Archive for the 'India' Category

Feb 10 2014

How to Actually Love a Slum – Power: India Trip 6 Day 7

Published by under India

One of the fun things about traveling to foreign countries is seeing how they sell things (I guess that’s also known as marketing).

Here’s a street ad for a movie called Tiger. He looks like a superhero to me. Especially with that bird doodoo on his mouth. In theaters January 31. Out of theaters February 1.


Want to sell high rise apartments? Get a former cricket player (Sourav Ganguly) to point at people.


Have some aspirations in life but struggling? Facelift your dreams!


Seriously, though. This series of posts – How to Actually Love a Slum – are about what a non-profit (in this case, the one I work for – One Life International) really and practically does to improve the lives of people living in a slum.

The kids from Khalpar, a slum we  are the best! They couldn’t be too much more beautiful and energetic. We went with them to the zoo today.


But when you see the place they live, it must be one of the ugliest places on the planet. It’s the lower rung of slum life. If you’re interested in seeing an un-narrated, real-life view of daily rhythms in the Khalpar slum, check out this video.

Khalpar Slum on Vimeo.

We’re trying to make their place a little more beautiful day by day. Right now, that means doing something different – we need to buy a new generator in order to better run the kids’ school and job training school in the slum.

Not exactly the coolest purchase in the world. But before you can dunk a basketball, you have to spend a lot of time in the weight room and doing jumping exercises. You need a foundation. In order to do the awesome stuff, we need to do the boring stuff really well.

So I’m asking you, my dear blog readers…. Will you help us? We’re trying to raise $5,500. Here’s the progress we’ve made…
Online fundraising for Khalpar Slum Generator Campaign

We’ve got a campaign all setup on a fundraising site called Razoo where we explain all the details about this campaign. Link:

Truth be told, I’m asking you to take a chance on us. We’re doing awesome things right now. We just installed five toilets in Khalpar. We started that campaign on December 15, raised the money, sent it over to our partner here in Calcutta, and inaugurated the toilets on February 7. It took 54 days from start to finish. We don’t play around!

We’re completely transparent about what we do – you can read about that toilet campaign, including all our documentation and a video of the inauguration here. And we provide great updates along the way!

The kids are beautiful. The place is ugly. Help us take a step toward making Khalpar a better place! All donations are tax-deductible. And if we raise all the money in the next week, I’ll post a video of me singing a freestyle rap song with a live band on a boat in Calcutta. It sounds like I’m lying. I’m not! If that’s not motivating enough, I’ll buy you a Pound Puppy if you give toward this campaign! (I actually won’t do that, That’s a lie. :).

So this blog post…. How to actually love a slum… might include you and your love (and, ok, let’s be real – your money, too! :).

Let’s do this thing!

Let’s get a generator!

Let’s love a slum!

Let’s Power Up Khalpar!!

Here’s a link to the campaign!

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Feb 09 2014

The Love I Should Have Been: India Trip 6 Day 6

Published by under India

Fear of missing out. FOMO. It’s a common dilemma that faces a lot of people. We know we should go home and go to sleep but a group of our friends is about to grab a bite to eat. What should we do – sleep or eat? If we sleep, we might miss out on the best thing ever.

So suppose my friends go get that late night taco and I decide to stay home. Then suppose my friends meet Justin Timberlake out at the restaurant and they call the next day to tell me about it. I would look back and say, “OH MAN! I should have been there!” I’d wish that I could be part of that story.

This might be a little Jesus Juke-ish, but imagine dying and meeting God? Can you imagine God telling us all the things that happened while we were “sleeping”? I’m developing a healthy fear of missing out on God’s story – which is primarily a story about love.

Every day you live for yourself
You’re dying young
You’re fueling your heartbreak
Every day you love someone else
You’re living now
You lessen the heartache.
_Heavens to Betsy – The Heartache

I spent my Sunday in Calcutta with our crew at a retreat center called Dhyanashram with 150 Indian Christians from three of the communities where we do work in Calcutta. Five years ago, none of these places had a church. Now they grow by the month. I know many of them by name. I know their kids. I know their struggles. I know what makes them cry and laugh. The people in this picture have made my life SO MUCH BETTER!!!!


But what if I’d never come to India three years ago? What would I have missed out on? A lot. A whole lot. A crazy amount of a lot.

If we hold back, we’ll look back and want to go back. We’ll want to do things over.  I don’t want to look back on my life and say, “OH MAN! I should have loved more!”

…find out what pleases the Lord.
_Ephesians 5:9

And then hold nothing back.

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Feb 08 2014

How to Actually Love a Slum – Toilets: India Trip 6 Day 5

Published by under India

Since I’ve been in India this trip, I’ve been writing a lot of theory. What about practice? People sometimes wonder how a non-profit really works. The question eventually arises: How do you actually love people who live in slums?

Find trustworthy, reliable, hard-working people currently doing work in a slum. We happened to find such people! This is Piyas and Jaiashree, the two Calcuttans who run SEED Society in Calcutta, India. They and their staff of 30 run community and spiritual development projects in five communities around Calcutta.

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Decide to help love people in that slum. Some reading my post won’t know this, but I met Piyas and Jaiashree just after they started their organization (they had each previously worked for Compassion for seven years) and, with two of my friends (Seth Jones and Pete Wilson), I helped start a non-profit called One Life International. We’ve been slowly putting our organization together.

Decide HOW to help the people in the slum. I meet with Piyas and Jaiashree each week over Skype to discuss the needs in the communities where they do work. We help fund the work they do there. This past Christmas, we decided to focus our attention on the sanitation situation of the Khalpar slum in the Salt Lake area of Calcutta. They have very few toilets there and they are disgusting and extremely unsanitary. I thought about posting pictures in this post, but it’s not worth grossing you out. These old toilets offer little privacy – an issue especially sensitive for women and girls.

Design a campaign and publish it. It doesn’t have to be complicated. Ours, designed by Melanie Hall, looked like this:

Pray God will prompt people to love and give money.

Here’s how it played out for us this Christmas…


  • December 15, 2013 – We published the Toilet Campaign at
  • January 13, 2014 – We transferred money from the toilet campaign at our merchant account to our bank account.

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  • January 15, 2014 – One Life wires money for toilets (in addition to other grants) to SEED in the January 2014 wire.

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  • February 7, 2014 – One Life cuts the ribbon on the toilets in Khalpar. Total time from campaign start to toilets being installed and in use: 54 days.




And, finally, here’s a small video of the inauguration we shot yesterday, February 7, if you’re interested. It’s out of focus and not edited. :) I know the video may be janky, but the work is 100% legit!

From my heart, I want to say thanks to God and thanks to all of you who have loved the people of Khalpar by backing this project and providing the first five toilets for the community. It was a real joy to cut the ribbon and the people of the community are happy these toilets are here. In about a week, I’ll post a follow-up about why we selected these particular toilets. There’s a reason for everything we do!

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Feb 11 2012

India III: Part 2 – Schools

Published by under India

On one of my last trips to India, I wrote about how Indians don’t use toilet paper. They use their left hand to…take care of business, if you know what I mean (don’t worry, they wash their hands). The great mystery is that, in spite of this, many flush toilets in India are set to flush a volume of water roughly equivalent to a medium-sized bathtub. Later this week, I’m going to try flushing a brick. I’ll let you know how it goes.

TRAVEL TIP: If you think you can just put Pop Tarts into a checked bag without them cracking into 80 pieces, you’re wrong.

Today we visited Khalpar, our project in a slum, right in downtown Calcutta. Khalpar literally means side of the canal as the slum used to be… well, next to a canal. I say “used to be” because Khalpar is an unauthorized slum. The residents illegally squat on government property. From time to time, the government has other uses for the land and they’ll bulldoze the people’s dwellings (dwellings is a more appropriate word than house) and the people will have to move to another piece of land. The people in Khalpar are some of those in the world living on less than $1 per day.

If you’re interested in seeing what day-to-day life is like in Khalpar (and other similar places where people live on less than $1 a day), see this 4-minute video. There’s no commentary – just short clips of the people living their lives. We’re not attempting to artificially stir your emotions. We’re just showing what’s there.

Khalpar has about 1250 residents and roughly 50% of those are children under the age of 16, very few of which have the opportunity to go to school.

Khalpar was our first location and its strongest program is education. In fact, out of all our locations, Khalpar has the strongest education program. A total of 114 students are now getting educated through Khalpar’s education program.

Since many of the students have never been to school or only attended another school for a very short period of time, we begin them in the slum school – a remedial school directly in the slum.

The absolute heroes of this project are the teachers! Below is Khalpar’s teaching staff (from left to right – Minoti, Modumeeta, Sima, Helena, and Puja).

Minoti cooks a hot lunch for the children every day. Modumeeta is one of the main teachers. Sima is the head instructor. Helena is in charge of spiritual development for the children. And Puja is also a teacher.

While all of the teachers are incredible, it’s Sima I want to highlight. Sima travels 2.5 hours EACH WAY from her home to the project. Travel times like this in India aren’t atypical, but it’s still a noteworthy fact that shows her commitment and belief in the students. Sima could work in another school much closer to her home but she believes her role in the slum is an extremely unique opportunity – to take some of the most marginalized children in the world and build them to maximize everything about their life that God intends to maximize.

The Model
Students who show rapid advancement in the slum school or who are beyond the curriculum currently being taught are enrolled in one of three types of schools near the slum.

The Bengali medium school (EC School) teaches classes in Bengali with a more rigorous curriculum.

The English-medium school (Agape Mission School) teaches English with even more rigorous classes.

Finally, at-risk children are considered for the possibility of boarding school. Rape and substance abuse are very real issues in the slum. While parents work during the day, kids are often left unsupervised and get themselves into trouble. Only with the parents’ blessing, select students are enrolled in boarding school.

The Success
Since inaugurating our slum school three years ago, we now have 51 students (1st through 6th grade) enrolled in the Bengali-medium school, 9 students at the English-medium school, and 6 students at two boarding schools. In other words, more than half of our students have been remediated and are on the road to potentially becoming college graduates – something their families truly and literally never dreamed of until recently.

School for most of the children in Khalpar isn’t something they’re forced to attend like it is in America. School is an opportunity they’re seizing by the throat. Many of these students are slowly choking the life out of grinding poverty through their courage, hard work, and determination. These aren’t feel-good words for a blog post. It’s the reality of brave kids who suddenly see a future when they, only recently, couldn’t even see to tomorrow.

In just five more years, the first group of our students will sit for their Standard XII exams that determine what Indian colleges they’ll be eligible for. Sima and the rest of the teachers will rightfully be called “life-changers” because they helped to so drastically alter the trajectory of entire family trees. Sometimes I think about their graduation day and I picture them walking across the stage. And it makes me cry because people are so rarely able to make something from nothing and I’m watching it happen right in front of my face.

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