Every year, Child Haven International has a benefit dinner in Hardwick. Child Haven was founded in 1985 by Fred and Bonnie Cappuccino. The registered, not for profit charity is “inspired by the ideals and philosophy of Mahatma Gandhi[they] assist children and women in developing countries, who are in need of food, education, health care, shelter and clothing, emotional and moral support.” The dinner is held at Hazen Union High School and consists of incredible Indian cuisine, a silent auction, bazaar, sari fashion show, and a Jai Ho dance performance.

There is a huge outpouring of community support for the event, as it is organized and run entirely by volunteers. Most of the food is donated as well. The Sterling community was there in force – twelve of the seventeen models were Sterling students, two students were the dish and kitchen cleanup crew, and four helped to transform the cafeteria. Sari for sale adorned the walls, the silent auction table boasted jewelry, hand-knit articles donated by the community, sculpture, and singing bowls, while the bazaar had traditional Indian outfits of all kinds for sale.

A piece from the auction table.

After the event, a crew of us stayed after to help break down the show as well. While the evening is fun and generally joyful, it is colored by the fact that there are families and children of India, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Tibet that need help. Child Haven has eight homes altogether that provide shelter, nourishment, and support, largely for children, as well as women, families, and the community. Disabled children, orphans, those that don’t get one good meal a day, and those from socially disadvantaged situations are welcomed.

Child Haven does not seek to westernize the children; rather, they live a simple, vegetarian life. Their goal is to raise each child to the highest standard of their individual culture and/or religion. This event really unites the community for a common cause — it is a beautiful thing to witness.

Personally, this event always inspires in me a duality of feelings. On one hand, it is a joy to participate and volunteer. To wear the vibrant clothing and beautiful bindi, to celebrate the charity and the children that benefit from it and get a small taste of the culture and foods of India is really quite fun! On the other, there is the stark reality that I am so privileged, comfortable, and surrounded by safety and support. It breaks my heart that there are children out there that don’t get a fraction of what they need, whereas I have more than enough.

I know I’m not alone in feeling this way. Instead of letting guilt render me immobile, I choose to harness it and use it to stimulate positive change. It is heartening to know that every cent raised from last night will go directly to the children and families that really need it. If you weren’t able to make it to the dinner, I encourage you to donate if you are able. I am full of gratitude to all who attended, and especially all of the amazing volunteers that took part.

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