waterslideIn general, I’m more in favor of providing the basics – food, education, health care – to people who lack them than in providing a fun experience. When I saw how the 216 slum kids responded to the water park when we took them, it made me see the immense value of the experience as well. In America, most of us are spoiled with an abundance of opportunities to do interesting and exciting things. Here, with one trip to the water park, we planted a seed of excitement that built up to takeoff, provided a day of great fun, and a memory that would last for a lifetime. The response was pretty much universal – this was one of the best days of their lives – one that they would talk about for years and never forget.

After learning of its weight, when I heard about a nearby school for kids with developmental disabilities, I decided to sponsor a trip for them to the water park. It was a generous donation from a blog donor that made this offer possible.

What I thought I had heard was that there were only 20 kids in this school and figured that the cost would be about $200 to rent a bus, pay admission, rent swimwear, and feed them all, with some volunteers included. When we went to visit the school (Utthan Talim Kendra run by a very dear Bhavan Pandya), however, I found out that the kids were older than I had imagined, and that there were 50, as well as 7 staff members. They had already been told about the trip and the school was abuzz with excitement. This had ballooned past my budget, but there was no going back.

waterparksplashJayeshbhai later informed me that he had also invited all the women from the Manav Sadhna Khakhra project to the park as well, including some Manav Sadhna staff. Two luxury buses were now rented. In addition, Mark was inviting people right and left. This was growing out of proportion and as much as I wanted to support such a happy day, my pockets just aren’t very deep. Jayeshbhai said that I could pay whatever I was comfortable with and Manav Sadhna would provide the rest. Still, I wanted to deliver on the promise to pay for the day.

An amazing turn of events occurred when the owner of the water park said that everyone would be let in for free and lunch would be provided for all. Jayeshbhai said that this was all because of these diamonds – the kids – not because of Manav Sadhna. And he’s right. Manav Sadhna just provides the lens to allow others to see through as well.

The kids conditions ranged from Down’s Syndrome to autism to brain damage. I was a little concerned about drowning since none of them had really been around water and some had troubles moving. When we got there, everyone was amazing. They all seemed to naturally stay within their comfort zones. I encouraged as many as I could to challenge themselves and try new slides.

waterpark_dhoomOne guy in particular, Prabhat, who pretty much only says “Dhoom!,” (from the Hindi song that goes “Dhoom machaale dhoom machaale dhoom”), took the challenge and went down a slide. When I asked him if he wanted to go again, he said yes and we went. He held my hand tight for hours as we went down almost every slide in the park together. He had the time of his life and I’m pretty sure this ranked as one of his best days ever. Everyone seemed to have an amazing experience. I will definitely have to write a letter of huge thanks to the water park owner. Because of his generous gift, this whole magical day for 108 people cost only $165. I was able to pay for everything thanks to the anonymous donor who truly brought this day into existence.

For anyone who would like to participate in the dream, you can here.

For another write up about the day: Water park writeup (PDF)