Our Christmas party is always a special occasion that the children are excited about. We were expecting most of our 125 children to attend and as we arrived at the hall there were already 10 - 15 children arrived even though the party wasn´t scheduled to start for another 30 mins.
The good thing was that the children could help with unloading the presents; two cars full arrived full of the red and gold bags that Yallama and helpers had made during the run up to Christmas. Robert left Yallama in charge as he went to collect the Christmas cake freshly made from the bakers and the hot samosas for a mid-morning snack. We had brought two large 20ltr water bottles to provide drinks for the kids, but as soon as we brought one, we needed to bring another. During the morning the children chatted, played pass the parcel and musical chairs and as a couple of the older boys were in charge of the music, there was quite a lot of dance music being played which the younger children all seemed to like. But as Robert is getting a little old now, he did have to tell them to lower the volume a few times.! Kids nowadays! :)
Before lunch Iris arrived with two large bags of fruit to be made into Fruit Salad to go with the now Iced Christmas cake to make a lovely desert. After all the running about during the morning Robert joined the children just in time for lunch. As we had booked a Hindu temple hall for the Christmas party we could only have vegetarian dishes on the menu. We had ordered Veg fried rice, Paneer Tikka Masala and Chana Masala and as it arrived there seemed to be a huge amount for the children. Every child was given their fill along with staff and helpers, there was just one portion of rice remaining at the end.
After lunch the children got to participate in their own dances and took it in turns to adorn the stage. The older boys very kindly organised them into their different groups as the children showed off their talents.
As the day progressed we made time for desert and collected the fruit salad and cake, carefully cutting the cake into 100+ pieces and serving it onto a plate of freshly cut fruit salad. The cake was a rich fruit and nut cake decorated with homemade lemon icing and mini marshmallow toppings. We got all the children to sit down and gave out the cake and fruit hoping there would be enough. Luckily, there was just the right amount with a little fruit salad remaining which was quickly polished off afterwards.
All that remained before we sent the kids home were the Christmas presents! As we announced it was 'that' time, all the children brought the chairs right up to the stage, not leaving a single centimetre gap between them and the row in front. One of the older girls (Budhmanti) wanted to be Santa Clause this year so she snook off to the back room and emerged in a bright red Santa Claus outfit, wig and even a pair of reading glasses. The children did guess it was Budhmanti, but that didn´t stop her from handing out the presents, sweets and shaking everyone´s hand as they were called to the stage. We tried to give out age wise, leaving the older ones till last but a few slipped through the net, but at the end of the day everyone who came received their gift. A few children didn´t attend as they had gone to the village so their presents will be kept safely until their return.
As the children received their presents they said their goodbyes and went home. A handful of children stayed to help clear away and it was finally the end of a very long but successful day. Thank you to all the helpers and children who made it a special day - Merry Christmas!
On our first trip with the boy who was burnt, we were approached by a lady with a child who seemed very malnourished. There wasn´t anything we could do, without knowing what was wrong so we took them to the Government District hospital for a check-up. We were so busy getting things ready for Christmas Day, we had to drop them off and check in on them later. The day flew by and we eventually got chance to check up on them.
The child was diagnosed with malnutrition and TB, which was having a huge impact on him and as such he was admitted the same day. We visited where he was staying and brought his father to the hospital and when we arrived we were told that his case was so severe that he would be sent to the Goa Medical College. On Christmas eve he was transferred to GMC and his treatment is still ongoing. We are a little worried about him and I am sure the family would like your best wishes towards his recovery.
We hope the hospital can work a little bit of magic to enable the child´s parents to have a happy new year.
This years´ Christmas preparations have been the hardest yet. Each year we have more children which means more presents, more organising, and Robert with the best intensions does make it difficult for himself in the process.
Robert tries to give the children a magical experience and is a bit of a kid at heart, and as such loves to give the children the full effect of Christmas which this year included red and gold Christmas bags full of presents. In total after weeks of wrapping and choosing, the average Christmas bag had about seven separately wrapped presents per child! - that is a lot of wrapping! In total we have wrapped over 700 gifts, nearly all the children choosing from a selection of donated gifts, or going Christmas shopping in Panjim and even scanning Amazon for a deal or two. The gifts have ranged from the basic necessities - some of the older girls have bought sets of cups for their families, to the more selfish but understandable boys toys including Bluetooth speakers and sports toys; badminton and footballs being classic toys that are always favourites. Bluetooth speakers I hear you shout. Yes, to be honest I am not sure how long they will last as the cheapest cost just £2.50, but they seem to work and the younger boys aren´t the most distinguished audiophiles as of yet. As long as they make their favourite Bollywood tunes heard, they´re happy.
We actually started Christmas shopping in November and it´s a good job we did as we only just got all the presents wrapped in time. There are still a couple of children who haven´t been in to choose, but we will arrange something once they are back from the village.
The Red and Gold bags were the brain child of Yallama, although they were a team effort with lots of extra pairs of hands helping to get 125+ stitched in time for Christmas. The bags were all upcycled from shirts donated to us by Deltin Casinos and Hotels (Thank you guys!), the classic bell shape bag was created by cutting and stitching the arms of the shirts together. Yallama did an amazing job, but we should also mention Sunaria, Pranjali, Acchelal, Budhmati, Jyoti, Umesh and a few others for helping complete all the bags just in time.
The main thing about organising presents for 125 children is lists - lots of lists! The main list had a record of how much had been spent per child (each child had a Christmas kitty of Rs600 to use for their Christmas present), what items had already been wrapped, how many presents in each bag and who´s bags were complete and most importantly who´s still needed finishing.
All of this Christmas madness was intensified as Goa Outreach needed to find a new base, so in the midst of all the chaos, Robert and Yallama were going out looking for new places to use as a base. But that´s a whole other story….
We have done a few more check-ups with the boy who was found begging with his mother in Mapusa market last week. We are happy to report that the wound on his leg is now looking much better and not infected although still pretty large so a long way to go before it can heal fully, each time we see him we redress his wound and will hopefully continue this treatment and see a full recovery over the next few weeks.
This morning we met him bright and early at 8am and he was more active and seemed to be feeling much better in himself. It was good to see that the bandage was nicely in place, which meant that the wound remained pretty clean underneath.
We brought the mother and son back to the centre and removed the old bandage which was a little damp, and very dirty (on the outside); thankfully the multiple layers of bandage turned to white as we removed them. I am not too sure how often they wash there, but the first thing we do is allow the mother to give him a good wash. So, after boiling the kettle and adding it to some warm water in a bucket the mother washed him well and we provided him with some clean clothes.
Then came the traumatic bit. It is a big wound and we really have to clean it well which does give a fair bit of discomfort, but for the majority of it he was very brave and after a little bit of persuasion (a lollipop) we managed to clean and redress the large wound on his leg.
His hand however, was still a little infected and caught in the seams of his fingers, so made his fingers particularly painful while cleaning and dressing. He moved around quite a lot which made it harder to complete a neat dressing.
Pat, Roberts mother, was visiting and as she is female the boy´s mother was able to show her appreciation and gave her a hug and a kiss on her cheek. Robert, after completing the new dressing, took mother and son back to the bus station where a few more people approached asking for medical help. One man had a cast on his leg and another was complaining of lack of sensation in his leg a month after a dog bite. Robert is far from being a doctor, cleaning and redressing wounds is pretty straight forward, but diagnosing symptoms is a little out of his league so he took one man to the hospital where a government doctor would hopefully make a diagnosis.
Today started off quite leisurely as we thought we were finally getting on top of all the Christmas wrapping. Robert had gone to Panjim to buy a few Cricket bats and on the way back he received a call from a shopper (Ruksar Mulla) at Mapusa market. Ruksar asked if we help with children and she explained that there was a young child about 8 years old in the market who was injured, she thought he had been burned as he had a large infected wound on his leg and his right hand was also swollen and infected. The boy was with his mother who was using the child for begging, with the wound in full view. Ruksar spoke to the mother and she was not willing to take the child to hospital and so Ruksar called our number.
Robert was still about 30 minutes away on the way back from Panjim. He quickly dropped off the newly bought Christmas presents at the office and picked up Yallama, who would be able to speak to the mother and hopefully convince her to take the child to the hospital.
We reached Mapusa market, and Ruksar who was waiting close by directed us to the young boy. He was laid on his mothers´ lap, with a yellow infected patch around 3" x 2" on the side of his leg. It looked painful and the mother was using this opportunity to increase her begging takings for the day. We spoke to the lady and she had said that the day it happened she had taken him to the hospital in Margao (4 days ago), although to be honest we weren´t totally convinced as he had no bandage and usually they wear bandages until they are black with dirt. We explained that we would happily take the boy (with the mother) to the hospital to be treated and make a full recovery. She was not at all interested and we coordinated with Child Line Goa and spoke to the police. The lady seemed to think the best option was to find another place to beg and started walking away with the boy and a young girl by her side. The police had said they would come, but now the chase had begun.
Robert and Yallama, followed the mother and child through the market as they walked to the far corner towards the bus station where she decided to stop and she met up with some family members. We called the police again and said the family had moved towards the bus station; and was called up by an ambulance which was also on its way. It started to get very busy in a very busy area. While we waited for the police, a fight broke out just 3 meters away, not actually sure why and nothing to do with us, but there was a group of around 20 men arguing and pushing and punching away. So while on the phone, Robert narrated the scene to the police. A little coincidence was that the woman was with another woman who we helped last year when her daughter had a similar wound on her foot. Five minutes later the daughter arrived and we were please to see her wound was well healed, which was nice to know.
The police arrived around 15 minutes after the call and then the ambulance. The police persuaded the mother to get on the ambulance and go to the hospital, which all seemed a little easy. Robert and Yallama informed Child Line and arranged to meet them at the hospital and 10 minutes later as they arrived saw the mother and child walking to Accident and Emergency, police nowhere in sight. OK, we thought, at least we can follow up with them and sort the young boy out.
Just as we arrived, two social workers from Child Line arrived and all four of us looked after the mother and child. After about an hour we had sorted out a form, seen the doctor and was ready for the nurse to clean the infected wound. Robert was 100 meters away buying medicine but still heard the poor boy yell out as the nurse cleaned the wound. He arrived back in the dressings´ room as the nurse was wrapping a bandage around the boys´ hand. Robert helped keep the boy still while the nurse applied the bandage. Finally, the boy was all patched up and ready to head home. But before leaving we explained to the mother how to administer the medicine and also told her that we would come and pick them up for a change of dressing every other day to ensure the wound healed well.
A huge thank you to Ruksar who went out of her way to tell us about the injured child; many other people would have just walked on by. So thank you Ruksar. Childline also deserve praise as they are always willing to take on any case for the protection of children and finally thank you to the Mapusa Police, Ambulance staff and the doctors and nurses at the District hospital who helped this young boy today!