Friday 13th of March was an evening of Entertainment at Ash in Arambol. The evening was a fundraising event to support Street and Slum children in Goa. Declan joined us and the children a few days earlier for am afternoon of activities. He also offered for some of the children a chance to perform on stage.
The three children chosen have attended dance classes during the last year, the fees paid from money raised from last years' event. The children jumped at the chance and the three boys chosen were joined by a friend as support. The evening started a little late but the music and dance were great to chill to while more came to watch the show..
One of the boys who had arrived early had an extra chance to go on stage with his mentor, Mauricio "BoogieLoop" who he had met the year before. They quickly rehearsed a little sketch with body popping and movements in front of an adoring crowd which applauded them both. Later that evening on the way home, the boy stated that he was now over his stage fright!
A little later the three boys and their friend got the chance to perform together. The music they danced to, was a mix of four songs each having a different dance style, the routine was very energetic and even included back flips which the audience loved. The children did so well, but sadly we had to leave early as it was a school night, so we headed home and all the kids were still high on the excitement of being able to perform alongside and in front of such a talented group of people. Ash is a wonderful venue, a little hideaway close to the beach in Arambol.
We send a huge thanks to Ash, Declan and Friends and all the performers who worked so hard to pull off a great evening of entertainment. The best thing is always when the children love it, and they did!
Tuesday 10th of March saw the return of Declan and friends who come each year to visit the children and provide them with a little entertainment. This year as well as a few songs, music and a performance from the hula hooping girl, Lisa, the children had a chance to participate, this started with hula hooping, and then the children gathered round 3 large sheets of paper (about 6ft by 4ft), equipped with paint, brushes, fingers and hands nearly all joined in to make murals,
Declans friends were there to give a helping hand but most of the inspiration came from the children themselves. Another member of the group was well known for his street art and focused on teaching the art of spray painting with palm leaves to produce a mottled outline effect. All the children and a few adults joined in, everyone was given fruit and it was a great afternoon. Before leaving we played a few games and chilled in the cool shaded area.
Thank you to all Declans friends (sorry I don't have your names) and of course to Declan himself who is always going the extra mile to sort out these visits and events.
Holi has always been one of our favourite Hindu festivals. It's a chance for barriers to be taken down and the children to cover each other with vivid colours.
"Holi" originates from the name "Holika" who was the evil sister of the demon king Hiranyakashipu. Hiranyakashipu, who was virtually indestructible, became arrogant and demanded that everyone should worship him. Hiranyakashipu had a son named Prahlada who disagreed with his father tyrannical ways, which made his demon father punished him more, but Prahiada never wavered in his resolve and remained devoted to the hindu god Vishnu and what he thought was good and right. Finally, Holika - Prahlada's evil aunt - tricked Prahlada into sitting on a fire with her, Holika wore a shawl that protected her from the flames but as the fire started to engulf the pair, the cloak instead flew from Holika and covered Prahlada protecting him from the flames allowing him to survive. Vishnu then came and killed the evil Hiranyakashipu. The holi colours are also seen as a celebration of the start of spring its colours and the harvest.
This year Mary and Robert visited each of the slum areas taking along large packets of powdered colour and wearing, what started out as beautiful white shirts. But even before they reached the first slum they had already been blessed with a little colour. The children as always were excited to get stuck in and lined up for a few handfuls of colour as we stopped.
Mary who was just visiting was a new face to the children and she managed to avoid most of the colour, but the children and Robert were not so lucky. Mary and Rob visited 3 more areas and at the largest one saw the children and families celebrating with dancing and a lot of colour with buckets of water often thrown in for good measure. As it reached midday a couple of the children phoned Rob to ask "when are you coming?". After a quick break we headed to another small area and were kindly invited in for food. Saroja's family had been waiting and had cooked chicken, rice and perfectly round roti, which were delicious. It is always a great pleasure to be invited into the children's homes, but only problem is they just don't stop feeding you! More and more food is put in front of you. Both Rob and Mary have great appetites but when we got to our fourth roti and 3rd plate of rice and curry they started to struggle! :) After nearly finishing everything we thanked Saroja and her family for their hospitality and said our goodbyes.
A call from Kajal sent us speeding on our way to Calangute to meet another family. When we pulled up on the bike Kajal was waiting for us and had been crying as she thought we weren't coming - bless her cotton socks! It was the first time she had met Mary so we had a little chat and exchanged colour. Kajal's younger cousin was in the middle of a bath (next to the road) and gingerly hid and giggled. Kajal asked if we could go down to the sea to wash the colour off so we headed down and ended the day with a lovely sea bathe followed by chips and a drink at one of the beach shacks.
Thank you to everyone who made the day a very special one, all the kids, families and Mary who had her first taste of Holi.
* Names have been changed for child protection reasons
Sunday was a fun packed day as a very talented face painter came and helped paint the faces of a huge number of children at the local slums. Naomi who has been painting faces for years enjoyed the challenge of working in the slum; all she needed were a few chairs; one for her, one as a 'table' for the paints and sponges and another for a very excited child.
It was obvious straight away that it might take a while as there was a never ending queue of children, and this was before they actually saw the end result. It was amazing what Naomi was capable of creating; my favourite were the tiger faces that glimmered in the sun. The queue continued and we left her surrounded by children while we continued to give out the monthly health packs, fruit and cake.
Even after we had finished giving out everything Naomi was still surrounded by eager children wanting their faces painted. To give her a little more time, we left her and Mary while we visited another small slum to give out fruit and health packs. On our return, yes you guessed it, Naomi was still surrounded by children.
To give the children in another area a chance we quickly packed up the supplies, said our farewells and headed to another two areas. Again, the same situation, Geeta being the first child to have a go, but then it was like moths to a flame. In the end I think Naomi spent a good two to three hours painting the children's faces while the rest of us gave out goodies to the children.
Naomi you were a star who really did make the children's day. Also thanks to Penny, Ralph, Serena and Mary for helping Rob out on the day.
My haven't we been busy, as well as Naomi painting the children's faces, Sunday was also very special day for another reason as it was Sindhiya's Birthday (our Dentist). Sindhiya has been helping with the children's teeth for around a year and has a great rapport with them. Several of the children have had teeth pulled and also root canals performed, not really anyone's idea of a nice day out, but Sindhiya tries her best to keep them smiling.
As well as dental hygiene, she has also kindly donated large bags of clothes to give out which included some beautiful Churidar outfits for the older girls. As it was her birthday, Sindhiya wanted to treat the children and ordered three large cakes and juice packs which would be given out on her birthday, the 8th of March.
With the help of Mary, Penny, Ralph and Sareena we gave out the cake and juice to the kids and had a few children trying to ask for more, but the guilty smiles and cream rimmed mouths gave their innocent faces away. Sindhiya also wanted to highlight March the 8th for another reason. It is also International Women's Day which was highlighted by the text on one of the cakes. After recently seeing the BBC documentary - India's Daughter, it is apparent that the problem is engraved into the minds of many Indians although the demonstrations held all over the country shows that things must change and men and women alike are demanding equality for all.
On a personal note, it has always been more difficult to keep girls in school and we fight for their rights every day and I hope that the current crop of girls who are still in school can have a greater influence on the lives of their daughters and support them in education and a healthy and safe childhood.
One of the young boys (Sahil) who arrived in our area a few months ago has severe hearing loss and we originally got him along with his brother and sister into a local government school. Unfortunately the local government schools are not set up for children with disabilities so they allowed him to stay temporarily while we arranged admission at a special school for children with disabilities; the most appropriate one is around 15kms away in Porvorim.
After meeting the head master at Sanjay Special School for the first time there were a few things required for the child's admission, the first being an audiogram for their records to show the extent of the hearing loss and a disability certificate from the Goa Medical College (GMC) based on the same report. It took several visits to GMC to organise everything we needed but we finally had everything.
On arrival at the school early on Monday this week we were directed to a teacher who helped fill in the pages and pages of detail required for admission. Along with Robert were both parents and his elder brother (who spoke a little English). The lady who took all the details was just fabulous. It is such a relief to find teachers who really do seem to care about the work; she was very helpful and spent a long time with us.
While we were filling out the forms another teacher was doing an evaluation of Sahil so they could gauge where to place him in the school. He had been to school before in his village, although surprisingly his English skills seemed to be much better than his Hindi. He also knows a little sign language, the alphabet and a few words as far as I could tell. While all of this was going on it was great to see the other students busily talking between themselves and I found it exhausting trying to keep up and guesstimate what they were saying in sign language. The other children seemed really welcoming to Sahil, so fingers crossed he will settle in well. After these tasks were finished Sahil was then taken to the psychology room for another small interview which lasted about 30 minutes. Again the teacher was so warm and caring about the children.
There was one final teacher we needed to meet, the speech therapist, unfortunately she was not at school on the Monday so we were asked to return the next day so she could evaluate Sahil. The next day, Sahil and his mother joined Rob and met up with the Speech Therapist who evaluated Sahil for a hour or more, after which we spoke to several people about bus routes and there was a little confusion as the buses seem to come close but not quite close enough, hopefully everything will work out in that respect.
We were also given details about hearing aids and the speech therapist provided contact details for Ms Amrita Rodrigues in Panjim, after finishing at the school we made an appointment and met Ms Rodrigues. Another hour was spent here while Sahil had another hearing test, but as with the first at GMC it was a little inconclusive as Sahil wants to please so much that he gives false positives as he desperately wants to hear and thinks that telling us when he thinks there is a sound is the same as actually hearing the sound. Ms Rodrigues was so very good with him and listened to the mother who was unwittingly encouraging him to give false positives. But everything changed when Sahil put on a hearing aid for the first time, the smile and excitement in his face when he heard sounds more clearly and complained that a ringing phone was too loud. It was a joy to see.
Sahil's mother was thinking that once the hearing aid was fitted, he would just be weeks before he could talk, but the doctor explained that it will be a slow progress as he hasn't heard words properly before so he doesn't know that 'ball' is ball as he hasn't heard the word ball properly before . Sahil is so desperate to please and to study so I hope that the hearing aid will make a huge difference in his life. We are purchasing a water resistant (the monsoon is just around the corner) four channel digital hearing aid which can be reprogrammed once he gets to grips with using it to refine the sounds he hears. The cost is about Rs 25,000 (£250) and if there is anyone who would be interested in supporting Sahil's continued development we would be grateful for the assistance.
Update : Thanks to Dale for helping purchase the hearing aid!
* Names have been changed for child protection reasons