Over the last couple of weeks we have made a concerted effort to give out as much of the remaining stock as possible. Our first job was to find out exactly what stock was left over since everything does become rather chaotic over the Christmas period.
Paulina, a friend was available to give a helping hand. Paulina, who is now living in Goa volunteered for Children Walking Tall seven or eight years ago and was eager to help.
Sorting might not sound like a huge task but everything has to be laid out to see what is actually there, and then decide how best to store it and it does take longer than you would imagine. We rarely get the same things given twice so the items we have are continually changing and this means their storage also needs to change. The first day was spent sorting a few remaining toys left over from Christmas along with educational items; a dozen books, a few pads and a couple of boxes of pencils and pens.
Our second day would be the clothes sorting day. We had been very lucky this year with receiving lots of clothes, several bags were given from one ladies wardrobe, but most were a little big and not suitable for the children; but nothing ever gets wasted and most were given out to local adults and parents in the slums. More clothes were given by a couple of Goan families and a couple from Delhi, these had some very stylish items in them and were mainly aimed at the older girls who have had a bumper winter season with many getting 2 or 3 new items from this collection.
Our final mission for the day though, was to give out a few remaining clothes and baby items and cuddly toys which was a surprise find during sorting. Paulina and Robert made several trips and visited 5 or 6 areas. To be honest these were the most enjoyable items to give out. The children´s eyes lit up with joy at the chance to have a cuddly toy, some of which were nearly as big as them! It was a long day but truly rewarding and we would like to thank Paulina for her hard work over the last couple of weeks, Thank you!
We would like to thank Anjela Chance and everybody from Bunzl Healthcare who have kindly donated two large boxes of medical items which included - Wash mitts, Gauze dressings, Hand/Nail Brushes, Swabs, Surgical tape, Medical Gloves, Aprons, Barrier Wipes, Dressing packs, Mattress covers, Surgical scissors / Scalpels and more....
The items were safely received in the UK and we would also like to thank Jane Pearson and family for sorting the items out and organising transport to India.
While visiting the children we met up with one of the older girls, Savita, who had left school years ago, but was still only around 17 years old. Savita was limping so we asked what was wrong. Savita carefully turned to one side to show a large area of scabbing and blackness on the back of her legs, it was a terrible mess. After speaking with her she informed us that a few nights ago she had been standing close to the fire and her skirt had caught fire.
Her legs were blackened from blistering and what could have been smoke or melted plastic and it was difficult to know how bad the burns were. We asked why she hadn´t gone to the hospital or called, but never really got a proper answer from her although it was obvious she was not willing to go to hospital.
From the way she was moving you could tell she was in a lot of pain but she was happy for Robert to have a look and clean the wounds. Her legs had a great deal of scabbing and melted plastic to get through to see what was hidden underneath and the first day it took over two hours of carefully washing and cleaning her legs to see the four main burn sites; there was a slight infection but after the first good clean it seemed hopeful that it could be treated without antibiotics.
After the area was thoroughly cleansed and loose scabs and skin removed we found a couple of special burn packs in stock that had pre-medicated gauze. This gauze was used to cover the wounds and bandages held it in place and had the extra bonus of keeping the area clean. After using up 5 large bandages to cover all the areas she was taken home and it was just a matter of waiting to see how she would be the next day.
Early the next morning we had organised to meet again to change the dressings. On first seeing her we could tell immediately that Savita was more mobile and was more comfortable walking so we had hoped it would just be a quick change of dressings and then back home.
Unfortunately the second day meant another 2 hour session as the gauze had bonded with the wound which meant the skin was being pulled away which Savita found quite painful so it was a very slow process to remove the previous days´ dressings. Once the final piece was removed we saw the wounds were pinkish red which was a good sign and there was little to no sign of infection. Savita was a little apprehensive about another set of dressings due to the likelihood of them sticking again, but it really was the best thing to do due to the conditions where she lives.
The second set of dressings started with a thick layer of medicine before the impregnated gauze was applied and on top of those we used non adherent pads which would hopefully prevent any unnecessary pain when it was time for the next change. Everything was neatly covered in bandages to keep out the smoke and dust which is prevalent in the slum environment. We can only hope that the next change is less painful.
Just before Christmas one of the older girls came to say she had been prescribed glasses at the government district hospital. When the children first wear glasses there is always a little hurdle to get over, as the children feel insecure wearing spectacles for the first time for fear of being teased or picked on. So our aim is to find something suitable and stylish at the right price.
Just down the road is a specialist eye hospital with a spectacle shop built in. There was a good selection of frames and it took just 10 minutes to pick out a frame she liked and order the lenses. At just over £10 /Rs 1000 it´s a great way to help the children as I am sure many of you reading this will know that you really appreciate your eyesight when you start to lose it.
The spectacles were ready in just two days and now all that is needed is a few words of encouragement so this young lady feels less self conscious.
Another young girl that required glasses was brought to us by her Mother. This particular child has severe disabilities brought on by hydrocephali (water on the brain). The effects on her body are quite severe and we had mentioned about having a shunt (to drain the fluid) years ago, but her mother who cares for her every day was worried about complications so the operation was never done. She is now able to walk with assistance and some of the difficulty with walking might have been down to her poor vision as her prescription is quite strong.
We took both the mother and the daughter to the same shop and found frames that were the right size and shape. This time it took about a week for the order to be completed and to save the family the trip in, we collected them and dropped them off at their house which is just a couple of kilometres away.
Robert visited the family a day later to see how the girl was coping and found that she wasn´t wearing the glasses to keep them safe. It is great that they are taking care of them, but the point of having glasses is to wear them. Hopefully next time we visit we will find them being worn and helping this young girl to see.
Today has been a great day with the help of two travellers who are driving around the country with their bouncy castle. I guess it´s not a normal thing to take with you to India, but it is a fun little accessory. Thomas has driven his van all the way from Germany which is a feat in itself, Dina joined him a little later but both plan to drive round India for a while and bring a little bit of happiness to children along the way by providing them with a pretty large bouncy castle.
Thomas arrived in Mapusa just before 10 O´clock and it took some time and organisation, to decide on the best way to set up the bouncy castle. We hoped to use a power supply but a cable was missing and so had to rely on the generator to power the fans to keep the castle inflated. There were a few moments before the generator kicked into gear that worried us a little, but as soon as we heard the buzz of the motor our spirits were raised along with the castle.
It just took a couple of minutes to fill the castle with air and the children really began to cheer. As soon as it was ready children were asked to form an orderly queue, and for the most part the children obeyed. The first kids jumped with glee as they took their first steps and they loved it! From young to old they all loved it and waited patiently for their next turn. Thomas commented how well behaved the children were so thank you kids for doing so well. The children took turns, with between 10 and 20 children on at one time, in total I think over 100 children had a turn and some of the children were there from start to finish. Kudos to them for having the energy as the castle stayed inflated for over 4 hours! By just after 3pm the tank of petrol in the generator was empty and it was time to pack the equipment away. The children stayed to the end helping push all the air out of the castle and then fold it and roll it away.
It was a fabulously good day, I am sure that Thomas and Dina are worn out and I ache all over, but it was completely worth it. Thank you to Thomas and Dina, the kids and everyone who made the day possible.
This evening has been an exhausting one. The problem began around 7.30pm when I received a call from one of the parents asking if their daughter had come to see me. I said that she hadn´t been and I wasn´t expecting her to. I didn´t think any more of it as there was no mention of a problem.
Thirty minutes later a second phone call mentioned there had been a problem at home and they thought she might have come here as she often does if she is having difficulty with a situation. But again, I said I hadn´t seen her. As it was getting late I decided to drive down to their house to see if I could see her along the way, it´s just 2kms away and as I drove I peeked into the darkness but did not see anyone resembling her.
I reached their home and spoke to her mother, who narrated that there had been an issue with one of the neighbours and there was some kind of fight, I am still not sure why, but after that the girl had gone off and hadn´t been seen since. I said I would drive back home and make sure she hadn´t arrived while I was out and let them know.
On the way back I visited a few other children´s homes to ask but no one had seen her. On arriving home there was still no sign, I showed her picture to my landlord and she hadn´t seen her either. There were still more places to look so I drove down to the local girls hostel where she had wanted to go recently to take part in a sports programme, knocked on the door and was greeted by a couple of girls who wondered what a foreigner was doing knocking on their door at night. I asked if they had seen the girl in the photo and they hadn´t, they called their caretaker and as she arrived so did another 20 girls, a few of the girls recognised the girl from school, but nobody had seen her this evening. I returned home and checked the balcony and everywhere but still no sign.
It was around 9:15 by now so I took another drive to her Mothers looking for her along the way but nothing, returned back home and at around 10pm, thought it would be prudent to check the local night food market, bus station, police station and hospital. But nothing...
On arriving home again I informed the mother where I had checked but there was no good news. Just after 11pm I got a call to say she had returned home safe and sound, but it was a very worrying evening, but am just glad she is safe and sound.
The latest marks from the childrens midterm exams have arrived which has encouraged some of the older children to spend a little more time revising and doing their homework so they may achieve better results at the end of the school year. During the last couple of weeks several of the children have come for a little help, either a clarification on a question or an explanation, which can sometimes be demanding if the subject is in an area we know nothing about.
But thanks to the internet age an answer is never far away, as long as you can understand it - Thank You Wikipedia and Google. This is the current view from the 'study room' where three of the older boys are studying and researching, a relaxed but busy view.
In the last week we have spoken to the teachers of a few of the students and the students have either improved or stayed at the same level as the last exams results which is good, but all need to push themselves in one or two subjects to attain an all- round set of good marks.