Highs and Lows, But Mostly Just Highs





This was a six day work week for the whole team, and we are exhausted as usual, but it was AWESOME. We kicked it into high gear and got some huge stuff done. It took only two and a half days to completely paint the inside and outside of a women's community center that the HELP team last year built in a distant slum, and covered the walls in a beautiful mural. We were asked to paint "something to empower the women" and we had NO idea what that would yield... BUT I have to say, this is one of the coolest murals I've ever seen. We are proud country directors of our India program this week (and always, but this week rocked).

We concluded the week with a quick Sunday night team meeting (we napped all afternoon Sunday trying to catch up on some zzz's and recover from three long days of manual labor) and we asked the team to tell us some of the high points and low points of the week. We laughed and reminisced about it all, and here's what some of them said:

1. Seeing the before and after of the Women's Community Center in Nandamuri Nagar and walking away covered in paint, oil, turpentine (for brush cleaning), and sweat knowing that we did all of that designing, cleaning, and painting with our own hands!

Before (outside)...



Before (front)...


After (almost)!


The paint rollers sprayed blue paint all over us and it was impossible to get off.

Before (on the mural wall)...

After!!! Talk about an empowered woman, holding the world on her head instead a basket. I'm obsessed. She doesn't have a face so that every woman in the woman's center can imagine that this powerful woman is her. 


We love empowered women! 

The quote above us says "Be the change you want to see in the world." -Gandhi 

2. Seeing the huge smiles and jaw drops of amazement on the faces of our partner who asked us to paint the women's center when they saw the mural for the first time (they are throwing an inauguration party on Wednesday for us)!

3. Starting a crocheting class with the women in a slum nearby to teach them a skill that they can us to benefit their family or even sell handmade crafts in the market. But really the best part is that we are simultaneously facilitating discussions about female empowerment in India and all over the world and the power that a group of women regularly meeting together and discussing their lives can have on their community. A similar project was done in a previous year in a different HELP location and the women who learned how to crochet not only started a handbag making/selling business, but were able to facilitate an amazing amount of change in their community because they united together and found out what their fellow women needed and discussed how to take action to solve problems and provide for their own needs. Plus, crocheting is fun (yes mom I surprisingly retained some of my crocheting skills and I'm helping teach!!! Be proud of me!!!).





4. Teaching Indian kids how to do pushups, jumping jacks, and how to stretch... It was HILARIOUS! Jumping jacks are not a natural bodily motion, contrary to what the American public school physical education programs would have us believe. 




5. Teaching English through charades (we literally played charades to practice vocab recall) in several places, but specifically to a room of very beginning level orphan boys that were extremely rambunctious!

We managed to get them to sit still for one picture! And learn some English! #success

6. Finding out that our cook made us biryani (the most famous and delicious rice dish here in Hyderabad) and mango smoothies for dinner after our exhausting day of painting on Friday. There are few happier moments in my life.

7. Going to dinner at our friend's aunt's house (she speaks no english but LOVES the HELP teams and can feed a million people at once, she is amazing and we call her Amma, which just means momma) and eating so much we couldn;t move, then having her daughter in law do henna on our arms for a few hours. It was mesmerizing and everyone has loved how we are diving in to the Indian culture :)









8. Buying toe rings (for the married girls on the team) because women don't wear wedding rings on their fingers, they were two wedding rings on their toes - the second toe on each foot (the one next to the big toe, are their names for specific toes? The pointer toe?) is the wedding toe! So wearing a ring on your finger doesn't mean anything, people only know you're married if you wear your beautiful silver toe rings! We got some, and then went and officially got married Indian style at Amma's house; she gave the husbands the red paint powder and the husbands put it on the center of the wives' foreheads and on the base of the hairline part. We are married! Again! (PS Braxton and I have been married for almost 9 months now... can you believe that?!)


1. Getting covered in nasty oil paint from the old blackboards on the wall of the women's center. The women couldn't write on them because they were painted with oil paint and it just absorbed the chalk so we repainted them. But that meant we had to scrub all the oil paint off first... My feet and all of my finger/toe nails are still black.

The oil paint that was smeared all over the wall before we fixed it... 







You can see one of the two perfected black boards that took us forever to get marked out on the wall... Way too much stress over semi-crooked straight lines.

2. Getting eaten alive by ants because I accidentally stood on multiple ant hills repeatedly while painting the outside of the women's center.

3. Indian time = sometimes classes start 3 hours later than they should... :)

After talking about all the highs and those very few lows, we realized we are doing pretty well. Really, were there any lows at all? Being this tired doing something fun and good will never get old.

Here are some more pictures of our amazing artists and our fantastic paint job!









And don't forget the super cramped rickshaw rides home!





Permanent painted Teva tans! The only true token of our work.