Reports on how charity work and development continues at the childrens and young women's residential boarding school in Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India.
From Uschi Kraus-Harper
Returning To Orissa
After almost nine years I went back to Orissa in January accompanying Malcolm on one of his regular visits to India. We spent four wonderful days at PUSS. So much has changed, not only at PUSS but in Orissa itself. The first thing I noticed when we arrived at the (new) airport was that there were no porters; the same, we found later, was also true for the railway station at Bhubaneswar. When we lived in Bhubaneswar in 1991/2 and 1995/6 one would always be surrounded, if not pestered, by men offering their services as porters and taxi drivers. This time we had to carry our suitcases ourselves - a sign of some wealth finally trickling down to the poor, of better jobs being offered? There were also hardly any bicycle rickshaws to be seen but many more motor-rickshaws, and many more cars.
At PUSS lots of changes have happened, too. In 1992 I had spent a week with Kadambini in Naharkanta. Then she lived in the village, sharing two rooms with four female teachers and social workers, and the school was relatively small. Living with her was her first "boarder", the girl Shanti, whom Kadambini had brought from the railway platform where she used to beg. Now Shanti is happily married in the south of Orissa and sometimes comes to visit PUSS.
Then, in 1996 we were frequent visitors, witnessing, in fact helping with, the arrival of the first girls from a leprosy colony in Bhubaneswar. The school was growing and Kadambini was gaining respect and recognition beyond Bhubaneswar.
Boarding School Development
Now the school building is three times as large as I remembered it, accommodating also the boarding children; connected to it is the administration office and the nice guest room, where we stayed. Being so near to the children enabled me to sneak across every free minute to talk to them. Each year group share a dormitory; the smaller children sleep on bunk beds, two to a bed; the oldest have a bed each, as there are less of them. I would be welcomed with great enthusiasm, pulled into rooms, made to sit and talk. Some of the girls speak quite good English now, so with this, sign language and my three words of Oriya we managed to have lively conversations. The older ones asked for John and his friend (both had spent some time teaching there a few years ago), and when I said "Ah, you mean the handsome young men from England", there was great laughter and giggles, "yes, yes". The children remembered every visitor, Lizzie, Hannah and Vicky, Eric and Tim, Kes, Kate and John, Bill, Chris and Penny, Eva- Maria, Carolyn. It shows how important our visits are to them, they love to talk, to tease, to hear about life in our far away places.
A School for Recovery and Learning
Yes, there are sad, withdrawn faces, too, usually these are the newer children. There are problems, bed-wetting, nightmares. Many of these children have had traumatic experiences before they came to PUSS. But on the whole the same very special and happy atmosphere prevails that I remember from years before and that had made such a deep impression on both Malcolm and myself.
Annual School Day
It was so good to see Kadambini, so welcoming, so tiny, busy and focussed as ever. And Bhagawan Patra, her brother-in-law and President of PUSS, who worked with a team of people through
During one of our long conversations Kadambini brought up the subject of teachers' salaries. She said PUSS could simply not afford to pay higher salaries, although they would like to do so.
We would like to help PUSS to raise the teacher's salaries. Right now, all the money we raise goes for the children's upkeep. If we can raise just £1500 a year more it will be possible to increase each teacher's salary by about seven pounds a month. Kadambini says this would make a big difference. We would welcome your suggestions for ways in which we might do this; perhaps some of you who are involved with schools in your area could help with some fund raising ideas.
May we also thank everybody who has found/visited this website, contacted us and donated money to this exceptional charity.
For the past year Bhagavan Patra has been training one of the younger teachers to replace him and Pankaj is now the full time administrator. He is a very able and very kind young man - and he is getting married to Sumitra, one of the younger teachers. Kadambini, seeing how the two had taken a liking to each other, managed to convince their parents to agree to this love marriage. They are planning to remain at the school, working together for the benefit of the children. Sumitra is the kindest, most serene person you can imagine. We invited them both to come to England after their wedding and we hope very much that they can come later this year for a few days at least. If so, we shall invite all of you to meet them.
If you would like to know more, just phone me!
DATES FOR YOUR DIARY
June 20, 8p.m.:
Annual General Meeting at The Old Farmhouse, Filgrave
June 23rd 2006:
Fourth Recital and Dinner at The Old Farmhouse. This time it will be music from Bach, Mozart, Saint Saens, Debussy and Massenet, performed by flautist Siobhan Grealy and harpist Sue Blair. Both are well known artists who have played with many of the countries finest orchestras, as well as given solo performances at well-known establishments such as Queen Elizabeth Hall, The Purcell Room, St. Martin-in-the-Fields.
We will send detailed invitations nearer the time but if you want to make sure you get a seat, it may be a good idea to book soon (address see front page).
© Friends of the Children of Orissa