Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Live Reports are Here

For the past several years, SCAW has posted Live Reports so travelling volunteers could share their distribution experiences with friends and family at home.

The Live Reports have now been turned into blog posts and moved to this Blogger Web site: SCAW Live Reports Blog.

When you have a moment, browse the posts and try out the updated photo albums courtesy of Picasa. (You can even watch a slide show if you wish.)

All Live Reports from the past year have been moved here. Posts are in reverse chronological order. To find a particular distribution, look in the Recent Blog Posts list at left for these dates:
  • Kolkata — January
  • Chennai — January/February
  • Mumbai — January/February
  • Kenya — March
  • Philippines — May
  • Uganda — June
  • Togo — June
  • Sri Lanka — July
  • Tanzania — August/September
  • Honduras — September
  • Bangladesh — October/November/December
This month's Kenya distribution is the first one exclusively available here.

If you'd like to be kept up-to-date, you can subscribe to the blog. Then you will be sent an email each time there is a new post from our travelling volunteers.

Friday, 16 February 2007

Mumbai: Photo Album 5

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Mumbai February 16

Mumbai: Final Distributions

Back in Mumbai with one day to explore, one day to do the final distribution and wrap up, and then Sunday to prepare to fly home later in the day.

Ambarnath and two days of distributions in Karjat were well organized and smooth — except for ten labels short. At our organizing meeting in Toronto before we left we sorted labels in 3 x 10 and bundled them in groups of ninety. Somehow we missed ten – but George and I, being the rookies, figured it was our error and with a quick ‘Judy-made label’ purchased ten bedkits on the spot and got our picture taken with the kids. All’s well that ends well.
An early update described this trip as exhilarating exhaustion and that stands true near the end but it has not been all work — we have had fun!

From a Mumbai “hawker” we purchased Rattlesnake Eggs which are two oblong shaped magnets that when held a couple of inches apart and thrown into the air come together with a rattling sound. (Or as George demonstrates in the picture they can be used as modified earrings.) We had great fun playing with the kids and conveniently left them behind at each distribution.

Many of these kids had never had their picture taken or seen their picture on a digital camera screen. The excited hoots, laughter, and jostling to see themselves and the “take my picture” gestures could have gone on for hours.

We graduated from “not very spicy” to “normal Indian spicy” food — and really enjoyed trying all the different foods. Thanks to Raj our Bombay Rotary coordinator.

We happened upon — as happens with travel — little unexpected snippets of life:

  • Pickup cricket games on the beach in Dahanu with cattle as spectators. They let us try batting but a baseball swing didn’t seem to quite work.

  • An early morning run as a family of wild pigs ambled by.

  • Traffic to a standstill as a herd of water buffalo meandered across the road.

We made memories as would be expected from five strangers spending most waking moments together doing this kind of purposeful work.

And of course it has beens all about the kids — laughing, crying, afraid, mischievous, apprehensive, shy, and outgoing. Our hearts are full and we thank the donors for their generosity and for entrusting us to represent you and the principles of SCAW.

Doug MacDougald,
for the SCAW 2007 Mumbai Travelling Team

Thursday, 15 February 2007

Mumbai: Wada Distribution

Just like in the Willy Nelson song, we are "On the road again." Lots of driving from Dahanu to Kaylan as we distributed 435 bedkits at two sites in the Wada area.

The second site was at a textile factory owned by one of the Rotary club members and situated in the middle of a brick making area.

These small brick manufacturing sites are frequent in this area and are not complex busineses: the raw material is sitting under foot, plentiful, and labour is cheap. The kilns are simply made with the newly formed bricks and a charcoal fire.

The children receiving bedkits came from villages nearby, but the kids from the brick making area — obviously very poor and living in grass huts — were looking on. What they were thinking one could only wonder.

A recurring theme from this trip: kids are kids regardless of socio-economic status as you can see from the accompanying pictures. The three little “brick” girls (At right) were having lots of fun (and me too) as we played peek-a-boo as I took their picture.

We got to this site early before the kids arrived and saw them coming through the valley, some hand in hand – and then saw them as they headed off excited and chattering with bedkits on their heads.

What a sight as they headed off home!

Doug MacDougald,
for the SCAW 2007 Mumbai Travelling Team

Monday, 12 February 2007

Mumbai: Dahanu Distribution

Four distribution days, seven sites, 1650 bedkits, many kilometers over some iffy roads, traffic the same as previously reported – and all is well.

Email access is thin, our signs have not shown up but otherwise everything else is reasonably on track.

The kids are fabulous. Have you seen happier kids than those in this picture?

We have left Mumbia and are several hours north in Dahanu. This area is an agricultural area with rice, mangoes, vegetables, hay, water, buffalo, chickens, and of course lots of villages and people.

It seems everything in this region is done by hand: thrashing grain, stacking hay, hauling produce and water, butchering chickens, and washing clothes.

Little kids get to wash the dishes.

We are theorizing that India will leap from an agrarian to a high tech country in one leap.

Doug MacDougald,
for the SCAW 2007 Mumbai Travelling Team

Saturday, 10 February 2007

Mumbai: Mumbai Morning

Mumbai in the pre-dawn is quieter, especially down by the water near the Gateway to India. Nice area.

Barefooted women with big straw brooms are sweeping the streets. The one-legged guy with a makeshift wheelchair is washing himself in the gutter and hoping to make a few rupees shining shoes today.

Around the corner you almost step on a couple of women covered in a dirty blanket, sleeping on the pavement using the curb as a pillow. A baby cries — a small young baby. She lays naked, out from the cover of the blankets, cold in the early morning dampness. The mother sleeps.

The sliver of sun slices through the mist and smog over the Arabian Sea, slowly bringing life to this city and as it does, miles and miles of grey, black slums are illuminated.

As we drive through the city toward our distribution these slums are juxtaposed beside nice residences. At a stop sign a pretty young girl, maybe ten years old, leads an older blind man, presumably her dad, into the waiting traffic pleading with her eyes for money. A young man carries another very thin frail dying man on his back asking for the same.

One foot in front of the other must be the only way to survive another day. Didn’t give the pretty young girl or young man any money. Wish we did.

We shed some tears and get about helping one child at a time.

Doug MacDougald,
for the SCAW 2007 Mumbai Travelling Team

Chennai: Photo Album 1

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Chennai February 10

Thursday, 8 February 2007

Mumbai: Traffic in Mumbai

Traffic in India is unlike anything in my experience, with cars, unique transport trucks, auto-rickshaws, motorbikes, bicycles, cattle, dogs, water buffalo, oxen drawn carts, goats, and people all sharing the same space. Oh, did I mention constant horn blowing?

There is no discernable structure or rules but rather a free-flowing, cacophonic, kaleidoscope of motion.

The horn is consistently used as a warning that the vehicle is passing another vehicle and transport trucks actually have on the back “Horn, OK. Please.”

It has been common on a four-lane divided highway for vehicles to drive the wrong way – in the passing lane – at speed! Just get out of the way – and people and animals do it without apparently thinking anything of it.

In a survey done this week of the 16 million residents of Mumbai the number one issue for all income brackets were better roads. They are bad – except for some new highways just completed and built by the private sector. These will be maintained by the contractor for anywhere from ten to twenty years and collect tolls for that period of time before it is turned back to the public sector. These roads have more frequently been built on time and on budget, which was not happening with government run projects.

Even though there is little evidence of rules of the road it seems to work OK. I suspect this is an appropriate metaphor for business and life in this very crowded region – free flowing and maneuvering around obstacles — with these roads moving a nation that is a nation on the move.

Doug MacDougald,
for the SCAW 2007 Mumbai Travelling Team

Mumbai: Photo Album 3

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Mumbai February 8

Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Mumbai: Dombivli Distribution

Today was spent at Dombivli a city of 1.5 million with many manufacturing plants that were apparent as we drove to the distribution site.

As usual several schools were represented including a girl orphanage and a school for mentally challenged children. Parents — if alive — primarily worked in manufacturing jobs, drove auto-rickshaws, or were domestics.

Kids and parents can show several types of emotions at these events and pictures show it best — and celebrate the buoyancy of the human spirit.

Doug MacDougald,
for the SCAW 2007 Mumbai Travelling Team

Mumbai: Photo Album 2

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Mumbai February 7

Monday, 5 February 2007

Mumbai: Distributions 6 & 7

Distribution days six and seven have been completed at three sites: Panvel, Navi Mumbai, and Thane — all within a two-hour drive of where we are staying in Mumbai.

The drive every morning and late afternoon is through Mumbai. With sixteen million people in this sprawling maze of mankind we have no idea where Mumbai stops and we enter a new town or city.

Construction, bamboo scaffolding, dust, debris, more debris — all driving the changing picture of India as it increases services and goods supplied to the world — and much of the construction is done by hand and by the parents of the children we are seeing at our distributions. They live near the construction in cobbled-together, makeshift, anything-that-can-be-found shelters.

"Anything-that-can-be-found" may include our site distribution signs that are in the picture at left with Judy Snobelen at Thane with one of her donations to her — at the time — unborn grandson. "Baby Snobelen" Carter was born a couple of weeks before we left for India and everyone is doing fine including his grandmother.

Carter AKA "Baby Snobelen" is good news — but our missing signs are not. We suspect the box of signs was carried by one of the volunteers helping us out. It went from the van into one of the distributions unbeknownst to us.

Team leader Douglas Cunningham — we are calling him Douglas to differentiate the two Dougs on the team — in the photo at left may look a little frustrated.

Hey! Improvisation, flexibility, problem solving, patience, understanding of a different culture, different language, different needs, are required as a travelling volunteer.

Trust me: the kids don't care if there is a commercially made sign or a handmade one. What their needs are puts many things in our life into perspective.

Doug MacDougald,
for the SCAW 2007 Mumbai Travelling Team

Mumbai: Photo Album 1

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Mumbai February 5

Sunday, 4 February 2007

Mumbai: The Southern Distributions

We finished the southern swing of distributions at Kundgol, Ranebennur, and Hubli by yesterday and flew back to Mumbai today. Five sites and 2,800 bedkits have been distributed — 17 and 4,700 respectively to go.

What can we say? This is producing conflicting emotions and thoughts.

Exhilarating exhaustion is an apt description with most of us if we get five or six hours sleep not able to get back to sleep as the previous day's experiences tumble around.
We are hopeful of the caring and compassion that we are finding but pessimistic of the cycle and culture of poverty that is pervasive.

We download our pictures every evening often as we unwind with dinner. Last night all the waiters were looking over our shoulder at the pictures, asking questions about Sleeping Children and at one point one young man stated "I want to work and help you when you are here in India." People care!

A $30 bedkit is a very big deal to these kids and their family.

At Ranebennur’s 600 distribution we were down to the last few children and one little boy had lost his “ticket” received that morning at registration that ensures the right child receives the bedkit. As he was waiting off to the side waiting for his ID to be checked (he didn’t understand the process) he was crying inconsolably — obviously thinking that he was not to receive his bedkit. After some assurance, hugs and tying his shoes (these kids have never had shoes) we put him in the next group for his photo and he was one happy little guy – with his shoes off. Hey, it takes a while to break new shoes in — especially if you have never worn any before.

There was not a bedkit for the 600th kid due to an inventory mistake. He had his new clothes, backpack, and school supplies but not bedding, mat etc. and forlornly sat there with his grandmother (his parents were dead) waiting. The solution
(Good decision Douglas C.) was for the Rotary organizer to go purchase the rest of the kit as we waited with the child and his grandmother. The relief and gratitude was tangible as they received the bedding.

Kundgol was on the third day of a three-day village festival when we were there for a 250 distribution. When we were driving in we saw some body-painted people and kids. Little did we know the custom during this festival is the painted individuals cannot put any additional clothes on for the duration of the festival. We had two kids in the 250 and after special parental permission they put on their new clothes, had a picture taken and received a bedkit. Some donor is going to receive quite a picture of a painted boy.

Many of these children have never been out of their village. Can you guess what is going through their minds with so many new events in one day?

Doug MacDougald,
for the SCAW 2007 Mumbai Travelling Team

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Chennai: The team has arrived

The team has finally safely arrived. In spite of a planned British Airways Cabin Crews' strike (Industrial Action) and winter weather causing planes to ice up, we finally departed. There were many moments when we wondered if and when we would arrive in Chennai. Due to the impending strikes we had to depart a day earlier than planned and our team who had originally planned to travel together found themselves on four different routes. Our Rotarian hosts were phenomenal in managing to pick us up at four different times and in finding us homes to stay in as all the hotels were filled. This is the wedding season in Chennai, so there was "no room at the inn". Some stayed one night, others for two nights in homes that Rotarians graciously opened up to us after our seveteen and a half hour flights. We were so fortunate to have that extra day to rest. Tomorrow, our meeting with the Rotarians begins the distribution process as we finalize plans for the reason we have come - 5000 children and their bedkits.

Namaste from Chennai

Richard Hryniw,
for the SCAW Chennai Travelling Team