Wednesday, February 2, 2011
Saturday, January 8, 2011
I arrived to
Parashu always has a smile on his face, and his wife as well. Their two daughters are bubbly and talkative, and welcomed me with lots of love too.
Day 4 (3rd day with the girls):
I was a bit overwhelmed the first two days. The girls of Odanadi are so sweet and call me sister with love. Especially the younger ones, they want your attention, your affection. The older ones are sweet as well, but face many behavioral problems – such as aggression or anxiety.
I sat in on some cases today, which were all in Kannada – Parashu translated for me occasionally. There was a middle-aged woman with her elderly mother. Both had been involved in prostitution for many years. The elderly woman’s mother had started the cycle…and it continued on down. The middle-aged woman has a daughter who is now married to a trafficker who beats her and her brother all the time. What really hit home is when Parashu told me that the brother found clients for his sister and his mother. I have no words to describe what I feel about this – it’s almost confusing.
The family is now trying to sell a property they own so that they can move away, as the middle-aged woman is now HIV-positive, a result of being in the sex trade. But it’s a lot more difficult than they thought. The woman’s daughter’s ‘husband’ is abusing them and not allowing them to sell the property and move away (at least that’s what I gleaned from the rough translation). Both women were teary eyed, distraught, and obviously exhausted from a life which didn’t seem to be there own. Parashu had them file complaints with the Odanadi office and offered them some other resources.
Though I did not understand their language, I read their body language and could tell that there was a deepset pain. When I saw the woman’s eyes, it seemed like the innocence had been lost.
Days in between...
Spent at Odanadi chatting & playing Guess Who & Connect Four with the girls, playing with the younger ones. Drinking coffee and eating muffins at Café Coffee Day, seeing the
I can’t believe I’m leaving tomorrow. Today was Dharma’s first full day with everyone. We spent the day wrapping gifts for all the Odanadi kids, coloring with the younger kids, chatting with the girls. I finally got one of the quiet girls, Hemalatha, to be open with me -- we played soccer today which she really enjoyed.
I finally feel like
Friday, December 24, 2010
Saturday, December 18, 2010
Chatting with Ode over breakfast in the garden and sharing our experiences and frustrations thus far with volunteering started off the day. The day again was overcast and I definitely have a cold now :( Despite not feeling well, I decided I had to go to Odanadi and spend time there as this exploratory trip is short as it is. Some of the younger children I think are sick too, but their energy levels remain high – something which I cannot match at this age!
I had brought some construction paper with me and a box of new crayons, so after checking in at the main gate and peeking into the counselor’s room I went to the second floor where the library and main office is located. I shared with Tom (the new Business Development and Strategy guy from the UK who just started a few days ago) the volunteer document I had received from Sharon prior to my arrival and then went to the library. Manjula one of the college-going girls asked me to help her prepare notes for a Database Management course! As some of you know, I am technologically challenged, but after fumbling through I was able to help her find most of the notes she would have to revise to prepare for her exam. I really hope she passes!
Ok so back to the construction paper! My idea in buying this initially was to do a card-making project with the children. I wasn’t sure how they would react to it, but surprisingly I found that they really enjoyed it. I made one as an example, and one by one some of the children became engaged in displaying their creative talents. Some said Thank you from Odanadi and others said I love Odanadi in Kannada. I asked them all to sign the backs so I would know who made each one. I will leave some with the children, but will bring the rest back and distribute them as thank you cards. A few of the children were ever so sweet and gave me personalized cards saying endearing things like “you are so nice sister”, and almost heart-wrenching things like “don’t forget us sister!” As I observed everything going on around me and watching the children proudly give their cards to me, something just struck me – it’s hard to explain to you all exactly what – but I had to hold back the tears because I realized I would only be here a little while longer. Without knowing it these children had reached deep inside my heart. Ugh – I’m really not looking forward to saying “see you soon!” on Sunday.
Tomorrow I will have a day off from Odanadi so I can see some Mysore sights, recoup and reflect. I’ll be back there this weekend in full force though and plan to spend a good amount of time with the US7 working on various activities to improve their English, and increase their public speaking and self-confidence skills. Note I said plan – things don’t always go as you hope or happen when you had anticipated, and in India this rings even more true, so you just have to go with the flow :)
At dinner I asked Parashur more about the background of some of the children that I have been getting to know. One young boy was freed from bonded child labor; another was left by his mother as a baby as she had been raped by a village elder and a man who came forward to marry her (once she was rehabilitated by Odanadi and helped with getting a job) did so only on the condition that she come sans son. One of my favorite young girls’ mothers is a sex worker and Odanadi rescued her so that a second-generation of sex workers would not be born - this is a similar case for some of the other younger girls also. One of the older girls who has bonded with me is creative and keeps asking me for a chocolate cake party on my last day. I was shocked to learn that she was raped by her father, and also suffers from Schizophrenia and another social disorder. Some of the children do act up or argue and fight with each other, but given what their young eyes have seen and no doubt they have physically and emotionally experienced it’s really humbling to see them live each day and treat you with so much love and affection.
Ok, I’m getting a little teary writing this. Perspective. That is definitely what I have gained thus far and the impetus to keep giving unconditional love and treat everyone with respect. It will come back to you ten-fold - the universe is keeping track. If any of you have any inclination then book a ticket to Mysore and spend some time with the children at Odanadi. You will not be sorry you did.
Friday, December 17, 2010
Pareesha left the evening of the 14th so it was a little strange not having her around in the house or at breakfast. I made my way to the Internet Café though so I could update the blog and share some photos with all of you.
Today was a rather low key day. I spent most of the day in the library doing various activities including using flashcards with some of the younger girls to teach shapes, colors and numbers; played carrom, a traditional Indian board game (with Somya, Pallavi and a new girl who had just arrived at Odanadi) after years and found out how rusty I was. Somya’s team (above) won every game and she is definitely the Carrom Champion.
I tried lunch today for the first time at the center with the other volunteers – a simple dish of rice and sambhar, which the children eat a variation of daily for lunch. It was a nice way to bond with them all and to learn more about how each of us ended up sitting at a meal together in Mysore.
Post-lunch I went back to the library and continued with some activities, and also distributed the rest of the gifts the children who go to school did not receive the day before. I had been feeling a cold coming on all day so my energy level was low, which is in contrast to all the children who asked for single shots and posed photos in the courtyard as I was on my way home. Some of the children are mischievous, some quiet, some so sharp, and others I haven’t had the chance to get to know yet. One thing for sure is that they all need love, affection and attention.
With supplies and snacks for the boys in hand we headed to the main Odanadi site to wait for Stanly Brother. Around 11am, along with a new UK volunteer Kathy we headed to Mandiwali (?) where the older boys stay. The boy’s site is located in a lush and serene plot of land about 15 minutes drive from the girl’s site. We met Raju and Ramesh two brothers who stay there, along with Kumari the house mother.
The boys living situation is in stark contrast to the girls. They live in huts and have no electricity, yet they are enterprising growing their own vegetables and even selling them to the house mother for a discount!
For many years some neighbors under the influence of land grabbers had filed a legal case against Odanadi, basically stating that they did not want a house/building built there. Very recently, the court ruled in favor of Odanadi and plans have been drawn up for the boy’s future home.
Stanly showed us the markings for the foundation and the lay of the land. I eagerly await the completion of this building – but it will cost about 70 lakhs (approx $150,000) and an additional amount for a compound wall to run the perimeter of the plot for safety and other reasons.
You will be happy to know that we gave a check to Stanly (and Parashur) on behalf of all of you lovely supporters and donors. The share for Odanadi India ended up being about Rs. 94, 500 – which is amazing! It will go towards building the foundation for the boy’s home :) But, as you can tell, Odanadi still will require a lot of funds to make this dream a reality.
We also had fun distributing the gifts we had packed the day before!