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Reports on how charity work and development continues at the childrens and young women's residential boarding school in Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India.

NEWSLETTER—May 2014

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Children

Our supporters, and potential supporters, often ask an important but difficult question: "what happens to the PUSS school girls after they have left?".

Some PUSS 'old girls' live at PUSS while they are in college and help to care for the younger children, and I have myself by chance met some PUSS 'graduates' working in supermarkets in Bhubaneswar, but we have not thus far had a systematic enquiry

Alice Gude and Jamie Banks were introduced to PUSS by Frances Edwards, who has visited PUSS many times. They spent much of January and February at the school. They did many good things, and one of the most valuable was to carry out a detailed survey of the 159 pupils who have left PUSS since 2009, including those who will be leaving this month.

They did this with the help of Mamata, one of the college girls who stays at PUSS, and she plans to continue the survey on an annual basis. They tried to find out what the girls did when they left, and what they are doing now. It was not easy to trace all the girls, not all the information was available and some answers had to be obtained from friends or other indirect contacts, but in summary the main findings were as follows:

  • 79% of all the leavers are single, and 21% are married. 58% of the 2009 leavers are married, and 31% of the 2010 leavers are married.
  • 90% of the girls went to college when they left PUSS, and the remainder returned to their families. 51% of the girls are now in college, 27% are at university, 9% are employed in private businesses, 10% are staying at home, either with their families or their husbands, and 3% are labourers.
  • 34% are living in 'pukka' houses (meaning stone or brick, not mud or corrugated tin sheets) in rural areas, 49% are in pukka houses in towns, and 15% are living in urban slums.

These figures are very encouraging. Almost two thirds of the girls are from the 'scheduled tribes', who rank lower in the socio-economic scale than the 'harijans', who used to be called 'untouchables', and it is all too normal for tribal girls to be married off at twelve or thirteen, after four or five years or less of generally very low quality schooling. Even if the college attendance figures are exaggerated, we can be fairly confident that the girls' time at PUSS was much more than an irrelevant interlude; it is life-changing.

Laryssa Jones writes...

Laryssa Jones, Michele and Bill Voss' niece, spent five weeks at PUSS earlier in the year. She is a qualified nurse, and apart from helping with the leaver survey, she taught English and became very close to Pratyusha, the girl who was starving to death when she came to PUSS last year. Laryssa writes:

I am so grateful that I spent five weeks with these amazing girls and their mentors. I have seen some other NGOs in India but PUSS does more with less. I was so impressed with the respect that the children were given, especially compared to how girls are often treated in India.

Life at PUSS is always busy with classes and all kinds of projects. The girls get a good education, but they can also learn dancing, singing, chess and many other activities. It is all guided by the hard-working Secretary, Kuku. She is progressive, she loves and respects the girls, and she always has their best interest at heart. All the staff work under Kuku's direction to help give the girls as much as they can for the future. They can be safe, protected, educated, and provided for, and Kuku has many plans and dreams to make PUSS even better.

But eventually it all comes down to the girls. They are amazing. Their community is the happiest I have ever seen. They are mature and many of them know enough English so that I could have conversations with them. They are great dancers and singers, and one Sunday afternoon some of the younger girls even gave me a 3 hour show of dancing, singing, and acting, just for fun.

The girls take care of each other, they don't worry about the many differences between them and they adapt sensitively to one another, particularly to those who are challenging, or challenged. I am sure there are tensions that I don't know anything about but during my 5 weeks stay I had a pretty good chance to see what their life was like. I think PUSS is amazing.

The girls are sweet, respectful, and very eager to interact with someone new. They also have a ton of fun! It is wonderful to see them all playing in the large playground after school and their chores are done. The place has so much joy, hope, and innocence.

While I was at PUSS I enjoyed some special moments including the Celebration of PUSS' 30th anniversary, the year-end exams, the graduation and farewell of class ten, and the digging of the bore well (now completed, and providing 5000 liters per hour of sweet clean water ! Ed.) I am so grateful for the time I spent at PUSS, and I hope to be a part of its progress in the future.

News from SOCH

SOCH's railway children rescue work continues to achieve good results. Manoj hope to start a satellite operation at Khurda Junction, a very busy station about twenty km South of Bhubaneswar. This can be run in conjunction with the existing team, and we hope that it will be possible to set up a short-term shelter on the premises of a small children's home near Khurda station.

Music at Filgrave by Fiori Musicali
- 4th July 2014

Our annual chamber music recital will take place at The Old Farm House in Filgrave on 4th July; Fiori Musicali (www.fiori-musicali.com) will be with us again this year. Penelope Rapson will lead them on the harpsichord, Amanda Babington will play the violin and recorder and Kerstin Linder-Dewan will also play the violin. They will perform baroque music from around Europe, including Bach and Corelli. They are internationally recognized artists, and we are very grateful to them for playing for us. We hope that Kerstin's violin will not suffer as dramatically as it did when she was playing in New York a few years ago:

http://www.npr.org/blogs/deceptivecadence/2012/03/09/148325237/concert-catastrophes-when-music-meets-misfortune

Time: 7 pm for 7.30 pm, cost £65.00 including pre-music drinks on the lawn (weather permitting), and a four course dinner with wine afterwards. Please let us know as soon as possible if you will be with us.

Malcolm Harper, Filgrave, May 2014

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