Yellow Paper Hats: Being a Child in Bihar, India

I sat in a room surround by children, all wearing yellow paper hats. The group present with me had made these hats for the kids. The hats—a simple thing to any American child—represented a treasured prize to these children. The hats were a relief from the difficulties of everyday life.

I tried to be joyous with the kids, who thought I looked like the funniest person they had ever seen—with my pale white face, and Crocodile Dundee hat—but all I could think about was the brick and mud houses they were going home too.

I Couldn't Imagine Growing Up Here

I couldn’t imagine growing up in a village in Bihar, India. I tried, but I just couldn’t envision what it would be like. I thought that maybe I should sleep here for the night, just to get a taste for what it would be like, until I realized how dehydrated I already was. And then it hit me, until my friend Biju showed up with water wells for this village, these kids must have felt dehydrated all the time. They walked miles to get dirty water before Transformation India Movement, Jesus’ Economy’s partner in Bihar, drilled wells.

It Wasn't Guilt that Overwhelmed Me

I thought about the cool water coming from my facet at home, and the hot shower I took every morning. But it wasn’t guilt that overwhelmed me—it was a sense of responsibility. I owed it to these kids to do something. I couldn’t simply look at their faces, now with yellow hats hanging over their foreheads, and forget them.

Children in Bihar have to deal with scarcity of food, unclean water, and a lack of affordable medical care. Like many children around the globe, for these kids, this is life.

That night, when the dehydration ultimately led to vomiting, all I could think about, as I hung my head over the toilet bowl, was the children. A pain that would have previously overwhelmed me simply fell to the back of my mind.

I had to do something. I would do something.

I knew I would do something before I even got to Bihar, but it was this moment—with the kids in paper hats—that made me decide that Jesus’ Economy would establish a medical clinic too. Water had reached these children—next up, medical their parents could afford.

It was also this moment that made me decide to make our empowering women program large enough that the kids’ mothers could lift their entire families out of poverty through business.

Yellow paper hats stick with you.

Learn more about our efforts to renew Bihar, India.

John Barry
John Barry


CEO, President, and Founder of Jesus' Economy. John is the author/coauthor of 12 books and General Editor of Faithlife Study Bible and Lexham Bible Dictionary.