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Tuesday, May 23, 2017

My Next Project - My 100 Daughters from India and Rising Star Outreach

    For years, our family has longed to adopt a little girl from India.  This is where the story of A 100 Daughters starts.
My students at New Horizon. 
In 2013 when my daughter Eden was three years old, she started a bedtime routine that became quite extravagant. I would tuck her into bed and say, “I always wanted a little girl just like you,” and she would hold my face in her tiny delicate hands and start kissing me.  First on my cheeks, then I’d close my eyes and she’d kiss my eye lids – first one, then the other.  Then, she’d kiss my ears, forehead, top of my head, my mouth, chin, neck and hands until she felt her love had been adequately expressed.  So insistent was her affection, she couldn’t fall asleep until she placed her kisses upon me.  One particular night, I was rushed putting her to bed.  I wondered if all her kissing was simply a bedtime delay tactic, but something inside me said her demonstration was an ancient ritual, and I was to take the time to let her show her love.  The way Eden loved me was not of this world. 
A few nights later, while I was putting her to bed and she had finished all her kissing, I was staring into her bright blue eyes. Eden asked if she would ever have a sister. With a family full of brothers, I knew the odds were not in her favor.
“I want 100 sisters,” she said, delightfully. 
“100 sisters,” I laughed, and took her in my arms as we giggled.  “That would mean I’d have 100 daughters,” and my heart burst with love. 
The very thought of 100 daughters felt like magic.  100 daughters would make our lives just about perfect.  While considering such an idea, I asked Eden what it would be like if we had 100 sisters.  Our discussion magically turned into a poem of sorts, alive with color and joy.  Because of my love for the girls of India, each of the 100 daughters I saw in my mind had the beautiful features of a girl from India – the black hair, dark eyes and brown skin.  After Eden fell asleep, I ran to the computer and started writing. I titled the story My 100 Daughters. This story is shared in my memoir Starving Girl.
100 daughters?  How would we do it? Could Eden and I help 100 girls from India? And what about adopting a little girl? After watching a documentary about India called It’s a Girl (click here to read a blog post I wrote years ago about my reaction to the film), I was passionate to do my part to help change the conditions in which the girls lived in. In some parts of India, it was customary that when girls married, their parents would pay a hefty dowry. This dowry could sometimes be up to half of the family’s entire worldly possessions.  Many families could not afford the cost to raise a girl, only to then pay and marry her off.  A daughter might earn no money, have little to no education and might never have the right to own property.  She might become a slave in an arranged marriage and treated like property by her new husband and mother-in-law.  Many baby girls were abandoned or sold into slavery.  What could we do to help?
In January 2016, I started practicing intermittent fasting and after the first 30 days, felt impressed to donate money to those who are hungry.  I conducted some research on nonprofit organizations in India and our family decided to donate $1,000 to Rising Star Outreach.  In April, 2004 this incredible organization started a school that helps children whose parents suffer with leprosy.  With $1000, we could sponsor two girls and the rest of the money would help Rising Star volunteers travel to the leprosy colonies, making sure the children had food, supplies and school lessons.  After a year, our sponsorship would expire, so with prayer and some careful budgeting, our family decided to donate again this year, this time sponsoring three girls.  In my heart, I knew it was a slow path to 100 daughters, but we were one step closer.
I sent the director of Rising Star Outreach the poem My 100 Daughters and after visiting on the phone, told her my goal to publish the story in a children’s book.  I also wanted to draw each daughter, all 100 of them, but there was one problem.  I’m not an artist.  I’ve always been creative, but where would I begin drawing each of these 100 beautiful girls from India?  It didn’t matter. These were my daughters and Eden’s sisters.  We would find a way.  I purchased an art book, coloring pencils and started drawing. (Ironically, the director of Rising Star was amazing I'd been fasting, as fasting is a very prominent practice in India and the children at the school had witnessed many amazing miracles because of fasting. Could this be another reason fasting had become such a central part of my life?)
Rising Star emailed me hundreds of amazing photos of the girls from India.  With those photos and some research, I was able to start.  One day, I colored in one of the illustrations with colored pencils, and Eden proclaimed with tears in her eyes, “I wanted to color it.”  The idea to have an accompanying coloring book was born.  
Everyday, she runs in the door from school, excited to see my latest progress and all her friends are eagerly waiting for their pictures to color.  In the meantime, I have been able to share this project with the students at New Horizon where I work as the creative writing teacher.  

These bright, caring kids are now very interested in helping the girls from India too.  This is a big project, but our goal is to be finished with 100 daughters of India by October 2017.  It will be released on October 11, International Day of the Girl.  The children's book will be called My 100 Daughters and the coloring book will be titled My 100 Sisters. So far, I have about 30 girls drawn.  Here are  a few samples.

I don't know how and I don't know when, but I feel I'm literally drawing my daughter of India to me. 

I know my little girl loves to color and I'd imagine the little girls from India would love to color too.

          Rising Star Outreach has asked me to come to Utah on June 20, 2017 to attend their presidential brunch, where I will be able to meet many of their donors and supporters.  I will also be able to meet the founder of Rising Star, Becky Douglas. Eden and I are thrilled to be attending.  What is my goal?  Well, of course to someday very soon adopt a little girl from India.  I feel she will be Eden's age, probably seven or eight.  I also hope to encourage others to donate to Rising Star and sponsor a girl.  The cost is $1.00 a day, $365 for the year.  If you understood the conditions these little girls live in, you would be compelled to help. Did you know in many parts of India, ultrasounds are not offered because so many little girls are aborted.  They are just not wanted.  Many baby girls are abandoned or suffer death through infanticide, which is the practice of killing a baby after it's born. Rising Star is there as a beacon of hope.  Through this campaign and with the help of others, I hope at least 100 girls will be sponsored.  You can contact them here and mention you wish to support the 100 Daughters Campaign.

          I will be in Utah from June 20 to June 23.  I would love to reach out to others to have a book discussion in your home, school, library  or church on my books Starving Girl – My 30-Day Experience with Intermittent Fasting andPrayer, What Has Your Sister Done –Stories of Unplanned Pregnancy or to discuss my project of the 100 Daughters.  If you are interested, please email me at  Thank you for your support on this next endeavor.  When the coloring book is complete, I will be selling them to raise funds to send to India and adopt my little girl. I will also be donating the coloring books to the children at Rising Star Outreach.

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