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Cultural Heritage in the Spotlight

The kids love to sing and dance in honor of their tribal heritage.

Angels’ Place is located in Curachandpur, a district of Manipur bordering Myanmar in the north eastern corner of India. Yes, it is a region crippled by poverty, yet it is also rich with culture and natural beauty including waterfalls and historic caves. The town is surrounded by small tribal villages nestled in the hillsides where closely knit communities scrap together meager existences. Yet in the face of unimaginable hardships, they still find ways to express a love of life through singing, dancing, community festivals and celebrations.

"The hill slopes reverberate with the sound of gongs, cries and echoes of singing men and women, while drum beats drown out the regular monotony of isolation." (from the Churachandpur Official Website)

The district is made up of several tribes, all with their own unique and colorful cultural traditions. Most of the children from Angels’ Place come from the Paite tribe, with some also from the Mizo and Kuki. The predominant native languages are Paite, Manipuri and Hindi, and thanks to the education they receive through Angels’ Place, they are all proficient in English, a skill that will give them a competitive edge in the job market.

Coming from such long traditions of festivals and celebrations, the children love to sing and dance! Not only the traditional songs and dances of their tribal heritage, but those of popular modern culture as well. The children enjoy the ancient folk songs celebrating every day tasks of village life like farming, cooking, building huts and weaving cloth as much as the blockbuster songs of their favorite 21st-century music artists. Dancing is no different. The Cheraw, a complex traditional dance using bamboo rods, is as popular with the children as modern styles they learn on the internet. Whether it’s a traditional bamboo dance or a Bollywood mega-hit on the program, the children express great joy and fulfillment sharing their love of song and dance with the visitors and staff of Angels' Place.

We, at James Connection, value the cultural heritage of the children and make sure they have plenty of opportunities to honor and share it. We believe cultivating pride in where they come from is important in helping them form healthy identities and building successful futures.

 

A Busy Summer at Angels’ Place

The summer has been a busy time at Angels’ Place!

India continues to face the Covid-19 pandemic. The rate of new cases has declined since the worst period, which was in May of this year, but the disease remains a primary concern for the nation and for managing the community at Angels’ Place. Manipur, the state where Angels’ Place is located, has had lower occurrence of Covid-19, which is fortunate for the staff and children. All those over the age of 18 have received at least one vaccination, and all of the children remain protected by the measures taken by the staff: masking, daily temperature checks, and a no-visitor policy to the campus.

To date, no child has contracted Covid-19, a blessing for which we are thankful.

The state education department decided this summer to cancel board exams for the older children in order to reduce transmission risk for Covid-19. The staff has been working hard to keep the children involved in activities and to support education during this time while the school system has been suspended. Earlier this year, a number of the children participated in a painting competition, and staff has presented a number of presentations geared toward learning professional skills and cultivating a healthy work-life balance as the older students approach adulthood. We also are pleased to share news of several programs held over the summer:

  • Core Classes: In order to keep children on track with their schooling and keep them engaged in studies, the staff started to teach regular classes for all children from nursery school through Class 10. The on-site instructors have divided the responsibilities for teaching writing, communication skills, and reasoning skills. Additionally, students in Classes 9 and 10 are also taking classes in social science, science, English, and mathematics.
  • Bible Study: In July staff had Bible study, which was divided into two groups: nursery school through Class 6, and Classes 7-12.
  • Sewing: Eight of the students participate in vocational training in sewing, which had been suspended because of the pandemic. The program resumed this summer, with modifications to protect everyone’s health.
  • Online Painting Class: A weekly online painting class was organised for interested children ages 9-12. A professional designer, Mrs. Smriti Ahuja, taught the course titled “Healing with Paint.”

Finally, we are pleased to report the graduation of 12 children from their schooling and from Angels’ Place. Sanga and other staff members held a ceremony on July 2, to congratulate them and offer encouragement as they enter their independent adult lives. During the program, the children expressed their heartfelt gratitude to James Connection sponsors and the staff of Angels' Place for all the years of love, care and nurturing that they have received. Their successful transition into adulthood has come due to the generous support of all the James Connection sponsors, who have provided them with a safe and secure home, nourishment, education, and spiritual enrichment.

A Message from Jan

Dear Friend of James Connection,

This pandemic has gone on so long it seems we have grown apart from both the children of Angels' Place and you, our sponsors and donors. I have not been able to go to India for two years and we have not been able to get around the US to speak to you, our supporters. But let me assure you, we have not been sitting still. Angels' Place is better than ever. With your help, we just keep making it better and better each year. This past year has been no different.

We have all of our kids back on campus and despite being in lock-down, they are all healthy and well. We just graduated another 12 seniors, most of whom will go on to college. We have added a new building for vocational education classes as well as eight new computers with printers and software. We are in the process of installing a new water retention system with a well in the girls' dorm.

As you can see, we have been busy doing good work for the children. As soon as we are able, we will go to Angels' Place and get out to make presentations anywhere you give us the opportunity.

Please, keep in touch and reach out anytime if you have ideas for getting the message to more potential sponsors and donors.

Thank you for your ongoing support.

~ Jan

Empowering Girls

The education James Connection provides the children at Angels’ Place puts all of them, regardless of gender, at a significant advantage over those who don’t complete their studies. But the impact it has on girls is potentially life-changing. It often means the difference between a life of impoverished servitude and one of thriving independence.

Much of rural India, and even many urban communities, still operate under a long tradition of bias against girls. Most of our girls at Angels’ Place come from small villages where this mentality is firmly entrenched. Many found themselves so burdened by the demands of their home life that an education was a dream beyond reach. The brilliant future doctors, teachers, bank officers, entrepreneurs and scientists of the world were trapped in ramshackled huts cooking meals on open fire pits, lugging water, and caring for younger children. Even if their time allowed a few precious minutes of intellectual stimulation, the resources were just not available to them.

Then they came to Angels’ Place.

Thanks to the work we do at James Connection, girls are getting the opportunity to become vital, contributing members of their community. The education they receive not only cultivates their confidence to lead their own lives and follow their own dreams, but it also brings them new respect in their villages. Families and village elders are beginning to realize the value educated girls can offer their communities. Little by little, the mentality is shifting and they are seeing the fruits of a previously untapped resource. Organizations like James Connection offer an alternative to the old regime, opening up a new world of possibilities by empowering young girls through education.

Sawmi, a recent graduate of Angels’ Place, is a wonderful example of how life-changing an education can be. She is a role model for the younger girls at the orphanage and in her village. They see her, a thriving, independent, young women pursuing a masters degree and they think: “She did it. So can I.”. Read more about Sawmi's story here.

But in the end, it is our sponsors and donors who make it possible for these girls to feel such empowerment. Without the financial resources to keep them in school, their intellectual talent would be wasted. There are bigger problems than how to haul a heavy jug of water for these future stars of the world to solve. Thanks to their sponsors, they can!

If you want to learn more about how you can make a difference in the lives of young girls struggling to realize their dreams, check out our Ways to Help page.