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Malcolm Harper reports

When I visited Odisha at the end of March everyone said it was much too hot, too early, but it was also a productive visit

pushpita at work
Three of the ‘day boarders’ at PUSS, outside their home with their grandmother who cares for them

Karen Mulville and her brother Matthew came to inaugurate SOCH's new rehabilitation centre for long term railway and street children, which they have generously sponsored in memory of their parents Pat and Del Page. SOCH were able to bring a group of children from the railway to the small ceremony, and in addition to the modest ceremonies and tree planting they had cricket and athletics; Manoj had luckily organised a large and colourful tent so that the visitors were able to escape the 40 degree heat, but it did not seem to worry the kids at all.

pushpita at work
Karen Mulville presenting prizes to the SOCH trainees, before unveiling the inaugural plaque for the Pat and Del Page Memorial Rehabilitation Centre

Richard Cook from Tyringham, down the road from Filgrave, visited the next weekend, along with David Landsberg. They were able to see something of PUSS, as well as SOCH, and they took us all on a jolly picnic to Puri beach; Joe Mulville and I enjoyed the privilege of swimming in front of an audience of 300 girls, I rather think they admired him more than me.

I also called on the Delhi offices of Tec Mahindra, a large Indian out-sourcing and software company, which has a big presence in Orissa. Their 'corporate social responsibility' department is planning a major programme of support for PUSS, which should help to improve the schooling as well as their management. We look forward to working with them in the future.

Bella Morgan, Ludo Goldsmith, Joe Mulville and Mary Harper have all volunteered their time and talents at PUSS during the last few weeks. Mary Harper was there in April for her third visit. They all sent sent us enthusiastic notes about their visits which you can read on the next pages.

Bella Morgan and Ludo Goldsmith write about their visit to PUSS

Our arrival at PUSS is something we will never forget; we stepped out of the car, to be welcomed by shrieks and greetings from twenty beaming faces, waving frantically at us from a balcony above. We felt instantly welcome and Kuku insisted that we have every meal at her table. In school hours we taught kids of all ages English and computer skills, and after school, we played all manner of games, especially Frisbee.

After a month we could see what PUSS has done, its success is in the children themselves. Their lives could have been very disadvantaged, but they were singing, dancing, drawing and smiling. They are charismatic young individuals with a lot to offer the world, and PUSS is enabling them to do just that!

We had lots of new experiences. In less than an hour we had strange new nicknames painted on our arms with henna, and we learned lots of new dances, including traditional Odissi and also the Dandiya, performed in a circle with time kept by beating sticks. We taught English from Class I to Class IX, as well as general knowledge, some mathematics and drawing. A lot of teaching was book-based and writing, so we tried hard to make our lessons interactive and fun.

Our time at PUSS coincided with Holi, the festival of colour. Early in the morning my (Bella’s!) hair was bright shade of pink, and stayed that way for two weeks! The coloured mayhem was wonderful, bright smiles shining between clouds of colour as the children showered each other with powder, and we were the main targets.

The girls are ambitious, eager to achieve and make a name for themselves. They often asked me (Ludo), “Brother, what is your aim?” and were amazed I have little or no idea what job I want. They were determined to become engineers, actresses, dancers and teachers, and their passion for a better future was astonishing.

pushpita at work
Love from PUSS (picture by Bella)

Mary Harper reports

I was only able to be at PUSS for two weeks, but I was kept very busy. I did some career counselling with the Class X girls who were leaving PUSS for good. PUSS has given them a good start on their chosen paths to become teachers, police women, medical scientists, lecturers and dancers, but they still have far to go. It will be difficult for them to stay focused when they leave but I believe that many of them will be very successful.

I also went back to the mayor's office with Kuku. On my last visit we had asked him to ensure that there was a proper mains drain outside PUSS, which is vital for PUSS and for the surrounding village. The drain has been built, but it does not flow properly and is uncovered. A few cows have fallen into it and a child could be next. The mayor promised to get it fixed; I hope he will.

We also went back to the prostitutes’ colony I had visited before. The women here are cheerful and friendly, and they showed me the rooms where they live with their children, right beside where the business goes on. They welcomed me in despite the flow of customers and plied me with lychee juice; it was a pleasant visit, but it was impossible to forget the business as customers came in and out, and amongst it all small children rush about. One lady with two young daughters begged us to take them to PUSS. While she was speaking one of them was kissing her face while the other was hugging her mother's knees. It was heartbreaking to see the choice this mother had to make.

Kuku had gone there to see mothers whose children were at PUSS, to tell them how their daughters were doing and to give them their annual exam results. One woman began to cry because her daughter had been ill and she had not known. Her children are doing very well at PUSS, but she was clearly sad to be away from them. It’s very sad, but the children from the prostitute colony are happy and successful at PUSS, and it’s obviously a better option than living at the colony.

Many of the girls at PUSS have families, but many have no one to support or care for them. PUSS is everything, their home, their family. The girls have so many memorable, tragic and heart-warming stories, and together are PUSS, where each and every one of them can learn, laugh and feel love.

On the beach at Puri (picture by Bella)

Annual Recital at Filgrave

Annual Recital at Filgrave
Friday 6 July 2018

We look forward to welcoming many of you at our annual recital, on Friday 6th July. Our friends from Fiori Musicali will once entertain us with a programme of baroque chamber music, preceded by drinks in the garden followed by a four-course candlelit dinner after the music. All for £65, every penny of which goes to PUSS or SOCH.

Time: 7 pm for 7.30 pm, cost £65.00 per person including pre-music drinks on the lawn (weather permitting) and dinner with wine after the recital. Please let us know as soon as possible if you will be with us. There are not many places, and several are taken already!

Malcolm Harper, Chairman, Friends of the Children of Orissa.
Filgrave, August 2017

c/o Ursula Kraus-Harper (Hon. Secretary)
The Old Farmhouse, Filgrave, Bucks, MK 16 9ET, UK
Telephone: +44(0)1234 711764

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