Contemporary Christian music group NewSong, founder of Winter Jam, is currently traveling in India to view Holt’s childcare programs there. Here, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, describes their visit to BSSK – a model childcare and social service center founded by Holt in 1979.
by Brian Campbell
Pune, India – The children line at the window. For the last few weeks, they’ve eagerly anticipated the arrival of the four performing artists who make up the Christian band NewSong. They’ve prepared songs and dances for Eddie, Russ, Matt and Billy, and can’t wait to do a little performing themselves.
When the vans pull up and the guys step out, the children squeal with excitement. As Newsong begins to climb the stairs, the children call out “Mama, mama!” – the word for uncle in Marathi, the main Indian dialect used here in the city of Pune, India. A BSSK staff member hands the guys a guitar, brought from home. The children beg them to sing Jingle Bells and Old MacDonald, and the guys proceed to belt them out with great gusto. But their biggest hit requires audience participation: “If you’re happy and you know it.” The children catch on quickly, and begin to sing along, mimicking the guys’ clapping, stomping gestures. When the song ends, the children cry, “Encore!” Not to disappoint their fans, the guys repeat “If you’re happy,” this time picking up the pace and challenging the children to sing faster.
The next stop on NewSong’s tour of BSSK is a room full of toddlers. This audience isn’t quite so immediately sold on the four rockers who enter their room. Staring at the strangers, they warily move toward their caregivers. But it’s not long before the guys are on the floor, playing with the children, now friendlier and more at ease. The guys each hold several of the little ones. “This is amazing,” Matt Butler says to his bandmate, in a near whisper, as a child grabs the end of his nose. “Look at all these little faces.”
Before too long, the guys lead a siege of youngsters to the playground. They push swings. They catch children at the bottom of slides. They spin the merry-go-round. Laughing, Matt, Eddie, Billy and Russ play as naturally as the rest of the kids.
As they pile back into their van at the end of the day, Russ Lee smiles. “What a blessing to be with those kids,” he says.