Children Studying

GOA OUTREACH
FOR SLUM & STREET CHILDREN

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Donated Lap Pals given to 100 school children

, Mapusa, Goa
Lap Pals donated by Puja Mitra from Terra Conscious and Niranjan - Thank You!
Lap Pals donated by Puja Mitra from Terra Conscious and Niranjan - Thank You!

Lap pals In May I was contacted by Puja Mitra from Terra Conscious (www.terraconscious.com).

Terra Conscious is a small social enterprise promoting responsible marine and coastal tourism. They describe their work as

"We are a conservation oriented social enterprise promoting responsible marine and coastal tourism. We conduct ethical & sustainable wildlife and nature experiences, to build awareness about focal species and follow international guidelines for wildlife watching. We also work with local communities, tour operators and institutions to understand wildlife conservation challenges and build their capacity to be sustainable tourism practitioners."

Puja told me about a supporter (Niranjan Khatri) who wanted to help children by donating 'Lap Pals'. I wasn´t quite sure what Lap Pals were so she explained that they are re-constituted hardened cardboard with a honey comb centre made into a folding platform that serves as a small writing surface.

As the name suggests, the idea is that children can use this on their laps. Most of the children we help don't have tables to study at so they sit on the floor cross legged and bend over to write on the floor. Often the floor is also uneven making it hard to write easily. Lap pals are a great help and bring the work surface closer, reducing the need to lean over, while providing a strong flat and smooth surface to work on.

As well as providing the children with a good writing surface, Lap Pals are created by using recycled paper with very little embodied energy and can be made anywhere in the country as a Cottage Industry/MSME product, in the aim to create jobs and provide an income to low income families. Quite often women work in this industry giving them employment, creating a unique product which will help more under privileged children.

After our initial contact, Puja visited our centre during May, to get an idea of the work we do, and the children we help. It was great to put a face to the name and Puja met a few of the children we help.

The Lap Pals were scheduled to arrive in middle of June. We still weren't 100% sure what they would look like. On the 17th June they arrived and were a little bigger than expected; in total there were 4 large parcels (1m x 1m each)!

One parcel was opened and finally we were able to see what a 'Lap Pal' was. The Lap Pals are really strong but as it was the monsoon here in Goa we were unsure if it was the best time to distribute them as the damp conditions and humidity might shorten their lifespan. We made an executive decision to hold off and distribute them after the monsoon, hopefully in mid to late September.

We had organised to donate the Lap Pals to the children of one our local govt schools where around 25 of our children attend. All the children at the school know Robert and as he and Yallama arrived, Robert was 'mobbed' by the children who were on their morning break. After saying hi and shaking around 50 small hands they managed to get off the bike and head in to see the headmaster.

We described the Lap Pals and showed the headmaster the samples we brought. He was happy for the kids to receive them, so it was planned to give them on the same day. Robert ferried the lappals from the centre to the school (one packet at a time on his bike), then returned with Yallama at 11:30 to distribute them to the children.

We started with first standard and worked away through each class of children and gave out all but one of the Lap Pals which was just right. We were glad that all the children received one and the remaining one will be kept as a souvenir.

The day was great and we would like to thank the headmaster and teachers for their help; thank you also to Yallama who gave out most of the Lap Pals on the day.

It might have taken a few months to complete but we are so happy that this donation found a good home and can be put to good use by the children.

Finally a huge thank you to Puja and Niranjan for sourcing and providing the lap pals.

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The 'Monthly' Meeting

, Mapusa, Goa
Lots of the girls came to learn about what to expect when they get a little older and the older girls came to understand why things happen
Lots of the girls came to learn about what to expect when they get a little older and the older girls came to understand why things happen

During September one of the children came to see us for help with tuition and Yallama our teacher noticed some blood on her uniform. After a little chat with her we found that she had reached puberty and didn´t actually know why she was bleeding and was a little scared and very confused about the matter. Thankfully, with the help of Yallama and Pranjali, the social worker, we organised a fresh set of clothes and a sanitary pad and a little instruction on how to use it. After she was cleaned up we had a chat about what was happening and why. She looked a little shell shocked through the whole talk and we said that it was completely normal and that all girls go through it, but it was obvious she had no idea and this new situation really was completely came out of the blue.

We called her mother and informed her and a little later Robert took her and her sister home equipped with everything she would need over the next week. One of our biggest worries is that the family might stop the girl from going to school during this time, or totally, so we confirmed with her mother that everything was ok and said it would be best if she went to school as normal the next day. Thankfully that´s what happened and even though it was a shock for her, the girl was OK and seemed fine the day after when we went to check on her.

As the girl was thirteen and had no idea what was happening with her own body we decided to have an informal chat with a few more girls to see if they knew why, and what was happening. The girls who had started their monthly cycle knew what happened on the outside of their bodies but only a couple understood what and why things happened inside. Pranjali, thought it would be good to have all the 11 to 16 year old girls come in for a more in depth chat about what happens and what to expect.

It was planned for Sunday and Robert went out and collected as many of the girls while Pranjali wrote down a few notes and cued up the videos ready for the presentation. In all around 25 girls came with 4 mothers also joining in.

The first subject covered was taking care of their body and respecting it, followed about what to expect once they reach puberty, which aroused some giggling and laughter. Menstruation was the next topic and this is usually called 'MC' when the older girls talk about it; the girls were shy to tell at first, but one mother enthusiastically told about her experience.

The mother said she also didn't know anything about periods before the first occasion and so was scared at the time. She went on to tell everyone that her parents married her off just two years later. It is a sad fact that many girls are still married off quickly once their periods begin. Often the girls are taken out of school and sent back to the village 'for their protection'.

Just last year one of the girls we help was married off at just 15 years of age; we contacted Child Line but little can be done if we don´t know where the girls are.

Mothers also joined in with the conversation about peroids
Mothers also joined in with the conversation about peroids

Sanitary Pads was the next subject and we discussed how and when to use, and was followed by an open 'questions session'.

Some of the girls asked if they could play outside during periods and others asked about eating pickle and spicy food. There is a long list of superstitions and one of the mothers was told that it was ok for her to jump up and down while she was on her period as she was chubby and had lots of spare blood but the skinny girls might die as they thought more blood would come out if they jumped up and down while playing.

Many families still consider it unsuitable for women to cook during this time, or even to be in the kitchen. Many girls are also often forced to eat and sleep separately and are told that this time of the month is dirty and unclean.

One of the mothers recounted that she was told to sit in the corner of the room for three days and not touch anything during her first time. She was not allowed to go out, play with friend or touch any house hold items. Religion also plays a part with many temples stating that women should stay away during this time.

As well as periods we spoke about other discharges that can occur and how to use and dispose used pads and the importance of keeping everywhere clean.

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First Day Back

, Mapusa, Goa
Yallama is a fabulous help and makes a lovely chicken curry!
Yallama is a fabulous help and makes a lovely chicken curry!

After a short break, Robert arrived back in Goa, it was lovely to see the children´s and parents reactions on his return. While he was away Yallama had been looking after the children and families and they were surely a handful to say the least but she has done an amazing job and it was a lovely surprise to arrive back to the centre looking so amazingly organized and clean! Thank you so very much!

The day started off wonderfully quiet until the children and parents started arriving, our first guests were 3 mothers and 5 younger children who had come to ask if there were any clothes for their little ones. We are actually a little short on clothes at the moment but our social worker intern, Pranjali managed to sort out a few items for the children. Thank you Pranjali!

A little later, just around lunch the children started arriving and with it a little bit of madness, the children are really well behaved but they do have a lot of energy and so many questions! As it was lunch time, Yallama had very kindly made some food for everybody and as the children arrived they were served a lovely spicy chicken curry and rice. We should point out here that Yallama is such a good cook! We are so lucky to have her and although not part of her job description she does likes to take care of us.

By mid afternoon we had a mix of around 30 parents and children, most of the children had come for tuitions or for research for school projects and to do craft work. The centre that was beautifully clean in the morning now looked like a stationery war zone after a paper explosion, cut pieces of paper and matchsticks were scattered around. I should point out that the matchsticks were part of a maths project to do with acute and obtuse angles. By the end of the day with a little help from the children things were cleaned up and put back into some resemblance of order.

It was a lovely but tiring first day back!

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Alice's Fundraising Event

, Mapusa, Goa
Alice Speaking at the fundraising event
Alice Speaking at the fundraising event

My name is Alice Monk and I am 18 years old. I have travelled to Goa from the age of 5 and I have spent years of my life counting down the days until my return: it is my home from home. Not only this, but it is the place my Granddad loved, lived for many years and passed away.

Before beginning my degree in September 2018, I have decided to take a gap year to spend some time in Goa volunteering. Working to support slum children is something I´ve wanted to do from a young age as I remember seeing children the same age as me working on the beaches selling trinkets to tourists and feeling awful for them. I was aware that the children were often encouraged by their families to beg/work on the streets as they´re seen as vulnerable and tourists feel sorry for them, however, this prevents them from getting an education they deserve and need for their futures.

Fundraising Ticket for Alice's event
Fundraising Ticket for Alice's event
Another Ticket from the event
Another Ticket from the event

When planning my trip, my grandma helped me to do some research and we stumbled upon Goa Outreach! I read about the work that Rob does with the children in Goa and got in contact. I will be leaving the UK on the 25th of December 2017 for nearly 2 months to help the charity in any way that I can.

On Saturday the 9th of September 2017 I ran a charity event at my local football ground for my friends and family. I used photos uploaded by Rob on the Goa Outreach Facebook page to create my own posters and tickets. There was a bar, a disco, nibbles and free cake! I charged an entry fee, I did a raffle with various prizes donated by local business´, a £20 cash entry prize and "guess the sweeties in the jar". In total, we managed to raise £452.87.

I also have a TotalGiving page for people who were unable to attend the event but still wanted to donate! (Link to page: Alice Donation Page )

The Fundraising Stall and Photos created by Alice
The Fundraising Stall and Photos created by Alice

I saw on the Goa Outreach Facebook page that people often donate clothes for the children who really don't have a lot of their own. My initial intention was to take some clothes in a separate suitcase as a little extra to my work out there. However, my request for donations has been far more successful than I expected! I have kindly been donated 8 bin bags full of clothes, shoes and small toys from my family and friends (so far). The college I went to kindly donated lots of pens, folders and unused pencil cases and the McDonalds I work at have been saving me any toys they have left over from the promotions. I am currently in the process of finding an alternative way to get it all over there!

I have paid for my own flights and I have the money aside for my VISA when the time comes to apply for it. All money raised will go directly to Goa Outreach (or put towards sending the clothes over from the UK to Goa).

I am hoping to do some more fundraising to raise as much money as I can for this worthy charity before I leave.

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