It is the end of the school year here in Goa, the children are on their holidays and making the most of their free time. However there is no rest for us as we organise everything for the new school year which starts in June. We are hoping to help around 20 children this year, and have already organised three of the children and got them admitted into schools, and new schools mean new school uniforms. We are happy to report that the school will supply two of the children with uniforms which is a great help, but the third child will need to have material bought and the uniform stitched. In addition to this we have had 3 more students requiring uniforms, so each one of them went to the tailor to be measured for their uniform and the material bought and dropped off.
Hopefully a week before school starts we will receive the new uniforms so the children can dress smartly for their first days at school. As well as the school uniforms we have been busy buying school bags, books and stationary for the new school year. There is still much to do but hope to distribute everything the week before the new academic year.
Three of the new children haven't attended 'formal' school before which makes things a little more complicated as schools (as per govt rules) try to put the children into age specific classes, so even though all three haven't been to school they will join in three different standards, the eldest starting in 5th standard and the younger two in 1st and 3rd. The school will kindly provide two weeks of 'starter lessons' to get them ready for the new school year, and we will keep an eye on them and hope that they can catch up with the rest of the students. It will be a struggle but with the help of the school and extra classes we hope they will have all the support they need.
Getting older children into school for the first time is something which is important to us as otherwise these children will go through life without any formal education and there is a great chance that they get trapped in the vicious circle of extreme poverty where there is no way out.
One of the children has had quite an eventful month; earlier in the month he called up to say that he woke one day unable to move his arm. A unique situation I hadn't come across before, so a trip to the District hospital was in order. The children often just need someone to 'hold their hand' so to speak. Anyone who has been to the government hospital will surely tell you it's not the easiest place to navigate, especially if you're new to the whole experience, but I have been many times now.
Doctors have different rules, some require a token; for others you just line up and wait. We got Sahil registered with a paper, these cost just 20rs, and then we worked our way round to the general doctor to have a look at his arm. At this point we didn't know if he had been bitten in the night or what was wrong, and when we finally got to the front of the queue the doctor said he wasn't sure and we should see a specialist. We were sent to another doctor which meant more lining up.
Finally, after examination the doctors' opinion was Sahil was suffering from tendonitis. To confirm the diagnosis Sahil had a blood test, which, you guessed it, meant a visit to another part of the hospital to line up again. Sahil was given medications and a few days later his symptoms had passed and I am glad to report that his arm has returned to normal. Sadly that wasn't the end of his problems, and a couple of weeks later he called up again complaining of toothache.
We all know that toothache is never fun, so an immediate visit to the dentist was organised. The first dentist, took a look and sadly was of the opinion that the tooth, his permanent tooth, wouldn't be able to be saved. Although she thought she should take an x-ray and send it off to the senior dentist to check. The tooth had a large abscess which was causing the pain and the whole interior of the tooth was eaten away and there was little hope in saving it. Both the dentists were really good and gave Sahil local anaesthetics to numb the area before attempting to extract the tooth. The tooth took quite a good tug to get it out and after making sure the gum was irrigated and cleaned it was dressed and Sahil was ready to go. A list of medicines was given to control the infection and make sure he had a good recovery.
*Names have been changed for Child Protection Reasons.
Education of the children is important to us and we try our hardest to encourage families to send their children to school. Sometimes this can cause a little friction with the families as they would prefer their children to stay at home and keep them in the lifestyle they have come accustomed to. One father recently said that his eldest daughter (probably just 9 years old) couldn't attend school as she was required to clean and cook at home while he slept in the morning. The same father is often found under the influence of alcohol. It is against the Right to education act to keep children away form their right to education below 14 years so we will continue to talk with the families to persuade them that must send their children to school.
To make their decision a little easier we are introducing a Rice allowance for each child who attends school. For each child we support the family will receive a kilogram of rice for ever full week of school they attend. To allow us to provide this service we would like to thank Tytti and Esa for their generous donation towards providing rice for the children. They kindly purchased 450 kilos of rice which will be distributed to the children on a weekly basis. Please get in touch if you would like to support this scheme.
Currently it costs less than £1 to provide rice for one child for a month. Do you have a spare pound stuck down the back of the sofa?