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Namaste Wings to Fly

Namaste Wings to Fly is a registered non-profit in Kerala, India. The institution was founded in 2000 as an alternative solution to orphanages. Currently, they have over 100 girls and boys that live on site and over 700 children in their off site program who need assistance with housing, food, and medical supplies.

Namaste Onore A Te is a registered non-profit in Bologna, Italy that works with Italian people who sponsor children at Namaste Wings to Fly. The President and Vice President of Onore a Te travel yearly to India to work directly with the children and families in the program.

Dates at Namaste Wings to Fly: January 16th to January 24th, 2019

In January 2018, something in me spurred to ask Gabriele Burnazzi, Vice President of Namaste Onore A Te, if I could join him on his annual visit to India. It wasn’t clear why I yearned to follow him on his trip but I knew it was something I needed to do. For a year, I prepared for the trip by researching India, speaking with others who had done similar work, and raising funds for Namaste Wings to Fly via crowdfunding.

When I arrived at Namaste Wings to Fly on January 16th, 2019 I was amazed by so much. I was greeted by a dozen young women who put a beautiful flower necklace around my neck and smiled at me with eyes wide in wonderment. Namaste Wings to Fly is extremely organized and I could tell right away that they were set on creating an amazing environment for the children. On my second day at Namaste, we headed out to check in on five families in their off site program. These families live in conditions that required assistance from another organizations because many of these homes were not in good conditions, some of these families had an ill or deceased parent which limited income sources, or the child had a disability. Many factors contribute to these families not being to “get out” of their situations, but with the help from Namaste Wings to Fly and the sponsors at Namaste Onore A Te their lives are bettered.

When I arrived at Namaste Wings to Fly, I didn’t know what my role would be in their efforts and I was lucky that they needed a photographer! Since I’m rather skilled in photography I was able to capture the special moments with the children and families. One such moment was when the children received their gifts from their sponsor family in Italy. For many children it’s the only gift they will receive all year. For girls jewelry is a popular item and the boys loved toys like kites! It was really wonderful being able to show these children their photo after taking them since most of them rarely see photos of themselves. My photography skills came in handy when I posted daily content on my personal and business Instagram accounts because that was what moved people to donate to the crowdfunding account I created prior to heading to India. I initially raised some money before embarking on the trip but it was when I was in India that the donations came pouring in. Friends and followers appreciated seeing the direct effect their donations had when checking the Instagram accounts. With the money I raised, we were able to change a family’s life by gifting them a laptop and digital camera. Now the girls email me with different topics they are able to research for school and they are always sending me photos they take too!

This trip definitely came with its tribulations too. It was my first time being in India so that in itself was a major adjustment. India has such a large quantity of human and animal life so you are constantly surrounded with so many sights, sounds and smells, most of which were extremely foreign to me. The amount of speakers throughout India was mind blowing too! I couldn’t believe when driving through villages the music and political speeches taking place over the speakers. Speaking of driving in India, that was something to get used to. The driving was absolutely insane with animals, rickshaws, buses, cars, and mopeds constantly swirling around. I was constantly laughing of nervousness when we were going from one location to another.

One day we took the high school age girls to Kovalam Beach so they could enjoy a day beachside! For many of them it was their first time ever to the beach and what an incredible day it was – we played in the water, ate lunch, went to see the view of the area from a lighthouse, and had ice cream! That Sunday goes down as the best Sunday of my life – experiencing the joy of 30 young women at the beach is unmatched.

I came back from the trip with a different mindset and a different take on life. Indian culture is very caring and they constantly look out for their friends, family, neighbours and more. This was definitely something I wanted to bring into my life which is why I am sharing my story so that I can inspire other to Give Back and I have a monthly goal of Giving Back to non-profits in the San Diego region. Remember! Every bit of Giving Back counts, whether its a smile, a dollar donated, or time that you’ve given.

Lauren Turton
February 27th, 2019