We would just like to thank our Dentists assistant who kindly provided a large bag of clothes for the children this month. There are lots of beautiful churidahs and a few western outfits, we will hopefully get chance to give the clothes out next month and I am sure there will be quite a few happy faces.We also received a couple of large bags of clothes from Gypsy and her friends, and 5 or 6 large bin bags of clothes from friends of Steve and Sarah.
There is quite a mixture of clothes which will need sorting through, but this will have to wait until after the school items have been distributed as there is just not enough space at the moment to sort them out.
Kalpana is a young girl who is HIV+; sadly both her parents contracted HIV before she was born and passed the disease onto her. Kalpana is now 15 years old and has had a few battles with her condition, but thanks to great care and help from the centre where she lives, has managed to battle through the hard times and make the most of the good times. I have known Kalpana for the last couple of years and have become good friends. In 2013 I was able to go down to her care home and provide Christmas presents for all the HIV positive children for the first time and it was great to see the children so happy and excited; not sure if the Nuns were as happy as a few of the presents included water pistols - oops!.
I was introduced to Kalpana through Daz and Caz who have supported Kalpana for years, although at one point they lost contact with her and asked for my help to re- connect. We spent a couple of weeks trying to locate Kalpana and finally found her and took the long trip down to South Goa to meet up at the new centre where she is living. Daz and Caz have been good friends with Kalpana and her family for the last seven years.
During Kalpana's school holidays this year she was able to visit Daz and Caz for a few days which gave them the chance to spoil her rotten. During the holidays Kalpana stays with her older siblings and grandmother but treasures the time spent with her adoptive mother and father. This year they had the chance to relax on the beach listening to her favourite Hindi songs, along with her best friend, Arjun who absolutely adores Kalpana. Arjun is 5 years old and the son of the landlord where Daz and Caz stay.
One day, to give Daz and Caz a little break, Robert took Kalpana out for the day. The main reason was to visit the monkey sanctuary, although we also had time to meet some of the children in the slums and also visit some of Kalpana's friends who had come to the HIV centre in Thivim for a few days. It was an unexpected surprise for Kalpana to see her friends, she only became aware of where we were heading once we arrived at the gates and she recognised the centre. As we approached she was a little apprehensive, but then as she saw her friends there were a couple of gasps of excitement and then hugs. They were all a bit lost for words, but soon settled into conversation.
A more surprising find was to drive past another older child who lives near Robert's house and passes by each day to work, she was also living at the centre in South Goa but now lives near Mapusa. The girls had a good chat and catch-up about each others' lives. Time was flying by so we headed to the Monkey Sanctuary, and as we arrived I asked Kalpana to remove her hairclips, necklace and other items as the monkeys love to grab shiny things, and once they get hold they really don't like to share! As we walked up the drive, the first monkeys we met weren't the nicest at the centre, monkeys love to bully people through intimidation, sadly this is even more apparent with girls/women and even more so the younger they are but that didn't stop us from saying hello and carefully feeding the monkeys a few sultanas.
As we walked up to the main house we met a few more monkeys who were younger and a little more tolerant to new comers. We sat down and spent a while saying hello to Dixie (pictured) and Dennis, two young bonnet macaques. Kalpana was still a little apprehensive but loved how they reached out and took the sultanas and then held them in the small pouches at the bottom of their jaws. Dixie had a huge store of sultanas so we moved on and said hello to the beautiful Ella, a 3 year old langur monkey. Ella is a special monkey who loves to meet people and was out for her daily exercise; Kalpana wasn't quite ready and was still scared, as Ella is about 4 or 5 times the size of Dixie. Ella came up to Kalpana and hugged her, although Kalpana was holding onto Robert for support. After a few minutes Kalpana relaxed and started interacting with Ella. It was so nice to give her such an experience, we clicked a few photos so she had something to remember the day with and then headed back for a meal with everyone and then dropped her back home.
Thank you to the centre where she stays for looking after Kalpana for most of the year and to Kalpana for putting up with my company for the day. *Names have been changed for Child Protection Reasons.
Last year we helped a modest 25 children with their school items, this year we hope to double that number and have started to source materials, uniforms, bags and stationery. Bags are always a little problematic as many bags sold locally are poorly made and can last just a few months with some of the children. We obviously want to keep the price down as much as possible, but we really want a bag that will last to the end of the school year. We aim to spend around Rs 500 (£5) on a school bag (rucksack), there are plenty available although many might not even last a month with the children.
This year a couple of the older children have been 'testing' sample bags and it looks like we have a couple of winners. Fingers crossed the new bags will last. A special thank you goes to Penny Ginn and 'THE GIRLS' for purchasing 16 bags and to Jane Sleven, whose donation allowed another 10 bags to be bought for the children. In total we have bought around 60 bags and have started filling them with pencil cases (main photo) full of goodies much of it has been provided by Sonali who visited us earlier this month and helped give out health packs to the children.
The past week we have had chance to take a few groups of children to Mapusa market to visit the tailor and be measured for their new school uniforms. Each group were met at the bus station and then we walked to the tailors, then onto a couple of shoe shops so the children could choose their own sandals and then finally to the material shop to buy the required material before returning to the tailor and heading home. We also arranged for the tailor to visit us, I had called around 30 children to come for measurements on Thursday at 10:30; by 10am a few had arrived and then a few more and my room was getting quite packed by the time the tailor arrived. The children sat down and watched Paddington Bear on the TV while the tailor took the measurements.
The children were grouped by school, first Janata the Government school, which accounted for the majority of the children, then finished with the one off uniforms for St Mary's, Bittos and other local schools. It is the first time so many children had visited and they were a little bit of a handful but with the help of one of the older boys, we managed to get through the session and add them to the 'finished' list.
There are a handful of children who are taking their 10th standard exams; these are akin to the GCSE/O Level exams in the UK, and the examinations are split across local schools with the children split up and sent to new schools to take the exams with children from a mixture of other schools.
Their first day is always a little scary, let alone with the fear of not doing well, but they also have to find their way and settle into a new environment. One child was really stressed and burst into tears when she was handed her first exam paper. Thankfully, she and the others have settled in and although still very apprehensive each morning before their exams, they have got past the initial shock of the exam process.
The children have spent the last few weeks revising for exams with one of the older boys who is taking his 10th standard exams coming to 'the quiet room' to revise each day. As you can image there are lots of distractions in the slums and it is far from the ideal place to study, especially as most of his family are quite vocal at home.
To get away from the hustle and bustle of home life, he has been coming to study and sits quietly in the study room which has been fitted with a work surface and bean bags so the children can 'chill' and revise in peace. Unfortunately the peace doesn't extend to Robert who is often roped in to help with a subject or asked to photocopy or look up something on the internet.
Robert is delighted to help, especially when they are trying so hard to pass their exams.A few other children have come to study on occasion but none have shown as much commitment. We all wish him and all the children the best for their exams.
Sindhiya, our dentist helps us so much with the children's teeth. It was her birthday on the 8th of March and as a treat she celebrated her special day by providing 3 large cakes and juice packs which were given out to the children in the slums, Naomi also joined us and spent hours painting the childrens faces.
Penny has been a long time supporter of the work we do here in Goa. As well as bringing lots of 'goodies' out for the children she has also donated money towards various items. This year she has helped buy 16 school bags for the upcoming school year.
Each year we provide new school items for the children. The children usually receive Bags, Uniforms, Books, Stationary, Footwear, protective gear for use in the rain and also incentives to stay in school.
Thank you to Penny and the girls from the raffle page 'Thunder and Lightning'.