Rising Star Outreach
A mystery of life is that every beginning foretells an ending. For Becky Douglas, a tragic ending -- her beloved daughter Amber’s death by suicide at age 24 -- was the beginning of a mission that would take this housewife and mother of nine not only to the ends of the earth but also into uncharted territory in her own heart.
While going through Amber’s things after her death in 2000, Becky discovered that this lifelong champion of the underdog had been sending money to an orphanage in India. Becky asked that memorials go to the orphanage, and the response was so generous she was invited to join its board. When she traveled to India for the first time in 2001, droves of leprosy-affected beggars -- some without limbs or eyes -- swarmed her cab.
"Their suffering was so palpable it hurt to look at them," Becky recalls. On a 120-degree day, her cab was at a stoplight when a woman who had no legs crawled up. The driver directed Becky to tell her to move. She remembers, "I rolled the window down and our eyes connected. She asked me to help her children. I realized she was a mom like me. When I came home, I was haunted by that mother’s eyes. I was just one person -- not a doctor, not someone who had ever run an organization -- but I could do something. I invited three friends to meet at my kitchen table."
Thus began Rising Star, which now works with 44 colonies of leprosy-affected Indians and attracts passionate volunteers. It opened and operates a school and two homes for children, easing them into the mainstream through education. It also operates a traveling medical clinic and a micro-loan program so adults can forsake begging to start their own businesses. (One woman gained independence via a five-dollar iron.) What about that mother without whom Becky -- who has now traveled to India 26 times -- might have forgotten a problem that seemed too big to tackle? "I look for her every time I go back."