Trip to Khasi Hills, India
by Laura Nagel
Members of First Unitarian Universalist Church and of the International Convocation of Unitarian Universalist Women (ICUUW) visited the Khasi Hills region of India, located in the foothills of the Himalayas (see map) from January 11-13, 2011.
We flew to Guwahati in the State of Meghalaya. From there we drove four hours to the capital city of Shillong where we met with our sisters who attended the ICUUW's Convocation in Houston in 2009, Creamlimon Nongbri, Battinora Rani and Dorismoom Milliemngap. We also met with Rev. Derrick Parriat, the President of the North East Indian Unitarian Union (UUNEI), and Rev. Pearl Greene Marbaniang, who is on the UUNEI Ex. Comm.
Since the Convocation, Cream, Batti and Doris, officers of the Women’s Wing of UUNEI, Seng Kynthei, have organized medical camps that have served hundreds of women and children in the villages of the Khasi Hills. We had arranged to bring them medical equipment and supplies, which they had asked for: stethoscopes, scales, and blood pressure monitors. Creamlimon, a new director of ICUUW is also a member of the Executive Committee of UUNEI. She told us of other needs, particularly for financial assistance for elementary schools supported by the UUNEI. She told us that Seng Kynthei has begun planning a program to prevent family violence, which they would like to incorporate into the health camps. While there we bought many hand-loomed scarves, which we hope to make available to you at our booth at General Assembly in Charlotte. Sale of the scarves will help Seng Kynthei continue its work.
We visited the Children’s Village in Kharang, an orphanage for Unitarian children, where American Catie Scudera was also visiting. I had met Catie several years ago at General Assembly in Salt Lake City where she talked about her experiences working with orphans in the Children’s Village. I believe it was this experience that helped her decide to pursue a career in the ministry. She is now at Harvard Divinity School working toward her degree. It was wonderful to listen to her explanation of the orphanage and its needs. ICUUW and the congregations represented on the trip are considering what we might do to help in the Khasi Hills on a long term basis.
We had a guide from the North East Unitarian Union, Arkyrang, who took us to visit the Unitarian Church and primary school in Mawkisyiem, partner to the First UU Congregation of Ann Arbor. This church has been supported by Rev. Eva Cameron formerly of Ann Arbor and now in Iowa. There are more than 100 students at the school. A member was there to greet us, Phidakmenlong, mother of students at the school where she herself had been a student and where her mother is President of the congregation and one of six teachers at the school. The church was built in 1973.
The students are taught in English so both Arkyrang and Phidakmenlong speak it. One of the songs they both knew and liked from their hymnal was a song that they taught us, “My Life is Like a Little Boat.” It’s a very sweet song: Click the image at right to hear our group sing the song. (Click here for the lyrics.) In the video you'll see, in addition to Arkyrang and Phidakmenlong, (from left) Connie Baker, Fourth UU, New York; John Stauffacher, Frisco, CO; Rev. Catherine Cullen, Duxbury, MA; Don Morgan, Thorpe Butler, Rita Saylors, Grace Amborski, Harry and Laura Nagel from First UU Houston. Thanks to fellow traveler Barbara Schott (UU Church, Frisco, CO) videographer.