Reports on how charity work and development continues at the childrens and young women's residential boarding school in Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India.
By Malcolm Harper
I have not myself been able to visit Orissa in India since August, but other members of the 'Friends' have recently spent time at PUSS, and their reports make up most of this newsletter. Our fundraising efforts have continued, and we are particularly grateful to Simon Havers and to his friends and colleagues at Granville Baird Capital Partners and lawyers S J Berwin. Simon raised several thousand pounds, by persuading his friends to donate to PUSS instead of buying presents for his tenth wedding anniversary (and to fill in gift aid forms as they did so!), and his colleagues sponsored him and Chris Harper (no relation I fear) to toil over various wet hilltops in the Scottish borders in the 2002 Karrimor International Mountain Marathon.
Artisan Trust Grant
The Artisan Trust made a grant of £14,000 to buy new equipment and train local young women for the PUSS handicraft operation. This will of course help PUSS, both by providing skills training for the older girls and by earning profits to cover the school's running costs.
The reports which follow show that the need for funds and charity donations is never-ending, to take in more boarding children and to improve the school facilities and education for those school children who are already there. Please continue your generosity, and do your best to persuade others to do the same. We have already found that our new website, www.orissa.org.uk, is a powerful fund-raising device; just ask people to take a look at it, and it can do the rest.
And please fill in the enclosed slip to tell us whether you can in future receive newsletters by e-mail, and return it to us in the stamped addressed envelope. Put a cheque in with it, too, if you think fit !
Local Visitor to Orissa
Billy Friell from Filgrave spent six weeks at PUSS in October and November last year. He admits that he was very apprehensive before he got to Naharkanta; he was stepping into a world he had never seen before.
His first impression on reaching PUSS was astonishment that so many people could live in so small an area. The children were unfailingly charming and well-mannered, and in the whole time he was there he only saw one or two incidents of very minor squabbling; nothing like an English boarding school ! In the mornings he read to the children and corrected their written and spoken English. In the afternoons he visited various places around Naharkanta, and he even saw dolphins on Chilka Lake.
He was overwhelmed by everybody's kindness, and in particular by their concern for his health. Billy is a carpenter and joiner by trade; he was surprised to see that so much of the heavy manual labour is done by women (not by the girls at PUSS, we hope that their education will enable them to do something better than head-carry loads of bricks all day, in our own limited way, we are putting women's education in India as a very high priority.), but he thought that the buildings were sturdy and strong. This was of course confirmed during the 1999 cyclone, when the PUSS school was the only building left standing in the whole village.
His recommendation to anyone who is thinking of visiting PUSS: don't hesitate !
Kes Srikanthan and Katy Rook visited PUSS for three weeks in September. They write:
We write this newsletter almost two months after we came back from Orissa. We stayed at PUSS for three weeks, helping English teaching and other things, and there are lots of memories and lessons learnt we would like to share.
Computer and IT skills training
All the students are interested in learning how to use the computer. Every weekday in the afternoon after school, a young college student called Ravi teaches the older children basic IT skills, such as word processing and the use of spreadsheets. These lessons can make all the difference to the children's future. There is only one computer, and the daily afternoon and evening power cuts have damaged the computer hard drive. As a result, the children don't get much 'hands on' time with the computer, and a second computer would help lessons and enable the children to watch and copy the teacher. It would also help the kids speed up their typing which can at times be painfully slow.
Internet access would be an enormous asset for PUSS. It would provide the older children with a learning resource, and the staff could download teaching materials, and it would also allow for easy communication between PUSS and the outside world. India is becoming more and more involved in the Cyber age, and web skills are becoming essential at the workplace; the girls and boys at PUSS must not get left behind. Internet access should not be so difficult as they already have a phone line and a computer; the problem as always comes down to money.
Perhaps the most important thing PUSS does, however, is to make sure that the children can be children for a while, instead of having to grow up too quickly. In the years to come they will go into the big world, and get jobs and have good lives thanks to PUSS. But right now they are all happy in their own little world just outside of Bhubaneswar. The effort and enthusiasm with which they throw themselves into both work and play is astounding. The next time we visit we shall take a football; we will see an Indian football team in the world cup finals yet !
Work is never ending
For a while we were lucky enough to be a part of this world and every day was a new experience. The staff's work never ending, but sometimes during the evening we would get a chance to sit and have a chat with whoever had a moment to spare. Kadambini spends a lot of time travelling in the PUSS auto, supporting all manner of village and women's initiatives in Orissa, India, but she did find time to talk to us about her future plans for PUSS. A new kitchen is being built above the classrooms, so that the children will not have to wait in the rain for food during the monsoon. The area where the kitchen is now is to be turned into separate accommodation for the boys, who at present sleep on mats in the hall.
Near the end of our stay there, we were sitting outside in the early evening, playing with the children. Patra came and sat with us, and we started to talk. As the conversation ended, he got up with a sigh to leave, and I remarked to him that with all the work that he and the others do he must get very tired. He stopped for a moment and looked at the children playing in the fields around us before he said, 'yes, but there is still a great deal to do.'
As you will have seen above, PUSS welcomes visitors. If you want to see for yourself the activities you are so generously supporting and to contribute in a personal way by your presence and friendship, do let us know and we will put you in touch with PUSS.
Filgrave, January 2003
© Friends of the Children of Orissa