Two Worlds Coming Together

September 20, 2015
Ragnidevi, Priyanka (Ragnidevi daughter), and Elizabeth as they receive the pipes for their irrational system

by Elizabeth Khosravi

International Day of Peace is a day when countries stand together for those who are suffering the impact of violence and conflict. We all come together to share ideas and plans in order to help and support them in their time of need and to models the ideals of peace.

In 2013, I took a challenge to study abroad in the foothills of the Himalayas in India. Within weeks of arriving, all I heard were stories about the worst monsoon flooding in Indian history that occurred just a couple weeks before school started. Its effect on surrounding villages was tremendous and everyone was trying their best as a community to support the most affected people. Many villages were wiped out, people were missing, and there were many more homeless and hopeless people. The whole situation made me realize how fortunate I am and the desire of being involved couldn’t go away. So I started a project, Two Worlds Coming Together.

During winter break, I came back to Vermont and got to work. I spoke at several local venues, the Rotary Club, schools, clubs and tried to spread the word regarding this devastating disaster. During a month and half I collected over $1000 and more than 100 pounds of clothing. When I returned to my school in Mussoorie, India I gave the clothing to children at a local school. I also visited the most affected local village to decide how I could help with the donations I collected. When we came to the village, the village's men, women and children greeted us. They were all very happy to see us, as they knew we were coming to help. After talking to them I noticed there was a woman on the side who did not come to greet us but stayed aside with her daughter. I asked the translator why she is not coming closer. He said she is not allowed. That got my attention and I wanted to know why. The reason struck me like lightening. Her husband left her for another women and the village did not support her anymore. It was heartbreaking to learn that in the society she was part of if the husband leaves his wife for any reason it’s considered to be the wife’s fault and even her own family will reject her. That was the case with this woman as her own parents moved with her ex-husband to different village and left her with her daughter behind willing not to see them again. Questions arise in my head. How could parents do this to their own daughter? Where did she find the strength to stand up and move on? How could she live with this kind of attitude from her own parents and the whole village she spend her life with? I knew that was a calling for me and I decided to support Ragnidevi who was struggling to keep her newly built fields – the only source of food and income. I helped built irrigation system for her fields, so she didn’t need to water her fields manually. It was a life-changing event for both of us. When we were leaving she started to kiss my feet. It was an embarrassing moment but I knew that it meant a lot for her. She said that she would not survive if I had not helped her.

Fields destroyed by landslides
The fields destroyed by the landslides after the monsoon finally ended.

I always knew the definition of dignity but I never saw it in real life how one can loose their dignity. What I experienced with Ragnidevi made me realize that dignity is really fragile and without having respect and support from others, life can be really difficult. Even now that I finished my studies in India and I’m back in the US, I can’t stop thinking about how Ragnidevi will live her life and how her experiences are going to affect her daughter. Is she going to teach her the same as her mother taught her or is she going to teach her that everyone deserves dignity? I just hope she will choose the better option. Thus, I believe that it’s up to the next generation to pick up the pieces from the previous generation and put them together for the brighter picture.

During my travels I realized that all people in the world want the same thing- to live a happy and productive life. This can’t be done without peace on earth. Even though India is half way across the world, this doesn’t mean that these kinds of issues maybe on different level can’t happen around us. That’s why I believe that talking about bringing peace to this world and stopping violence (not just physical but also physiological) is important in order to cherish each and everyone’s dignity so that we can all live to our full potential.

Even though I will continue my education in USA, I have every intention to continue this project and all these experience lead me to be apart of the Children of Earth organization. My project will soon be included in the COE’s projects for the global community. In fact, COE and my project share similar values, love – for the form, voice, thoughts and spirit of each person, respect – for difference, courage – to take a stand, and wisdom - to be a seeker. By being apart of this organization, I plan on continuing creating peace among people. I would also like to inspire and unite young people to be courageous and step out of their comfort zone to find wisdom to seek opportunities for create a peaceful and sustainable world by one step at the time.

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