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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—October 2011

By Malcolm Harper

Alex Davies made her third visit to PUSS in August. She took two new visitors from Scotland with her, Vicky McFarlane and Colleen MacLean. They were only able to stay for two weeks, but they sent us these memories of PUSS.

Alex described their arrival and her impressions of what has changed and what has remained the same since she was there three years ago.

"The welcome we received was incredible and we were all blown away by the affection that was shown to us by all the staff and students who lined the road and swept us all the way through the school to our room. For me it was like being reunited with family.

It was wonderful to be back and to see the improvements that have been made. The most obvious addition was the computer lab. One of the computing teachers had just resigned so we got stuck into teaching the computing classes during our stay. It was quite a challenge with around fifteen computers and up to fifty children in some classes! We managed to give everyone a go which was really important as some of the girls had never been on a computer before. We taught the very basics of typing to the youngest classes - they thought it was fantastic when we showed them the backspace key! We also had great fun singing the "QWERTY alphabet song" and a version of "head, shoulders, knees and toes" adapted to be about the parts of the computer!

Several girls who were in the school last time I visited are now attending college. It made me really happy to see how they becoming confident young women who have a real chance for a better future because of the work of PUSS. Mamata is studying to be a social worker and now stays in her college hostel in Bhubaneswar. All the girls and staff there speak English and her English has come on leaps and bounds since I last saw her. She is a fantastic ambassador for PUSS.

Kadambini is sorely missed but Kuku is, as always, working so hard for PUSS. While we were there we saw her secure a number of regular donations of food for the school, arrange for a new doctor to visit PUSS once a week and discuss plans for a new water purification system - among many other things! She never stops thinking about the children and has devoted her whole life to PUSS.

I was sad to leave PUSS as always, I hope that next time I can make a long stay. It's so good to see how PUSS has grown and improved over the last four years. I hope this continues, so that more girls will have the same chances as Mamata. With all the hard work and love that I see there I'm sure it will.

Vicky (known at PUSS as 'Vicky Sister') wrote: I was fortunate to visit PUSS on my first trip to India, and, I must admit, I was excited and scared on the night our plane landed in Bhubaneswar. In spite of all the research I had done and all the questions I had asked Alex before our visit, nothing could have prepared me for the welcome at the school. As our auto-rickshaw pulled up, we saw that the road was lined with girls; their beautiful, smiles shone through the dark. They gave us flowers, they planted blessings on our foreheads, and shook our hands and started asking questions as Kuku led us to our room. My eyes were damp as we were carried on the tide of their gleaming little faces through the school, and the memory of this magical welcome will stay with me for a long time.

The days that followed were wonderful. We taught computer classes daily, and all the girls made us feel so welcome. They are so generous, and I felt genuinely humble to be with such focused and hard working children. They really lust for education, and they each deserve a future filled with the same opportunities which so many of us take for granted. We didn't speak the same language, but the students' warmth and good humour broke down all the boundaries.

Kuku's dedication is the main catalyst for all the amazing things that happen at PUSS. She was our host, she runs the school and the hostel, and she raises local donations; her devotion to PUSS and its 400 odd children is truly inspiring.

Although the visit to PUSS was short, it was better than anything I could have imagined. It is the most rewarding thing I have ever done, and I would wholeheartedly encourage others to visit if they get a chance. Before I arrived at PUSS, I was an only child. Now I have hundreds of wonderful sisters, and I eagerly anticipate my next visit to see them.

Colleen wrote: My initial impressions of India were very mixed, but I quickly began to realise that despite its problems it is a very beautiful country along with its people. The best representation of India I felt was demonstrated in PUSS, normal people like you and I working hard to make a better life for themselves - despite the disturbing corruption that they face.

The first thing that blew me away was the smiles on the girls' faces, as we were greeted with cheers, songs and flowers. I felt guilty that they gave us such a big welcome, when we had not even done anything! The people that deserve recognition are first the children and second their wonderful staff. To us it seemed that their lives were comparatively basic, but in comparison with many other children in India they had everything -the chance of love, care, food, shelter, and education. These children are in fact very lucky.

Though I was only there for two weeks, PUSS has very big place in my heart. Last week I went into the local primary school at home (in the Highlands of Scotland) where I did a presentation to the whole school on India. When I told them my stories they were all fascinated and asked lots of questions. They were particularly interested in learning about other school children.

I'm currently looking into fundraising possibilities for the school, and for the orphanage where I worked in Nepal.

I would like to finish by saying a heartfelt thanks to all the children and staff, in particular Kuku whom I'll regard as my Indian mother and my Indian inspiration.

Several of our loyal supporters have been busy raising money for PUSS in recent months. Committee member Eva Maria Elliott raised several hundred pounds, as did Robin and Ruth Dibblee. Hannah Durden, who spent some time at PUSS several years ago, competed in a national Triathlon, which involved swimming, bycicling and running enormous distances. Many of her friends supported her efforts with individual donations, some of which are still coming in at the time of writing, and she also persuaded her employers, F&C REIT Asset Management, to encourage them with a generous matching donation.

I attended my fiftieth reunion at the Harvard Business School in the USA this summer. It was interesting and heartening to learn how many of my classmates from those distant days are heavily involved in charitable activities of all kinds, but several of them also made generous personal donations to Friends of the Children of Orissa.

I plan to visit PUSS at the end of this month and I shall report on latest developments there in our next newsletter. Many thanks as ever for all your support.

Malcolm Harper

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