Chicken pox has spread through the slums in the last few weeks, the first two children who caught it were new to the area last year and we helped them into school and are doing well, but both had several days off school due to this very uncomfortable affliction. Being away from school didn't stop others at the same school catching it and two more boys got it a week later and they passed it onto their siblings, in one of the households four of the children and one older sister came down with large uncomfortable spots. The disease seemed to have passed but a few days ago one more college going girl also came down with symptoms. The timing is inconvenient as its exam time and two of the older girls missed a few exams.
With chicken pox there are some very uncomfortable pimples and one of the younger boys had a patch of them that burst and had gone on to create a large wound area on his hip. His family took him to the hospital, but nothing was really improving so we had another look and gave some extra cream to hopefully get it under control and help with the healing. Large wounds are always a problem due to the children's living conditions; it can be really difficult to keep it clean and covered.
It has now been a week, and the wound is looking much better, the size has decreased substantially and hopefully it will continue to close and heal. It must be said that the young boy has been a very good patient and must have a good tolerance to pain as he never complained once.
Several of the older boys have been coming to study at the office to have a little bit of peace and quiet away from the hustle and bustle of their daily lives in the slums. Studying can be demanding at the best of times, but when you factor in the heat that builds up in their small cramped rooms and the noise of squabbling younger siblings and parents there is often very little time for concentration.
Having a quiet/cooler room is a better place for the children to sit down and concentrate on their revision. Obviously distractions are still around and a couple of them have to be reminded to concentrate on their studies rather than chat about more interesting things, but in general they are doing really well and we hope their reward for this extra study will be shown in their exam results. As well as a better environment, it also helps to have someone to bounce questions off and ask for clarifications on the more complicated parts, we help as much as we can, but some things need accessing on line and having the internet and Google really helps.
As well as these extra study sessions, one of the children has been attending extra classes at school after the normal school day is ended. For two weeks one boy was going to school for 8am and not finishing till 9pm. As there are no buses available that late at night, Robert along with parents for the other students went to collect them from school and ensured they reached home safe and sound.
The coming month will be very important for all the children in each standard as the end of year exams approach. We hope they will all do well and a special wish for all those who need good grades to continue their education at college next year.
It has been a very busy time for hospital visits including treatment for broken arms, dog bites and on Sunday Robert received a call from one of the older boys who had fallen down and somehow made a rather nasty gash in his bottom cheek. He asked me to come down to the slum and I wasn´t expecting anything too serious but on arrival he explained what he had done and wanted to show me. So he pulled down the back of his trousers and there was a good two inch slash that seemed deep as the centre leaving the sides of the cut nearly a centimetre apart. It obviously needed stitches, which wasn´t the best news for him, and to be honest he wasn´t overly eager to go to hospital. I showed a small scar that I had on my finger where I received stitches when I was about 11 years old and said it shouldn´t hurt as there aren´t as many nerve ending in your bottom as there are in your finger. He wasn´t really convinced but went with Robert to Accident and Emergency.
On arrival at A&E it was quiet and we were seen right away. We mentioned there was a large cut and then we got to the slightly embarrassing question "Where?" He was told to lie down on a bed and one of the nurses had a look and cleaned the wound well and gave him a tetanus shot. It was then just a matter of waiting for the doctor to come to do the stitches. Robert had thought they would give him a local anaesthetic, but it was apparent they didn´t when a loud yelp came from behind the curtain. In the end 4 stitches I think were needed. After the doctor finished I was asked to help a helper bandage the area. On the way out the patient commented "I thought you said it wouldn´t hurt". He was given a small amount of tablets to take and had to return to hospital the next day for a check up and for the rest of his medication. It has now been a few days and we have done a dressing change and all looks good. There is a slight infection but we are hoping the antibiotics will take care of that. Thank you to the doctors and nurses who looked after him.
Holi is one of our favourite celebrations and is highlighted on the google calendar the day before as the Holika bonfire where people gather and do religious rituals in front of a bonfire, hoping to destroy their evils. The second day is the one we celebrate 'Rangwali Holi' which is a crazy mad pie fight (without pies), thats how we describe it anyway, instead of pies, powdered colours are used to paint each others faces or thrown at each other in the street (a word of warning - keep your mouths closed as the powder is not nice to swallow). if the colour wasn't enough, water is also included which makes the colour last longer and you can often wake up the next day with patches of clour still on your skin. It is great fun and we celebrate each year with the children,by giving out packets of colour and having a light hearted fight with kids and parents alike.
Jane and Sheila have been long time supporters and it is always a pleasure to see them both. Jane got in touch before flying out to Goa and kindly offered to bring some items out with her. A couple of months ago we were contacted by Bunzl Healthcare who donated two large boxes of medical supplies and these were delivered to Jane and ok, there were a few more items than we expected, but Jane sorted through them and organised to bring a good selection over. A friend of Roberts, Linda, also mentioned that her friend, June, was coming over and Jane arranged for June and her husband to bring out another couple of bags of medical supplies too. We now have a good collection of medical gloves, washing supplies, medical packs and tape. There are still a few more things to bring over but hopefully that will be done when Robert returns to the UK. As well as the medical supplies, Jane also brought a selection of goodies for the children which will be used for Christmas presents (yes we really need to think about Christmas even though it´s still only March!).
Robert met up with Jane and Sheila on Sunday and after dropping off all the goodies, we all went down to the slums to give out fruit that they kindly brought from Mapusa market. There was a selection of Oranges, Bananas, Pears, Chickoo and we visited 5 small areas and each child received two fruits each. Thank you ladies!
As if they both hadn´t done enough already they have also organised a fundraising event in the UK where Jane will give a small talk about her travels. I think they have already raised £300 which will go a long way in helping the kids. Thank you to everyone involved!