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NEWSLETTER—November 2017

Also available as PDF download

Malcolm Harper reports

Our supporters often ask "what next; what happens to the PUSS girls after they leave?"

As we have reported earlier, the majority go on to college or some other form of further education, and some of them have returned to work at PUSS. In September I was able to observe the first day of work for three young people who went from PUSS to the Gram Tarang vocational skills training programme at Centurion University, and have now started work at the Bhubaneshwar branch of the Hyundai car company.

Pilu was found as a new born baby on the veranda of a government official’s house after the 1999 ‘super cyclone’; he was taken in by PUSS, and has lived there ever since; he is a delightful young man, in spite or perhaps he was the only boy among several hundred girls, and now he has started work as a mechanic for Hyundai.

kuku and pilu
Pilu with Kuku during his first day's work for Hyundai

Odisha (Orissa) is India’s poorest state by most measures, and women in the state are as disadvantaged as any in the country, and often more so. Puspita is thus a pioneer in two ways; she has come from a very disadvantaged background and is also a woman, but she is working in a highly skilled and traditionally male occupation; a maintenance engineer in Hyundai. This is a double triumph for her, and for PUSS.

pushpita at work
Puspita at work on her first morning (before she got her overalls)

Girls from PUSS often excel in other unfamiliar fields; I found myself on the platform at the awards ceremony at the Odisha Karate Association, where four girls from PUSS had won prizes which were presented by senior Karate authorities from Delhi. Karate is enormously popular in India, and particularly in Odisha, and the Karate classes at PUSS are well attended. It is good exercise, and the skill gives the girls the confidence they need to make their way in a male-dominated society.

PUSS as always welcomes volunteers; their teaching skills, particularly in English and information technology, are a vital part of the curriculum, and, perhaps most important, they add variety to the students’ lives. Scottish reels are not a usual part of the programme in schools in Odisha, but they have become a regular complement to PUSS’s very high performance in traditional Odissi dancing and yoga.

Linnan Jiang from China was a volunteer in early 2016. She has recently been accepted as a graduate student at Singapore’s prestigious Nanyang University, one of the world’s ‘top 100’ universities. Linnan received a generous award from her undergraduate college in Guangzhao (Canton to older readers!) in recognition of this achievement, and she has made a very generous donation to PUSS to acknowledge the part that she believes her stay at PUSS played in her personal development.

Many of our volunteers have returned several times to PUSS; one of the most loyal is Laryssa Jones, niece of Bill and Michele Voss, who has travelled to Odisha all the way from Tennessee in the middle of the United States four times. She sent us the following note about her experiences, to encourage more volunteers to go, and also to give them some practical advice.

Laryssa Jones writes about her visit to PUSS

In the last four years I have been lucky to have the opportunity to volunteer at PUSS for a week or two each year. While these were short visits they were each unforgettable and, dare I hope, mutually beneficial. If you have a chance to share your time with these lovely people here are a few things you might expect.

Kuku, who keeps the place running, will welcome you and spend time she doesn't have ensuring you are well fed, and as comfortable as possible. After this you may feel like a visiting dignitary, but not for long. You soon meet the children. Some may be a bit shy, for about half a second. The crowd of happy, inquisitive, excited girls will make you forget the 12-36 hour trip. You may be amazed at everything, or just jump right in and start playing like the child you are at heart.

The children always want to improve their English so many of the girls will try out all their questions as well as last week's lesson on you. This is what the organisation is all about. Sitting, standing, dancing, playing, or teaching the girls some skill you have, all the while talking. The girls (and there are a few wonderful boys too) will teach you too, yoga, karate, dance, or Hindi.

karate
Malcolm Harper with four girls from PUSS at the awards ceremony at the Odisha Karate Association

Do you speak any language? Do you have a working knowledge of computers? Do you know something about plants, animals, or—well oh gosh anything? If you can answer yes to at least one of these questions and are interested in volunteering this may be a great experience for you!!

Now a bit of the nitty-gritty. PUSS has a lot to offer, but the amenities are basic. Summer can get very hot, as in I-can't-sleep-because-of-heat- rash-and-the-temple-playing-music-all-night-doesn't-help hot. Find a time of year that will be best for what you know you can handle, also bring ear plugs or some way of drowning out the temple music which may be more or less frequent depending on local festivals.

Bring snacks; the usual fare is very simple, a lot of white rice, vegetables, and lentils. Tell Kuku that you like simple food, it will probably be easier on your digestive system anyway, but a few snacks from home are a nice way to keep your tummy happy and to maintain your morale. And bring some electrolyte powder in case you get a touch of "Delhi belly".

And remember that when you have 250 or so girls living in close quarters, anywhere, USA or India, there will be lice. You can keep them away with regular applications of coconut oil, and avoid shampoo. Or bring a good treatment to use before you get on the plane, and have another one waiting for you at home.

These are the issues that have affected me the most on my visits. Each visit was well worth any little bump along the way. Do some research, but then go! You will be fine! Every volunteer brings something new to the experience, and each time I go the children tell me great stories about you, the other volunteers, and what you did for them. Good luck!

Laryssa Jones


News from SOCH

All is well with SOCH’s three station platform teams. They had rescued 3694 children up until the end of September, and the newest team at Berhampur continues to help more children than those at Puri and Bhubaneswar, even though it is a smaller place. This is mainly because it serves an extensive hinterland most of whose inhabitants are tribal families who have to migrate in search of work. Many of their children work away from home, or get separated from their families when they are travelling. The tribal areas are also a major source of girls who are trafficked to nearby cities and even as far as Delhi or Mumbai, and they pass through Berhampur.

manoj
Manoj and two of the SOCH Berhampur team outside the station

There are few opportunities for volunteers at SOCH, since their work involves interaction with children in Odiya, Hindi or tribal and other languages, but Manjoj would welcome assistance with SOCH’s website (www.sochforchildren.org) and other local fund-raising efforts. PUSS also needs IT expertise from time to time, so there is also work for male volunteers there.


Please maintain your generosity, and tell your friends and family about the opportunities for volunteering; we can guarantee that there will be lots of learning on both sides!

Malcolm Harper, Chairman, Friends of the Children of Orissa.
Filgrave, August 2017

c/o Ursula Kraus-Harper (Hon. Secretary)
The Old Farmhouse, Filgrave, Bucks, MK 16 9ET, UK
Telephone: +44(0)1234 711764
Email: u.krausharper@btopenworld.com

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