Reports on how charity work and development continues at the childrens and young women's residential boarding school in Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India.
All continues to go well at the PUSS school and on the railway station. There are just over 300 girls in residence at the school, plus some day pupils from the village, and "SOCH" rescued 345 boys from the station during the year.
The Government of India is slowly taking steps to assume responsibility for children in need, and the initial impact of this is an increase in bureaucracy. In May, I was at a meeting of the official Child Welfare Committee to facilitate the slow process whereby our partners can be officially recognized as approved providers of the services they have provided for some time.
May 2013 Arrival Thrives at PUSS
Pratyusha when she
arrived at PUSS
All of a sudden a couple of people came in carrying what seemed to be a bundle of dirty rags. It was a starved little girl, at the point of death, who had been found discarded by a roadside. Kuku was with me and at once took charge; the child was taken to hospital and thence to PUSS when she was out of immediate danger. Here is a picture of her soon after she arrived.
They called her Pratyusha, Sunrise, and I saw her again in December 2013. She is cheerful, and fully mobile, and has joined the kindergarten; she does not speak yet, but a consultant neurologist has said that her condition is caused only by starvation and she should wholly recover.
Pratyusha with her new
friends in December 2013
Young Bulari, the little girl who is HIV positive, is fairly well, although she has her ups and downs, but she is generally a cheerful and naughty girl.
PUSS has now got a stall to sell the school's handicrafts, in a small park in the city which the authorities have set up for handicraft sellers. It started slowly, but by late January its sales had reached a level where the margin is well over the small rent and the time and travel costs of the person who runs it, so it will be a valuable addition to the school's income.
I was able to notice a small but significant improvement in the teachers' and the children's English speaking when I was there. Alice Gude and Jamie Banks have recently arrived for a stay of several weeks, thanks to an introduction from Frances Edwards, and they should be able to sustain this change Pratyusha when she arrived at PUSS
News from SOCH
SOCH celebrated the first complete year of the railway children operation. A girl's choir from PUSS helped to entertain the visitors, who included a number of railway porters and vendors whose assistance is vital.
SOCH rescued a total of 345 children in 2013; they were able to reunite 220 of these with their families. Ten ran away from the shelter, and SOCH referred the other 95 to the official authorities, as anyone who finds a child 'in need of care and protection' is now required by the new regulations to do within 24 hours.
Most of these 95 children were reunited with their families, in most cases thanks to SOCH's initial efforts to contact and inform them, but the delay does mean that some children do not go home and are sent to institutions. SOCH are investigating the possibility of getting a larger shelter where they would be authorized to keep the children longer, but this is costly, and slow.
Ashish with his father
Ashish Patel, is about twelve years old. On October 3rd a vendor noticed him wandering about at Bhubaneswar Railway Station looking very confused. The vendor contacted SOCH. One of their platform workers came and persuaded Ashish to come to the SOCH shelter. SOCH's staff spoke to Ashish and observed him carefully. He was very nervous, but he relaxed and told them that he lives in a village near Deoria in Uttar Pradesh, over 1000 miles North of Bhubaneswar.
He got into a fight with a friend after school. The boy told his mother, who beat Ashish without listening to his side of the story. In rage Ashish ran away from home and found himself at the railway station. He spent four days there, living off scraps of food. He hated it, but was still afraid to go home, so he got on a train. He had no idea where was going, and had to get off the train at least once, but eventually he ended up in Bhubaneswar station, which is a 24 hour journey from Deoria even by the fastest connection.
Ashish had realised that the railway life was dangerous but he was still frightened and confused about what to do. The SOCH staff eventually persuaded him to give them his parents' mobile number, and they phoned his home at once. Two days later Ashish's father arrived at the Bhubaneswar and was happily reunited with his son. They had been trying desperately to find Ashish. Both father and son were very emotional, overjoyed yet still angry, relieved but also frightened. The SOCH staff calmed them down, and explained to Ashish's father that an adolescent child needs affection and understanding, rather than physical punishment. The couple went home happily together on 5th October, and a subsequent phone call showed that all was well.
Substantial new Grant received
Thanks to your generosity, we continue to be able to help our friends in Orissa (now officially called Odisha) to do their good work. We have been awarded a substantial grant from MIMN (Meetings Industry Meeting Needs) to redecorate all the dormitories and replace their dingy concrete floors with sparkling white tiles. David Hackett not only facilitated this grant but also made a generous personal donation himself.
Bill and Michelle Voss continued their invaluable support for SOCH, Mary Harper arranged for her youngest sister Lily's school friends in Perth to raise money with a 'fun run' for us, and many more of you gave your time, your imagination and your money to the children in Odisha.
We are planning our annual chamber music recital for a Friday in early July, and we hope to see many of you then. I shall be in Odisha again at the end of February, and I shall bring more news on my return. Many thanks again.
Filgrave, January 2014
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