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 spend three days with PUSS in early October. As usual, it was a pleasure to be among so many happy children, and to enjoy rural India at a very pleasant time of year.
As you may have read, there was an exceptionally heavy monsoon in Eastern India and neighbouring Bangladesh this year, and this delayed the start of building operations for the new baby home, and the initial cultivation of the new land which we have helped them to acquire. Everyone was afraid that the heavy rain would lead to another cyclone, like the one in 1999 which destroyed much of the village and killed some 10,000 people elsewhere in Orissa. Fortunately it did not happen again this year, but, as in 1999, the PUSS school building was just about the only dry place in Naharkanta village during the worst of the storm, and many of the village people sheltered there.
A New Baby Home is Being Built
The building of the baby home will begin this month, but the first inmates have already started to arrive.
Kaveri a new baby
The building of the baby home will begin this month, but the first inmates have already started to arrive. I met Kaveri, who is one month old. She had been brought to PUSS three weeks before my visit, by her seventeen year old mother's elder brother. The mother is apparently deaf and dumb, and could not name the father, but her brother, who delivers the PUSS newspapers, had feared for his sister's life because their parents were beating her and had demanded that she should get rid of the baby
I also met Krishna I also met Krishna. She arrived at PUSS six months ago, on the same day that she was born. An acquaintance of Patra, Kadambini's brother in law who is the President and co-manager of PUSS, had phoned to say that a baby was about to be 'disposed of' from a nearby nursing home. Patra went there at once, and found that the parents of the baby's young unmarried mother, and the baby's father who was a married man, had brought the mother to have the baby in town far away from their village to avoid scandal. The head of the nursing home had said that what happened to babies after they were delivered was 'none of his business', and the father gladly signed over the baby to PUSS.
I had met Subhu (photo) on my previous visit. She is now eighteen months old, and was brought to PUSS in April last year by an itinerant laundry man who found her lying abandoned by a road drain.
Itina an new girl
Itina M had arrived at PUSS while I was coming from the airport. She is ten years old, and had been brought to PUSS by a lady who employs her elder sister as a maid. Her father has apparently disappeared, and her mother has gone mad and 'roams about' the area. It was remarkable to see how quickly she fitted into the large and loving extended family that is PUSS. She has a sad hard face but she relaxed when she saw the PUSS kittens, and she was soon helping to take care of the babies. Doctor Satpati came to PUSS the next day. He is the Honorary Chairman of the PUSS committee, and he also comes every Sunday to deal with any of the children who are ill. Itina had some blotches on her legs and her face, which they were worried might be leprosy, but he assured Kadambini that they were nothing more than birthmarks, and there was no risk of infection. She is a bright little girl, and taught me a few words of Oriya (which I rapidly forgot). She too seems to have been lucky enough to find a new home with PUSS, and they will try to trace her legal guardian to sign her over to PUSS in order to avoid any later problems.
Madhu a baby
Madhu was found in a forest in July 2007 by man who was walking home late at night in a rainstorm. He had heard crying from the woods, and had found the baby naked lying on the ground. She was apparently about fifteen months old. Nobody nearby claimed the baby, so the man took her to the central hospital in Bhubaneswar, by which time she was almost dead with hunger and cold. A staff member from PUSS happened to be visiting the same ward at the time, with a girl who had malaria. She told Kadambini, who came at once. The doctors told her that the baby was suffering from TB, but she checked that the disease was not at a contagious stage. The police put out a notice asking for anyone who claimed the baby to come forward, but nobody did, so Madhu, like Krishna and Kaveri, is now an official ward of PUSS.
New Babies Home Due 2009
Early next year the babies will be able to move into the new home which is being built for them beside the new play area for which Eva Maria Elliott so generously provided the equipment, on one of the pieces of land which Eileen Pirie helped PUSS to acquire. It is being designed initially to accommodate sixteen babies, with their carers, and Kadambini and Patra are very clear that they do not want to fill it at once. They want to keep space for the hardest cases, but I suspect that there will be enough hard cases, like the babies who are already there, and that the new home will fill up pretty fast. We have undertaken to cover the running cost of the new home, and once it is registered PUSS will be able to organise for the babies to be adopted whenever this is possible.
Suger Cane for the Children
I visited the new land. PUSS have allowed the previous owners to plant and harvest their crops during the long drawn out process of finalising all the eleven transfers. I met one of them, who has an acre of sugar cane. He gave me a piece to chew, and I mentioned that the children back at PUSS would enjoy it too. The next morning he turned up in a small van with a gift of 400 sticks, much to the children's delight.
I was there shortly after Frances Edwards had left PUSS. I was asked to take letters and greetings back to her, and she clearly captured the hearts of everyone there. Alex Davies from Scotland is on her way there as I write; she is taking her violin and plans to introduce Scottish country dancing to Orissa.
Please keep your generous support coming as Christmas approaches. PUSS is a pretty productive Christmas present!
© Friends of the Children of Orissa