Holi Water Fun

GOA OUTREACH
FOR SLUM & STREET CHILDREN

❤  Donate Now

Visitors View Point - By Dilvin Yasa

, Mapusa, Goa
Dilvin with a couple of the girls who received the princess outfits
Dilvin with a couple of the girls who received the princess outfits

Last week I stood in the middle of a street talking to a couple of kids about their favourite toys. Like most young girls, they loved to chat and were keen to do a quick 'show and tell' of their most prized possessions. Nothing unusual about that, you´d think, but I was standing in a slum in the Indian town of Goa, where the kids lived among rubbish tips and recycling sorting 'centres' where said prized possessions were sourced.

The younger girl (who'd just turned four) showed me the discarded garden hose her mother had tied together to make a small hoop, expertly twirling it up and down her tiny arm as she beamed at her own physically prowess. Not to be outdone, her older sister pulled the remnants of a clown mask from her back pocket. It was missing half its face, but their mother had also lovingly attached string to it once again.

The scene was heartbreaking and with daughters of a similar age of my own back home, I felt it as a mum - even more so when I noted a group of kids playing barefoot hopscotch behind them, used medical supplies such as tubes etching out an outline instead of the usual chalk. "Don't feel sad", Rob, the director of charity outreach program Goa Outreach told me later as we got back on the bike (I'd joined him for the afternoon to help him with his monthly drop of soap, toothpaste and shampoo to the kids living in this area). "I've been doing this for 13 years and although they don't have much, they´re still the happiest kids you're ever likely to see." And you know what? They truly were.

For those of us in the Western world, it seems like a strange thing to say, but it's not an idea I´m unfamiliar with. My best friend is a foreign aid worker and regularly finds herself deployed in some of the most impoverished nations in the world. I regularly get messages from far-flung areas such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Yemen and Afghanistan (and yes, I'm incredibly proud to call her my friend), where she reports on life - both in camps and on the street. The most common thread in her stories? How happy kids can be even when they have nothing at all. She tells tales of kids happily kicking around an empty bottle for hours, or gleefully flying kites made out of single sheet of dirty newspaper. "We're talking about kids who have been traumatised by war, who've lost parents and who've seen things no human should ever witness," she told me one day as we sat watching my eldest play in her room full of stuff. "These kids have nothing yet when you watch them play, they´re still far happier than what we see here at home." There was no judgment in her tone, but I immediately felt embarrassed by how much crap - clothing, toys and books - was in my daughter's room, and how despite being surrounded by anything a child could ever want (in the material sense), she still had the audacity to proclaim she was 'bored' all the time.

It's a common problem with Australian problem according to social researcher Mark McCrindle. His research on Generation Z and their toys is covered extensively in his book The ABC of XYZ - Understanding the Global Generation, where he writes that the average Aussie kid has more than one hundred toys each (twenty two thousand if you count every Shopkin, methinks), with parents collectively spending $1.4 billion a year to keep their little muffins happy. These figures don't take into account any hand-me-downs or second-hand purchases, only brand new items McCrindle also says we mostly fail to throw or give away (a third of parents get rid of between five and ten toys each year apparently, which really makes you wonder about other parents' clearly superior organisational skills). You´re slowly going broke trying to keep up with your child´s friends ('They've got Heelys? You NEED Heelys!') but you're not making your children happier either. Several studies reveal children who place importance on material goods are less happy, and some even suggest unhappiness and materialism negatively influence one another, pulling the child into a downward spiral, always chasing more yet becoming increasingly upset when they fail to feel the high of a new possession. At the other end of the spectrum, however, studies such as the one from The University of British Columbia suggest practising small acts of kindness is the key to boosting happiness levels in children, with researchers finding even toddlers get a thrill from altruistic acts such as sacrificing their share of a treat to give to a friend. We start off meaning well, you see, but somehow get lost along the way, crumbling under the constant onslaught of marketing and advertisements that tell us we need more to be happy. Underprivileged kids, on the other hand, tend to be more resourceful, creative and lean heavily on their communities, thus fostering a deeper level of satisfaction we struggle to understand.

I'm not about to start knitting dolls from our cat's fur or anything, but I do know that there needs to be more balance in our lives between that of the pampered princess and what I saw in the slums and I intend to do more about it. For years now I´ve forced my children to hold quarterly bake sales and then donate the proceeds to a charity (I buy them a small toy each as an incentive and match each dollar they make to donate also), but this time we went shopping for armfuls of Princess Elsa dresses (the love of a good polyester princess dress is universal, no?) plus other items. The girls appeared to get a kick out of purchasing the dresses, knowing that they were going to other kids in a country far, far away, but then I didn´t hear anything more. I took some photos of the girls wearing their princess dresses and sent them to my kids to show them how small acts of kindness and a little bit of elbow grease can make a difference to someone else´s life, but the phone remained silent. I boarded the plane feeling deflated. How did I raise such heartless girls, I wondered? Where had I gone wrong? But then I opened the door and the girls came running to greet me like they always do, with a shower of hugs and kisses. "Mum! Did you get us lots of presents?" my youngest demanded to know before my eldest yelled at her to be quiet. "Ivy! We don't need any presents, mum was doing something really important!" she admonished her little sister. "And besides, what´s cool is that mum is back and that´s the best present of all!" My dear sweet Cella - perhaps she's been listening all along. I´m hopeful.

You can donate to Goa Outreach (or send them princess dress or other items on their 'needs' list) by visiting the website.

❤  Donate Now

Ice Princesses And Mermaids

, Mapusa, Goa
Ice Princess Costumes that were donated by Dilvin, family and friends
Ice Princess Costumes that were donated by Dilvin, family and friends

Dilvin, a journalist from Australia had got in touch with Robert during March as she was planning to visit Goa where she would be part of a press group doing a review of the newly opened hotel, the W Goa. Dilvin wanted to donate a few items and learn more about what Goa Outreach did and the children it helped.

Robert first met Dilvin in the reception at the W Hotel and they spoke about about why, what, who, where and she handed over two large bags of donations. Dilvin was a little short on time as she had to go for a press meet so we organised for her to meet up on the Saturday when she had a few spare hours.

Dilvin arrived and came up to see some of the older children who were studying for their exams, after a quick chat she very bravely (she wasn´t a fan of motorbikes) jumped on the bike with Rob and they both headed down to the slums. Robert had brought a couple of bags and a box of health packs to give out and Dilvin was there to give a helping hand. They visited several areas and then decided a few of the outfits which Dilvin had donated would be ideal for some of the young girls so they rushed back to the centre to collect them.

In Dilvins donations were around 12 fancy dress costumes for young girls, including Ice Princesses, Mermaids, Ladybugs, Peacock Winged dresses and more. There were some very lucky girls as you can see from the photo of just two of the girls in their new fancy dress costumes! So Cute!

A huge thank you to Dilvin, her daughters and their local neighbourhood who all helped raise money to buy the donations.

❤  Donate Now

Holi 2017

, Mapusa, Goa
The children arming up for the next big holi fight! Lots of fun!
The children arming up for the next big holi fight! Lots of fun!

Holi is always one of our favourite celebrations and a great time to take photos, although for the first 20 minutes of this years activities we weren't sure any photos would be taken as water bombs were being thrown everywhere and water guns showered us from every possible direction and our poor camera was feeling scared to come out (or we were at least scared to get it out)... Thankfully there was a short break in the barrage of water so we managed to take a few photos and between the screams of 'be careful of my camera' we did manage to get a few lovely pictures.

This year we were joined by Jal and Richard, who were here just three months ago when they helped paint the murals on the walls in the slum. This time they were joined by Richard's brother and father and it was for them quite an introduction to the children; within five minutes the new visitors were covered with paint. Thankfully they all seemed to enjoy it. They had been warned beforehand about bringing clothes that might only get worn once and to make sure cameras had a good waterproof coating to protect them. Have to say they were a little more adventurous than Robert regarding water and cameras, and managed to get lots more photos. Hopefully, some photos will be posted later.

Before arriving, Jal asked if there was anything she could bring, so we suggested a little bit of colour if they wanted, they arrived with a small bag of colours, but then realised the scale of things when they saw the huge sack of colours which Robert had bought, they were sort of ... "Oh my god!" When you are playing Holi with over a hundred children you do need a good amount of the powdered paint.

Holi Colours are fun but hard to get off
Holi Colours are fun but hard to get off
Jal and family had arrived by taxi and so after the first stop there was a little concern that the taxi driver might not let them back in the taxi, so we all walked to the next area. The people there stepped up the warfare a little from water bombs and squirting sticks to large buckets of coloured water being thrown over everyone! Oh dear! As we walked round the children mobbed Rob, who was carrying the large sack of colours. It seemed the whole neighbourhood had arrived and after being cornered in a little alley we started giving out the colour although half way through things started to get a little manic so we stopped but made sure that all our education children received their two bags and a good proportion of local children received a bag.

We continued going from place to place for a full 3 hours until the colour ran out. It was a fantastic day and we would like to thank all the children, families and Jal, Richard and Family (and the taxi driver) for a great but exhausting day.

We managed to meet up with Jal, Richard and Family the next day and they still had patches of colour on their face, arms and neck. Hopefully it doesn´t stay too long.

☰ Comment on this charity blog