Sunday, December 6, 2009

It Must Be A God Thing!

After starting the White Rainbow Project so many amazing things have been coming together that I know they have to be the work of God. There is really no other explanation for the way things just seem to be falling into place. I shouldn't be surprised though because I know that He loves these widows more that any of us could ever know!

I just want to document some of these incidents because as time progresses and more and more miracles keep happening I don't want to lose sight of the way God has been working behind the scenes, orchestrating this journey.

When I first felt led to start the White Rainbow Project, I was at a loss. I did not have the funds nor the expertise or time to start a non-profit. I prayed that if God really wanted me to do this he would have to provide others to come alongside me to get it going. No sooner had I prayed this prayer than he started providing the people and organizations to help me.

The first "angel" he sent my way was a friend of mine from church  Jon Slivester. Jon has always been interested in my film White Rainbow. His in-laws had been financial supporters of the film, so he had known about it for quite sometime. He has a passion for India, as one of his favorite Christian speakers was Ravi Zacharias, a renowned author and apologist who is originally from India, but now has a dynamic ministry in the U.S. Ravi's daughter Namoi had seen White Rainbow over a year ago and she was motivated to go to Vrindavan to help fund the Guild of Service. When I shared with Jon about my desire to start a non-profit to help the widows, he told me that he and his wife had just been praying about doing something to make a real difference in the lives of others, he told me that he felt certain that this was his calling. He told me that he would take care of the details of starting the non-profit and that I should just concentrate on making it happen!

The next amazing connection is that Ravi Zacharias'  other daughter, Sarah who works for my alma mater Pepperdine University mentioned to me that they have just started a whole new program called "The Waves of Service" whereby they partner with alumni that are doing service work to support them by promoting their work to students and fellow alumni. When I told them about the White Rainbow Project, they were all over it! They thought it was a wonderful project and  now they are working with me on many levels to support my efforts. They have arranged for me to screen White Rainbow on campus on Feb. 2. They are also including the service trips in their on going volunteer program and they have already helped me plan the first trip in May with their graduate students! 

Sarah has also agreed to help us with fundraising and marketing and to be another founding member of the board of the White Rainbow Project!

Then there is the unbelievable connection of how Suzanne came on board to help us. Believe it or not, a few weeks ago, Suzanne actually saw a real white rainbow in the sky when she was hiking on Point Dume in Malibu. She was on her way to a prayer meeting. She felt like it was some kind of sign from God. She had been praying on how she could help abused women. When she got home, she googled "White Rainbow" and you guessed it- up came my film, White Rainbow. She had already seen the movie Water which also depicts the deplorable fate that many Indian widows face, so when she read about White Rainbow she knew that she must get involved with helping Indian widows. She ordered the film from my website, and since I was out of DVDs, I called her to let her know that it would take a few more days before I could send her a copy. I just happened to ask her how she heard about White Rainbow- when she told me her story of seeing the white rainbow in the sky, and how her gift and passion is to help abused women, I could not believe what I was hearing. I had just been praying that day for a way that we could make the widows feel special, and here was the answer to that prayer- Suzanne has a ministry called "The Spiritual Spa" the main focus is how to make abused women feel loved!
I quickly told Suzanne about the White Rainbow Project and she said that she was ready to help!
She along with Jon, is coming with me in February on an exploratory trip to Vrindavan, so that we can set up the service trips. We need to find out how we can be of the most help to these women.

The journey is just begining!!!!

Sunday, November 8, 2009

The White Rainbow Project is Born!

White Rainbow Project

The holy city of Vrindavan India, also known as the “City of Widows” harbors nearly 20,000 widows who flock there or are abandoned on the streets all in the hopes of finding “Moksha” – Salvation. In Indian society widows are stigmatized and maligned.

The White Rainbow Project (WRP) is a US faith based non-profit organization dedicated to caring for the widows of Vrindavan, and to allow Americans the opportunity to grow and mature spiritually by helping the poor and downtrodden in tangible ways through service trips, fundraising and widow sponsorship.

Using the feature film “White Rainbow” as a tool to educate, motivate and inspire others to get involved and help, the WRP plans to host screenings at universities, college campuses, churches, women’s groups and humanitarian group meetings. These events we will promote the service trips, raise funds for ongoing projects and sign up people to become sponsors.

The WRP is partnering with the Guild of Service a non-governmental organization based out of New Delhi India. The protagonist in the film “White Rainbow” is based on the work of the Guild’s founder, Dr. Mohini Giri. The Guild has already established a widow’s shelter in Vrindavan India which has room to house 500 widows. The Guild is active in rehabilitating the widows, giving them hope, and a safe place to live. They are training some for careers in nursing and have recently partnered with The Miracle Foundation to train widows to be certified caregivers in orphanages.

The 10 day service trips will be a journey that will be both educational and life changing. The participants are expected to learn about India, Hinduism and the stigma surrounding widowhood. They are expected to reach out to friends for support so as to get many others involved in their journey. Through their trip many others will come to know about the plight of the widows. The activities on the trip range from visiting the Taj Mahal to ministering to widows by cleaning, cooking and entertaining them. Showing them that someone cares, to be the hands and feet of Christ.

Other fundraising activities will include finding donors that will provide ongoing sponsorship for the care and maintenance of the widows and for providing funds for educational opportunities. The WRP also plans to host medical clinics and food and clothing distribution for the thousands of widows that are living on the streets of Vrindavan. It is our desire that the city of Vrindavan will be forever changed for the better and that it will no longer be a place of servitude and bondage for these women!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Making White Rainbow

After reading about the plight of the widows of Vrindavan in Homeless Bird and then learning more of the facts after reading numerous news articles, We were convinced that more people needed to know about these women who were living in the shadows -and who by no fault of their own - were shunned from society and deemed worthless. My husband, Dharan, grew up in the South Indian film industry. His uncle, Sivaji Ganesan, was one of India's greatest film icons, starring in over 300 films during his illustrious career. Having already produced several Indian films and also directing our first collaboration, Ele, My Friend, Dharan was convinced that this story needed to be told using the powerful medium of film. We hoped this would bring the attention these women deserved, as more and more people would come to know about the "City of Widows".

Using stories gleaned from interviews that the Guild of Service had conducted from over 4000 widows, common patterns began to emerge, Dharan used the common themes to create four characters. Pryia, the central character, was loosely based on Mohini Giri's own story of empowering the widows and giving them hope. Roop was based on the numerous other widows who had been thrown out by their families. Mala was based on several women who pretend to be widows so that they can escape abusive husbands and in-laws, and young Deepti was based on the collective stories of young widows who were lured to Vrindavan on false pretenses and then used as prostitutes.
Writing the screenplay was the first step on our long journey... I will fill in the details in future posts - but for now I just want to focus on ways to make a tangible difference for these women. I want to use this film which was a passion project, to kindle a passion in others, to make a difference. I feel that God is calling me to use my life experience to show His love and compassion for these unfortunate women. If you feel it - then join with me and encourage others to get involved so that positive changes can be made! My good friend, whose husband organizes medical trips to Haiti, encouraged me to start service trips to Vrindavan after she watched White Rainbow. I'm going to take her up on her challenge. Besides starting my own trips - I want to highlight and raise funds for other groups that are already doing so much for the poor and downtrodden of the world. The ones that are unjustly treated. Please email me or comment on this blog if you know of groups that I can promote.

Monday, August 3, 2009

The Guild of Service-Helping Widows others have Forgotten

While doing our reasearch on the plight of the widows of Vrindavan, one organization stood out as a beacon of hope for these helpless and shunned widows-The Guild of Service-Started by one woman, a widow herself, Dr. Mohini Giri . Losing her husband when she was 50, Dr. Giri endured the social humiliation that comes with being a widow. At times, she was asked not to attend weddings because her presence was considered bad luck. "Generally all widows are ostracized," she says. "An educated woman may have money and independence, but even that is snatched away when she becomes a widow. We live in a patriarchal society. Men say that culturally as a widow you cannot do anything: You cannot grow your hair, you should not look beautiful." She adds, "It's the mind-set of society we need to change -- not the women."
The Guild of Service first set up a refuge called Amar Bari, or "My Home," in Vrindavan. It became a refuge for about 120 of India's widows. They have just recently opened a second home Ma-Dham, a home for both young and old widows in Vrindavan. It has a capacity for 500 women. A small hospital is available on the premises, as well as a center for practical medical/nursing training and education. The older women who live here find a safe refuge with a healthy environment, and dignity of human life. They are taught some basic cottage industry skills to keep their hands and feet moving. The younger women are taught valuable skills for earning so that they can take control of their lives. These skills range from nurses' training, to improving computer skills, to training in embroidery skills, etc. The Guild of Service is making great strides in helping these women, but much more still needs to be done. As Dr. Giri states "mine is but a drop in the bucket."
My goal is to work with the Guild of Service to raise needed funds and to start Service Trips so that people from all over the world can get involved and help these forgotten women. Please contact me if you want to learn how you can get involved!

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Reading Homeless Bird Started This Journey...

In 2003 my son Shan, who was in sixth grade at the time, brought home his reading assignment- the book "Homeless Bird" by Gloria Whelan. I was curious about the book because I noticed that it took place in India. I started to read it with him and my other children in the evenings. The story captivated me and I couldn't put it down. It told the story of a 13 year old girl who was forced to marry and then suddenly widowed and dumped by her in-laws in the holy city of Vrindavan...aka "The City of Widows". I was shocked. How could people be so callous. Just because the young girl was a widow she was considered to have no value. The story took place in modern day India, not in the past... when you may expect these kinds of injustices to occur. I wanted to find out if this could really be true, if this kind of thing really happened. I asked Dharan, my husband, who was born and raised in India. He said that he knew that there were many stigmas attached to widowhood, but he did not know about the brutal treatment described in the story. We decided to do a quick check on the Internet. We typed in VRINDAVAN. Up came glorious stories about the thousands of temples. We narrowed our search to WIDOWS OF VRINDAVAN. Then we saw hundreds of articles about the the thousands of widows that are abandoned on the streets of Vrindavan every year. Reading through the articles and news reports made us determined that something should be done. These women were suffering silently. We were certain that if people knew about their plight, then positive change would take place and these cruel practices really would be a thing of the past!

Monday, July 20, 2009

The Hole in Our Gospel a Powerful Book

Recently I went to hear a motivational speaker at my church. By a chance meeting in the restroom, I had the opportunity to tell her about my film "White Rainbow". She gave me a copy of the book she was promoting called "A Hole in the Gospel" by Richard Stearns, the president of the Christian humanitarian organization- World Vision. I finally found the time to read it on my trip here in India. Boy is it powerful! It is a call to action for all believers to take the words of Christ seriously. If we really love God we need to help the poor. "The highest and and best ways of expressing our love for God is by demonstrating His love tangibly to those around us. We achieve this by showing compassion to the most vulnerable of God's children and fighting for justice. "...."Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this : to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world" (James 1:27) He explains further " The message puts it this way:"Anyone who sets himself up as 'religious' by talking a good game is self-deceived. This kind of religion is only hot air. Real religion, the kind that passes muster before God the Father, is this: Reach out to the homeless and loveless int their plight, and guard against corruption for the godless world" God wants to see the authenticity of our faith put into action, not the emptiness of a faith without deeds." pg 185 "The Hole in Our Gospel"
Reading this book has encouraged me to continue in my fight to get the message out about the unfair and unjust treatment that many widows in India face.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

This blog is dedicated to improving the lives of widows and orphans in India. I made a feature film titled "White Rainbow" that exposes the stigma that many Indian women face when they become widowed. I would like to use the film as a tool to help educate, motivate and inspire others to stand up and make a difference. I would like to work with others who share my passion by starting service trips to work with the widows of Vrindavan-which is known as the "City of Widows". I would also like to help raise funds for other groups and organizations that are already working to make a difference for widows and orphans. Please join with me by forwarding this blog to as many people as possible!