Volunteers Spend Christmas with Tsunami Orphans

Lynne Mac Connell spent her Christmas this year in a place she’d never though she would end up.

“India was the one country I said I would never visit,” she said.

But after losing her husband last Christmas, Mac Connell had a new outlook on life. She realized how much she had to give and decided a trip to India wasn’t such a bad idea after all.

“It was heart wrenching. It was exciting,” she explained. “It was filled with hope for the new opportunity for the kids who have the option now for a much better life than even before the tsunami hit.”

Lynne was part of a group of sixteen from Rochester who spent their Christmas vacation in India. The trip’s focus was on children orphaned by last year’s tsunami. Many of the kids saw their loved ones die in front of them. Some made drawings of their experience. In one, a boy is on the roof screaming for help, while his sister is dead below.

“They have to go on in life and after you experience grief like that, a lot of people don’t want to go on,” Michelle Pandian explained. Michelle and her husband John, both of Rochester, founded the Miracle Garden Children’s Orphanage in India. They have 52 children in all and have spent the last year trying to help them deal with their pain.

“There was one boy when we took him in, had stopped talking all together. Now he always has a smile on his face,” said Pandian.

The children were all smiles when their Rochester friends showed up. The Rochester group spent six days at the orphanage. Mac Connell and others brought Christmas gifts for the children and were their shoulders to lean on the day after; the one year anniversary of the tsunami. It turns out the trip didn’t just have an impact on the kids.

“I will never forget it. It was a powerful Christmas and I think other Christmas’ from now on will be different in light of this experience,” Mac Connell declared.

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