She was crying, lying on the steps of a police station in Mumbai. Not any older than a few days, the little girl was in bad shape. She had a cleft lip and palate, a genetic deformation that requires surgery to fix. It could have been worse. Female newborns are often abandoned in dumpsters in heavily impoverished parts of India like Mumbai.
The girl who would be named Ruby Grace would wait 19 months in an overcrowded orphanage in Mumbai before being adopted by two Americans.
From the moment Josh Weathers held her, he knew he loved her, and his love for her began to spread to the other children in the orphanage, leaving Weathers with a nagging feeling when he returned to the United States.
His and wife Kady’s road to India was circuitous. He first went there in 2014 as part of a mission trip before returning last February with his wife to adopt Ruby Grace, their first adopted child and 4-year-old Cooper Weathers’ new little sister.
Does the name “Josh Weathers” ring a bell? Well, it should. Before he ended up on the other side of the world, the Josh Weathers Band was one of the biggest local acts in North Texas, packing venues from here to Dallas and Denton. He stepped away from music 17 months ago to start a business with his wife, selling weight-loss and sport-performance products for AdvoCare. Now, though, the Weatherses are mostly focused eastward.
Last February, the family began soliciting donations to open a girls’ home (similar to an orphanage) near Hyderabad, India.
“Some things just can’t be unseen,” Weathers said. “These people live in extreme poverty and are on the verge of starving to death.”
His goal is to raise $60,000 for the first stage of his vision — a home for orphaned and estranged girls a few miles outside of Hyderabad. After that, he plans to open as many Hope Homes as he can afford. And he’s raised $50,000, mostly through a series of charity concerts that have –– temporarily –– ended his hiatus from the stage.
The charitable journey began with a promise Weathers made to his wife back when they were high school sweethearts 17 years ago.
“If you marry me,” Kady told her beau, “just know that one day I’m going to adopt a baby.”
Weathers didn’t see any reason to argue.
“I was a teenager, so I didn’t think much about it at the time,” he said with a laugh.
Adopting a child, he said, has just always been something Kady has felt “led to do.”
But despite his band’s popularity, money remained tight enough to keep adoption out of reach. The average cost of adopting a child from overseas ranges from $15,000 to $40,000, according to the Child Welfare Information Gateway, a U.S. government-funded adoption information service.
It wasn’t until he transitioned to working for AdvoCare that Weathers and his wife were able to realize their lifelong dream.
After longs hours of prayer and conversation, Weathers and Kady began their search in India, a country with which the couple said they had long been fascinated. Nine months into their search, information about a 10-month-old girl arrived in Kady’s inbox.
“We just knew right away –– that’s our kid,” Weathers recalled. “That’s Ruby Grace. We knew it was going to be a girl.”
Nine months after learning about Ruby Grace, Josh and Kady were on their way to pick up the newest member of their family.
They did not expect the poverty to be as horrible as it was.
The daily life of millions of women, children, and the elderly in Mumbai revolves around hard labor in scorching heat and begging for handouts. As Weathers learned from some locals, girls are especially vulnerable to abuse due to rampant sex trafficking across India.
As Our Own, a faith-based nonprofit whose members rescue children from enslavement and exploitation, says India is home to the largest population of orphans in the world at 25.7 million. An estimated 200,000 children are involved in the sex trade, and in Mumbai alone, sex trafficking of underage girls is a $1 billion business. After finalizing Ruby Grace’s adoption and signing some legal documents, Weathers resolved to open an orphanage in Mumbai.
“This is what God put us on the planet to do,” he said. “Praying isn’t enough. It takes action.”
But the girls’ home will be in Hyderabad and not Mumbai. And there’s a good reason.
Ernest Sudheer, who started a church in Hyderabad after graduating from Harvard University, met Josh and Kady in 2014, when the couple visited as part of a mission trip.
“I saw in them what I have in me, the heart to help others and help in the right way,” Sudheer said in an e-mail.
After receiving a message from Kady one day in which she explained her and her husband’s plans, Sudheer asked, “Why Mumbai?”
Obvious. That’s where Ruby Grace is from.
Sudheer convinced them that Hyderabad might actually need more help. Plus, in Hyderabad, the three of them could combine forces.
“I [suggested] they help me open and run an orphanage just outside … of Hyderabad,” Sudheer said. “There is a lot of human trafficking happening, and even … infant children are being sold for a mere price of $100 or less.”
The Weatherses said yes “immediately,” Sudheer said.
Next month, Weathers will travel to Hyderabad to purchase five acres to begin construction. The Hope Home will provide housing, food, and educational opportunities.
The decision to focus on girls was obvious, Weathers said. Until the country of more than a billion people treats both sexes equally, he said, true economic transformation will not be possible.
“Girls in India don’t have the same status” as men, Weathers said. “It’s especially true for people in the lower caste levels. The vision is to start with 10 girls and expand from there.
After he announced his temporary return to the stage, 12 venues jumped at the chance to book him for a flat fee of $3,000, even though most of the time it’s just him with acoustic accompaniment and not the bombastic experience that fans may be used to. For his next show, at The Aardvark on Friday, Aug. 21, Weathers will be joined by Fort Worth producer and former Josh Weathers Band bassist/guitarist Nick Choate.
“There’s a lot of people that show up and wonder where the old band is, and we have to tell them that this is a different thing,” Choate said. “Those moments give us an opportunity to share our vision.”
Weathers and Choate realize they can never play enough shows to fund the project in perpetuity. Eventually, Weathers said, he will employ a monthly fee-based sponsorship program similar to the one used by the international nonprofit Save the Children.
His long-term vision is to see Hope Homes open across India, Africa, and even the United States.
Fans inevitably ask Weathers if the old band is getting back together. He simply tells them this isn’t a revival.
“Music is my passion,” Weathers said. “It’s what I love to do, but it’s just not my job now. Music is a ministry in my life now, and I’m using it to raise money for this girls’ home. The fact that I can do what I love and raise money for these girls is amazing.”
For more information, visit Lovelikeumeanit.com.