Kelowna Diwali Dinner celebrates India child overcoming life adversity

India orphan adopted by U.S. family had life-saving surgeries covered in part by East Meets West Children’s Foundation

Global connections will be made this weekend in Kelowna at the annual Diwali Dinner fundraiser for the East Meets West Children’s Foundation.

Kelowna supporters on hand at the sold-out dinner to be held at Parkinson Recreation Centre will have the opportunity to meet an orphaned girl from India who, through the foundation’s fundraising efforts, had multiple surgeries to save both her legs from being amputated and was ultimately adopted by a Clinton, Miss., family.

Robby and Jessica Followell made the trip from Clinton to Kelowna on Thursday at the invitation of the Diwali Dinner organizers to attend this year with their three children, a son and two daughters, one of whom is Eden, who was adopted from India.

Robby, a professional photographer, made a video about Eden’s life journey so far, and it caught the attention on YouTube of Kelowna city Coun. Mohini Singh, who is actively involved in the East Meets West Children’s Foundation.

“We connected through messaging her response to the film about six or eight months ago on social media,” said Robby. “She told us their foundation had been a supporter of Eden with her surgeries. That led to her eventually inviting us to come to the (Diwali Dinner) this year.”

He said he thought it was a great opportunity for his family to make a personal connection and tell everyone how grateful they are for the support Eden received through her medical challenges.

The family flew from Clinton to Dallas and on to Vancouver Thursday, where they caught a connecting flight to Kelowna. The family plans to spend a week here exploring a part of Canada they have never experienced.

“We have been to Montreal a few times because we have really good friends who live there,” said Robby. “But we have never been to (the western) part of the country. We’re looking forward to seeing that.”

READ MORE: Foundation helps children on other side of the world

READ MORE: Diwalli Festival celebrated for 1st time in B.C. Legislature

READ MORE: Kelowna students fund school room in India

Related: Maxine DeHart offers details on Diwali Dinner

Eden’s story is one of overcoming adversity with immeasurable intestinal fortitude and truly global support.

A then three-day-old baby, she was found abandoned at a rail station two hours outside Kolkata, India on March 19, 2013. She was born with deformities to her hands and feet due to amniotic bands wrapped around her in the womb.

After 18 months in an orphanage, and three surgeries to save her hands and legs, which were funded by charitable donors in Canada, she was brought home to the deep south U.S. by the Followells.

Robby said it was almost a three-year process from when they first met Eden to bringing her home.

“It was costly because of the reconstructive surgeries—11 in total—but there was a lot of support from grants available and charitable programs in Canada and the U.S.,” he said.

“There are still surgical concerns for her down the road but nothing compared to what she has already gone through. Right now she is just like any other six-year-old.

“We believe there has been a divine force for good working upstream from us, allowing us to take good care of her.”

Robby said the initial drive to consider adopting a less fortunate child came from feelings of good fortune both he and his wife shared for the birth of their first child coupled with doing something in the face of dire circumstances many orphaned children confront elsewhere in the world.

He said adopting Eden filled a vacancy on their growing family’s life, one they never thought existed.

“Eden has an unwavering spirit, and being around her you begin to understand the determination and persistence required to survive that year and a half in orphanages.

“On a deeper degree, she personifies what it means to be a true fighter, with all the hurdles she has had to overcome. She has redefined for us an understanding of what kids are capable of.

“We are very grateful to have been drawn to her story…she has made an impact on our lives, as have our other two children. For Eden it’s as if it was always meant to be she would become part of our family.”

Robby added he and his wife are also cognizant of her native Indian culture.

“We want to seize any opportunity to exposure her to her native culture as that is part of her life story, so being able to make that connection in any type of celebration is fitting for her to be part of.”

The East Meets West Children’s Foundation has raised money in the past to assist the Kolkata Orphanage, and also assist a centre in Mumbai called Family Home, which cares for 20 destitute boys aged four to 12 who have been committed to the care of the home by the juvenile welfare board of the state government.

The foundation has also provided 42 health kits for the 42 villages and hamlets of the Kandhmal district in the India state of Odisha. The kits benefited 1,104 extremely impoverished tribal families living in remote regions of central India.

Locally, it also supports the Starbright Child Development Centre and Karis Support Society.



barry.gerding@blackpress.ca

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Peachland residents march for better forest management

The Peachland march was one of many like it across B.C.

Interior Health reports three additional COVID-19 cases in region

The number of cases in the region since the beginning of the pandemic are now at 492

Interior Health continues to tackle COVID-19

IH president Susan Brown says don’t become complacent about pandemic

Okanagan Rail Trail northern section closure begins next week

This work is a part of the RDNO’s long-term planning and maintenance to ensure the trail remains safe

3 new deaths due to COVID-19 in B.C., 139 new cases

B.C. confirms 40 ‘historic cases,’ as well

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg dies at 87

The court’s second female justice, died Friday at her home in Washington

‘This is a very difficult sentencing’; Judge delays Okanagan manslaughter trial to next week

The courts heard Friday that Bourque “did not intend to cause harm” but that her actions were “reckless”

Emaciated grizzly found dead on central B.C. coast as low salmon count sparks concern

Grizzly was found on Gwa’sala-‘Nakwaxda’xw territory in Smith Inlet, 60K north of Port Hardy

Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

VIDEO: B.C. to launch mouth-rinse COVID-19 test for kids

Test involves swishing and gargling saline in mouth and no deep-nasal swab

Young Canadians have curtailed vaping during pandemic, survey finds

The survey funded by Heart & Stroke also found the decrease in vaping frequency is most notable in British Columbia and Ontario

B.C. teachers file Labour Relations Board application over COVID-19 classroom concerns

The application comes as B.C.’s second week of the new school year comes to a close

CHARTS: Beyond Metro Vancouver, COVID-19 cases in B.C. haven’t increased much recently

COVID-19 case counts outside of Metro Vancouver have been level since July

Most Read