It's not a bad odd. Just that when I think of the radical differences in the economies of scale between where I was and where I am, I'm given pause. I just spent the equivalent of 800 rupees on a sandwich and a pot of tea that would have cost, at most, half that in the most expensive restaurant in Dharamsala and even less in Bihar. I'm astonished at what the dollar buys and how far it goes and then, I'm more amazed at what it does in a developing country.
I'm grateful for the Clean Air Act and the EPA, but I miss the smells and the assault on the senses of India. I'm not sure I've gotten used to sidewalks or orderly automotive traffic. The lack of horns constantly blowing is something I didn't think I'd miss. Now I'm not so sure.
The absence of garbage is wonderful, the general cleanliness of the states is, of course, welcome, but I miss the mountains and the plains and the accessibility of a temple or a monastery to just go to for a moment of quiet or reflection.
I'm not done with India. In fact, I feel as though something has just begun that may involve the rest of my life and one part of this is found in this post. My friend Bob Publicover contacted me about wanting to make a donation to the LBWF's school in Choraha and I quickly moved to get in touch with Mahendra and Kapil, the director and secretary of the foundation. I am determined that, on this side of the Atlantic, I will continue to find funding for them, but more importantly, that I'm going to continue assisting them in developing their donor base in-country.
Mahendra wrote me yesterday to say that since Leigh and I left, no new funds have come forward, which essentially tells me that he and Kapil and probably Dinu are contributing out of their earnings. That said, I'm of the mind that our contributions were significant enough to fully supply the school, and they have a new teacher, as well.
Along with the development I saw in Bihar - hotels and guest houses, restaurants were going up at a fair clip - comes inflation, apparently, and Mahendra writes: "In Bihar all the goods are getting expensive so the teachers ask to increase the salary so we need regular funding for this very needy purpose". Additonally, the foundation still hasn't gotten. It's FCRA, but I'm hopeful that as more businesses come into the area and wages rise, there will be less grift. I'm hopeful, but not naive. This is a process that will take decades.
Be that as it may, now that the LBWF has snagged a donor in the form of one of the most generous people I know, I feel better that others might step up to the plate. To that end, if anyone reading this wants to kick in a little their way, please contact Mahendra directly. Probably the best way is via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Please bear the following caveats in mind:
- To make a donation, you have to wire funds directly to Mahendra Kumar in Bodhgaya. He will acknowledge receipt of funds by email or snail mail according to your preference.
- The LBWF doesn't have any tax exempt status in the U.S. or outside of India, so near that in mind. But do know that what to us is a small amount can go pretty far. Twenty-five dollars can go toward supplies and clothes that will take care of a handful of kids' needs. You don't get a tax write-off, but you will be contributing to some kids getting a leg up in one of the more impoverished places in India.
- Mahendra is a dear, dear friend of mine, but his written English isn't the strongest. Talking to him, you'll find a sharp young man trying to make a difference with limited resources and he's all too well aware that the LBWF just isn't the most professional of organizations. In addition to financial aid, the LBWF could use a real website. I don't have the bandwidth right now, but if anyone wants to build and/or host a site, please email Mahendra and me (leave a comment on this blog and I'll be in touch).
- Along the same line regarding communication, I'm not sure now much Mahendra gets about transparency and accountability. When I contacted him about Bob's contribution, I pretty much hammered him on both those points. While I trust him, I want him and Kapil to get in the habit of updating donors, keeping in contact and eventually growing an organization that can be a model for other, smaller groups in areas like Bihar. If you elect to make a donation, let him know that you want to hear from him, heat you want updates not just on where your money is going but the overall health of the organization.