Dollie Ambassador Bill Simon is the founder of a non-profit called Parish Catalyst, an organization of persons searching for creative ideas to help Pastors and leadership teams grow vibrant Catholic parishes. Bill was in the midst of a busy conference in Dallas, Texas when the conversation turned toward the often surprising twists and turns one’s life takes…turns which can lead you down a completely different path than the one you are casually strolling along. Fellow Parish Catalyst member Paul Wilkes, an accomplished novelist, newspaper and magazine writer, and college professor shared his story of how on a vacation in India a few years back with his wife, his life took a sharp turn.
“It began, as most wonderful things do in our lives, by sheer chance. Or perhaps because of that Mischievous One who, every so often, whispers softly and tantalizingly, “Something interesting is going on … hold on for a minute … slow down, friend … take a look …” (What reporter can resist that?)
I was a tourist in India in 2006, brought by accident to an orphanage run by Salesian sisters. A little girl stood before me, her eye a swirl of dead tissue. Blinded. To make her a “better” beggar. My wince. Her smile. One chapter of my life was coming to an end, another was opening.
The desire was unfocused, a strategic plan lacking, but I wanted to do something for her and her friends, the orphaned, neglected and abandoned ones. Ten dollars here, a hundred there, somehow the donations came in. I started a nonprofit, calling it Homes of Hope, the English version of Prathyasha Bhavan, the Hindi name for her shelter. And today Secunderabad is the site of one of four orphanages we have built in India. Five hundred girls would not be raped or beaten or murdered. They would not be chattel in the sex trade. They would be safe with the sisters, eat healthily, and go to school. They would have the opportunity for a productive, dignified life.”
It turned out that Paul was making a trip to India the following month, and of course Dollie Ambassador Bill Simon jumped at the chance to offer him the opportunity to be a Dollie Ambassador himself! Paul enthusiastically replied “YES” and we dollie ladies got to work to provide him with 60 beautiful dollies.
Paul told us about the girls at the orphanage who would be receiving the dollies:
“For a little background on where these 120 girls age 5-18 live. This is an orphanage in the city of Secunderabad, twin city to Hyderabad in India. These girls were rescued from bus stands and train stations, brought to the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco by police who have found them, abandoned. Some come from mothers who themselves are living on the streets and cannot care and protect their daughters, who are prime candidates for abuse, rape, murder and sex trafficking.”
After Paul’s visit he wrote to us:
“The girls cuddled, hugged, rocked, and generally just loved the dollies. You should have seen their faces as they noticed how each one was different…the color of hair, dress, style. Well, let these photos do the talking! And Sister Crocetta was delighted as well. We have four orphanages…would it be possible to take more dollies to a second orphanage on my next trip?”
We dollie ladies enthusiastically replied, “YES” !