Her tea comes from Darjeeling, and she sells tea as a fundraiser to help raise the funds for these trips and also scholarships for these young women. Katrell started The Learning Tea project http://www.thelearningtea.com/ and this book chronicles the time from when she first got interested in going to India through almost two decades of work in India with these women.
I GIVE IT 4 STARS.
WHAT I THOUGHT ABOUT THE BOOK: The opening of the book seemed more suited to a fiction novel. While a great read and certainly attention-grabbing, it seemed a little fantastical and hard to believe to me. I have done a lot of mission work and also have tried to raise funds for projects that are for a good cause, and people just aren’t interested. However, the first chapter made it sound to me like funds for this project were simply handed to her. In the first chapter the author somehow gets a meeting with some men high up in the government of India, and one promptly writes her a check for the amount she asked for. I’m sure it was not as easy as it seemed, but that was the impression I got from reading the opening. As if one could simply go to leaders in a country and ask for money for a project like this and they would simply hand it over. I also never quite was able to place that first chapter in a chronological timeline in my mind of where it fit in relation to the rest of the story, so it stood out to me as being a bit disjointed. This is the reason for 4 stars instead of 5. The writing style was perfect for grabbing a reader's attention and making them want to read the rest of the story though.
As you read, you do see more of the struggles that the author had to go through to get the funding for this project. It was not as easy as it seemed in the beginning chapter. A lot of hard work, a lot of mistakes, and a huge amount of dedication was put into this by the author to make it happen. Many people would have given up due to the circumstances she faced in her travels and the difficulties she had, but this was something dear to her heart and these girls were like family to her, and she was willing to do what it took to take care of her "family".
The author’s style and personality is refreshing to read. It is self-deprecating at times, has a touch of personal information included which helps the reader to relate to the author, and highlights some of her weaknesses as well as strengths. Anyone who has a problem with the occasional cuss word here and there might get offended. This isn’t a churchy religious mission to save souls. The author tells you in the book that she has tattoos, smokes cigarettes, and has a tendency to cuss at times. She also has a huge heart for these women and continued to find ways to help them better their station in life.
The Learning Tea does not give handouts. It gives a hand up. Provides an opportunity for women who ordinarily would not get a chance to make something of their live to have that chance. These are young women from the poorest class in India who have been abandoned to orphanages and are kicked out to live on the streets upon reaching adulthood. Many would turn to prostitution or end up being trafficked for sex or manual labor if they didn’t have this chance at a better life. The Learning Tea provides housing in a dorm-like setting with a housemother, pays for their tuition to college, and covers all their living needs and supplies such as clothing, visits to the doctor, etc. The girls are carefully handpicked and must maintain a good GPA in school. The author personally goes to India twice a year to check in on the girls and do any work that needs to be done while she is there. This way she knows the money is going to the girls and not to some con artist who just wants to line their pockets. She also provides the girls with her phone number and email address so they can contact her in between her visits there in case they have an emergency and need to get in touch with her.
As a social worker with a heart for projects such as this, I was glad to be involved in reading and reviewing this book for publication. I delighted in the revelations that the author had at times such as when some of the girls turned down the help she was trying to give them. She learned what I as a social worker have to help families understand all the time - and many of them never understand this - that a person has the right to self-determination. Basically, we cannot force someone to do something that we think they should do. We can educate and offer help but as the saying goes, "you can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink". Katrell shared some moments such as this in Tiger Heart when she realized that she couldn't save every girl she came in contact with. But what a difference she has been to the ones she was able to help!
I received a copy of the book for free as part of being involved in a virtual book tour through TLC Book Tours. The book is a very enjoyable read, and some of the proceeds of the sale of the book goes to help fund more scholarships for these young women. Anyone who purchases this book will be helping in some small way make a difference in the life of these women. So please consider adding Tiger Heart to your reading list and purchasing a copy! And if you are ever in Atlanta I am sure you can find a moment to grab a cup of tea and say hi to the author yourself.