A Passage to India

Annual Day celebrations at Rising Star Outreach school.

Below is my journal entry for June 14,  2008, from my first trip to India.  I experienced culture shock from the moment I arrived in Delhi and for the entire time I was there. The sights, sounds, smells, were so different than anything I had seen before. David Archuleta, I am sure, will absorb it all and grow from this trip. I am so glad that he can participate in such a great cause as Rising Star Outreach ….

June 14, 2008
“There is such a contrast between rich and poor here…While stopped at a stop light  in our car , a man came up to our window with a babe in arms and a dirty, empty, plastic baby bottle. He used the bottle to rap on my window, his face blank, but his eyes pleading…..It is impossible for me to turn away. I want to get out and give as much as I can. My Indian friends insist that the baby is borrowed and well fed and that begging is just another occupation here in Delhi. ‘Better luck next life’ seems to be the motto. This does not sit well with me. We continue on our way  to the mall, which looks like any mall back at home, but I don’t feel much like shopping. On the perimeter of the mall parking lot you see people EVERYWHERE in makeshift huts and tents, cooking over fires, kids playing in the dirt, cows wandering, traffic and congestion all around. I feel a long way from home.”

I dream of returning to India someday, but next time not as an observer but to help. David’s involvement in RSO has given me the doorway to actually DO IT, something that I previously had thought about, but never knew the vehicle to actually GO!!

I was fascinated to learn that when RSO founder Becky Douglas visited India in 2000 and was approached by beggars with leprosy, she was so haunted by the experience that she vowed to return someday and make a difference. And she did. RSO’s first children’s home and boarding school opened four years later with 27 kids from India’s leper colonies. Even though leprosy is now curable, lepers are still considered outcasts in that country. In fact, there about one million cases of leprosy in India alone.

These are some of RSO’s other programs:

  • A permanent children’s school and village built on a 13.5-acre tract of former orchard land near Chennai.
  • A Mobile Medical Unit that travels to the leper colonies (since logistics and social stigma make access to hospitals difficult).
  • Helping ostracized families to work towards independence by providing loans for small businesses. (According to the RSO website, one leprosy sufferer who’d attempted suicide by drinking pesticide recovered and later received a micro-loan to buy a cow. The man sold the cow’s milk, saved his money and eventually the single cow became a small herd. The man is now respected by people who once shunned him.)

David’s support of a cause like RSO, in a culture so different than ours, and one that has always held a huge  interest for me is another “David moment,” for me — a nudge in a direction that once seemed impossible.

Entire families on one motorbike!!

David’s inspiration has given me the push to change many things in my own life’s journey, including my job, my exercise habits and my attitude — to try to “disco with the flow” more often. I appreciate the fact that he is willing to spend his time and energy helping others. That tells me he really wants to learn about the people and give them the healing gift of his voice….

Can you imagine it? David singing his heart out for these people? …. I can, and it is a beautiful thing. David will see so much,  and learn so much…and grow so much…. I know I came back from India with a broader perspective on what is valuable in this life, and I think David will too.

Thank you again David, for showing us your heart.


p.s. January 31 is World Leprosy Day. To learn more about RSO’s work, watch this amazing video first posted by MunkFOD (or to make a donation, click the brick in the sidebar).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

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55 Responses to A Passage to India

  1. TOfan says:

    Beautiful post, Ref. When David first mentioned Rising Star Outreach in one of his blogs, I was so surprised not only that leprosy still exists … but that lepers are still treated as outcasts. In the spirit of Zami’s last post, “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” … the more things change, the more they remain the same, sadly.

    I know many of you have either already donated to RSO or sponsored a $50 Pathway of Hope brick, but if anyone wants to help but can’t swing the whole amount by themselves, please email me at snowangelzcanada@gmail.com and we can join forces! (Snarky Janey gave me the idea! ♥ )

  2. MunkFOD says:

    Thanks so much for sharing your story. This whole journey with David blows me away every day. I have never “followed” a pop star before. Never even entered my mind. I often thought, “this is silly” and “what are you doing?!” but have been pulled back time and time again. Windows have opened to experiences that I would have never thought possible. Not only have I been touched by David’s music (it has helped me through some of my darkest most challenging days) but I have been touched by David’s heart and integrity. I have friends that could have never had any other way. And now I will be sponsoring a child in India. I wonder what I might say or do that will make a difference in this childs life, because it isn’t just about money…it’s about loving and connecting and encouraging. I am a musician. My secret dream…(I haven’t told anyone this) …but my secret dream is to teach music at the RSO school someday. I love this journey David has taken me on. love my “David” friends. Love and appreciate David for all that he has done for me and my life.
    Thanks again refnaf! 😀

    • TOfan says:

      Munk, wow, “I am a musician. My secret dream…(I haven’t told anyone this) …but my secret dream is to teach music at the RSO school someday” … oh my, you gave me chills there… ‘cuz I have a feeling you will achieve that dream!

      Here’s a tweet from Stacey Tookey (@sjtookey), the SYTYCD Canada choreographer who’s on the RSO trip:

      “I have only been in India for one day and my heart is already filled with so much joy from watching these kids here :)”

      • MunkFOD says:

        I hope you are right. It seems impossible, but one the other hand…with this journey…nothing seems impossible!

    • refnaf says:

      “I have never “followed” a pop star before. Never even entered my mind. I often thought, “this is silly” and “what are you doing?!” but have been pulled back time and time again.” <<Me too…I keep learning more from this experience!! So awesome that you dream of volunteerng with RSO 🙂

    • emmegirl says:

      Just wanted to echo tofan and refnaf’s sentiments on your wonderful post.

      I too believe your dream will become a reality one day.
      And maybe you’ll find refnaf there. 🙂

  3. Sunshine says:

    Refnaf, thanks so much for sharing your experience in such a heartfelt way. I’m sure it is easy to go to a beautiful country like India and see only what one wants to see. To stick to the tourist path and be content in the malls and resorts. Travel is meant to teach us something and to make us feel. I truly hope you have the opportunity to return and do what your heart is telling you to do.

  4. TOfan says:

    Sunshine!!! *waves*

    Off-topic: Here’s one of the better interviews with David about the new A.I. in Hollywood Reporter, HERE.

  5. peppertara says:

    Refnaf, thank you so much for such a lovely post. This is a time when I think the hearts of David’s fans are overflowing. Yes, it will be a life changing experience for David, I’m sure, as well as for the others who are there. I can definitely imagine him singing his heart out for the children there, how special!
    Interesting reading about your trip to India, culture shock indeed. Perhaps you will return one day, in a slightly different capacity. I have always wanted to visit but so far haven’t got there. David’s involvement (and his fans) with RSO is a wonderful thing, truly helping to change lives for the better.
    MunkFOD….what a beautiful dream of yours….to teach music at the RSO school someday! Wow, hang on to that dream…and if you are going to sponsor a child, I can tell you that it is a wonderful joy and pleasure added to your life. I don’t sponsor a child through RSO (although I have thought about it) but I have been sponsoring a child in Africa for years now. One of the most heartwarming experiences, honestly.
    TOfan, great idea to open the door to multiple donations for RSO, love that.
    We can never give too much. 🙂
    Thanks Refnaf, a really lovely read and it makes me think about David there, immersed with all that is going on with RSO and the great projects that have been implemented and the people, the children and the joy that has come out of it all….sharing his heart and his voice. ❤

    • refnaf says:

      Thanks Peppertara….you are right, I think, that our hearts are overflowing…. and that is the one thing beyond his voice that David is able to do….. he gives us as fans the encouragement to give and to care just by being his authentic self. Love him!

  6. refnaf says:

    David has tweeted from India>

    “Hey guys just wanted to check in from India. It’s incredible here! The people here are amazing and it’s beautiful. I’ll share more later on”

    Ahhhh he is so right…. The people, the country, the culture, and the FOOD!!!! An incredible place…. he is goin’ to love the food.

  7. emmegirl says:

    refnaf, thank you for the post on your time is India; it is inspiring and heartbreaking, my goodness, that video. I truly hope you get your chance to return and help as part of RSO. Becky Douglas’s story is courageous and amazing.

  8. abanana77 says:

    refnaf – That is so cool that you’ve been to India. Loved reading your journal entry. Must’ve been extremely eye opening to have an experience like that. I just finished watching the video Munk posted earlier and I was extremely surprised by everything I didn’t know about leprosy and India. So glad David is there. His heart is huge and I know he will soak up everything and it will stay with him, even after he’s back home.

  9. refnaf says:

    Thanks for the comments Emme and Abanana!!

    Vids are coming in from India!!! Angels>>


    SOT Partial with dancing kids!

  10. peppertara says:

    What a treat to have videos! Love these and SOT with the kids dancing….so sweet! Pretty wonderful, thanks to the person who made them available…all the way from India.

  11. Kizzi says:

    ref – wonderful article!

  12. TOfan says:

    Ref, thanks for posting those vids! And Embe, those photos! What a treat! Just catching up as I’ve been busy with siblings & visiting family all weekend (David Task #28-B completed! jk 😆 ) and I started with the Angels partial vid & LOLed at someone calling out “We love you, David!” all the way over in India, LOVE that!

    … on a side note, even though I don’t have a David screen saver or desktop pic or anything, somehow my brother-in-law starts up my computer to help us install wireless and when I come into the room, filling up the ENTIRE screen is some sort of Mac-generated collage of David’s CD covers & other pics. *dies*

    Zami, bringing this comment over from lct at the end of the last thread:

    “Zami, I just read your write up! Am so excited there are more of us David fans here in Europe! I am American but have lived in Germany for many many years and sometimes feel lonely in my ODD! Like you, I am so grateful for the internet! I have been fortunate in that I have attended a few of David’s concerts – his AI tour in Arizona, Demi concert in Houston, McFly tour in London and recently his San Antonio tribute to Selena in San Antonio. I wanted to go to Utah but was not selected for tickets! Are you on twitter?”

    • zami says:

      Thank you Tofan, I didn’t see this comment from Lct.

      Hi Lct !
      Wow, it’s so cool that you attended different concerts ! I was at the London show too !

      Sometimes I feel lonely in my ODD too even if I can share with other fans thanks to the fan sites (thank you for this great place Tofan !). I don’t know if you’re like me but the sleepless nights are an important part in my life as a David fan. Because of the time difference I stay up late to watch the first videos of the shows (David’s fans upload the videos so fast lol) or to be a part of all the excitment (but I’m not complaining, being an insomniac makes it easy for me lol).

      I’m jenahmi on twitter but it’s been a long time since I used it (I think the only person I tweeted is David lol).

  13. TOfan says:

    I think the title of this vid says it all! 🙂

  14. Abanana77 says:

    Looooove the videos!! I did not expect videos so those are SUCH a treat. Wow, I will never ever get sick of hearing him sing Angels.

  15. embe says:

    Ref, I’m doing great ((hugs you)). My life at this moment is constipation and gas. So yeah, I GLOW like nobody’s business!!

    Other than that I’m feeling good. Been feeding the baby it’s daily dose of the Archuleta, so of course it’s doing well 😉

  16. refnaf says:

    Paging awestruck>>> I replied to your email and it bounced back (again) 😦
    Is your inbox full???

  17. zami says:

    Thank you Refnaf for this beautiful post. I’d love to go to India too just to be able to learn about their culture and to know about their daily lives. Your experience reminds me of my different trips to Morocco (especially the pic of the entire family on the motorbike). When I was young, I used to go with my parents and share the life of the people who live in the small villages where there are no facilities, no running water or electricity. That made me realize how privileged I was and how much confortable my life is. But I loved it there. Everyone was so nice and welcoming ! I have great memories about it.

    I didn’t think there would be videos of David’s performances in India. Where ever David goes, there are fans lol. David’s involvement with RSO is so great and inspiring. He’s living his live helping and giving to others. That’s what I call a true STAR !

    • TOfan says:

      Zami, you are so right, a true STAR! As usual, David passes on credit to the fans in this nice interview in the Deccan Chronicle (thanks, @Y_J_fan!):


      LOL at the title, “David’s dosa binge”


    • refnaf says:

      Thanks Zami, so cool to see different cultures, when in India I stayed with a family and they were very open and friendly as well. We shared stories of the differences in our cultures but also the many things that we have in common.
      Great memories for me too.
      “He’s living his live helping and giving to others. That’s what I call a true STAR !” << Me too!

  18. TOfan says:

    This just in from Wendy at Angels for a Cause:

    “Cool fact from RSO. it took 9 months at the beginning of the campaign to sell 160 bricks. There have been nearly 180 in 1 WEEK! AMAZING!”

    Good work, Angels!!! 🙂

  19. TOfan says:

    This “Cambio goes home” vid includes David … gee, guess what spots he recommends in Utah? 😆


  20. refnaf says:

    lol Tofan>>> FOOD!!

  21. smanda says:

    I loved that video and this entire post, both of which confirmed how much I enjoy this site. You guys are bright and fun and deep and good – a little Davidish 🙂 . Thanks for doing what you do with such style.

    • TOfan says:

      “a little Davidish”… that is about the nicest compliment ever, smanda *squishes* … now look what you made me do! 😥

  22. TOfan says:

    Here’s a beautiful blog post about the RSO fundraising event from Audrey, an RSO volunteer:


  23. MunkFOD says:

    Don’t cha just love being “davidish”? 😀

    thanks for the link TOfan. I was going to bring it on over but you are one speedy lady! LOL!

  24. peppertara says:

    What a wonderful blog post by Audrey about her experiences in India and the fundraiser. Yay…to all the volunteers over there. The dance that was choreographed for the children to perform with David…..so full of meaning and beauty, really hope we get to see the entire video one day.
    The number of bricks that have been purchased in the last week is amazing! Many Kudos to David’s fans…he will be pleased too.
    Loved reading all the articles about David (and food), ha. Seems to be a common theme when it comes to David. I really love his passion and his joy about things like food, he really appreciates everything! Simply ‘Davidish’. A great term actually, could apply to food too. 🙂

  25. peppertara says:

    Hope everyone back east is staying safe and warm if you are dealing with the big snow storm! All we have here is leaves on the ground (and mild temps). Feel for you all, stay safe. 🙂

    • TOfan says:

      Thanks, peppertara, I feel like I’m living in a big snow globe here, lol. So pretty, but tough to get from A to B.

      Here’s a lovely video of RSO volunteers talking about their experiences (thanks, @AnnieDAFG for tweeting the link!):

  26. TOfan says:

    Zami, according to the Twitter universe, apparently David flew home to Utah via … Paris!!!! 🙂 🙂 🙂

    • zami says:

      Yeah ! You’ll think I’m a crazy fangirl but knowing he was in Paris (even if only in the airport) makes me stupidly smile lol ! (the weather is not that bad here, he should stay one or two days …).

    • MunkFOD says:

      REally? That sounds awesome. I didn’t hear anything in the twitter universe..but I have been out shoveling snow…LOL!

  27. MunkFOD says:

    David’s home!

    DavidArchie David Archuleta
    Back in the U.S. safely. Bittersweet leaving India but had a really amazing time! Will try and get a blog up later this week. 🙂

  28. MunkFOD says:

    Look! pics 1-4! India and David! YAY! (hope this works!) http://s302.photobucket.com/albums/nn102/ReneC_2008/?action=view&current=India1.jpg

  29. Lol at all your comments (((hugs)))

    Cool to see the pics of David in action>> Thanks Munk! Eagerly awaiting Vlog!!

    Paging awestruck…. got another bounce back 😦

  30. refnaf says:

    oops ^^^^ That’s me, Starting a blog about my new career! Check it out by clicking on my name if you like!! 🙂

  31. TOfan says:

    New vlog, new post, new thread!



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