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     Beyond Measure was inspired by the smile of one twelve-year old boy in Peddapuram, a small town in south India. This smile caused a chain reaction of loving acts that influence me still today.

     The influential smile belonged to Joshua, a boy living at Hope Village Orphanage. I first saw this smile after showing Joshua how to comb his hair American style. I combed and styled his hair for a few moments and circled back around to face Joshua. Joshua had closed his eyes and his face had softened, his smile was the same as those you see on giant statues of the ever-blissful Buddha. Joshua was, in that moment, just a happy young boy, no worries, no defenses, just a boy enjoying one of life's small pleasures, a gentle hand combing his hair like so many of us enjoyed and perhaps took for granted from our own mothers. I recognized the look on Joshua's face and knew exactly what he was feeling. How often did Joshua smile like that? Did anyone ever take the time to comb his hair, put their arm around him, cheer him on as he raced down the dusty road at the orphanage, or even just tuck him in at night?

jessica
Jessica Martin in 2011

     These boys were loved, but the duties of running an entire orphanage of more than 30 boys was just too much for the few full time employees that lived there. It was then that I realized my new job at the orphanage would be more than just helping the boys with their English, I would become a source of attention for them. Whether it was to wear a wide smile whenever I greeted them or to spend hours drawing as many portraits many of the boys as I could, I would make a point to know them, listen to them, and love them.

     I returned to America with only one goal in mind, become a better teacher. I wanted to work with children and learn how to help in any way I could. I would spend the next three years working at a school for kids with emotional disabilities, a testing ground for my goals and beliefs.

     It took some time, but after a few months of ups and downs and wanting to give up, I found myself sitting in my classroom of middle school children having my hair combed and styled by some of my "troubled" students in the "cool way". I had just received the gift that I had given Joshua on the other side of the world from a few kids in my own country.

jessica


     This year we are supporting Little Hearts Orphanage in Nellore, India. You can make a difference. Thank you for your support!







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