At the very bottom of the human caste system in India live the untouchables. From birth they are doomed to extreme poverty, relying on prostitution, begging and slavery to exist.
Marchelle Locke, Director of National Licensing for Phenix Salon Suites, touches these untouchables. At an orphanage in the small rural town of Kovilpatti in the southern state of Tamil Nazu, she embraces these children, holds them, loves them. Along with fellow missionaries there, “we are showing them that they are loved and they are worthy.”
Locke made her first trip to the orphanage in 2009 with a team from New Hope Church in Durango, CO. She recently made her eighth journey to the orphanage with a team from Tuttle Christian Church in Tuttle, OK, where she now lives.
Locke is the cousin of Gina Rivera and, like the founder and President of Phenix Salon Suites, Locke was born into the salon industry and became a successful stylist herself. As director of national licensing, she is one of the first people to work with prospective stylists considering a move to a Phenix Salon Suite, giving them information on how to license a suite and the options available. Because she is a stylist, “I can relate to the salon professionals … I reach them at their level. They know that I understand what they need.”
She works at the orphanage for about two weeks at a time. The journey is no less than 45 hours one way. On her first trip, she assisted with medical and dental work. On another they built a chicken coop. Recently they painted Christian murals in a new dorm for boys. On every trip they support the full-time staff of about six in caring for the roughly 200 children, fulfilling everyday needs and duties.
“And we just love them as much as we can,” she said of the children. When she first made the journey, the children didn’t really trust the missionaries. They called Marchelle their “aunt,” then referred to her as sister and then their mom. “I am super attached to them now. I’ve watched them grow up … I’ve watched them go to college.”
That never would have been possible before. Public schools wouldn’t accept them so churches raise money for these untouchables to attend a private school, after which they go to a World Youth With a Mission, www.ywam.com, and to college, breaking them free from the caste system where they were frozen.
“They come from the worst situations possible,” said Locke. But through the orphanage and mission, “they are loved they are fed, they are given a chance at life.” For more information on the mission, Marchelle suggested http://apcfund.com/where-we-work/hope-mission-home.