The girls were about to turn 16, the age at which they would have to leave the orphanage and end their schooling. They were good students, but their future looked bleak. Maybe they could find a job picking tea -- or maybe they'd find nothing but the streets.
An American woman, Katrell Christie, ran into them when visiting Darjeeling in 2009. They begged her to help them -- and she promised to. Then she returned home.
I wrote a story about what happened next.
You can see it below.
I'm a freelance journalist with no one paying my expenses. But my plan is to follow up on this story -- which will take me to India.
You can help make it happen.
There's a real need for independent journalists right now. Newspapers have cut their staffs and closed their bureaus around the world. There's a lot of sensationalist junk out there in the media.
Independent journalists can find stories that need to be told. We can get them published.
My story about the young girls in Darjeeling was published in the Christian Science Monitor: A tea shop in Atlanta sends young women in India to college.
The next chapter
My upcoming story will focus on what the young women are doing now. It will show their perspectives and the paths their lives have taken. I want to shift the emphasis from the philanthropy to present the points of view of the young women. Foreign aid can be a complicated thing. It can improve lives but it can also come at a cost. I'm interested in looking at the impact of giving and receiving.
On this trip, I'll gather information for two more stories.
One is tentatively titled The Woman Who Plucks Your Tea. The subject is the women on mountainside plantations in the Himalayas whose labor brings you a cup of Darjeeling.
This idea is inspired by a the book The Darjeeling Distinction: Labor and Justice on Fair Trade Tea Plantations in India.
The third story will be a travel story of the area, telling of the Toy Train that takes travelers up the Himalayas, the famous Himalayan Mountaineering Institute and the flavor of this area of the world.
Help make these stories happen! And thank you for supporting independent journalism in a world that needs it!
Risks and challenges
I should be able to write three stories within two months of returning.
And based on past experience, I fully expect them to be published. The challenge, however, does lie in finding the right publications and gaining the ear of editors.
Placing a story sometimes requires numerous pitches.
When traveling, unexpected things can happen. Illness, delays of all kinds, even accidents. It's unlikely any of those would prevent the fulfillment of my project.
I find it best to be flexible, to be armed with background information and to be creative in altering a story's direction if certain information can't be gathered.
- (23 days)