The streets of Hyderabad, India are usually crowded and busy - jam-packed with cars, trucks, and mopeds with entire families balanced on the back. There are people moving everywhere you look, going to and fro, buying and selling, and kids in uniforms on their way to or from school. It's bustling, hot, and breathtakingly beautiful.
But if you get up early enough, you'll see the other side of Hyderabad - the side where the sun is barely rising and the only other people on the streets are a few more weary travelers like yourself, or day laborers waiting for their next job. The street dogs are asleep and most shops haven't even opened yet. This is the scene we witnessed as we traveled out of Hyderabad to the village of Bhimapalli.
While buildings and billboards became rice fields, and cars were traded for cows, anticipation filled our hearts as we looked forward to the experiences that lay ahead of us. The incredible Indian countryside made the 3-hour-drive feel like 30 minutes, and before we knew it we were out in the village surrounded by a whole new kind of beauty.
If I hadn't experienced it myself, I wouldn't have believed how happy and sincere the people of Bhimapalli were. The buildings and homes were worn, and some looked like they had been there for hundreds of years. The clothing and fabrics hanging out to dry were tattered and faded. But the faces of the people - they were glowing.
We worked with the local school in the village to coordinate our rice giving efforts that day. The children were so eager to meet us and to show us all around the village. They taught us to dance, they sang for us, and we laughed, played, and took endless amounts of selfies together. As we sat with the headmaster of the school and a group of primary school children, he told us, "even though times are hard, and even though we don't have very much, we are happy". And the genuine smiles on their faces made me believe it was true.
The rice giving process is simple. The schoolchildren guide our team to their homes, and the rice giving team splits into smaller groups to go out and meet each family.
With every family, there is an interaction that takes place where we learn about their current situations and how the gift of rice will help them at this time. This is how our team gathers the information and takes the photos that we share in the family stories on our website.
Every family then receives a 25 kilo bag of rice.
(Rice Love co-founders Corbin & Coney working with the local rice giving team)
(25 kg is over 55 lbs of rice!)
We learned that many of these families had lost children. And for most of them, the 25 kilos of rice will help their children to be able to stay in school. Otherwise, they would often need to have their young children go to work instead of school, in order to make ends meet.
What impressed me the most was the kindness and warmth that I felt from every man, woman and child that I met. We weren't usually able to communicate much beyond a simple "namaste", but they communicated their love and gratitude to us by holding our hands, giving us flowers and pieces of apples off the back of their truck, and asking us to hold their babies. That was an experience that I will never forget.
(Can you guess which one is me??)
Participating in the rice giving in India really made everything come full circle for me. It was a surreal experience and a beautiful reminder of the reason why we do what we do. We don't sell bags just to sell bags, we sell bags so that we can help people.
Photos: Lindsay Stevens @lindzisme
P.S. We are so excited to announce that we are now offering you the opportunity to join us for this experience as well! If this is something you'd be interested in, click VIEW EXPERIENCE below or shoot our co-founder Coney an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. If you have any questions about my personal experience giving rice in India, feel free to email me at email@example.com and I'd be happy to chat with you about it!