Friends Of The Children Of Orissa: help support and educate a child.

Reports on how work and development continues in Orissa.

Newsletter December 1999

By Malcolm Harper - Chairman

Dear Friends, Thank you, very much, for your generosity. We have raised almost £8000 since the cyclone hit the village of Naharkanta in October.

After the cyclone

We were able to give £2000 for immediate relief within a couple of days of the cyclone

The local press and radio helped to recruit a few more Friends, but basically it has been you, the existing 'hard core', who have dug deep into your pockets (and sometimes your friends' pockets too) in order to raise this sum.

I was in Mumbai (Bombay) at the time of the cyclone. I felt that I would achieve little myself if I went myself to Orissa, apart from being another mouth to feed, but we were able to give £2000 for immediate relief within a couple of days of the cyclone, through CARE, who have their own staff in Orissa and were supplying basic necessities almost at once. I was also able to ask members of various 'high level delegations' who were going to Orissa to visit PUSS.

This has helped to direct some extra relief to Naharkanta.

The accommodation block

We also sent a farther £5000 by courier in November. Kadambini Bhuyan has sent us one fax and a set of photographs of the devastation, and we can do no better than quote from her messages to 'The Friends': "The children are in proper care, the villagers are provided regular relief, the repair work has started, reconstruction of workshed is planned" (fax dated 27 November) "You are saviours of PUSS and will be remembered by the children, the community and the staff of PUSS" (letter written 26 November)

The accommodation block for 'our' girls, which was constructed with the help of the grant we got from the National Lottery, is unscathed, but was apparently more or less the only building in the village not to have been damaged.

"You are saviours of PUSS and will be remembered by the children, the community and the staff of PUSS"

The roof of the long lean-to building beside the school where they do the handicraft training which is so important both as a preparation for employment and as a source of income for PUSS has been completely destroyed. The pleasant little orchard with papaws and other fruit trees has been flattened.

Village people make temporary repairs to their huts with sheets from PUSS

Far worse, though, is the damage to the mud huts where virtually all the village people live. Many have been washed away altogether, and hardly any of the thatched roofs remain on those whose walls are still standing. The pictures show PUSS children and staff, and local volunteers, distributing emergency food supplies and plastic sheeting for temporary roofing. This is better than nothing, but eventually the huts will have to be reconstructed, and the roofs replaced.

Lost crops

The village people have lost their standing crops of rice paddy, and the coconut palms and other trees which provide an important supplementary income have been blown down by the 200 mile an hour winds which blew for more than two days. Most have lost whatever seeds they had stored for the next season as well. Many farm animals have also been drowned, and people have lost cooking pots, farm tools and many of whatever other assets they owned.

Kadambini and her colleagues feel that they must give first priority to helping the community. They have identified 310 families who live in the immediate neighbourhood of the school, and who are most in need. Your assistance, and whatever they have been able to obtain from elsewhere, has been used for relief and now the beginnings of reconstruction for these people.

In the long term, however, we must not forget PUSS, and the destitute children for whom our small charity was originally established in 1992. The new building, which was finally completed early this year, has made it possible to accept about 100 girls, from the sexworkers' and leprosy colonies, from the railways platforms and the other places where so many desperate people eke out a living. It has been estimated that the cyclone has put back the development of Orissa by between fifteen and twenty years. It is already India's poorest State, and, as ever, it is the poorest people there who will get even poorer, and more numerous.

The emergency used up reserves

PUSS will be under even greater pressure; Kadambini has successfully kept the monthly cost of food, clothing and accommodation down to about ten pounds per child (it is sobering to compare this with what we spend on our children here in Europe), but one hundred children cost £12,000 per year to maintain. The emergency has used up our reserves, and next year we shall need much more than before to enable PUSS to take care of our children.

Local UK promotion

October which created a certain amount of interest, but that was of course before the cyclone had put Orissa "on the map" for so many people. It is sad that it should take a disaster of this magnitude to make the world aware of a place with over thirty million population.

We had a stand at the Bozeat Youth Club event on 16th November; Dee Donovan, Sri Srikanthan and other friends at Cranfield organised various fund-raising events, and we had a Wine & Cheese Evening here at Filgrave.

Press coverage

The Milton Keynes Citizen has given us generous coverage and other local publications such as the Oiney Phone Box have also given us space. I was also interviewed on Three Counties Radio. The children at Summerfield School in Milton Keynes are raising funds for us and numerous other people are doing what they can.

Our main source of support in the past has been donors like yourselves who commit themselves to regular contributions. We believe that this must continue in the future, if we are to be able to support PUSS adequately. We can increase the value of your contribution very substantially if you fill in a Covenant form. Please do this if you can, or ask others to do so.

Communities can also help. The people of Bozeat have, through BozAid, raised more than £1,000 for the cyclone emergency but are also regularly sponsoring ten children. Filgrave & Tyringham have sponsored a child for many years and have also made an extra contribution for the cyclone.

Getting involved

There may also be Trusts, Companies or other groups who would like to be involved. Please let us know of any possible candidates: we should be happy to provide them with material and to come and talk to them ourselves if this would help to recruit them to the cause.

Please do what you can; continue and increase your own support, and recruit new supporters as well. People want to help, but they often wonder how much of what they give goes to fund raising and 'administration'; our fund raising may be amateur, and our administration far from perfect, but it costs nothing. Everything you give goes to PUSS in Naharkanta. Please give more.

© Friends of the Children of Orissa