Travel gives us the opportunity to explore the history and culture of other countries, and we often return home with altered perspectives. This is what happened to Kane Ryan, a Canadian traveler who became fascinated by India on his stay in the country. After a poignant visit at a Chennai orphanage, Kane knew he wanted to help impoverished children. He raised four thousand dollars before returning to India and founding the Dirty Wall Project. This program, composed entirely of volunteers, helps poor communities with school fees, medical needs and building projects. They also fund events for kids like movies, birthday cake and equipment such as swing sets.
Rina Singh discovered the Dirty Wall Project while doing research for her new nonfiction book Diwali: A Festival of Lights. Diwali is part of the Orca Origins series, a new series of nonfiction books exploring traditions throughout the world. The fourth chapter of Diwali explores how the Festival of Lights is celebrated in different states of India and other countries. Rina wanted to understand how Diwali was celebrated beyond the flashy fireworks and lights, and in her research she discovered how the Dirty Wall Project helps to bring this celebration to some of the poorest children in the world. The Dirty Wall Project organizes three outings a year for the kids, one of which happens around Diwali. In November 2014, DWP loaded children onto a bus and brought them to a mall complete with air conditioning and a bouncy castle. As those children who do not attend school stay in the slum playing and helping care for their siblings, the entire excursion was exciting for them: from traveling beyond the slum, to the flush toilets in the mall.
In the afterword, Rina finishes her book with the lines: “But what affected me most was my interview with Cindy Ryan, Kane’s mother who runs the Dirty Wall Project in India. Diwali celebrates the victory of good over evil and light over darkness, but she and her family have truly turned their lives into a metaphor for light by bringing hope and joy into some disadvantaged lives. Their story has inspired and humbled me, and I hope to celebrate future Diwalis by not just lighting my own home, but by bringing light into the lives of those less fortunate than I.”
Find more great stories in Diwali: A Festival of Lights, now available at your local bookstore and online.