — before he can hear, he can cry?

How many deaths will it take till he knows — that too many people have died?

How many years can a mountain exist — before it is washed to the sea?

How many years can some people exist — before they’re allowed to be free?

How many times can a man turn his head — and pretend that he just doesn’t see?

The light flickers on and off.

I can’t close my eyes.

I can’t sleep.


If YOU would like to sponsor a child or otherwise help Ramana’s Garden Orphanage, you can find information on how to do so by going to:

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1 Comment

  1. Joe Patterson November 12, 2008 at 6:15 pm


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