Yesterday there was a great break in the rain and I thought I had missed my chance to go down to Margao to give them their monthly health packs. Thankfully this morning the rain seemed to be staying away so I packed up my bag with enough donations for 134 children (that's one big bag!) and set off out the door. As soon as I stepped out, there were a few drops of rain and it seemed to be coming in from the North and thankfully Margao is south, so I set off and hoped luck was on my side. A special thanks goes out to Steve and Sarah who have been really kind and have loaned me their bike while mine is in the garage, this was the first time I had taken the trip to Margao alone and I needed the extra stability that his 'side box' gave, so the bag was straddled across the seat and the top of his side box. The bag weighed as much as a sack of potatoes so it was a little precarious seeming there wasn't anyone holding it on.
The ride down there went well and my usual first stop (in the middle of some fields) was not possible as the fields were now a muddy lake, so sadly I had to miss them this trip, there wasn't a problem with the rest of the stops and I was a little worried as I didn't have anyone else on 'crowd (mother) control' but everything went surprisingly well. I did four main stops and these comprised of two larger areas and two smaller. As it's now a regular occurrence, many of the children are getting to know us and it's great to start to recognise a few faces. I will upload a selection of photos from the day a little later so you can see.
By the time I had finished in Margao I had used up everything I took barring just 3 items so all in all it was a very good day. Thank you to all the families who made it a relaxing and chilled day.
The monsoon has been quite intense for the last week, every day starting with a heavy downpour and the rains continuing for the majority of the day. Today was the first real break and it gave me a chance to stock up on supplies and do a quick run down to Panjim to give out health packs to a group of around 25 children. The children were scattered around when I arrived, so a couple ran off to find their brothers/sisters, on returning it was nice to see that one of the parents had started to organise the children into a nice line and everything went without a hitch. Well one of the children, a young boy didn't seem particular happy to stand in line and started to cry but thankfully the tears changed to a whimper and then to a smile once the donations were passed out.
One of the parents was quite good in English so we talked about the possibilities of the children attending school, currently the children were working the beaches and tourist hot- spots for money, even during the monsoon. Hopefully I will hear back from them shortly and see how things progress. It is always a difficult step, especially with working children.
Kumar has been studying Kung Fu for the past two and a half years and has already taken part in a number of tournaments. His master recommended that he take part in the 2nd National Kuo-Shu Kung Fu Championship taking place in Rampur in Shimla. It was something that Kumar wanted to do, but sadly could not afford as 6,000? was needed to cover train fare, accommodation, track suit, and entrance fees. Thankfully Azadeh who visited Goa earlier in the year wanted to support him so he had the chance to go.
Kumar met up with his teacher and 10 other students and set off on his mammoth trip up to Shimla, Northern India. The first part of his trip was by car from Mapusa down to Margao where the group caught the train to Delhi and then a second train on to Kalka in Haryana. The train journey took around 42 hours. From Kalka it was a long bus journey to Shimla where the party stayed in a hotel for the night and caught the bus next morning to Rampur.
Rampur would be their base for the next four days and they were lodged in a guest house not too far away from where the championships were being held. The practice sessions of the tournament were on the first day and it was a good chance for Kumar and his team mates to see what they were up against. I am sure there was a lot on his mind, but he was ready for his bouts which were scheduled for the second day.
The next morning the tournament started at 10am and Kumar's friend had three fights which he won, and which earned him a gold medal in his weight class. Kumar's fight started early evening and there were four people in his group so that meant he needed to beat both his opponents to win gold. The first fight was with a slightly bigger boy from Haryana. The fight went well and Kumar won cleanly and gained the judges verdict and he was through to the final round. The final in his group was with a Manipurian boy about the same height, Kumar found him a good match and a (in his words) 'harder' opponent but after landing a selection of kicks and punches including his favourite round house kick Kumar was happy to be awarded the gold medal. As you can imagine he was so excited and immediately called us up saying 'I won, I won'.
If the chance to fight in this national championship wasn't enough, he spent the next two days sightseeing with his team. They explored by car and went up to the mountains in Kullu Manali and he saw snow for the first time in his life. He also had his first snowball fight and spent a few hours playing and sliding down the hills. Sadly his trip was over and it was time to head back to reality, they caught their train to Goa from Chandigarh and finally arrived back in Mapusa at close to midnight 10 days later...
Congratulations to Kumar and thank you to Azadeh and Friends for making this possible.
* Names have been changed for child protection reasons.
After a recent stock take we are happy to report that we have distributed over 1500 health packs in the last three months. Most of these are for ongoing support so that we can ensure that the children always have the basics for health care and cleanliness. Without these donations the children would often us charcoal to brush their teeth, or not brush at all, also soap is probably more of a luxury due to the cost (per month) and shampoo even more so. What everyone takes for granted in the western world is rarely the case for the children living in slums and on the streets in India.
Our current monthly health pack consists of a large bar of soap, a tube of Colgate toothpaste, a strip of 16 Shampoo sachets and a toothbrush. This costs just 68 ?(about 85p, Retail) and is enough for one child for a month. Prices in India are always increasing, soap has recently gone up by around 15% and although toothpaste prices seemingly stay the same, the content continues to decrease.
The afternoon was spent visiting a few of the families who were still around, it was great getting to know them a little better and sitting down and having chai and biscuits with them.