Fundraiser for Sri Devi’s Heart Surgery:

Venmo: @Amanda-Wibben

My dear friend and coworker from India has a one year old son, Sri Dev R., who is in need of heart surgery. Priya, my colleague, is an abacus teacher at Holy Cross Matriculation Higher Secondary School in Vellore, India where I taught almost two years ago. Her son was born while I was still there in October, and I was so fortunate to be able to celebrate his birth and see him grow during his first few months of life.

Sri Devi was born with infundibular stenosis and Tetralogy of Fallot, a rare heart condition that involves defects in four areas of the heart. He will be undergoing an intracardiac repair at the Christian Medical College in Vellore next month, as this condition requires early surgical intervention. While Priya’s family will be funding this surgery out of pocket with fundraising from some local churches and temples, the procedure and follow up care is extremely expensive.

If you would be interested in donating to help fund his procedure, you can Venmo me directly through my username [ @Amanda-Wibben ]. Priya and I would be unbelievably grateful. Priya is a dear friend of mine who I was so lucky to meet during my time in India, and I will never be able to repay her for being so good to me. Helping her family is only a small way I can attempt to give back.

If you would like more details about how I will deliver funds to Priya for the procedure, please feel free to ask. I will be collecting money over my personal Venmo and will be transferring all funds directly to her family through an international transferring app called Remitly, as many common fundraising sites like GoFundMe are not valid for money transfers to certain international countries. Should you have any concerns or questions, I would be happy to chat!

Venmo: @Amanda-Wibben

If you want to know more about my experiences with Priya, I have pasted one of my journal entries from India about her below.

               Simple. Traditional. Quiet. Reserved. Modest. These are all words I use to explain and sugar coat the simplicity of my new town—because Vellore is quiet and traditional and very very simple. Its burning sun has yet to kiss my shoulders, knees, and ankles, I am not sure where I to find a single drop of alcohol, and few autos roam the roads after 10 pm. Vellore is traditional. And sometimes it is hard.

               Now that’s not to say there isn’t much to love about this city. I have had Kumkum powder pressed carefully onto my forehead in neighborhood temples and been welcomed into homes for traditional Hindu ceremonies. I have shared countless tiffin lunches with the abacus teachers who now form my Indian girl gang, and I’ve been fortunate enough to enjoy carefully prepared biriyani generously shared for Eid. I have picnicked on the grass of the Vellore Fort. I have watched the wife of our landlord prostrate herself at the feet of an elderly woman out of respect and admiration, and I’ve listened to women giggle at the irony of waking up 3 a.m. on auspicious days to begin pujas intended to bless their husbands with long lives. I’ve discovered the proper places to shop for sarees and scheduled coffee dates with fellow teachers over broken texts and whispered conversations. I’d like to think I know the daily routine of a traditional South Indian woman like the back of my hand, and I have asked enough about the marriage process to arrange one myself. I have had countless experiences, moments, and meetings for which I am forever grateful and graciously indebted. But still, sometimes, I struggle.

               Perhaps it is my recent return from a more urban, Western Indian city that has me missing nights out with friends filled with unfiltered discourse and exposed kneecaps and vodka cranberries. Perhaps it is the weeks I spent unable to travel due to what was almost definitely hepatitis. Or perhaps it is the twinge of isolation and loneliness I feel when I’m itching to vent about classroom struggles or my frustration with the DivaCup but have no one to listen.

               Still, I have become incredibly grateful for friends back home to whom I have never felt closer. To Paige and Gabbi and Will and Kim, to my brother, to my parents, thank you for listening, thank you for sharing, for calling and texting, laughing and crying. To my fellow Fulbrighters to whom I am so fortunate to have come to know in such a brief time thus far, thank you for listening and laughing, for your honesty and fearlessness, and for always being willing to include me in your next adventure. We often laugh about the likelihood of our friendships had we met in the States, and while we all agree our sundry little group would have likely not existed, I am so incredibly grateful for this bond we have formed over chai and idly, in heavy monsoon rains, on $1.50 bus rides, and on nearly missed planes.

               And to Priya, a teacher at my school who will likely never read this but who I want to make sure I mention—thank you. Priya has been the one teacher at my school who listens and talks to me not like a guest or stranger but like a friend. The staff at my school has been nothing but welcoming and kind, but the language barrier and our mutual unfamiliarity often limits conversations to discussions of what we have eaten and confused laughter over misunderstandings. But Priya has shared intimate details of her life, her pregnancy, and her job, unintimidated if I don’t understand the first time around. She has made me belly laugh over classroom struggles, and she answers all my questions honestly. She listens when I share stories of my own life without judgement and with empathy and compassion despite our difference in culture, and I am comforted to know that she too feels comfortable enough to share and vent to me about things she does not always disclose to our colleagues.

               Last week, I was able to attend Priya’s baby shower, and although I came underdressed and exhausted after travelling all night long, I have never been happier to be somewhere in India. To see Priya so beautifully dressed and celebrated by her friends and family was a gift to witness. And after watching her friends and family bless her, her husband invited me to participate in the ceremony as well. With guidance, I rubbed turmeric clay on Priya’s cheeks and hands, pressed a tikka of turmeric and Kumkum powder onto her forehead, and fed her spoonful’s of carefully prepared rices. I then shared a meal over banana leaves with her friends and family, all of whom treated me like one of their own.

Priya is in the third trimester of her long-desired pregnancy now and has just begun her maternity leave. And though I am so sad at the thought of the next few months in the teacher’s lounge without my truest friend and confidant here, I am so grateful for the short time I have known Priya and the bond we have formed.

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