From left are Joseph, Diane and Ivan Cowles outside the Sweet Home Orphanage in India. (Ivan Cowles)

WEST END NEIGHBOR: Stretching a hand from Forks to India

SOME PEOPLE TEACH and find ways to learn no matter where they go, even if it’s the eastern shore of India.

Diane Cowles is the Quillayute Valley School District’s Home School Plus teacher.

She and her husband, Ivan, returned to India for the last half of January.

Their adult son, Joseph, accompanied them.

It was Ivan’s sixth trip there, Diane’s fifth and Joseph’s second.

The Cowles family doesn’t go to India for touristy stuff and sightseeing.

They truly have a mission.

A happily anticipated stop is Sweet Home Orphanage in Narsapur, not far from the Bay of Bengal.

Sweet Home was opened in 1996 by Lilly Kaligithi to assist eastern India’s children in need.

The orphanage is adjacent to Flaiz Adventist School, which provides a basic education through college level.

Part of the funding for the orphanage comes from people around the world who sponsor a child.

The Cowleses have sponsored several throughout the years and consider Kaligithi a dear friend.

While visiting, both Ivan and Diane gave Bible-based talks through interpreters to the students, except for the college students, who are expected to understand English.

“I enjoy going to Sweet Home and hearing all the different kids’ stories and backgrounds,” Joseph said.

“We sponsor these kids because they are orphans, or their parents are very poor, and if you can give them a little bit of assistance, they can make something of themselves instead of being a field worker for life,” Ivan said.

Diane explained that the educated fields of employment such as teaching, science and medicine are extremely competitive.

To even be considered for many of these types of jobs, a person has to have a master’s degree.

Through Kaligithi, the Cowleses are able to help eager youths past their standard college years.

They have had a couple of sponsored kids choose to continue their education, and the Cowles family seeks to keep the relationships with these kids ongoing.

And not just financially.

Two of their older sponsored kids met them at a restaurant in the city of Hyderabad for a dinnertime visit.

The young lady had just finished nursing school and started a permanent job at a hospital the day the Cowleses arrived.

Another of their sponsored kids who joined them for dinner was doing an internship for his degree.

He wants to continue his schooling to be a cardiac surgeon.

The Cowles family was glad he joined them so he could translate the vegetarian menu for them.

Diane said there are a lot of vegetarian restaurants in India because a fair majority of Hindu folks are indeed vegetarian.

“We have been blessed to help these kids and see them use the wisdom the Lord has given them to help humanity,” Diane said.

Besides visiting with their friends at the orphanage, the Cowleses also wanted to catch up with a group called Ultimate Mission in India.

Diane wanted to get many pictures and videos so she could produce a promotional DVD of the work this organization is doing to train women in India to become medical missionaries.

The goal of the organization is to train and certify women to receive wages for their assistance in outlying villages in the areas of first-aid, hygiene, nutrition and clean water safety.

The DVD she makes will be a gift for the group to use as they see fit.

“It’s not as easy as it sounds to get just the right shot,” Diane said.

Moving around the different towns of eastern India they took advantage of domestic flights, taxis and trains.

“The train ride down to Ongole was interesting because it was an all-night ride in a strange country,” Ivan said.

“I wouldn’t want to drive there.

“In the first place, if you hit somebody, the crowd that gathers may try to execute justice then and there.”

He also commented on women who sat side-saddle on the backs of motorcycles in their colorful saris.

Some fell off as the motorcycle drivers were weaving in and out of traffic.

“Nobody stays in their lanes,” he recalled.

“They were swerving all over the place.”

Returning to the United States on Jan. 30 was no problem for them in spite of the recently reported chaos at international airports around America.

U.S. security and customs officials separated out those passengers who had American or Canadian citizenship or green cards.

“We got through customs faster than ever,” Diane said.

_________

Zorina Barker lives in the Sol Duc Valley with her husband, a logger, and two children she home-schools.

Submit items and ideas for the column to her at zorina [email protected], or phone her at 360-327-3702. West End Neighbor appears in the PDN every other Tuesday.

Her next column will be Feb. 22.

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