Reports on how charity work and development continues at the childrens and young women's residential boarding school in Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India.
Alex , the 17 year old daughter of Martin Davies, one of our long-standing supporters, visited PUSS at the end of last year. Her report speaks for itself:
I have so many happy memories of the five weeks I spent at PUSS that I am not sure where to start. I suppose at the beginning would be good...
A Warm Welcome
I arrived at the school on the 5th of Nov after 8 days interesting but tiring travel around "The Golden Triangle", India's most popular tourist route. The PUSS school was such a contrast to the noisy, dirty, smelly cities. Already I could see what a lovely place it was as I was so warmly welcomed by all the teachers and presented with a beautiful posy of flowers. Kadambini and Patra had met me at the airport and now Kuku helped to settle me into my room. It was so nice to be around people I could trust after being so guarded while travelling alone in the cities.
Becoming Part of the Family
I started teaching classes the next day and was nervous at first but with the help of the English teachers I soon settled into it. I was very impressed by Class 1 who reeled off the alphabet and could read simple words already, and they enjoyed my rendition of the alphabet song very much! When school was finished the fun just began with all the girls wanting to meet me. They were all very excited when I spoke of Malcolm, Uschi and Frances - the last volunteer to visit. A few girls called me Aunty at first but they were soon corrected by the older girls and I quickly became everyone's Sister. That was the best thing about the school; it was like one huge family, everyone looking out for each other and the teachers really caring for the students. I felt so at home that I knew by the end of that day I would be very sad to leave this special place.
Fun in Classes
The students learned quickly - they were all saying "Good Morning" when I entered class by the 2nd day, although it took a few more days for them to understand that they shouldn't say it after noon! Classes were fun and the students were so well behaved and loved listening to me reading stories to them. I had a particularly fun time reading "The Blue Jackal" with class 4 as I had them all howling like jackals!
In other classes we all had a great time doing actions and playing "Simon Says". In one class while doing animal action I confused them all by saying that cows go "Moo" - in India they go "Ohma"! Although some classes were shy at first, by the end of my stay the students were correcting my mistakes and asking questions, which was fantastic progress. The half year exams occurred just before I left and I was very impressed by how committed the children were to studying for them.
Highlights of My Stay
Everyday was a fantastic experience where I learnt new things but here are some highlights. Being dressed in beautiful Indian clothes and having my hair done by the girls who called me their "dolly"! Joining in prayer, watching Hindi films with Sriya, Manu and Kuku, seeing so many interesting festivals especially Diwali with all it's candles and fireworks and another where we sent a paper boat carrying a candle down the river early in the morning. Playing my violin and singing for everyone and teaching some girls to do Scottish dances. Watching their beautiful dances and listening to their songs. Helping to care for the youngest babies, teaching the babies Subhu and Madhu to say "Hello sister", riding a motorbike like an Indian woman (that's side saddle), seeing PUSS students awarded prizes and watching them being filmed dancing for an Oriyan TV show. I was shown many of the fascinating sites of Orissa, rode a camel on the beach at Puri with my little friend Lory and met so many truly wonderful people.
A Very Sad Departure
I was also taught the entire Oriyan alphabet by the children (who were very patient with me) and also how to say some simple phrases and the names of parts of the body which I am determined to remember for the next time I visit. And I am certain there must be a next time because they say I am an Oriya girl now! I have never been as sad as I was the day I left PUSS and I miss it terribly now as the henna painting fades from my hand.
Everybody I met went out of their way to make me comfortable and they were so generous although they have so little. The work done by Kadambini and everyone else at PUSS is incredible. On top of the school hostel where they are caring for 365 children, Kadambini cares for 8 children in her home, including 4 babies. There are also the baby home being built and the farm being developed, which was transformed during my stay from an empty field to a fully planted vegetable crop, and an almost complete building with a working water pump. It will be fantastic if the school can be self sufficient and earn some extra money by selling the crops they do not need themselves.
The money which is so kindly donated to this organisation does so much good. I urge everyone to carry on giving, and to visit this amazing place themselves.
More Visitors in 2008
Committee member Eva-Maria Elliott visited PUSS again in January and February this year. She helped with English teaching and the children's games, and by sharing some of the pleasure (and burden) of taking care of the four small babies who have already arrived at PUSS before the new baby hostel is ready for them. Eva has spent longer at PUSS than any of our other supporters, and is one of our most active fundraisers.
I also spent two days in March in Naharkanta with the children, to discuss future plans with Kadambini and Patra, and also to introduce Eileen Pirie, who has been one of our most generous donors for many years. She has in particular made it possible for PUSS to acquire the eleven acre plot of land at Harianta, a few miles from Naharkanta, which as Alex says is now becoming a source of food for the children.
This was Eileen's first visit to PUSS. She was entertained by the usual 'cultural programme', dances, gymnastic pyramids, songs and all, and she did a sterling performance of 'itsy bitsy spider' for the children, to show that we too have our cultural traditions. She had a useful discussion meeting with all the teachers, and as an experienced teacher herself she was able to show how important it is that children should actively participate in their own learning. She brought books from Oxford to help the teachers do this in their English medium teaching, and she sent a further supply from Calcutta.
At the beach
We also took all 365 children on a long day trip to the famous Sun Temple at Konarak and, briefly, to the nearby beach. Six large busses were needed to take us there, and after an official guide had given an official lecture, the children clambered all over the temple and thoroughly enjoyed themselves. Then we all went to a nearby garden where an outdoor picnic had been prepared by the PUSS cooks for 400 odd children and their accompanying teachers, and for us. Then we went to the beach. It was getting dark, and the sand sloped steeply down to the sea. The children wanted to check that the water was salty as they had been told, and there were some anxious moments as they dashed into the surf to taste it. Swimming lessons are not part of the curriculum at PUSS.
Order was soon restored, however. The children watched the waves as the sun set behind them. Then they climbed into their busses, and each was checked to make sure that nobody was missing. The radio in our bus at any rate was turned off, and the children sang happily for maybe an hour; then they slept soundly for the rest of the way home.
Meanwhile, in Filgrave...
We had our Annual General Meeting at the Old Farm House on 19th March. Our Hon. Treasurer John Fielding presented our favourable financial results, and it is good to be able to report that we have satisfactory reserves in order to meet the cost of completing the new baby home and the small farmhouse for the guardian of the new land, as well as continuing to meet the running costs of the school and the hostel. Prices are increasing in India rather faster than they are in UK, however, and the rupee is also becoming stronger. We need to keep the money flowing, so please maintain your support, and make a note of the date of our 2008 chamber music recital, which will be on Friday 20th June 2008.
Malcolm Harper, Filgrave, March 2008
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