Reports on how charity work and development continues at the childrens and young women's residential boarding school in Bhubaneswar in Odisha, India.
By Malcolm Harper
I was able to visit PUSS earlier this year. I met their committee, and I took a good look at PUSS' management and financial controls. I was satisfied that our funds are being well taken care of, and we are as ever grateful for all your support which enables
The PUSS committee. Left to right: the Head Teacher, Kadambini Bhuyan (secretary), Dr. Satpati, Pankaj Sahoo (administrator), Mr. Mohapatra, teachers' representative, S Naik, village representative, Mrs. Panigrahi, local social worker, Bhagavan Patra (Chair).
Click for Large Image
Carolyn Ryans Visit and Experience
Carolyn Ryan was introduced to PUSS by our trustee Chris Pouncey. She visited PUSS twice during her 'gap year' in India, and she wrote us this note on her return:
Arrival at School
After 25 hours in the train from Delhi, I was grateful and humbled to be welcomed by Patra and Kadambini. The monsoon came late, temperatures were in the high forties, and the State Government had closed schools to protect children from the heat. The only pupils at PUSS when I first arrived from the station on the back of Patra's motorcycle were the year-round boarders with no home to return to. This gave me an opportunity to learn about the organization's history and future objectives, so I could start to appreciate how unique and valuable an undertaking PUSS is. I was fortunately able to return later to see the school in action.
Another mans' child rejected
I was not the only new arrival on the 16th June 2005. Two hours before I came, a mother had appeared at PUSS leading Kuni, her two year old girl, by the arm. Their story was not entirely clear, but it appeared that the mother's new boyfriend or employer would not accept the child of another, especially a little girl. Life for a poor low caste single mother is not easy. To survive in India a girl needs a good education or a good marriage, and this woman had neither. Kadambini had to decide the child's future.
"...in the gutters of Bhubaneshwar"
As she said, no amount of love and support can ever fully replace a mother, nor can it overcome the feeling of abandonment. If there is any way a child can remain with a parent, it should. I asked what would happen if nobody would take in an abandoned child who was so young. Kadambini reluctantly admitted that children like this end up literally in the gutters of Bhubaneshwar: 'There are too few people who care, too few people who can help'. Kadambini was also worried about money. Lots of poor people are desperate to give their children a better future, but PUSS can only accept those who are most in need; children of sexworkers, children from leprosy colonies, children who have no parents, or whose parents cannot possibly afford to keep them.
A Commitment for her Childhood
Kadambini's decision to accept Kuni or to turn her away would affect the whole organisation. Kuni would take time, emotional commitment and money, all of which are scarce. Once accepted, there is no turning back; a child becomes part of the family and will need care and attention for the rest of her childhood years. To my great delight, the decision was made in her favour; Kuni was taken into PUSS.
Searching for Security
It was heart-rending to watch Kuni as she struggled for stability. She clung to her mother's dress as she pulled herself away, and for days afterwards she would run to the gate where she had last seen her mother and stand pointing at the gravel path, her eyes wide with tears. If you approached her, she would run away and hide. She clung desperately to a small plastic chair, and guarded it religiously, and the next day, when Patra's son-in-law bent down to Kuni sitting on the chair, she suddenly jumped up and put her arms round his neck, resting her head on his shoulder and gazing round-eyed at her new world. She did not let him leave her for the next two days. Then, she took possession of Kadambini, and clung to her all night.
Returning to Health
After some days Kuni's thin malnourished body started to fill out, and she gradually started to play alongside the other children, mimicking their actions, and smiling. When I returned for my second visit a few weeks later, I was greeted by a smiling, dancing little monkey. Her shaved head had earlier been thick with scabs; now it was covered by a glistening layer of black silky hair, and her bowed legs were starting to heal as she ran around with the other children. I found her much heavier to carry around as well!
India, Women and Economic Growth
India is growing at an astounding rate economically. The newspapers are full of reports of India's rise to superpower status, and the arrival of flocks of multinational investors. Unfortunately, these reports conceal a more fragile, sadder picture. Class and caste are still central to Indian society, and they affect women, and poor women, most cruelly. PUSS are doing their best to correct these ills in one very conservative and very poor part of India, and it was a great privilege to be part of their work for a few days.
Annual General Meeting
The Annual General Meeting was well attended, as was the preceding trustees' meeting, and we do most sincerely thank those of you who give your time to the Friends of the Children of Orissa as well as your money.
Our June recital was a great success. The weather was reasonable, the music was good, the harpsichord was a wonder both to see and to hear, and we raised over a thousand pounds for PUSS. We are already planning for next year's event, and the provisional date is Friday the 23rd of June. Some suggest a flute and harp recital, others a singer or two, and there are many other possibilities. Your suggestions are welcome.
Fund raising work
Our other fund raising work also continues. We have received very generous donations from both Alleyn's Junior and Alleyn's Senior schools in London, and Friends of the Children of Orissa was chosen as the beneficiary of their summer fund-raising fair. The Broderick family, from Birdshanger in Hertfordshire, asked their guests to make donations to the Friends in lieu of buying birthday presents, and this raised a most generous total. The llamas at the Old Laundry in Filgrave also did their bit, with some assistance from Rodney and Joan Newth.
Bozeat and Mears Ashby primary schools
The children at Bozeat and Mears Ashby primary schools have learned from our pictures of PUSS what it is like to be a child in India, and they have, as usual, been fun, lively and intelligent to work with and to learn from. Their parents are generously helping us with their donations.
Malcolm Harper, Filgrave, October 2005
© Friends of the Children of Orissa