Angela Ryle, a Northwest Community College Initiative (NWCCI) alumna from India, studied early childhood education at Pierce College for the 2014-2015 academic program year. You may remember reading Angela’s story from earlier this year. Her blog post described her childhood growing up in a children’s home in India, and what she has since learned while living in the United States. Angela has returned home to India, but there was one coincidence that happened during her stay that surprised us all!
“I had never been out of my hostel where I had lived since I was three years old…because my parents were unable to support me.”
Angela recalls of her Rainbow Home – the Loreto Rainbow Home, which is for “street children up to the age of 21 years old. “The Rainbow Home program in India provides girls living on the street in India an opportunity to live and study in a safe, non custodial, residential environment to secure their basic rights and ensure their reintegration into mainstream society. There, Angela was able to grow up in a safe environment and attend the Loreto Day School.
The children live in these special homes often because their parents do not have the means to support them. The homes, and others like them in India, are often supported by donors and funders, NGO organizations and volunteers. Jim Riede, a pastor from Tacoma, Washington was one of those volunteers. “I was asked to accompany the brother of our German exchange student to go to Kolkata to work with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity,” Riede explained about his first trip to India. In 1996, he visited a Mother Theresa Home in India. During his visit, the nuns told him about the Rainbow homes, and coincidentally the one that Angela had grown up in.
“Several volunteers, including myself, were invited to visit the Loreto Day School which is not far from Mother Teresa’s House and perhaps do some volunteer work,” he explained. “Sister Cyril, the head of the school, suggested that a few of us volunteers consider “adopting” a student.”
In 1997, when Angela was 7 years old, Riede offered to sponsor a child in the Rainbow Home and was paired with Angela. He received a short history about her, attached to a photograph. No doubt the relationship sparked Angela’s interest in the United States while Riede and his wife assisted with Angela’s school expenses and exchanged Christmas and Easter cards on many occasions. “The school worked very hard to keep us connected,” explained Riede. But it was by pure coincidence that, at the age of 25, Angela was carefully selected by the Public Affairs Section of the U.S. Embassy in India to participate in the Department of State’s Community College Initiative program in Washington, and just thirty minutes away from the family who sponsored her as a child.
“When I read Angela’s application, one of her references was from her school sponsor, who just happened to be a pastor from Tacoma, Washington. When I read this, I got chills instantly. What were the odds?” Angela’s advisor, Bebhinn Horrigan at Pierce College, explained.
“I was very much surprised to find out that I was only 20 minutes away from my family. It was a blessing for me, because they have done so much for me during my school days,” Angela explained.
While Angela stayed in the dorms located on the college campus, she was able join in on many family activies with the Riedes. She still speaks fondly of the things she was able to do with them during her stay, such as family gatherings, learning to skate, volunteering at the church, volunteering to paint houses and going to local sports events. “We wanted to expose Angela to the very best in American culture and experience. The school did an excellent job in that regard but we were happy to add to that: holidays, birthdays and other events in our home; a trip to Disneyland, etc.” As NWCCI staff are well aware, it’s not as easy as one might think to define, “What IS American culture?”
Angela excelled in her 10 months in the NWCCI program in the Early Childhood Education Department at Pierce College. She was able to combine hands-on training in the on-site laboratory school, complete with community childcare centers and classrooms, and classroom instruction aimed at creating skilled, kind, and understanding teachers. In the program, students learn to develop and apply curriculum methods and to meet the needs of children as individuals, and within their social and familial situations, skills she returned home with, to India.
Now, Angela works in Delhi as a teacher and in documentation in a Rainbow Home where she is able to pass on the same care to new generations of children who share her story. Angela and the Riede family are still in regular contact and continue to exchange holiday cards and letters, just as they did in the many years between 2007 and Angela’s arrival in the U.S.
By Kaysha Riggs
The NWCCI program is part of the Community College Initiative, an exchange program sponsored by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. The opinions expressed in this blog by writers and those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not reflect the opinions of the Northwest Community College Initiative program, Edmonds Community College, Whatcom Community College, Pierce College, the United States Department of State or any employee thereof. NWCCI and Edmonds Community College are not responsible for the accuracy of the information supplied by the student bloggers.