The majority of the Presents were given out on the two days over Christmas, so on the 27th Robert was able to complete the present giving to local children who had been waiting patiently. As they are children Robert has worked with for years they were not so worried about whether they would receive a present, or not, although a few children continued to arrive outside his house asking when he would be visiting them. Several of the ones who received presents on the 27th were children who we were helping with their education in school, and as such they received personalised presents, which included a few little extras.
It was a relief when we had finally finished the main local areas, but we still had 50+ presents left so on the next day (28th) Sam and Jane who are Yoga instructors came to help distribute the final presents. Sam and Jane brought a couple of bags of donations too, but these were put aside while we stocked up the bikes with the presents and headed off to Colvale.
Colvale was a regular destination for us until the monsoon, but due to Roberts eye operations we had to cut back on the areas we could help. Colvale was left out, so it was nice to reach out and help them again. As soon as we approached the children ran and welcomed us all and as Sam and Jane said hello to the children Robert went round to collect the others. Some of the families live on a hillside so Robert trekked up and down the settlement informing each family, but normally as you tell one, there are screams of excitement that pass on like a domino effect through the area.
After returning, we separated the children into two groups, boys and girls and started by handing out the fruit and juice followed by the presents, the children behaved so well and we just had enough presents for everyone. A huge thank you goes out to Sam and Jane for their help and their extra donation at the end of the day. Christmas 2014 has been a fabulous success and much better than we hoped, with the help of friends and family we managed to wrap and distribute over 700 presents (about 750 I think in the end).
Many of the presents needed to be bought so thanks again to Rhys, Carlos and Ishita for their fantastic generosity and of course Raj who enabled us to buy items for the stocking fillers. We now require a good week to relax and chill to get over the madness of Christmas! - Happy New Year Everyone.
A week before Christmas I was contacted by Rhys who had found the work I do after searching on-line. He informed me that he wanted to buy and help give out presents to disadvantaged children over Christmas. Obviously we were delighted for the help in buying and distributing presents which would allow us to bring smiles to even more children.
We kept in touch and spent a week on whatsapp (how did we survive without whatsapp?) informing each other of our progress. Rhys was trying to see what would be the best things to buy and guided a little by Robert he purchased in total 300 presents, the best thing though was these were already wrapped! He sent a photo through and the presents were fabulous. Robert was amazed when he saw a picture of all the items stacked up a good meter.
There were so many that those we had earlier made up earlier looked a bit small and insignificant by comparison. The new presents included footballs, badminton sets, dolls, jewellery sets and lots more. The morning of the 26th arrived and as everyone had a late night the night before we decided to start a little later than usual to give everyone a chance to recover.
After a couple of phone calls we decided to meet near GMC in Bambolim. Rhys and Ishita were in one car with the back seats and boot full of presents and Carlos was driving a Gypsy (jeep like vehicle) with the back stuffed with presents, along with Fruit, Juice and even more presents in Roberts car. The slums we would be giving out to are in Margao and have been a little left out of things for the last few months so it was good to touch base with them again, as we arrived at the first area Robert walked round the slum gathering the children together while Rhys and Carlos parked up and prepared themselves
Robert is far from fluid in Hindi, but getting over the idea we had presents wasn't too difficult as the children ran towards others waiting by the cars. The guys (Rhys, Carlos and Ishita) were new to this situation and I am sure it felt like being thrown in at the deep end but they handled it really well and we managed to give out fruit and toys, pretty much to everyone before it became a little chaotic.
As it had been a few months since our last visit, the previously learned discipline had disappeared and the thought of getting cool presents was a little much for the children, although as always it's often the parents who are the worst culprits. One lady in particular (I don't think she had children of her own), was upset that we were not giving anything to her and because of this she didn't want anyone else to get anything. Hey ho! But we continued and gave out a substantial amount. As we left I saw a woman snatch the present off a young girl who ended up crying in the middle of the road and when the woman saw there was nothing of interest to her she just threw it back at the young girl with distain.
The level of desperation at times can be a bit much but a little gift (or in this case) large gifts can lighten the burden of life they carry each day. The children in the second area were also a handful. The area is actually divided in two by a road and as we gave items out to one side there was always a flow of children trying to cut in before we had chance to give presents to the next child. After we had finished it was the general consensus that we needed a 'refreshment' break. The guys found a small bar and bought a few drinks while Robert finished giving Appy drinks out but he was glad to catch them up and chill for 30 minutes.
As the first two places were quite a handful Robert thought it would be good to finish off with a more relaxed and chilled group of kids. So after a quick bite to eat we headed towards the final slum which requires a trek across the paddy fields. Usually we drive the vehicles directly, but there was no way through this year so we rounded the children up and asked them to follow us back to the cars and more importantly the presents :) A few of the parents joined us and when we all arrived the children sat down and behaved so well. It was a joy to give out the presents and unlike the previous places we actually had a moment to take a few photos.
Each child got two presents, fruit and a juice. We said our goodbyes to the children and it was time to head home. Our deepest thanks go to Rhys, Carlos and Ishita who made the day possible and lots of fun. Thanks guys!
Well we have now finished packing (until we need to pack a few emergancy ones when we run out of presents), We have a total of 376 wrapped christmas presents (a few less than the planned 400 - 450) here in Mapusa and another 300 in porvorim waiting to be distributed tomorrow.
All that's left to do is given them out and wish everybody a Very Merry Christmas!!!!
The week running up to Christmas Day has been VERY hard work with Robert dashing out to buy the majority of the stock being used to fill the presents as well as well as making the 'Christmas Bags' and counting and sorting the contents and wrapping (in the end) the 420+ presents. A big thanks out to Kate, Delphine, John, Daz, Caz, Maggie and Dave who came to help pack and sort on a few days, it all helped and we wouldn't been able to give out so many presents without your help. A special thanks to Pat (My mum), who was there every day with me making bags and packing during her 'holiday'.
Christmas morning approached and Robert and Pat woke up early to do the first distribution of the day. We packed up the van with presents, fruit and juice and headed off to the first slum. The shouts and screams of glee as we approached alerted even more children to join the queue for presents. It was a delight to see their faces with beaming smiles as they queued and I must admit there were few tussles as other children who came late tried to push their way to the front. We split the queues into boys and girls and that is when we realised there were nearly twice as many girls to boys... We gave out fruit and juice first and then finally the presents. We had packed 3 types of presents, baby packs which included Johnson baby sets and a few extras, and the other presents were designed for girls and boys, the girls presents generally had hair clips, nail varnish, hair bands, bindi's and lots more girly things, where as the boys presents, included balls, toy cars and the like. Both of the sets also included health packs, chocolates, biscuits, sweets and small toys.
After receiving their presents the children rushed home to open them in private (just in case another child, or parent for that matter) decided to claim a bit of their present. It is a very protective mechanism which is quite often needed in the slum environments where items are often taken by bullies and selfish parents. The first things to grab most of the children's attentions are always balloons, each pack has a couple of balloons and most had large punch balloons which are lots of fun, as well as balloons, bubbles are probably the next favourite to start playing with. We left as the children started opening their presents and set off to the 2nd area where we gave out a few more presents.
The second area is a little smaller so things were more relaxed and we were able to take our time and speak more to the children individually. Many of the children here are helped by us with school and as such these children's presents were packed specially and by name. These were given out first and the remaining children who don't attend school were given the 'standard' gifts. All were also given fruit and juice and we spent a while here while they opened their presents. Many of the boys received footballs which required pumping up before leaving.
The third area for the morning consisted of just around 15 children and we were invited into one of their rooms where the children huddled in and sat down patiently. The children were so well behaved and waited for their names to be called before reaching out their arms to receive their gifts. As always we were treated so well by the families and offered chai and biscuits. The morning session of present giving was over with around the first 100 presents distributed.
We were still in the slum when Robert received a call from Delphine who had helped wrap presents and make bags; she had arranged for more fruit and cake to be given to the children. She had arrived at the house and as we were still in the slum, she left 3 boxes of apples and large bags of oranges at the doorstep. We rushed home and started sorting the fruit for the small 'party/programme' Delphine had arranged for the afternoon. During the last few days we had told a few of the areas that we would be coming to put on a show at 4pm, we didn't really have any idea of how many children would come but later we would find out.
As we had an hour to kill before the party, we thought we would wrap a few more presents to bring the total over the 400 mark. day. Although time was running short we did not finish all we set out to do, but later the next day we managed to finish another 55 presents which brought the total to 425+ presents as well as another 300 which we would give out on Boxing Day kindly donated by Rhys and Carlos Souza and the beautiful Ishita Godinho.
As 4pm approached two performers (Xanti and arrived and we set off to the slums, and were a little surprised to see the number of children waiting for us. We had to beep our horn as the children blocked the road to our makeshift stage. As Robert got out of the car (it felt like) all of the children wanted to shake his hand and wish him Happy Christmas, it was great to see so many children waiting with anticipation. One of the performers needed to change into her costume, so we asked the children to wait 10 minutes as Robert took her to the nearest room where she could change. After 10 minutes we returned and started to organise the children (or at least try to).
We used the local park and sat the children in a circle and the performers performed closely surrounded by the children. The two performers worked hard to entertain the children, the first a contortionist bent and moved her body in ways that looked far too painful to replicate and managed to do this with a smile on her face and the second showed the children what really could be done with a hula hoop! Both were great and we had hoped to do a fire show also but it was not dark enough sadly. As we finished with the entertainers we split the children up into groups of around 10 and asked them to sit in small circles so that we could start giving out fruit. There were around 10 circles which meant there were about 100 children on the day and after giving the fruit out a few of the older local boys started to behave badly (including one drunk parent) which meant that we had to stop before giving the cake out. I had a few words with a couple of them, glad to say that they are not children I work with everyday, but it is always disappointing when a few spoil it for the many. However, that did not stop us. We then headed to a large transient community which was close by and gave out Appy juice and cake to the children who queued up so nicely. These children come to Goa just for a few months each year and then move on again in March/April when the season is coming to an end. Not exactly sure where they go, but I do see the same faces each year coming back.
After this we then went onto yet another area to give out cake, juice and fruit. There were another 100+ children so we split them up into two sets, Delphine and Xanti was helped by a few older boys gave out the juice and cake and Robert and a couple of older boys gave out apples and oranges to the children. By the time we had finished it was starting to get dark and one of the boys invited us back to his home for a chai and a rest. So Robert, Delphine and Xanti went back (followed by group of children) to have a relaxing chai and chat. A huge thank you to Delphine, Xanti, Victoria and Pat for helping out on the day and making it such a fun filled (and exhausting) day.
EXTRA : I would also like to thank Amit Sheakand who donated the Apples and Oranges and Delphine & Valentina for making the beautiful home made cakes.
It has been an incredibly busy time recently while we have been wrapping presents ready for Christmas. Everything started a little late this year and our first few days were spent making the 450 bags required for the 'goodie bags'.
The bags are made out of foil Christmas paper so they add a little 'bling' to the presents and although it is an added job, we do like to go that little bit further for the children. It is after all 'CHRISTMAS!'. A quick shout out to Kate, Daz, Caz, Maggie and Dave who all helped out and made around 100 bags between them. But the biggest thanks goes to Pat, (Roberts dear mother) who helped Robert complete the remaining 350 bags.
The next few days were spent buying and sorting all the 'stocking fillers' that would make up this years' gifts. As we had very little in the way of stock most of the items had to be bought and a large consignment was delivered to the house which included the basic health packs which would help fill out the Christmas present. The rest of the items were collected during several trips using Roberts trusty motorbike.
On one trip a young Indian man wished Robert good luck as he packed his bike up with 5 boxes of juice, which seemed a large task for one man and a bike. Today we are just 3 days from Christmas and there seems still so much to do, which is daunting but after last nights' session of packing, where around 90 Christmas presents were completed we still think we will be able to do it in time.
The packing of the gifts so far has been down to Pat and Rob who will be delighted once the final present is cellotaped shut. Alongside the activity here in Mapusa we have had a very kind individual who contacted Robert earlier in the week who wanted to help purchase and give out presents to the children.
His plans were big and very welcome as it will now allow us to give a total of over 700 wrapped presents out this Christmas. That is all for now as we have to continue wrapping... Wishing everyone a fun filled holiday - Merry Christmas!
We seem to have left the Christmas preparations a little late this year, with very little to use as 'stocking fillers' and also being short of cash for presents we did not know how many presents we could attempt, but thanks to Daz, Caz, Dave and Maggie as well as Emma and John and other supporters we have now got a small collection of items which can be used for the presents.
Raj who continues to help the work we do in Goa also gave money which could be used to help buy Christmas presents and stocking fillers. With just 9 days to go we hope to wrap and distribute at least a few hundred presents this year. Although, at this point not one is wrapped! But with the help of Pat and Kate we have made a good start and have a collection of Christmas bags (the stockings), and at the end of the 2nd day there were over 150 Christmas bags made.
If you would like to help in terms of donations of money or actual presents then do please get in touch. We are really after lots of small items. Ideal things are tennis balls, balloons, punch balloons, costume jewellery, hair bobbles, small toy cars etc. Crossed fingers that everything will be ready in time so that we can bring a smile to lots of children this Christmas.
Azedeh, who met Robert when she volunteered for Children Walking Tall several years ago returned recently to Goa for a short holiday along with a group of friends from Dubai. She has always continued to support our work and this year was no different and along with her friends Azadeh brought donations.
The whole group, ten in total went into Mapusa where they bought fruit (apples and oranges) for the children along with a few little extras which included Tic- Tacs and festive stars.
On their return the whole group drove down to one of the open areas where a group of transient families stay for a few months each year during the tourist season. As soon as the children saw us they started lining up which is always a great help. A few more 'tail enders' joined the queue and the guys handed out the fruit and other goodies. Once that was over the boys in the group decided to put on a little dance for the children's amusement, the dance revolved around the idea of an invisible ball, which I think was lost in translation, but that did not stop the guys and the children having a fabulous time.
As well as giving items out, we had also planned to do an activity with the children. This activity needed a slightly smaller group so we headed off to another area where there were about 20 children. The activity was to make and decorate hula hoops. It has worked so well with other groups so we had high expectations, and were not disappointed.
The first thing though was to demonstrate what the whole idea of the hoop was for, so we asked the group of guys and girls who could hula hoop, and to be honest we didn't do too well, but Azadeh, managed the best to keep the hoop going, so the children were inspired. Materials were handed out and the children had a choice of colours to decorate and make their hula hoops their own. The whole session went surprisingly well with even a few adults joining in.
Two of the boys were the stars being able to keep the hoops going for minutes, not just seconds. All the children had a good go and there were lots of shouts saying 'look at me' or reciting our names over and over again as they wanted to show us how well they were doing. After a good hour of activity it was time to say goodbye, but before we left the remaining fruits and goodies were distributed.
A huge thank you to the energy and entertainment given by Azadeh and her friends (Arjun, Natasha, Vikram, Dina, Nicky, Farzad, Talah, Vaneesh, Tarek) who made the day very memorable. - Thanks Guys!
I connected with another young lady in Goa who also helps slum children. We had been corresponding on Facebook and one of the children near her had an skin infection on her neck and torso. Delphine was very concerned and at first sight it looked really bad with a black sticky substance clinging to her skin. This was in fact an attempt by the family to self medicate using ayurvedic medicine which is often used to treat conditions in the slum.
Delphine forwarded me a photo by WhatsApp and the first thing I said was to clean it as I was sure the local medicine would not be helping in the slightest and probably be doing more harm than good. After the infected skin was cleaned it showed a simple bacterial infection. I suggested Delphine bring the Mother and child to Mapusa and see a doctor in the main govt hospital there.
Everything was planned for the next morning and we met up at Mapusa court and headed to the relatively newly built government hospital. It was necessary to register a case paper which was easy as the queues had died down and then head to the dermatology section. The young lady doctor recognised me from my last visit and asked about the girl with T.B. I had to reluctantly say she had returned to Ponda without having the final test.
The doctor spoke quite harshly with the mother who joined us stating the ayurvedic should be discontinued and an antibacterial cream and medicine including potassium permanganate is used to clean the crusty pussy wound. A small amount of potassium permanganate was supplied by the hospital for free but the other medicine had to be bought from the local chemist.
I was able to offer some gauze for cleaning from my stock at home along with a few clothes, a baby blanket, large soft toy, soap and talcum powder and a few little bits, so the Mother and her child left with a few nice items to take home. Delphine later forwarded me a few photos she had taken while we were out and an update saying the girl was doing much better.
Sadly another part of our work is often dealing with the police. Many of the families are involved in the recycling business which often means walking around in the heat from morning to evening searching for 'scrap' (discarded metal/plastic, empty drinks bottles etc). In the early years of my working in Karaswada most of the children were involved in collecting scrap and over the years I was lucky to get most of the children (of school going age) into school with the majority still in school and its lovely to see.
Unfortunately one of the older girls who was just a little too old when we started never got into school as the parents wanted her to work, now aged 18 or 19 was out collecting scrap and took something that someone else was taking claim to.
Often people leave rusting metal next to the walls and it will just go to waste if not recycled, in this case the owner wasn't happy for it to be recycled so called the police and she was arrested. She has spent the last day in custody and bail has been set at Rs 10,000. I came to know just this morning as they wanted help in paying this security.
After visiting the advocate, court and bank, it was the opinion that I wouldn't be able to provide the security due to being a 'foreigner' and not resident (although I have been resident in Goa for the last 11 years). So it was back to square one and I left the family with the advocate trying to sort out the next move. There is such a huge difference in attitude between the children who have been involved with our work and those who just missed out on the chance.
It is so important that these children are provided with the chance of 'a childhood worth remembering' rather than one that is often short lived and perilous.
Recently we have had a few new families arrive in the local slum, with children of school age needing to be admitted into school. Many of the new families only speak Urdu, which isn't as common as other languages in Goa, which in turn restricts the accessibility of schools which generally teach Marathi, English or Hindi mediums.
Thankfully there is one school relatively close by that we have already put one child into, so along with the mother I took four children to request admission. Unfortunately, one of the children, although very bright and accomplished in study the headmistress didn't think he would be suitable for the class due to his being deaf. As it was a Saturday the Education Department was closed but we will visit on Monday to see what options are available for him. Hopefully we will be able to sort something out.
For the time being I will be arranging books, bags, uniforms, shoes and everything for the three other children. We will also be funding bicycles so that they can ride to school which is a little too far to walk to and has no direct bus service. If you would like to help with any of these needs then please do send a donation through our charity account and if possible make a comment stating the donation is for the Goa branch.