Students serve with Rising Star in India


Saroja had no foot, no leg, no fingers and only one eye. Unable to walk on her own, she used a skateboard to maneuver around her small, remote colony. She was light and frail as Alyssa, a volunteer, lifted her into a chair to wash and bandage a body consumed by leprosy.

Many volunteers like Alyssa Carroll have the opportunity to serve with an organization called Rising Star Outreach to help those in India effected by leprosy.

[media-credit name=”Photo by Ember Hobi ” align=”alignleft” width=”300″][/media-credit]
Traci Garff plays jump rope with a student of a Rising Star Outreach school in India.
Carroll, a senior from California studying nursing, joined a group of volunteers last June for a three week humanitarian trip to India. She said the experience changed her life.

“It was mind blowing what you see and do there,” Carroll said.

Ember Hobi, a social media manager for the non-profit organization, said those in India who have leprosy are cast out from society.

“These people are considered dirty, outcast and untouchables,” Hobi said.

Leprosy is a bacteria spread by unsanitary living conditions and open wounds, but Hobi said many in India believe the disease to be curse and a punishment for actions in a past life. It is curable if caught early, but some hide the symptoms until the disease reaches awful stages.

Rising Star Outreach seeks to educate and treat those affected by leprosy while helping them create self-sufficient colonies. Volunteers can travel to India to serve in the organization’s school, building projects and medical clinic.

Joel Marshall, a junior studying mechanical engineering, attended a session last summer after hearing a presentation in his church building.

“I learned you don’t have to have a lot to be happy,” Marshall said. “A lot of good can be done.”

Marshall said his favorite experience was working with children in the school where he helped them with reading and math.

Washing and bandaging wounds from leprosy and visiting the colonies was the most rewarding aspect of the trip, according to Carroll.

“These people have nothing, but they open their arms to you,” Carroll said. “They are so giving and so humble.”

Carroll said she had the opportunity to see how these people live. The small, remote colonies include humble conditions. With little food and dirty living situations she said they still managed to be happy.

While visiting a colony during her trip to India, Carroll got a taste of the needs of the people. A woman had asked her to clip her toenails, but they were encrusted with dirt.

“I was sweating trying to cut her nails, but she was so happy for the small service,” Carroll said.

Eleanor Golightly, a sophomore studying economics, went to India last year as a volunteer after hearing about Rising Star at a fireside in her home stake in Washington D.C.

“It is such an amazing opportunity to serve,” Golightly said. “The people just love you because you serve them.”

Golightly said she enjoyed the experience so much that she is returning this summer as a session coordinator.

“You can’t imagine it unless you go,” Golightly said.

Carroll was so impacted by her experience that she continues to sponsor a 10-year-old girl in India by paying $300 a year for clothing and other necessary supplies.

Carroll said seeing the way these people like Saroja live and serving them was an eye-opening experience she would participate in again. Saroja’s faint, thankful smile and sweet personality opened the eyes of volunteers to the humility of the people who embrace life even under dire circumstances.

Six sessions are available this summer and anyone is invited to participate. Groups include students, families and teenagers. Each trip can last two to three weeks and the cost varies. For more information on the organization and volunteer opportunities visit

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