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

NEWSLETTER, DECEMBER 2009

By Malcolm Harper

Kuku Helps Raise a £3905 Grant

Lots have things have happened since our last newsletter in October, and it is difficult to know where to start.

Kuku picking apples in Filgrave
Kuku picking apples in Filgrave

Kuku's visit was, as we told you, a great success, and her fund-raising efforts have borne fruit.

David Hackett, step-father of Yasmin McDonough who worked at PUSS a few years ago, met Kuku at the reception we had in Filgrave for our supporters. He has gone on to raise a grant of £3905 from Meetings Industry Meeting Needs, the charitable arm of the events industry. This is to build a new dormitory for twenty girls. This will be the first storey of the Kadambini and Patra Memorial Baby Home for which Eileen Pirie helped us to raise the funds a couple of years ago. We are building on success, and it is reassuring that the baby home was designed to go up to three floors.

Kuku Presents to the British Venture Capital Association

Kuku also made a presentation about PUSS to the British Venture Capital Association, of which Simon Havers, one of our most loyal supporters, has this year been Chairman. He very kindly chose Friends of the Children of Orissa as the Chairman's charity of the year, and we expect a very substantial donation from them in the next few days. This will be used further to expand the accommodation towards the capacity of 500 children which Kuku believes is the most that can satisfactorily be accommodated on the present site.

Other Fund Raising Activities

Rob Larman spent some time working at PUSS a few years ago, with his friend John Messer (who is also still a generous supporter). Rob, together with Judy Turton had a series of car boot sales this summer, and they also drove an ancient Skoda to Kazakhstan through Russia and back across the Caspian Sea and Turkey in order to collect some more funds. They raised several hundred pounds, for PUSS and also had a very interesting journey.

Creating Pupils With Ambition

Many of you have asked about what the girls at PUSS do when they finish school. Most of them remain in contact with PUSS, and some are married, a good number work as local government child care workers, or are employed as tailors by shops which sell cloth, or are self-employed making various handicrafts. I did a geography class for 15 years olds when I was last there. I asked them to say what they would like to do. Six said they would like to be nurses, 5 wanted to be police-women and another 5 to be doctors, 4 wanted to be teachers, 3 wanted to be actresses and others wanted to be a dancer, an engineer, a singer, a scientist, an artist and a farmer.

These ambitions may not all be realistic, or they may also be too modest. Software is India's fastest growing industry. This has reached Bhubaneswar, and offers new and very prestigious opportunities for young women.

IT training

Mike Trup of Interactive Ideas in North London, and Bhabani Das, CEO of Interfinet, their associate software company in Orissa, are moving fast in their plans to help PUSS to provide good IT training to the girls, so that they can be eligible for this work. They have donated five more work stations, so that girls can work two to each computer, rather than six or seven as at present, and staff from Interfinet are being released so that they can help to train and support PUSS' existing IT teacher, and to conduct IT classes themselves. This will in future make a very real difference to the lives of the increasing numbers of girls who are 'graduating' from PUSS.

Alison Walsham Visits PUSS

Finally, here is a note written by Alison Walsham. She and her husband Geoff have supported Friends of the Children of Orissa for many years, and they are frequent visitors to India. They made it to Orissa in August, and spent some time at PUSS.

"With no idea what to expect Geoff and I arrived at PUSS one Saturday morning in August. We should have known - the warmest welcome imaginable from Kuku - swept upstairs in an instant - cold soft drinks at the ready to revive us in the steamy monsoon air.

....we edged our way into the compound

Determined to see every bit of the school we edged our way into the compound and suddenly flocks of twittering, darting, chattering, brightly coloured spirits swooped down on us - grinning widely, tugging at our hands, shyly fingering our clothes, giggling in little groups and then rushing off to fetch a friend.

The sheer exuberance and warmth was overwhelming. The school buzzes with activity and you are in no doubt that every child there is loved, and feels it.

Kuku took us into classrooms, the kitchen where 3 meals a day are cooked in vast pots and served to over 390 children, and proudly showed us the new (about-to-be-functional she hoped) water pump (it is now working well). She scooped up a sad little new tot curled up alone on the floor, with a hug and a few soft words to send her pottering off towards the others. Small girls raced towards her, breaking off from scrubbing their clothes and laying them out on the floors to dry, or playing hopscotch.

They showed off their communal bedrooms, small neat piles of belongings around the walls - school-books, a toothbrush and comb and perhaps a few small personal items.

Kuku answered every question with an inspiring grasp of facts and figures, a frank openness. Not complaints - matters of fact. Not enough beds, the girls double up on bunks and some have to sleep on the floor.

Malaria is a real problem - 11 girls have it - the cost of medicines and hospital visits is high. No money to paint the desktops - bare wood will have to do.

The price of dal (lentils) is going higher every day - a real worry. We can only afford one piece of fruit a week per child. We have school books, paper and pens, and now some donated computers with excellent volunteer support - the girls need to learn IT skills.

Electricity supply and internet connection are frustratingly intermittent. There's a small science lab with enough basic equipment to cover the syllabus. But they need to learn English - essential to go further in education - and the girls MUST be well educated - there can be no compromise there.

Kuku's resoluteness is impressive - her aspirations boundless.

Her's is a 24 hour a day job - she and her family live 'above the shop' - children come in and out constantly. Likewise her teacher colleagues and women helpers (often living in, with their own children) quietly go about their business, seeing to the needs of the children, soothing bumps and smoothing ruffled feathers.

The children waited so patiently (lunch was long delayed) and put on a little show for us - dancing and singing. Late that afternoon we left them settling down to watch a Bollywood film on TV - fizzing with excitement. Their faces peek out at me every day from the luxury of my office computer - a permanent slideshow, reminding me of the older girls talking about their aspirations - to teach, to be a engineer. "Please don't forget us. Please help the school" still rings in my ears. So much to do..."

As you can see, the PUSS school continues to be a magical place in spite of its growth, and we are as ever grateful for your donations which enable the work to continue and expand.

Malcolm Harper, Filgrave, December 2009

We are very pleased to accept donations online to our charity through CAF, the Charities Aid Foundation Charities (www.cafonline.org). If you are a UK taxpayer then 28% is automatically added to your donation. For more details, see the Simple Guide and please donate what you can.

© Friends of the Children of Orissa