The start of the new school year is still 4 months away, but when you are organising everything for 100+ children you really do need to start early. The first thing we usually do is sort out school bags for the kids, you might think it´s a relatively easy job to find school bags, but it never is. School Bags in India often fall apart after 3 months which is really not what we or the kids want, so a lot of time is spent searching for suitable brands that seem to be made that little bit stronger, but this usually means paying double or triple the standard rate. We asked a shop keeper once - why do the bags fall apart after a month? He said, well we want people to come back and buy another one! Perhaps they should go with that as a sales slogan.
As we have been sourcing school bags a few years now, it makes it a little easier to know a 'dud' when we see one, but we are still occasionally caught off guard. We replaced a few bags last year, with new ones after a few months, but I think the remaining 95% are still going strong. To get a real idea about the bags, we have asked the children to return their old bags at the end of the school year so we can see which brands are best and which struggle to stay in one piece. All the good ones from these will be cleaned up and re-used and provided to other children that are not currently in our educational support system.
This year a school bag has cost on average Rs 500 (£5) and we have started to ask the children to choose from the 30 different designs and colours from 4 or 5 different companies. All the children have different ideas of the style they liked, some choosing nearly immediately, some taking a good ten minutes to finally decide on the one they want. Then there are a few children who come back and change their minds!
While we were giving our Christmas presents this year we came across a young girl that had a bandaged leg from her toes to her knee. As we arrived to give out presents she started to crawl over to us, we were a little distracted with giving out presents the first day but went to check on her a couple of days afterwards. The families had come to Mapusa following the local fair that had been erected close to a Hindu temple just on the outskirts of the town. The fair visits every year and is a mass of small stalls and rides, with the big wheel towering above everything.
On our return visit to see the girl we asked about her injury and she and her mother said that she had an accident with a tempo van (small goods carrier), the driver had taken them to the government hospital and paid for their first medicines. The dressing that the girl had on seemed a little worse for wear and to better gauge her need it would be good to get the wound cleaned so we could see what was needed.
The next day we went down and asked if the girl and her mother would come to get her leg checked out, and they accepted, although the young girl was in pain and really didn´t seem that keen on anyone touching her leg.
Once they arrived we spoke with them and found out as much as we could, and said it would be best to change the dressing. The dressing was stained brown from the dust and dirt and as we started to carefully pull it free it was obvious that it wouldn´t be an easy job as the layers of bandage were stuck together with dirt and puss from the wound. It was quite a mess, thankfully her leg was fine so we could tug a little to get most of the bandage off, but it did leave us with a good amount of bandage still welded in and around her toes. Carefully and slowly prying the bandage off between soaking in warm water, finally we got to the last small section of bandage and made a silent cheer as it came off.
After removing the bandage the full damage could be seen. Her foot had been stitched above and below all her toes and it looked a mess, with a lot of dirt remaining in and around the wound and the young girl had started to get a little tired. Well it had taken over an hour to get this far. To smooth things over we still had a bar of English chocolate left over from Christmas so if anything could put a smile on her face, this was it! For the first 10 minutes she just held the bar in her hands, but after a little encouragement she took her first bite... Things got a little easier after that! Chocolate can be great when used as medicine!
We cleaned the wound well but the sole of her foot was quite swollen and we asked if we could take them to hospital as we thought she needed a course of antibiotics as the wound was infected. The mother said they had an appointment the next day, so we finished cleaning and redressed the wound with fresh non stick dressings and bandages so that it wouldn´t be such a trial to take off at hospital the next day.
The patient was in much better spirits by home time which was a relief and joy to see. We had been given a few clothes recently and the girl received a few items and her baby brother also left with a good handful. As well as the clothes we gave them Rice, flour, dal, tea and spices to take with them.
A couple of days later we went to find them to check to see what the doctor had said but unfortunately they were not available as they had gone round the market. A day later Robert saw her at the fair but unfortunately it looked like she hadn´t been to hospital as she was still wearing the same bandage. The girl did look much better and was moving around much easier which was a good sign. Hopefully we will catch up with her again to see she whether she has made a good recovery.
Thank you to everyone who has donated clothes over the last month or two. Many of the items have already been given out, a good selection of the best items were given out as extra gifts; at Christmas. Penny, one of our supporters brought over a great collection of new T-shirts and shorts. Each of the young children was given the chance to choose their favourite and it was wrapped up as an extra gift on Christmas day.
We also received a few more items just after Christmas, but as we were a little behind on giving the gifts out, we managed to sneak in a few more into their Goodie bags. Can´t remember who gave the hats in the pictures but hopefully they will see as they were very well received. Thank you to everyone who donated clothes and helped make this a fantastic Christmas and New Year.
Just after Christmas, we met up with Saroj and her family, Jal, Saroj´ sister with her husband Richard and Bhikhu (Papa Patel). Saroj and the whole family had come to India with the aim of spreading the joy of art. Saroj had been in contact with Rob several months earlier after another sister Harsha, had told her about the work Rob does in Goa. Harsha had spent a few weeks working with Rob at Children Walking Tall many years ago and told her sister about her time there and the impact it had on her life. Saroj is an artist by trade with a fantastic style to her work and she hoped that she could pass on the joy of art to children in Goa, consequently deciding to get in touch with Rob with the hope of getting the children involved in painting murals on a wall or two. After a few emails and a later chat her plans had evolved and 'Project Paintbrush' was born. Project Paintbrush had the aim of providing access and equipment to children to inspire them to be artistic and to draw, paint and create.
Some of the children helped by Goa Outreach live in two lines of small single roomed cottages in facing terraces providing ideal walls to paint. As the families just rent the rooms we contacted the land owner and asked if it would be ok to paint a few of the walls, the first assumption was that we were just going to paint it all white; so we showed a few samples of Saroj´s work and the land owner gave their ok to paint. So nearly everything was set for the day and on their arrival we met with Saroj and her family, had a quick chat and then headed off to meet the children and the wall.
Saroj and Jal (the artists) did a little re-con of the walls and realised that one wall would be better to paint as it would be in the shade for the whole day.
It is December in Goa and the sun does take its toll. Everything looked good and we organised to meet up at 8am the next morning to start work.
As we arrived early, Saroj and Jal spent the first half an hour drawing on the sunny side before the sun became too strong, and then swapped to the main wall. The wall itself was about 3m tall and around 25m - 30m long. By the time the girls got onto the main wall lots of children and parents had gathered round to see the work; the children would decide which theme they wanted to go with and Saroj and Jal did their best to accommodate. The girls were drawing and painting for a good six hours without a break and the work was taking shape.
Throughout the day there was a lovely community feel, with one family making chai and another bringing out biscuits for the workers. It was a fabulous day and thank you to everyone for their support. We told all the children that we would be back early the next day when we would need their help to finish the painting off...
The second day started as early as the first and we were down at the wall by just gone 8am; Saroj, Jal, Richard and Bhikhu started setting up the paint pots and Robert went round to gather a few more children to help paint. There were 5 large designs to paint and we hoped for six or more children per design to add a little colour. Each set of children had an older child to be the leader who then managed the rest of the group after being given a little bit of advice of where to paint. The first two walls got going quickly and then slowly work started on the final sections as more and more children joined in. It was fabulous to see a long line of children of all ages engrossed in their painting.
The children were great during the whole day and made a huge impact on the Project Paintbrush team. As each section was completed, Saroj and Jal went round going over the borders to make the work look as sharp as possible.
It had been a tiring day for everyone, but everyone behaved so well and the event really was a joy to be part of. The parents loved it, the children loved it, we all loved it and we hope it will stay as a symbol to inspire the next generation of Artists.
As we ended the day and cleaned the brushes and paint pots, we informed the children that we would return the next morning.....
The final morning, was a chance for Project Paintbrush to say thank you to the children. Saroj had organised an Artists bag to be given out to all the children. Each stylish bag contained an Artists A4 drawing book, pencil, sharpener, eraser and a set of paints with a small paint brush so they could continue to practice their drawing and painting. A total of 130 bags were given out. A huge thank you to everyone who made the day possible, Jal, Richard and Bhikhu for working so hard the last few days and a special thank you to Saroj for organising the event, and of course the children and families who made the work so enjoyable. See More photos on the Goa Outreach facebook page, please like and share.