Promethean Spark Newsletter
~ History made in Coimbatore, India ~
This Quarter's Newsletter comes to you courtesy of Kelli Foster.(www.kelliannfoster.blogspot.com)
Kelli was the most recent volunteer in our program in India.
She trained for 1 month under the tutelage of Promethean Spark President, Shaun Parry and then took
over until she returned home to the US at the end of April.
Under her direction the Rising Star student body and the LifeDance Troupe rose to new heights.
Here is an excerpt from her blog describing the historic event
that took place in early February, 2012.
Keep in mind, that never before in history has an event like this taken place.
We are taking big strides toward
our goal to eradicate the stigma of leprosy.
Answered Prayers: Life Dance in Coimbatore!
Even though the Coimbatore trip happened before I started my blog, I couldn’t leave it unshared because it has really been one of my most precious memories in my time in India. So, rewinding back in time. January, 2012. I was teaching primarily in the school (English, Math, and Biology) and was the Assistant Dance Master/trainee to Shaun Parry (President of Promethean Spark International). Rising Star got a call on Saturday the 28th from the head honchos of Mona Vie, a multi-level marketing company that recently started sponsoring Rising Star. They asked if Life Dance would be able to represent the school and perform in Coimbatore for an audience of 3-5,000 at their first convention in India on the 4th of February, 2012. (Little did they know that this landed within one week of World Leprosy Day which was on Jan. 29) Of course we immediately agreed, on the condition that transportation and housing could be sponsored and arranged for all of the youth and chaperones (about 30 of us total). The next few days, communication with Mona Vie was sparse. We never got word back from them as to whether or not they would be able to arrange the accommodations for us, but we spent those days preparing to make the trip as if it were going to happen-- teaching the children the basic skills needed to succeed in anything: positivism, faith, hard work and preparedness. Shaun and I told the kids on Monday and they were absolutely ecstatic! They were excited not only at the prospect of performing for THREE THOUSAND plus people at a huge event in a big city far away, but for the chance to do exactly what we talk about in class every day. Healing others. Sharing our love and light. Being leaders. Showing the world that people who come from leprosy colonies are just like everybody else. We warned them though, that the trip was not yet confirmed, so they couldn’t get their hopes up. Needless to say, with only one week’s notice, it was pure madness trying to rehearse and perfect all of our pieces and figure out costumes for all the kids with a mere HOPE that we would be able to travel and perform.
It was Wednesday and we still hadn’t heard back from Mona Vie. I took a day trip to T-Nagar in Chennai to buy costumes for the kids so Shaun could stay to hold rehearsal. We always begin rehearsal sitting in a circle to give announcements and discuss objectives. That evening in the circle, Shaun was giving the kids a run down of what the weekend would be like IF we were able to perform in Coimbatore. The whole time he was talking, Soniya was raising her hand and bouncing up and down, just SO eager to share whatever it was that she had to say. Shaun held her off with the ‘Shhh! Wait till I’m done’ finger for a good five minutes, and after finishing asked, “Yes, Soniya? What is it you have to say?” “Manodhaya has one idea!” She replied, pointing to our darling, quiet little 9thstandard dancer who had just been moved up into Life Dance from Life Dance II. “Is it ok if we... pray about this,” She said simply. Shaun smiled and said, "I cannot tell you to pray but if everyone here wants to, then, yes, we can." An enthusiastic "Yes" erupted in unison from the group 18 strong. Boom. Without prompting every one of the kids knelt on their knees and with encouragement and assurance that she could say it in Tamil, Manodhaya lead the group in a beautiful, heartfelt prayer to God. You could pick out little English words thrown in once in a while, like “work hard...LifeDance...confirm...perform”. When she finished, not one child opened their eyes but instead held their position for over a minute in silent, fervent, self-prayer. Shaun then broke the silence taking a moment to teach how faith works; once God knows the desires of your heart, you have to get up and take action and show Him that you meant what you said. They rose to their feet and continued had the most focused, professional level rehearsal they had ever had, finishing the choreography of the new piece, Staying Alive, that they were learning for the performance. By the following morning, all of campus was on edge. Wondering. Waiting. All I heard from every child in the school over and over again was, “Is it confirmed?! Will Life Dance go??”, to which I repeatedly answered, “No, we still don’t know!” Instead of being dejected, the kids would all say with a smile, “You will go. I pray for Life Dance. You will go.”
That day, 200 little beams of prayer light were shooting straight to heaven from Rising Star. I truly believe that God heard every single pray and felt our faith, because at 8:00 pm Dr. Susan, the Indian staff director, came rushing to tell Shaun and I that Mona Vie had finally called, and that our bus would be there to pick us up at 6:00 am the next morning. We were so unbelievably excited that most of us hardly slept. We finally boarded the bus around 8:30 (Naturally, the bus driver was running on "Indian time" as they call it) and prepared for a journey of ‘about 8 hours’. Nay Nay. This ‘8 hour’ drive turned out to be closer to 12 hours. By the end of the trip I had the throw-up drill down. At any sign of nausea… Left side of purse. Ziplock. Run. Open under child’s mouth. Hold and comfort until vomit has passed. Wipe for face and hands. Gum. Lead child to the front of the bus and lovingly banish them from iPods and movies. Throw bag out of the bus. They were troopers. Nearly every one of them threw up at least once but not once did we hear a word of complaint. Little Buji threw up five times and each time would look up from her plastic bag and say with a smile on her face, "OK. I'm done." Our amazing Joseph very accurately described the bus as “vomit land”. SO glad I decided to take the bags, wipes and gum.
After a long day of travel, we finally got to Coimbatore and crashed! The kids were taken to stay in a really nice apartment, and all of us long-term volunteers got to stay in a beautiful 5-star hotel, Le Meridian, provided by Mona Vie. The next morning, we got up early to check out the venue and rehearse on stage. It was really cute to see how in awe all of the kids were. Most of them have only been exposed to their teeny little villages and colonies and had never even dreamed of performing in a place like this for so many people. We headed back to the apartment after a great rehearsal and got the kids ready for their big show. Michael Alex had graciously sponsored Promethean Spark in buying sharp new Indian costumes for LifeDance. They looked SO darling in their brand new costumes with the boys' hair all gelled up and the girls with their performance make up.
We arrived at the convention hall a couple hours before we had to be on stage, so we played around, took pictures, and did a warm-up to focus their energies and prepare the troupe for the show. The time finally came, and we said one final prayer backstage. Shaun Parry gave an motivating powerpoint presentation introducing Rising Star and our mission to the massive audience and turned the time over to the kids. They performed three numbers:
1. Bharatanatyam Welcome Dance (a traditional Indian welcome dance)
2. Stayin' Alive (a new theatrical number depicting life in the streets and the fight for survival. This is the one we learned the week of…. Yeah, crazy!)
3. Somebody Out There (the classic, trademark number for Life Dance)
***A little background on this piece-- Somebody Out There is a truly inspired number depicting the pain and sorrow that everyone experiences in life, specifically the challenges that our kids face: seeing loved ones suffer from leprosy, and suffering themselves. It tells about how we have the power to lift and love others who are struggling and how once we have been helped, we can help others.
At the end of the final number, we received a standing ovation from over three thousand Indians and half of the audience was in tears. I was, of course, a mess. Seeing my kids perform so beautifully and literally start to change the world’s perspective was to this day, one of the most beautiful moments of my life. I was so proud. They were each presented with a dozen roses and the audience was invited to donate to Mona Vie’s More Project, which provides the sponsorship for Rising Star. So many extremely generous donations were provided, and the amounts were announced over the loudspeakers. When the kids saw the reaction they sparked and that they really did succeed in sharing their message, they got emotional too. Even the tough and always cool, Ashok broke down as the significance and power of the moment sunk deep in his heart. We were all hugging and crying and it really was such a perfect ending to an amazing show. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that God heard and answered the prayers of those children and I am so grateful that he did.