Travel with me…around and within – Ryan

Maltese born under a wandering star

The Indifference

Posted by ryanjpisani on October 28, 2007

Indifference is defined as being emotionless. An apathy demonstrated by an absence of emotional reactions, the trait of lacking enthusiasm for or interest in things generally. This is a dictionary definition. In simple words…we do not care about what is happening around us. The worse kind of indifference is that toward other human beings. If you just stop and think for even one second, don’t you feel that we are actually indifferent to a whole lot of people? Well you might say, no because “I care for others”, “I donate money”.

‘Fake’ Generosity

 Let’s start from ‘giving money’. It’s nice to be generous. There are even special times during the year where our guilt feeling grows to a point where we start spreading our money as if it’s time to sow…as if it’s the only season. But what we are actually doing is going into a denial. As if this ‘fake’ generosity will heal the problems of the world. But it will only heal our own guilt feeling for a while. But in reality nothing changes. Seems to be a negative outlook but it is reality.

We are bombarded with scenes from across the world. Some are shocking. Kids starving to death at an incredible rate per minute. Wars killing and raping innocent people across the globe. Genocides and injustices in all continents. Some times we are also fed with features about the disabled and those less in need also in Malta.

At a point in time we become generous. We seem to wake up to our senses and feel we ought to do something. So we give, we generously give out money. Our country is one of the most generous in terms of donations per person in the world. But then I ask myself , are we really giving out because we want these people to have a better life or we just calming our guilt effect? To just say… “ok I did my part, now it’s not my fault. My good-Christian duties have been fulfilled. My share of the promised heaven is secured”. And many times we give from our extra…or to make it even worse we give out because we have the chance to win something. As if the lives of those in dire need are hooked to a car or a house which I might win!

So does this ‘generosity’ make us people who are less indifferent? You might also say… “well there are worse people who don’t give anything”. But that does not make the point. The point is that we are still indifferent.

 Do we really care for others? 

And what about our conviction that ‘we do care for others’?

Did you see that sad look in the eyes… the loneliness in those lives…. the insecurity in that walk…. the hopelessness in those thoughts?

If we pause for just a moment and look around us we can see that we are actually surrounded by people. We often come to that point where our lives, our routines, work and study consume us to a point were we become lives for ourselves. Indifferent to the lives of others. Indifferent to the problems and qualms of those around us. Starting from our families and friends.

Poverty exists in many different forms. It is not outside our comfort zones. It is not ‘out there’. It is not the scenes on the TV. It is not far from our shores. It’s next to you.

You might be sitting right now reading this article and besides you there is your mother who is going through hell to make ends meet. Or your father who is having trouble at work. Your brother who is being bullied. Your sister who is going through a phase of low self esteem. Your friend who has problems with his/her sexuality and self acceptance. Your neighbours who are having family problems. Your school mate who has a different skin colour and so is being discriminated. Your garbage collector who is being paid lower then the minimum wage just because he is an irregular immigrant.

The list goes on and on with all kinds of people to whom we are indifferent. Go to the hospital. Yes to Saint Luke’s Hospital and later on to Mater Dei and there you see abandoned elderly people. Abandoned by their children and families because they are now considered a burden by their same family.

Go to the refugee centres, if we brush aside all controversies…just look into the eyes of those children and youngsters. Their hopes and yet the feeling being lost in this world. Not knowing where they are and what will happen to them.

Even if I stop in mentioning ‘categories’…every person passes from different moments in life. But few of those around him or her realize it.  Few stop at appreciating the fact that all of us have a cross to carry. Some heavier then others. We are so concentrated on our own cross. We all believe that ours is the worse. Again…indifference. Indifference to the things that are around us. Indifferent to the great things, to the nice positive things that fill our lives.

 People – the ingredients of our life 

This is the real face of indifference. Not realizing that we are actually surrounded by people and other things. We only see what is affecting us and our guilt. Our immediate present. We come first, second and third. So consumed by ourselves that we miss out on so many things. We miss out on so many people.

One’s own life is nonsense without the lives of those around.  I cannot imagine a life without all the people we meet. Our family, friends and all those whom we meet for a short or long time. Some of them like shooting starts…you meet them for a short time but they leave a whole mark on you.

 I believe that each person we meet, each word or silence we share with another person throughout our lives, make the persons whom we are now. People are the ingredients of our own life.  When you get to know some lives…then you start appreciating the spiciness of life, that behind each face lies a past and a present and hopes for the future. Yes, just look around and appreciate the fact that behind each and every person there is a story. Such is the beauty of life and yet we are many times detached from this reality. 

So our growing indifference towards others is really hurting ourselves. We are no one without others. By shelling ourselves in our own cocoon, we are actually loosing on opportunities in reaching out and loosing ways on how to get to know and enrich ourselves through others.

 ‘Time’ – today’s diamond 

Time is today’s most precious thing. It is not gold or diamonds or money but time. So being truly generous is not only by giving out money but to ‘give’ time.

Time to play with your children. Time to talk to your mum. Time to listen to your dad. Time to be a shoulder for your friends. Time to volunteer for those in need. Time to think that we are not alone in this world. Time to be less indifferent and more conscious that the world is full of people.

Giving time is the real medicine that cures the indifference that our society is creating. Luckily there are many people, young and old, who are doing something. Who dedicate their lives to find time for others. It’s up to us now to do something. To act and not be passive. Time to make a difference.


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From China to Vietnam

Posted by ryanjpisani on October 7, 2007

What happened in the last 2 months….

In order… First a very close friend of mine here in China left to go back home. It’s always hard to say goodbye. But now I am getting immune. Since I came here there wasn’t a month were I hadn’t had to say good bye to someone.

Then just a few days after this person left, one of my closest friends in Malta came for two months here and stayed at my place for one month. Quite strange having my house with other people. Had to cope with not being totally independent any more. But it was great having him. It was a time when I turned again into a tourist in China. Went to visit temples, parks and so on.

But the highlight was the weekend break to Hang Zhou. A jewel city in China. It’s the Switzerland of Asia. The Chinese call it ‘the heaven on earth’. It was a right time and right place to have a break. With work related stress at high levels, it was the right time to regenerate the energies and the right place to do so.

Then after a few weeks, and with some household problems created by having more then one person (including having the toilet stuck!), my parents came over together with two friends. Full house. And I turned into a travel agency. Organising their days from morning to night. Whilst it was stressful, it was also nice being the mum-and-dad for my parents! Again I turned into a tourist…visiting even once more the Great Wall of China.

Then the highlight….a weekend trip to Xian…the land of the famous impressive Terracotta warriors. Xian is a living history town being the capital city of China for hundreds of years. Xian has kept it quietness. I must say a very nice town to live in. The Terracotta warriors were impressive. The sheer amount of them and the fact that they are all life size and all different. Once more after that weekend….back to Beijing. You should also know that after 3 months without getting out of china, and 5 months without a holiday, the tolerance level towards the country diminishes. Nothing against the country but the fact that the mentality is totally different and you need patience to make people understand you….is frustrating at times.

First week of October it’s a holiday here in China. And so I planned to take my parents and obviously myself to HaNoi….the capital city of Vietnam. Vietnam…wow. This country is like an album of photos, sounds and smells.

HaNoi…a chaotic bustling city full of life with millions of motorcycles and always an adventure to cross the streets.

Halong Bay: this is paradise on earth. 2 days on a ship in this lovely bay with 2000 islands. Had to be 3 days….but a typhoon was going to hit the bay so we had to leave earlier.

TamCoc: a boat trip on a sampas (their traditional small boat) amongst lovely Lord-of-the-rings-style rock formations.

Well that’s all about these 2 months. Now back to China. Time to get back on meeting my friends here and maybe make new ones.

Until next Take care


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Memoirs of a year in china – 8th August

Posted by ryanjpisani on August 8, 2007

A year…is it a lot or a little? Here in China it’s a lot in a little. Every day you meet a new person, from a new country, a new experience, a new impression, a new lesson, a new word, a new language. Every day 24 hours are like 12 hours. You wake up then suddenly it’s time to sleep….although tomorrow has already become today. In the meantime you have made your breakfast, washed clothes, ironed them, work for 10 hours (at least!), have or make dinner, shopping, meet new people, talk to (or gesture to) the taxi driver to take you home, then chat on msn, watch a dvd because your TV shows only Chinese stations and the satellite is lying in the box room waiting to be installed. And yeah suddenly after doing so much you realize it’s time to sleep. And a day passes in a whisk.
And weeks, and months. And in the meantime a year has passed in the People’s Republic of China.

And what a year! I try to figure out what is the highlight…and again it’s ‘people’. The amount of people that passed through my life. From all around the world. People who came into my life this year. People whom I said hello…and worse those whom I said goodbye.

Friends…who said that distance destroys friendship? Utter nonsense. My closest friends in Malta…I have never felt them as close as I did during this year. They were there in spirit and in contact in my highest and especially in my lowest moments.

New friends…well it is difficult for me to ‘elevate’ a person to the level of ‘friend’. But I must say that there were persons whom I have opened up myself to let them know me. Persons who have become close, so close that they knew which mood I am in.

Family…as my friends…even far away, I still feel them here beside me, hearing their advices in my heart and feeling their love and support even when I’m so far away.

Colleagues…well here I cannot really complain. From the big boss, to my boss, to the team. They are all great people whom I enjoy their company not only on work but even outside. All of them care for me a lot…well…I am the ‘baby’ of the expat community in my company.

Work….for now I must say that I am happy with my work. It gives me stress yes….but also satisfaction. It also helped me learn loads of things which are not only work related but life related.

Places…so many impressions of so many places in my mind and heart. The scenery, the architecture, the streets, the lakes, the feeling of west meeting the east, the sunsets, the beaches, the laughters, the sounds of nature. All wash into my memory of this year.

Daily experiences…well between being locked outside because ‘ when you use the white key, the gold key looses it’s power’, and having your cleaner locked inside your bathroom….China offers daily humours and frustrating experiences. From being talked to in Chinese for 15 minutes without understanding a single thing…to totally being frustrated by people not keeping a queue…at all!! From thinking you are more civilized until you are caught on video spitting in the middle of Shanghai! To going to the airport and managing to get through without showing passport or ticket so that you are able to help your friend do a check in. From taking a taxi having a mobile Karaoke system to walking in snow through cold winter blizzards. From going to a fake beach which fakes also waves to going to the mountains and walking up thousands of steps in humid august.

Between all of these you realize that you need a whole book to write all the stories of a year in China. And still you will miss half of them because the other half you forget them not because they were not strange….but then you so become used to them that they become part of normal life. Like seeing people crossing the roads randonmly and calmly. Or to see a bus literraly packed. It’s just so normal that you stop taking them into your mind.

What makes China special….well China in Chinese is Zhong Guo…which literally means Middle Kingdom. And it is…it is a country where you find people from around the world. A country where the west and east meet peacefully and build a future together.

A country which is teaching me a lot. A school of life. Would I have ever imagined up till a year and a half ago that I will end up in the far far east? I try to remember what I thought when I heard the word China when I was younger. I guess a mysterious country of chopsticks, dragons, masks, forbidden. Suddenly I am here. Typing on my computer of a whole year spent in this country. And a country which has now become a second home but which will never replace my first and only home back in Malta.

Yep, a year has passed. Dedicated to all of those who made my year go by quickly. To those who saw this year going by slowly. To those who have made it worth living and getting through. To all of these a big heartfelt thank you.

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People and Prejudice

Posted by ryanjpisani on June 16, 2007

In life we meet many people. We meet them through our daily life, on the bus, at school, at work, at the shop, our neighbours. With some we talk, with others we may have said a word, and with others we try to avoid altogether.

Each person has his or her background – history, family, culture. Even we have our own background, affected by how we have been brought up through our family, education system and circle of friends. These continuously and perpetually shape up how we act and react. Many times our reaction to other people around us lead us to ‘judge’ what is normal and not.

But what is actually normal? Normality is a relative concept, relative to the background and upbringing of each one of us. What may seem normal to me may not be to you and also the other way round. This is a concept which we struggle with every day consciously but mostly unconsciously. There are many instances where we judge something normal…a normal family, a normal lifestyle, a normal work. In the same breadth we are also stating what is for us abnormal.

And here is where prejudice comes in.

Our imagination and even our society have build up stereotypes. Stereotyping is based on generalizing characteristics over a wide range of people thus leading to prejudice and discriminatory behaviour. These stereotypes have enveloped people and made us unaware of the actual persons behind these enclosures. Many times blinded by these stereotypes we do not even feel the need to actually getting to know these people.

Today’s stereotypes are diverse…people who come from certain areas are snobs; guys having tattoos are criminals; non-Caucasians are terrorists; homosexuals are perverts… so on and so forth…the list is endless.

Every rational person associates the word ‘prejudice’ with something ‘wrong’. Many times we disassociate ourselves from being prejudiced ….but if we look deep into our actions, our ways of talking, then we see that many of us have a kind of prejudice against some person or another or a group of persons. We do not talk to some people because they come from some area, or some other country. We smirk at homosexuals. We avoid being seen with some kind of people. We make assumptions on what kind of character a person is before getting to know him or her. Many times by saying we are not prejudiced we are just fooling ourselves…our actions and our ways of describing other people talk for themselves.

One cannot deny that it is in the human instinct to ‘judge by the cover’. We constantly do so. We do it when buying things, when looking at a painting, and we also do it between ourselves. Many of us conclude hastily what kind of person an individual is by their clothes, their hair, their way of talking, and the places they frequent. Even worse we judge people by what others say about them. Rumours are in fact one of the main plagues affecting our country and like a hay fire, it spreads fast and creates side effects…of which…prejudice. Prejudices exist. It is an undeniable force within our society, so prevalent that it can be found within the most open-minded people and enlightened organizations, subtly taking its toll despite the best of intentions.

Then we ask…how healthy is it to have prejudices? How mature is it to judge by first impressions?

It is much easier to conclude that way rather then ‘wasting’ time getting to know a person on a personal basis. Why should I get to know a person when I think that he/she is so and so? But experience showed that many times first impressions and prejudice are totally wrong. Our imagination, our pre-assumptions are based on wrong impressions. Many times we loose an opportunity to get to know a lovely person just because of some pre-assumptions. Many times we had to go back on what we have thought and actually feel stupid that we have judged a person wrongly.

So again…would it have been better not being prejudiced and let a relationship with a person be born and then getting to know by first hand, what that person is? It is better knowing an “extra” person then loosing on getting to know a great person just because we were not able to look beyond the exterior or worse to look beyond the imagined cover we ourselves have created through our prejudice. Instead of bringing or holding people together, prejudice and discrimination push them apart

All kinds of people are at the end of the days human persons…like you, like myself…all of us are sons and daughters. Prejudice in our society has created ways of making us afraid of getting to know other people just because we think they are different. We are social persons and as such we should act. Prejudice in real terms makes us loose contact with other people. We are at the end of the day all brothers and sisters who live in the same world…maybe act differently, but then different does not mean less it only means different. And it is this diverse ways of living and of being that makes this world interesting and our contact with people all the more enlightened. We all have something to learn from other people so it is for the good of ourselves to remove prejudice and look at others without these pre-assumptions.

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Our life…God’s loving gift of hope

Posted by ryanjpisani on May 23, 2007

It seems such a short word…’life’. A Simple word but so strong, yet taken for granted. One word that describes many things. 4 letters that describe a whole cycle. Life…yours and mine…same word, different meanings.

The Start

It all starts very simply….two persons loving each other. It is such a strong emotion that it is able to create another life. A same human being as the two persons that became one. It is difficult to contemplate the creation of man without thinking that it is a miracle. Even if you don’t believe in God, it is still difficult not to be awestruck by the marvelous process of how life starts from a seed sown in a women’s womb, to become a child, an adolescent, a man or woman.

It is love that creates life. It is not simply the love of a man and women, but most importantly is the love of God that makes it possible for a human being to be created. This is the great miracle and it is a daily miracle. Every day thousands of children are born around the world. It all starts the same. The same start, different lives, different futures.

And the miracle goes on every day of our life. What makes us go on everyday? To wake up in the morning and still being here to cherish what we have and to discover new things we still don’t. It is the miracle of life. Many people think that miracles are something out of this world, extraordinary, people starting walking, blind seeing, and so on…yet forget that a miracle is something as simple as waking up in the morning and living.

Yes, life is taken for granted. This has become a cliché. But it is true. And yet we don’t do much to start really cherishing our life and other’s lives. Do we truly believe that life is the greatest gift? Do we really appreciate that if there was not life, we would not have anything? We would not have met the people in our lives, the lessons we learnt, the experiences we had. True, we might have passed from bad patches of life or we are at this time passing from a bad period, but it is life that keeps us going and hoping for a better future. We can sometimes come to hate our life, we all pass from these moments, but what makes us go on? It is hope. And hope comes only from life.

Culture of Death

In today’s world we are faced with the “culture of death” as Pope John Paul II put it “a new cultural climate is developing and taking hold, which gives rise to crimes against life…broad sectors of public opinion justify certain crimes against life in the name of the rights of individual freedom, and on this basis they claim not only exemption from punishment but even authorization by the State, so that these things can be done with total freedom and indeed with the free assistance of health-care systems” (Evangelium Vitae, 1995).

It is not only death itself, or anything that causes death, but also any type of action, or lack of action that goes against the dignity of life. Even our indifference towards poverty, child labour, prostitution, selling of women and children, goes against life.


One of the crimes that goes against life in the name of the rights of individual freedom is abortion.

Abortion is not a simple topic, nor a simple act. Yet it is done in many countries without much ado and it has become part of the daily life.

On this very day there are about 126,000 abortions being done around the world. Through this year, in the entire world, 46million fetuses would be destroyed. Even if one does not agree that life is being killed, but it is easy to see that 46 million future lives are not going to be given the possibility to be started. In India it is estimated that over the last 10 years, 10 million girls should have been born, but because of abortion, this was not possible…and the numbers go on, and behind the numbers, lives.

The issue of abortion is a hot issue. With people agreeing and others don’t, whilst others have no opinion. We can put it down to religion or politics. But all in all it boils down to ‘life’ and how much we cherish this life and the future of life. It is not a topic of whether it should be legalized or not….but whether it goes in favour or not of life.

Are we able to decide who shall live and who shall not? Who shall be given the possibility of building a future and who not? As Mother Theresa puts it “it is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you may live as you wish” and she continues in saying that “…I feel that the greatest destroyer of peace today is abortion, because it is a war against the child – a direct killing of the innocent child – murder by the mother herself. And if we accept that a mother can kill even her own child, how can we tell other people not to kill one another?”

This is exactly the culture of death. A culture whereby life is destroyed with the excuse of living a better life. A contradiction within itself. And these are the paradoxes that make life complicated. From the simple act of love, it becomes the complex struggle of war within ourselves and with our pairs.

It is love that creates life and it is the lack of love that destroys it.

It is not merely abortion itself that destroys life, even the indifference and lack of consideration not only for our life, but also for that of others is also a lack of appreciation of this gift of life. What are we doing? Are we doing something? Do we know about what is attacking life today? Are we active in cherishing it? It does not take much. It only takes a bit of our time and energy to give something….even listening to a friend, doing voluntary work, not being judgmental, not having prejudice. All of this instills a culture of life.

Life and love….into eternity

It is by starting to really understand the concept of life that we can really cherish it, believe in it and see it as something great. Understanding that it is a divine gift we are freely and unconditionally given. If we understand this, then we are able to appreciate life and really live it. And even if living by its natural meaning, means also dying, then it will not mean the end, because this loving gift goes beyond our earthly existence. “Man is called to a fullness of life which far exceeds the dimensions of his earthly existence, because it consists in sharing the very life of God” (Pope John Paul II – Evangelium Vitae).

It is easy then to see that through love, life goes on and so hope goes on. It is in the resurrection of Christ that we ourselves see life as an ongoing process that essentially does not end merely by the destruction of the body. This is so because love itself is not dependent on the body and love comes from God, and so life. Love and life are united, and through the infinite love of God, we find the reason why we are called to live life eternally.

If we view life as one with love, than it is easy to see why it is through loving that we live. It is through loving the dignity of our body, the dignity of life from its start, through its whole cycle, and having faith that life continues in unison with God.

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Pain and Sorrow – the winters of our life

Posted by ryanjpisani on April 7, 2007

It is an absurd, stupid statement to say that each one of us has passed or will pass through moments in life when we feel pain, sorrow, feel lost or have experience a tragedy, small or big. It is absurd to say this because it is a fact of life. It is as if saying the winter comes every year. No news. But even so, we all feel at loss when such moments come upon us. It is as if we want to escape such moment. It is as if we always believed that our life is like a fairy tale, always with the ending we wanted, we wished for.

The blame-game

The most astonishing part when we pass through these bad patches is the way we as human beings deal with it. The most common way how we react in such situations is to put a blame on someone or something.

We either blame another person. We find a scapegoat so that we feel better. Or else we blame ourselves…self-pitying, ending up with an infinite questions starting with ‘what if’…’what if I did not do that, what if I did not say that, what if I was there’.
And then, there is always another scapegoat…especially famous with us Christians…God himself. “Why did You let this happen? What did I do wrong God to deserve this?”.
In times when we are at loss why some bad things happen to us, it is difficult to see the reason why we are going through hell on earth so we try put a blame.

But actually does this ‘blame game’ make sense? What does it lead to? Stopping and thinking about it…it leads only to a selfish act whereby for us to feel better we just blame something. By playing the blame game we pin down the pain to a controllable fact. But the fact is that we do not have any control on such things. We try to play God when in fact we are not. By doing so we deny the essential fact of life that we are not in control of everything. When playing the blame game we loose time and energy on something which leads to nothing.

God himself does not play the blame game. If we look into the story of Job, this is clear. Job had everything…rich, healthy, nice family. Then one day all of this was gone. There came his so-called-friends and asked him what did he do wrong to deserve all this. Job always claimed his innocence, but they continued in stating that if God let this happen it was because he did something wrong. God is the ‘gotcha’ fellow, who is looking round and zapping all those who do something wrong. But no… Job was sure God was not like that. At the end of the book of Job, God finally sides with Job and proclaims his innocence.

Jesus himself taught us this essential fact. When He was brought a blind man from birth, the Pharisees asked Him… “so tell us, did he sin, or was it his parents who sinned”. Jesus dismissed them. God does not act that way. We do not pass from times of pain and sorrow because we did something wrong but because it is part of our life, part of something which is beyond us, many times beyond our understanding.

This is our God. He is not there to punish us for our wrong doings. He instead is there as the Good Shepard, who leaves everything to find the lost sheep. So, again, it is wasting time to think that our tragedies come because of our wrong doings. Or worse, we are angry because we did not do anything wrong, and yet tragedies happen to us. Again wasting time.

Pain and sorrow are emotions which like joyfulness, are essential parts of us. It is by accepting these emotions brought by these crosses that we can look back, take the lessons that are offered to us in these moments, and then look forward to use them. It is a waste of time to lock ourselves in the past and try to find a reason. By doing so we would be robbing ourselves from the precious present and loose on opportunities that are offered to us daily. Opportunities in which we can use for the benefit of ours and others the lessons we learn in our pain.


We are now in the Lent period and soon Easter. Traditionally we associate Lent with a sad period, where as kids we were forced not to eat sweets, or meat on Wednesdays and Fridays. But what shall such period offer us, especially to us young people?

The lent period is there for us to contemplate the resurrection of Jesus after the pain. Contemplating that even in times when we are in a bad patch, there is always hope. Hope that the Pascal mystery gives…the resurrection. And resurrection does not only mean that of after our death. But in our daily lives we can resurrect. It is a choice that we make. A choice to anew ourselves. Even in times of pain, it shall be our deliberate choice to move on. To start afresh. It is our choice to accept ourselves, our pain, our faults, but also to see in us the good thing, our talents, our greatness. Never forgetting that we are sons and daughters of God. Is there any other greatest honour or gift then that? This is the dignity that was given to us through our faith. The dignity of human beings as people called upon a divine plan. And so we are called upon taking our cross and use it for the glorification of ourselves and God as Jesus did on His cross.

We take this lent period to contemplate that God himself has suffered. This is our greatest hope. If God has suffered….then for sure He understands our pain and even if we do not feel him in such moments, He is there to support us….”I have heard the cries of my people”. He hears us even if we stubbornly believe that He does not. We can use our tragedy to glorify our human nature and to glorify the infinite plans of our God. We do not know the reasons of our sufferings, but God does. So instead of loosing time in finding blame or in self-pity, it is wiser to hold on, carry the cross and move forward stronger then before, faithful that in our life we will have our resurrection.

We see in Jesus a humane person and even as such, he did not try to find a scapegoat. He did not blame others…”God forgive them because they know not what they’re doing”. He did not blame God…”Thy will be done”.

True, it is easier said then done, but easy roads have never given anyone any satisfaction, It is the path of thorn roses which make us stronger in the end. Our faith is not an easy faith but a faith that leads us to growth because we are called upon having hope in the future. And such hope is not given to us by merely blubbering, but by facts. These are the facts that we are contemplating and remembering during lent. The fact that winters exist in our life… but also spring and summer.

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Volunteering with Child labours in India – a life-changing experience

Posted by ryanjpisani on January 20, 2006

This article is about something which has filled my heart and changed my life.

Imagine yourself as parents; you get into some kind of debt with a landowner for a few hundreds of Maltese liri. The landowner tells you, “no problem, there is no need to pay me…. Just give me your children to work for me for the next 2 years”. And you accept because you do not think you have any other choice. You won’t see your children for the next, yes, 12 years.

This is the reality for over 40 million children in India.

These children, boys and girls, are normally aged between 4 and 16. They work in different kind of situations. They start doing, forcefully, agriculture work, prostitution, rag picking (collecting waste to sell), begging, building, herding and working in factories.

Their conditions are miserable. Their daily work starts from 5am and ends at 10pm, if they are lucky. The same luck also has the last say on whether they are given any food at all. In fact these children suffer from severe malnutrition. Many of them get abused. Many of them suffer physical pain through burns and animal bites

These children lack the love of their parents and education. But worse is their childhood is taken away in a blink of a second and robbed off the possibility of having a brighter future.

These children have names. These children have faces. This is a reality.

The Salesians of Don Bosco in India are doing something to react to this bleak reality. They are establishing colleges and industrial training institutes, vocational and professional training centres, orphanages, boarding and emergency shelters, housing programmes as well as other community development programmes.

In particular they opened tens of re-orientation schools where children are collected from the streets and work places and are given shelter, food, education and moreover they are given affection, a chance for a brighter future. Children are finally children again.

It was summer 2005 when I decided that I had to face this reality. I count myself lucky to have been welcomed in a Salesian project in Davangere about 300km north of Bangalore, in south India. Here the Salesians have 2 boarding schools where they welcome about 80 child labours – boys and girls, every year. It was in these schools which I volunteered for 6 weeks.

I finally had the chance to look into the eyes of tens of these children who a few days before were suffering because of the injustices of mankind.

It’s easy for us to take things for granted. It’s easy to take for granted our children, our education, our work, and our standards of living. It is easy not to appreciate all the simple things we have – the daily dinner, hot water, water itself, the washing machine, our parents, our friends.

The volunteering in India has made me face the lack of all of these. Everyday it was a new experience. Everyday it was a new lesson. Most importantly it made me reflect on what are the most important things in life.

All the kids I met – all of them – have nothing. They sleep on the floor; they have only a couple of clothes, no toothbrushes. Yet, yet, they have something which many of us do not have. They have peace. I can remember them well. They were all the time smiling. You can look at them and see their big black eyes with long eyelashes, smiling back at you. They were happy because finally they had the most important thing – love.

They did not want much from me. All they wanted was my holding their hands, my hugs, my time with them. Many did not even understand English and my Indian local language skills were still rudimentary. Yet children are children, and the language of love is universal. Still they were grateful for the time spent with them.

This is all about volunteering. Volunteering is something which one gives, but in return one receives a million times more. I once read a quote which really struck me as true “it is much easier to receive then to give” and Mother Theresa had once said “they [the poor] give us much more then we give them”….it is true, positively true. I went to India to volunteer myself but found out that I was receiving much more…beautiful lessons of life.

This India is a land which really gave me much more then I gave her – a land where I found generosity in poverty; simplicity in a complicated world; innocence even in children who had to grow up; smiles in kids who have experienced enough to cry. A land of contrast… a land of colours, blending with the darkness of plagues of social injustice; a land of respectful gestures, and yet lack respect to children; a land of hi-tech and poverty;

The kids: I am sure that I will never, never forget them, and it is a promise I made with them – that they will always be my little brothers.

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