Friday, 27 February 2009

Pune: 3,000 Sleeping Children

From Pune 2009 Photo Album
As mentioned in the previous blog, all 3,000 bedkits have been distributed to happy children in the rural area northwest of Pune. We were greeted at the final distribution by carts pulled by bullocks, ready to take us the final short distance to the site. We were also treated to "feta" - head-dresses made of brightly coloured cloth wrapped tight around our heads. Judy, the rookie photographer, took the photos with an assist from Dave. At the end of the day, a local teacher gave a sincere, poetic thanks on behalf of the children.

Today the team was able to visit two schools where the children received bedkits last year. The schools are located in a breathtakingly beautiful, but very rural area southwest of Pune. In one classroom, fourteen of the sixteen children are still using the backpacks that were part of the bedkit. The packs show signs of wear and repair, but since the children have to walk up to 10 km per day for school, these items are extremely valuable to them. The uniforms from last year are still in use. Other than some fading in the girls' blue uniforms, they all appear to be in good condition. The bedkit shoes are still being worn, and we noticed them on a number of children. The families continue to use the blankets, and expressed their pleasure in having them. The parents we spoke with talked about how the items in the bedkit have been important to the children, and school attendance has improved as a result. It was gratifying to see the positive feelings expressed by the children, parents and teachers.

Tomorrow we will make a visit to St. Crispin's Orphange to say goodbye, then will have a post-distribution meeting with the Rotary Club of Pune Cantonment. Following that we will attend the Rotary Club meeting, then a social gathering.

By 11 am on Sunday the team will be leaving Pune, going in different directions, with wonderful memories of our time here.

The Pune Bedkit Distribution Team.

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Thursday, 26 February 2009

Pune: Distribution complete

From Pune 2009 Photo Album
We did it!!

The Pune 2009 Team would like to quickly post that we have wrapped up a great finish these last two days to celebrate the millionth bedkit distribution. Our distributions have been long fifteen-hour days but equally rewarding to see the smiles on the children's thankful faces.

More details and photos to follow tomorrow, as we catch up on our sleep and paperwork, and master our challenging Internet connections!

On behalf of Dave Dryden and
the Pune Bedkit Distribution Team.

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Tuesday, 24 February 2009

Pune: Where SCAW began

From Pune 2009 Photo Album
What a day!!

This was our first "off day" following three hectic and productive days of distributions.

The morning started at 8:30 when the Rotarians picked us up for a visit to St.Crispins Orphanage. This is where it all began 39 years ago. Dad gave out 50 bedkits and stayed up all night with his camera at the ready to photograph the children getting their first night's sleep with the comfort of a bedkit. Needless to say he learned very quickly that the excitement of receiving the bedkit meant that he had a long wait before the the children fell asleep.

Following an initial tour of the Home we were surprised to find that the director Mr. Charles had arranged for some of the early bedkit recipients to return for today to meet with us. The conversations that ensued were priceless.

We were hoping that on this trip we would be able to find a way to publicly acknowledge the great work of our Pune partners, the Rotary Club of Pune Cantonment. They were kind enough to arrange a press conference for us. With over twelve reporters in attendance, we had an hour to tell the SCAW story and to express our thanks with SCAW volunteers such as Shamaldas Parekh in attendance.

This has been a special day for the Dryden/Burton families.

Tonight the Rotary Club from Belgaum has invited us to a function in celebration of the Millionth Bedkit. Eight members of their SCAW Committee are driving up to Pune this afternoon for this function (an 8-hour drive).

What has been so satisfying from my perspective has been the work of Dad's four great grandchildren, Theo, Jeff, Anaka, and Chris. They are truly fully functioning as full team members with so much energy and caring. We are proud of them.

Much more to tell on our return.

Dave Dryden
for the Pune team

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Monday, 23 February 2009

Pune: 571 children in Gunjalwadi

From Pune 2009 Photo Album
Today, the Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) team distributed 571 bedkits to many happy girls and boys in the village of Gunjalwadi. The children came from the surrounding villages in hot and windy weather to receive a bedkit from donors in Canada and the United States.

One child arrived at the distribution site in a wheel chair and we felt sad for the child, but happy that we were able to provide him with a bedkit.

The jobs that we did today were:
  • leading the children from the picture to the bedkits
  • giving the children backpacks and
  • marking their index finger to confirm that they had received a bedkit.
My dad/uncle completed interviews and asked mothers and teachers for their feedback on the bedkit items. This will help us understand what items are important to the children and how we can potentially improve the items in the bedkit.

The village that we were in was very poor as a number of the homes were made mud and wood. Even though they lived in these conditions, they were very proud to invite us to their homes and provide us with a delicious lunch at the end of the distribution. As we were waving goodbye to all the children, we know that tomorrow they will feel very rested and glad from the gift of a good night’s sleep.

From Junior SCAW Team Members,
Theo Will-Dryden and Chris Dryden

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Sunday, 22 February 2009

Belgaum: Mission Accomplished

From Belgaum 2009 Photo Album
4,000 Bedkits distributed in Belgaum

On Sunday, February 22nd, 850 bedkits were delivered in Hubli marking the end of our quest to deliver 4,000 bedkits to needy children in the Belgaum area. The Rotary Club of Hubli, who have been distributing bedkits in their area for over 25 years, had the distribution well organized in a Rotary-sponsored school for over 2,000 children. The bedlit recipients came from towns and villages in and around Hubli.

There was great joy when each child accepted his/her bedkit and reconnected with their parents, grandparents, or guardians. In this distribution, there were a good number of hearing-impaired children who had enhancers and hedphones to help them hear.

The Rotary Club of Belgaum were responsible for the entire 4,000 bedkit distribution and they made it easy for the SCAW team to deliver bedkits on behalf of our donors. Our team wishes to thank our many donors and The Rotary Clubs of Belgaum, Chikodi, Athani, Bailongal, Ranebrennur, Kundgol, and Hubli for their valuable contributions to making this distribution such a success.

4,000 very needy children in the Belgaum area will be sleeping more soundly to-night!

The Belgaum Team

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Pune: Another fine day

From Pune 2009 Photo Album
Today’s distribution of 568 bedkits took place in the village of Javelbalshwar, tucked away at the base of an impressive mountain range. It appeared that the whole village of 2,000 people turned out to warmly welcome us and remain as curious onlookers. The small courtyard flow worked well with an impressive arrangement for shoe fitting as the children walked up a ramp to receive their bedkits. Plenty of enthusiastic shouts of “OK” were heard well outside the distribution walls, as Dave clicked away followed by lots of unsolicited “Namaste” from the children after having their photo taken.

We’d like to mention two additional volunteers to our Pune team. Steve Buist, a reporter from the Hamilton Spectator, and Greg Dryden who will be joining the distribution.

Post distribution we had a chance to meet the school principal and express our thanks to him and his team for selecting the children. Prior to our departure we visited a mountain top Hindu temple where 100,000 people are estimated to celebrate a local festival tomorrow.

For more photos, check out the Pune 2009 Photo Album.

The Pune team

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Kenya: The team prepares

From Kenya 2009 Photo Album
The Sleeping Children team to Kenya was at SCAW headquarters this past weekend to prepare the labels for their distribution later this month.

(Left to right) Don McCormick, Theodora Nandy, Edie Haslauer, Alan Ingram (Team Leader), Elizabeth Lugo, Chris Pratt.

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Saturday, 21 February 2009

Pune: First distribution complete

From Pune 2009 Photo Album
Today was the first of five distributions for Pune 2009. The village, Sarole Pathar, was a three-hour drive outside the city limits.

Immediately upon the team's arrival, the children danced us along a road to the school with a musical procession. After introductory speeches by the Rotarians and Dave, we were impressed to hear a well-versed and memorized thank you speech delivered by a local six-year-old schoolboy in English.

627 bedkits were distributed at Z. P. Primary School with thanks to the Rotarians, who worked hard to ensure a smooth transition. A good amount of shelter was set up to keep the children in the shade while they awaited their photo and progressed to their backpack and bedkit collection areas.

Three sets of parents were interviewed with feedback noting that the shoes, one size up, plus pencils and notebooks were the most important items in the bedkit.

Anaka, Theo, Jeff and Chris did the Drydens proud stewarding the children from the photo site to the distribution area where they handed out backpacks, bedkits, hats, and stamped hands with a great sense of helpfulness.

Post distribution we were treated to a Maharastra dance depicting a wedding ceremony by the schoolchildren in full costume. Thumbs up to Judy for learning three new native phrases in her “hands up” rendition, Dave for scoring big smiles and minimal thumbs up with smiling outbursts of “OK,” and Wes for scouting out a set of six clay bricks (Murray would approve) to elevate the label holders.

The Pune team

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Belgaum: 300 bedkits in Kundgal

From Belgaum 2009 Photo Album
Day 6: 3,150 bedkits to date.

Today we distributed 300 bedkits in Kundgal, a rural area about an hour outside Hubli. The site was a school and the children were incredibly welcoming. They couldn't wait to shake our hands and try out their few English words on us. The Rotarians from Kundgal were also welcoming and did an excellent job organizing the day.

Gary Comerford has joined the team for three distributions and today was acknowledged by his fellow Rotarians because he contributed 700 SCAW bedkits to India. He did this by raising money, running a marathon.This is a project of Gary's and he has been running marathons and raising money for for the past seven years, with 100% of the money going to SCAW. This is his way of trying to help eradicate the poverty in India.

Gary has been a great asset to SCAW financially and also as a participant with us for three days on the Belgaum team. In this distribution in Kundgol, we had the opportunity of seeing the SCAW circle completed: Donor (Gary), Volunteers (in office and those who travel), Overseas Volunteer Organization (Rotary), and 300 beautiful Children.

We wish every donor could see the joy of the children and parents that Gary has experienced.

The Belgaum Team

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Friday, 20 February 2009

Belgaum: 700 children in Ranebennur

From Belgaum 2009 Photo Album
Day 5

On day five we departed from Hubli, a large industrial city, 100 kms from Belgaum. It was an interesting drive through the "Holland Marsh" of Karnataka: cotton, sunflowers, grapes, and grains.

The setting chosen for the distribution in Ranebennur was at a Rotarian funded school for over 1000 students.
Under a colourful canopy, 700 children waited patiently for a bedkit, sometimes for as long as five hours. Can you imagine Canadian children sitting still for that long?

Many of the parents saw their children enter through the front gate and had to wait at a different door those same five hours.
Some were mothers but one was clearly the age of a great-grandparent. He was very anxious and only relaxed when escorted into the distribution site and was able to see his child still waiting.

The Rotarians of Ranebennur and the teachers made our day run smoothly.

Smiles all around.

The Belgaum Team

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Thursday, 19 February 2009

Pune: The team is in India

From Pune 2009 Photo Album
Part of our team left Toronto overnight to Heathrow. After a daytime sleep in a nice hotel we met Wes and Rosemary and went on another overnight flight to Mumbai. After a few hours there a very tired group arrived in Pune. The Rotarians met us at the airport and took us to the YMCA. After settling in and having a lovely dinner we went to SLEEP!!!

From Pune 2009 Photo Album
This morning after our intrepid leader, Dave, locked himself and Jeff out of their room, we are doing errands and relaxing this morning before a meeting with the Rotarians this afternoon.

Tomorrow we start our distributions!

The Pune team
In top photo from left to right:
Dave Dryden, Christopher Dryden, Rosemary Burton, Jeff Dryden, Tyler Burton, Anaka Will-Dryden, Wes Burton, Sandra Dryden, Sieg Will, Theo Dryden, Debbie Will-Dryden, Judy Dryden

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Belgaum: 401 bedkits in Bailhongal

From Belgaum 2009 Photo Album
Day 4: Now totalling: 2,150

Up again early, with the call to prayer , the barking dogs, and dawn. Had a delightful two-hour drive into rural India and a small community (by Indian standards) called Bailhongal. On the way we were much impressed by streams of children and women carrying water or heading for a water pump. It is a humbling reminder of how much we North Americans take ample clean water for granted.

On our arrival the Rotarians were quick to feed us breakfast and we were delighted to see how equally quick they were to feed the children. This group of children were delightful: full of smiles and eager to shake our hands.

We had lots of help, with more than 70 youth volunteers. As always we left with warm memories of friendly Rotarians and happy appreciative children.

After the distribution we drove for a couple of hours through more interesting country scenes to Hubli, where we are now centered for the next three days.

The Belgaum Team

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Chennai: A worthy job

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
The final Distribution of the 2009 Chennai Trip occurred in a small school on the outskirts of Port Blair, Andaman Islands, India, on February 17th. The school was located in a particularly poor area with an almost impassable road leading to it.

The children here had missed our initial Port Blair Distribution because of a mix up in schedules and bus availability. They were a particularly joyous groups, full of broad smiles and bodies full of energy. It was a fitting end to a most memorable experience for all of us.

Although exhausted from the many adventures we had experienced, it was time for reflect upon some of the most poignant memories during our trip:
  • The single mother, whose husband had died of cancer, leaving her with three children to bring up ... while working at the most menial of jobs ... in a stone quarry. Oh what courage and determination.
  • The young boy whose both feet were turned in (club feet). That didn’t stop him from keeping up with his peers as he hobbled along in sandals ... just one of the gang.
  • The gaiety and effusive joy of the girls at a Girls School in Nellore who prepared for our arrival one month in advance, showing off with pride their crafts, herbal gardening, school study projects, different religions reflected in the School, their knowledge, baking and cooking, etc.
  • The smallness in many of the children who vastly under portrayed their ages due to malnutrition.
  • Listening to our hosts on the Andaman’s describe their memories of the 2004 Earthquake and following Tsunami ... especially the disastrously heavy tolls taken in their neighbouring sister Islands in the Nicobars, located south of them.
  • The skills and hard work by the many India Volunteers we met everywhere during our trip ... trying to better the lot of those in need through education and life skills.
  • And the unswerving friendship and dedication of the members of the Rotary Club and Ambattur whose support made the success of this trip possible.
There were many memories for each of us to weave together into what forms the mosaic of this trip. 6,000 BedKits were distributed to the neediest. It was our privilege to represent all our donor’s during this trip as well as having all of you who did follow our blogs, join us on our journey.

Our Team thanks you for your support and prayers.

Respectfully submitted
Tom Belton, Team Leader

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Wednesday, 18 February 2009

Belgaum: 399 bedkits at Athani

From Belgaum 2009 Photo Album
1,749 bedkits delivered to-date.

We arrived in Athani, day three of our distribution, to be greeted by a wonderful welcoming ceremony, the first of several surprises to greet us. First, the Rotarian wives put kunkum, a red powder, on our foreheads and then we were presented with a beautiful bouquet of flowers. As we walked to our site, all the children who had been waiting for over an hour for us started clapping. It was a most gracious welcome.

Our next surprise happened with our very first group, who were physically and mentally disabled ... some severely. As Duncan was getting ready to take their photographs, one of the little boys jumped up and reached for the ball which was part of the display ... a perfect example of the excitement the children were feeling.

As usually happens on a distribution, there were a couple of quiet times when numbers were being counted. At these times, we spent time with the children, doing magic tricks and singing songs. Twice today we sang with them clapping hands and stamping feet and, to our amazement, twice they sang back to us, in their own language, with their beautiful voices, which were sure better than ours.

Finally, our last surprise occurred as Duncan was all set to take a picture of three children. All was ready when a mother pig and her pigglet walked in front of the display, causing great screams of laughter by everyone. A wonderful diversion.

And, yes, the distribution went well, but at the end of the day, it was these unexpected treasured memories that will stay with us for a long time.

The Belgaum Team

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Pune: They're on their way

We received this message from our Pune, India distribution team as they gathered at Toronto airport.
"This is a picture of ten of the fourteen members of the Dryden/Burton team. The rest join us in London. We are on our way!!"

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Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Belgaum: 350 bedkits in Chickodi

From Belgaum 2009 Photo Album
Today we headed to the new distribution site in the rural village of Chickodi.

The Belgaum Rotarians guided the Chickodi Rotarians from the time they were chosen as a site until the end of a very successful distribution. It would not have flowed so well without the help of the female students from the Commerce College and Phys Ed College and the male Rotaractors.

Again the games, songs, and magic tricks from us did not fail to amuse these special children who need our help so badly. They were so happy in their fresh, new clothes and anticipated with excitment having their pictures taken.

As new volunteers, Carol and Doris truly understood why we were here.

"Hasa" means smile and smile they did, all 350 of them!

The Belgaum Team

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Monday, 16 February 2009

Belgaum: One thousand bedkits in one day

From Belgaum 2009 Photo Album
Today was incredible! We literally handed out over a ton of bedkits, and shook over a thousand tiny hands. there was an endless stream of slightly apprehensive but smiling children, who responded enthusiastically to singing and magic tricks.

With the Rotarians' excellent organization and the help of a terrific group of army cadets our initial distribution of one thousand bedkits went very smoothly.

The children waited patiently in the hot sun but were very pleased with and looked very smart in their new clothes.
there were many touching moments with lovely groups of truly charming children. It was certainly a very rewarding and satisfying day for everyone.

We look forward to an early start and another great day tomorrow.

We are sending the photo of Brian after handing out the bedkit to this young man. Who is happier, Brian or the young fella?

The Belgaum Team

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Sunday, 15 February 2009

Chennai: 200 bedkits in Havelock

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
We have just returned from what all tourist books call "the most beautiful beach in the world," where we swam, body surfed, and breathed in the sunshine (with breeze); and we are presently waiting to gather for dinner.

We had a short distribution this morning of 200 bedkits in this island called "Havelock" in the Andaman and Nicobar Islands in the Bay of Bengal. Six local schools took part in this very first distribution on these beautiful islands that suffered greatly at the time of the tsunami. The distribution went well and 200 children went home very happily.

We hope they had a swim in the clear azure waters of the Bay of Bengal.

Kristein Johnson
for Team Chennai 2009

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Mumbai: The Mumbai 2009 Photo Album

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From Mumbai 2009 Photo Album
Mumbai 2009 Photo Album

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Chennai: 508 bedkits in the Andaman Islands

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
I am writing these notes on the ferry we are taking to Havelock Island on the Andaman Islands. As typical, the weather is beautifully sunny in the 30 degree range. Two days ago, we flew from Chennai to Port Blair on the Andaman Islands. After landing, we visited Ross Island, which was a picturesque land preserve for the British, before the Japanese destroyed it during WWII, but subsequently restored to its former grandeur as a historical park.

Yesterday, we did a "slumber kit" distribution of 508 kits. At the opening ceremony, the Administrator of the Andamans, who reports directly to the federal government in Delhi, spoke, and was accompanied by his education minister. Both the Ambattur and local Rotary Club representative spoke as well; the latter did the organization of the distribution in Port Blair. Tamil, Telugu and English were spoken, and of course, Hindi is the official language. Then Tom made a brief presentation of SCAW, and introduced our team, we all sat on the podium with the parents, children, and teachers in the audience. The distribution went very smoothly with assistance from high school students and some university students. The university boys were keen on peppering us with questions about Canada.

Local Rotary members, took a keen interest in the bedkit, when we laid it out for the photo sessions – this was the first time that they participated in the SCAW program. One member offered that we should have a water bottle in the kit, apparently, the government is trying to educate people on the significance of use of clean water for drinking and he thought that a water jug would be a good beginning for the children.

Later in the day, we visited the Cellular Jail, used by the British colonials to fetter the Indian freedom fighters, a dark age for the Andamans – the Island became a penal colony in the late 1800's and evolved into a national historic site in 1966. We came back the same night to see a light and sound show at the prison and learned more about the history of the Island and British rule. Later that night we had a joint meeting with the local Rotary Club, who seem to be very interested in continuing the relationship with SCAW.

As always, the real satisfaction was from the distribution and the anticipation in the kids' eyes receiving the "slumber kits".

Andy Greiner
for Team Chennai 2009

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Mumbai: Number 22, the final distribution

From Mumbai 2009 Photo Album
Once again today, we set out for a long drive (two hours) to reach the children of Karjat.  The school was set in an amazing setting at the foothills of the mountains, which provided a beautiful backdrop.  We delivered a total of 314 bedkits to the needy children of the area — a real feat as the heat and lack of air circulation made for a very sweaty day!

At the end of this, our final distribution, we were treated to a lunch at the country home of one of the Rotarians. We relaxed in the shade and enjoyed cold drinks.
The past two evenings, much to our delight, we had the pleasure of meeting up with Duncan McGregor and his team, en route to their distribution in India. It was great to have two separate teams (twelve SCAW members) dining together overseas! (See photo in the Belgaum report below.)
We are now wrapping up all of our loose ends and looking forward to the journey home!

Happy Valentine's Day and looking forward to seeing you all soon!
The Mumbai 2009 Team

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Belgaum: The team is in India

The last two days have been a wonderful start to our distribution in Belgaum.

After arriving in Mumbai safely in the early hours of the morning on February 13th (we left Toronto at 6:30 p.m. on the 11th), we made a trip into the centre of Mumbai and saw the Gateway of India and the famous Taj Mahal Palace and Tower complex. But the most interesting thing that happened on the 13th was our meeting up with the SCAW Mumbai Team which happened to be staying in the same location as the Belgaum Team and which also had a "day off" from their distribution in Mumbai.

SCAW travelling volunteers are: (Left to right) Back row: Doug Cunningham, Carol Poirier, Vic Wilbee, Doris Alexander, Brian Tuddenham, Pat Tuddenham, Duncan Macgregor, Grace Wood. Front row: JoAnn Moysey, Lisa Remillard, Lynette Jenkins, Sarah Axelson. (Click on photo to see a larger version.)

We are not sure if history was made when the two SCAW teams met and had dinner together. It was a grrrreat event and a memory that will be treasured. Valentine's Day was spent making a tour of Mumbai - another truly memorable experience!

To-morrow, the Belgaum Team heads to the airport for our trip to the Belgaum area where we will meet up with our Partners from The Rotary Club of Belgaum. Our next report will tell you about our "baptism by fire" - 1,000 bedkits to be distributed in Belgaum on our first day of the 4,000 bedkit distribution!

"Happy Valentine's" to all our friends and families.

The Belgaum Team

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Thursday, 12 February 2009

Mumbai: Distributions 14 to 21

From Mumbai 2009 Photo Album
We are back from three days in Dahanu a few hours up the coast from Mumbai. We stayed on the beach with many "interesting views" of the Arabian Sea. On our way, we stopped in Palghar, Airport, and Boisar in order to distrubite 400 bed kits to the children.

We then stayed the night and were up bright and early to get on our way to Borivali and give out 350 more bed kits. We were greeted by a group of girls and boys playing the ledgeums- another wonderful welcome.

At Dahanu we were invited into a typical village home to see what life is really like for the children from this area. The house was made of cow dung, straw and sticks, with no electricity or windows to provide light. It was an eye opener for all of us to see.

From Mumbai 2009
Photo Album
On the way home to Mumbai we stopped in Talwada, North West, and Mulund to give out 554 bed kits. Tawada had approximately 50 students from the deaf school there. A busy day which ended with us being three hours late for Mulund because we had to go down some pretty rocky, narrow roads along -- and then we had had a flat tire along the way. We managed to get there before dark and got set up to distribute all the bedkits before the sun went down.

A very busy few days with many hours spent in the car.

The Mumbai 2009 Team

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Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Chennai: 525 bedkits & the Murray Dryden scholarship

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
Today, we got to be part of a very special ceremony.

The day started with a short trip to the Ambattur Rotary Club sponsored school in Chennai. This is a school that has increased over the past number of years from a small, thatch-roofed building to become a multi-story, fully-equipped school for grades 1 to 10. We distributed 525 bedkits to needy children who were bussed in from neighbouring schools.

When the distribution was complete, ten children (two each from grades 6 through 10) were introduced to us, and we were given the honour of presenting them with the "Murray Dryden" scholarship for academic achievement. This is the fourth year this scholarship has been handed out at this school, in memory of Murray. The scholarship, consisting of the interest from a fund set aside by the Rotary Club, was sufficient money to pay for a year of school for each of the children.

We were then taken to the Rotary Club hospital, where we had a tour of a hospital, specially built by the Rotary Club in the centre of a large industrial area to handle many industrial accidents. (There are also wings for Cerebral Palsy, Eye surgery, and Kidney Dialysis.) Two more scholarships were handed out to children of the hospital staff.

Murray Dryden's legacy continues.

Jeff McDougall
for Team Chennai 2009

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Belgaum: They're on their way

Here is the fourth team leaving for India this year. The Belgaum team's photo was taken as they were ready to take off from the Toronto Airport.

The SCAW Team consists of (Left to right): Pat Tuddenham, Brian Tuddenham, Carol Poirier, Duncan Macgregor (Team Leader), JoAnn Moysey, and Doris Alexander.

The Team will fly to London and then on to Mumbai where we will actually meet up with the Mumbai team for a day. Our distribution does not start until February 16th so we will have a few days in Mumbai to get our "sea legs."

Our next message will come from Mumbai!
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Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Chennai: The Rotary Club of Ambattur

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
The Rotary Club of Ambattur traditionally plays host to the visiting SCAW Team close to the conclusion of the Annual Distribution, to recognize and pay tribute to the efforts of the Team during their stay.

This year was no exception.

It is a semi formal affair conducted under recognized rules of Order for such "celebrations". Rotarians from some the many local Clubs were invited along with the Ambattur Club, to attend. For our part, the Team entered dressed in traditional Indian dress (please see attached photo). We were resplendent in our attire, with the women Members wearing "Sarees", while the men wore the traditional male "dhodhies" apparel.

The Headtable welcomed the Club Secretary; Thiru the Rotarian who first brought the SCAW Program to Ambattur in 1986, The Team Leader, The Club President Sumathi Vincent, The Governor Elect of the Rotary District, and the head of a visiting Rotary delegation from Brazil on a Rotary exchange.

On behalf of Sleeping Children Around the World, the Team Leader invited the Club President Sumathi, Thiru, Alban Rebello the Coordinator of the SCAW trip, and Ravishankar, Distribution Organizer, to the Head Table. The Team Leader presented a framed letter from the Board of Directors of SCAW, recognizing the 23 years of able assistance, generously given by the Ambattur Rotary Club, helping SCAW to achieve the One Millionth BedKit milestone this year.This jesture was very well received by all in attendance.

The Team Leader added in his remarks that we brought on behalf of all Donours "the Blessing of Love, the Joy of Kindness, and the Hand of Friendship" to all Indians, especially the children who received BedKits on behalf of all donours. All involved can take justifiable pride and deep satisfaction in the knowledge that we collectively played a vital roll in bettering the lives of those children in Need that we touched.

Each Team Member added their own personal remarks about how much they enjoyed their visit to India; the unselfish devotion to service by all the Rotary Clubs that participated; and for their overwhelming hospitality shown to each and everyone of us.

We are much indebted to those donours for putting your trust and faith in our Team to carry out this wonderful human event on your behalf.

Respectfully submitted

Tom Belton
for Team Chennai 2009

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Monday, 9 February 2009

Mumbai: Distribution 7

From Mumbai 2009 Photo Album
Today was the longest commute to Manor Village which was at least 2 1/2 hr drive one way.

The distribution site was held at a factory of a Rotarian member. He has 25 employees who had packed and sorted the kits for two days and helped with the distribution. The remainder of the day they were given off. We gave out 350 bed kits to children from approximately seven schools from the neighbouring villages. All went smoothly.

From Mumbai
2009 Photo Album
After being hosted for lunch we headed back home. To our astonishment we saw an elephant walking on the side of the road: our first elephant. We stopped for photos and an up-close-encounter with this amazing huge beast. Tonight we are being treated for dinner by the Rotarians.

A perfect end to a great day.

The Mumbai 2009 Team

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Sunday, 8 February 2009

Chennai: 350 children in Sivakasi

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
We arrived by overnight train in Sivakasi, to the south of Chennai. After a shower, clean up, and breakfast we distributed bedkits to 350 children.

After that we had free time until 6pm when we were to attend a fireworks show.

So – the free time! Some of us spent time swimming in the hotel pool where, for the first time since our arrival in India, our body temperatures dipped to "cool." That was great.

After the swim, it seemed normal to meander through the town. First, as one of us is a volunteer firefighter, we went to the fire hall near the hotel. That led us to an alley where one beautiful woman (wearing a dress we both thought we could wear happily at home) was laying out what looked to be straws, in the sunlight. Another woman accompanied by a small throng of children took the position of spokesperson – and though our Tamil is nil – we learned that they were part of a cottage industry for the fireworks plant in that town. They were using recycled paper, rolling it (another woman sitting splay legged in the vestibule of her company apartment was rolling them by hand faster than fast) and our lovely dressed woman glued the cylinders and dried them in the sun.

By this time, people were hanging out the windows above our rendezvous point, laughing, and trying too, to explain everything to us. One man came downstairs with a bundle of 1000 of these cylinders and we learned that they would be filled with an explosive and used to ignite a firecracker.

That night, we saw two fireworks shows: one was a nightly show that occurs every night for six months to try out new firecrackers; the other was at a Rotary meeting place in the country, put on just for us by the Ambattur Rotarians.

It just is so good. All of it!

Mary-Jo Lang
for Team Chennai 2009

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Saturday, 7 February 2009

Chennai: Ninth Distribution for 2009

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
On another typical hot (mid-30°C) day, we completed our ninth distribution in Kilpauk, Chennai at Seetha Kingston School. Four hundred bedkits were distributed to children from several schools in the yard of the school. The school is located in a former British Colonial house which was donated by a member of the Ambattur Rotarian Club, our hosts. Every room in this large house is being utilized as a classroom including what appears to be the former chapel. As well, several additional buildings on the grounds are being used as classrooms.

We were assisted in the distribution by eager enthusiastic teenage volunteers from Seetha Kingston School, all of whom spoke English very well as classes at the school are held in English, with a second language of French. What I found interesting was that English is the common language in the school as the students speak several different Indian languages at home.

Following our distribution we headed off to do some souvenir shopping in one of the largest fabric stores I've ever seen. Time and traffic permitted only one other "shopping" stop before we collected our bags for our overnight train trip to Sivakasi and a wonderful chance to see another part of South India.

Kathy Greiner
for Team Chennai 2009

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Mumbai: Day 6 — Thane & Navi

We started our distribution at Thane where we gave out bedkits to 240 children. A number of them were deaf and mute. We learned how to sign a few words of importance such as "Smile" and Thank you." The children were great and full of excitement. Later we saw them waving goodbye, crammed into an old school bus. There were approximately 75-100 children along with the bedkits in the bus.

Our second distribution for the day was at Navi Mumbai, a school that holds 4,000 children. At one end of the school they were holding a local talent show where they were doing many styles of dance from Indian classical dance, Bollywood, to rap. It was being filmed for a local TV station. Crowd control was easy for us because people were enjoying the local talent.

The distribution was well organized even though it was a Sunday. Everyone showed up and we had lots of help including many students. Before we left, they presented us with a flower arrangement to thank us for our efforts. The principal of the school was so impressed with SCAW and our work that the school is going to create a similar program to help other children in need.

Tomorrow we have a 2 1/2-3 hour drive to our distributions in Manor and Palghar. Stay tuned ... and keep the good wishes and comments coming. We love hearing from you.

Signing out ...

The Mumbai 2009 Team

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Friday, 6 February 2009

Chennai: 651 bedkits at T. Nagar

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
We travelled to T. Nagar to an all-girls private school to distribute 651 bedkits to children who came from 40 different locations close to Chennai.

Most of these children came from parents who themselves are uneducated (i.e., no schooling at all!) and 271 of the children were coastal children who would have suffered the effects of the tsunami.

And as possibly everywhere in the world, kids are kids. Some getting their photos taken smiled, some giggled, some cried, some engaged us with their knowledge of English, some were stoic and some were really interested in eyeing that bedkit, knowing it would be theirs before day's end.

All in all, a great day, despite the 34 degree temperature.

Kristein Johnson
for Team Chennai 2009

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Mumbai: Day 5 — 350 bedkits in Bhandup/Mulund

From Mumbai 2009 Photo Album
Arriving at Bhandup/Mulund we were greeted with a drum and bugle band along with two rows of girls in native costumes moving to the beat with a tamborine type instrument called a "ledge um."

We proceeded through the group of girls and took our seats on stage to be entertained. The girls danced and moved together first with flags in their hands displaying their team work and choreography. The second group of girls used the "ledge ums" doing a native Indian dance. We felt very honored. It was very humbling.

Todays distribution was 350 bed kits. It was a great day.

The Mumbai 2009 Team

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Thursday, 5 February 2009

Chennai: Nellore Report

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
Up at 5:00 a.m. and off at 6:00 a.m., this time by cars as it cost 3,000 Rupees in each direction across a State boundary for our bus. We cleared the city without much delay and embarked on our trip traveling north on a four-lane highway. The highway was as good as you find at home. That, however, is where the similarities end. The highway was thronged with all kinds of conveyances: lorries big and small, cars, buses, oxcarts, motorbikes, bicycles, motorized rickshaws — you name it. For a so-called high-speed highway there were times when the traffic moved anything but high speed. This blend of vehices sure made our driver keep on this toes and aware of his surroundings.

We arrived at Nellore at 10:30 a.m. to the greetings of the local organizing hosts, several city policemen, and scores of people. A red carpet was laid out for us to walk along to the building where our greeting was to be held. Young school girls lined the walkway, throwing flower petals over us in the traditional greeting. They were delighted to see us and made us feel like visiting Royalty.

Once inside, we saw the children all dressed in their SCAW clothing. To their deafening cheers, we mounted the stage to be greeted by the local dignitaries. Every newsman and photographer in Nellore must have been there: a phalanx literally covered the front of the auditorium we were in.

Then the entertainment began. Four beautifully dressed young girls, the youngest about 3 or 4 years old, dressed in traditional Indian culture dress, danced to loud music. It was very enjoyable for all of us to sit and watch.

Then the distribution began again, accompanied by the newsmen and photographers. There were so many that we had to hold a special photo session to allow them to "shoot" their required pictures and then leave us alone to do our work.

After the distribution, the girls at the nearby Girls Academy invited us to visit the exhibitions they had been preparing for our visit for over one month. Each classroom was a special lab, prepared to show some of the many learning activities they are involved in. They showed off their self-prepared wares for:
  • Religion,
  • Green Plant Management,
  • Horticulture,
  • Crafts,
  • Clothes Manufacturing,
  • Cooking and Baking,
  • Nursing and Wellness.
On the second floor there were more displays depicting the core studies program such as:
  • Social Studies,
  • Law Enforcement,
  • English Language,
  • Their own Teluga Language,
  • Hindu Language,
  • Mathematics,
  • Biology,
  • Geography,
  • Digestive Systems,
  • Space,
  • Music and Dance.
We were all amazed to see the detail and extremely high quality of the students' presentations. Some of our hosts wanted to push us along so we could go to a luncheon that was awaiting us, but the Team Leader sure put a stop to that! How could we waste such a well-prepared thing such as this? We spent close to one hour going into the classrooms and examining the unique displays. It truly was inspiring.

The young girls, aged 12-15 years of age were so happy that we took the time to visit them. Their excitement and honest inquisitiveness were a delight.

Afterwards, we proceeded to the home of one of our sponsors/hosts for a sumptuous lunch. Drinks, traditional Indian cuisine, and some Westernized dishes left us "fully" satisfied. At 5:30 we headed back down the highway most grateful for one full day and the 400 children who were beginning to settle down in their new beds for the first time.

Tom Belton
for Team Chennai 2009

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Mumbai: Day 4 — Vasai & Bhiwandi

Grace & bedkit recipients in Bhiwandi.
Click for larger version in Mumbai 2009 Photo Album
Today we visited Vasai and Bhiwandi and distributed approximately 400 bedkits to the children.

We travelled 1.5 hours to Vasai this morning passing many interesting sights along the way. We saw brick manufacturing sites which had workers out in the field mixing the compounds and carrying bricks on their heads. We also saw local cattle, goats, sheep, and dogs wandering freely throughout the community.

We were greeted by the Rotary Club members and given traditional "har" which are similar to hawaiian leis. We felt very welcomed and as though our work was really contributing to their community. They were very thankful.

Our drivers mentioned that the area was 70% Muslim and 30% Hindi. It is apparently common in larger centers to have a diverse mix of these two religions living together.

The children were a pleasure and very well behaved, which seems to be the case at each school we visit. It is amazing that, though we don't speak the same language, we are able to communicate with a simple smile. Sometimes the simplest things can create the greatest impact.

Tomorrow we are off to Bhandup/Mulund and Dombivli to distribute over 300 bedkits.

More to come ...

The Mumbai 2009 Team

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Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Chennai: 342 bedkits in Porur

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
February 4

We went to Porur today and distributed 342 bedkits. The event was organized at the school by Round Table 94, a service organization consisting of people under 40 years of age. They focus on fundraising for school facilities for poor children, defined as family income of about $2 per day or less. The service group also builds the school facilities.

The children at the Porur school were already dressed in their SCAW uniforms and as soon as we stepped into their classrooms, they stood up from their sitting position on the floor and greeted us in English, very enthusiastically. A bunch of high school students were assisting us in distributing the bedkits. Interestingly, the current president of Round Table 94 is an immigration advisor, working with a Canadian immigration lawyer, serving clients in the Chennai area, who are trying to immigrate to Canada.

We took advantage of some spare time we had to go shopping, to walk along the beach and visit the Church of St. Thomas, one of three churches worldwide built on the tomb of one of the Apostles. The other two churches are in Rome and in Spain.

Andy Greiner
for Team Chennai 2009

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Mumbai: Day 3 — 360 More Bedkits

Today we visited the towns of Ambarnath and Kalyan to distribution a total of 360 bed kits. We travelled two hours each way in order to reach the distribution sites. With the traffic in Mumbai - it was quite a trip.

Our welcome at Kalyan was truly amazing. We were met with a musical band including drums and bugles as well as each was given flower necklaces (leis), roses, and showered with flower petals. Truly an amazing experience.

The students also created coloured chalk art as a symbol to welcome us to their school.

After the bedkits had been distributed to show their gratitude, the local women performed a "long life" blessing ceremony for each of us. Following this we all enjoyed lunch in the teachers rooms with our Roterary counterparts.

We are looking forward to Vasai and Bhiwandi tomorrow.

More to come ...

The Mumbai 2009 Team

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Tuesday, 3 February 2009

Chennai: 681 children in Kumaran Mahal

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
Tuesday, February 3

Today was the last day of our 3-day road trip to the Vellore area. We left the guest house of the Golden Temple in the morning and drove to the bustling town of Kumaran Mahal, Sathuvacharry where the children, all dressed in their new school outfits, waited for us in a beautiful marriage hall.

681 children received bed kits and left the area happily toting them home. Lots of happy children!

We finished about 3pm and one of the Rotarians, Chan, took us to a project he has worked on: a workshop for physically-handicapped women. He employs 136 women, all physically-handicapped in some way, who assemble parts for the automobile industry in India. It was incredible to see. There was a whole gamut of jobs being done.

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
One of the women was doing the final test for a car's lighting and horn systems, while others worked at circuit boards, and the last two ladies we saw worked together, one cutting pieces of scotch tape, the other rolling cardboard pieces about 1 inch long to a specific diameter then taping the cylinder, and tossing it into the box - to be used, I suppose, to protect a screw of that dimension when the product is sent to Tata Engineering or the other car part makers involved.

The women are on salary and share in the profits of the shop. They have health benefits and some insurance (I think) and Chan himself takes them on a 3-day holiday each year.

As well, with the help of the government who provided the land, a house with "proper toilet and kitchen, and measuring 210 square feet," is registered in each employee's name. The cost to each woman for her house is 5,000 rupees ($163.93 Canadian).

It was amazing to see, and all in all, a very good day.

Mary-Jo Lang
for Team Chennai 2009

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Mumbai: Day 2 — 230 Bedkits

From Mumbai 2009 Photo Album
Today we visited schools in Andheri and West Coast Mumbai to distribute 230 bed kits. The drive took one hour and a half due to dense traffic which was an adventure in itself. Cars, people, and animals coming at us in various directions that made driving a challenge.

The children were eagerly waiting upon our arrival with smiles from ear to ear. The girls were dressed in brightly colored polka-dot dresses and the boys in shorts and golf shirts. The children were very excited to see their bedkits and laboriously dragged them away.

Our Hindi is slowly improving with each distribution.

One of the distributions was in a more rural area of Mumbai with a long stretch of road leading up to the school. A Rotary Club member mentioned that the road closed each night after midnight due to the fact that wildlife such as tigers roam the area.

From Mumbai 2009 Photo Album
The teachers open the school early each morning so that when the children walk down this road they know that it is safe to do so. At the end of the distribution a Rotary member invited us home for a wonderful lunch, The scenery was spectacular. We enjoyed coconut water and fruit before leaving.

More to come ...

The Mumbai 2009 Team

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Monday, 2 February 2009

Chennai: Two distribution sites today

Singing the alphabet.
From Chennai Photo Album 2009
February 2, 2009

Today was a very busy day. We completed two separate distributions, with very little time for other activities such as food.

The first distribution, at Sri Puram, was delayed even though the children, the bedkits, and our team were all in place. While this could have been frustrating, it turned into a great time of interacting with the beautiful children from this area of the world. Their spoken English was often limited to "How are you, I am fine", but these children did know how to sing the alphabet and recite "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", and they did this for us with great enthusiasm. They loved shaking hands and laughing at our attempts to say simple things to them in their language.

The second distribution, at Gudiyatham, started as soon as we arrived, and went quite late. Our Rotarian hosts were very gracious in supplying us with water and food while we worked. Again, the highlight was the time that we spent talking with the children, who were both shy and curious about us.

Seeing these beautiful children, and the hope in their eyes as they accept the bedkit, is truly gratifying. I think we will all sleep well tonight.

Jeff McDougall
for Team Chennai 2009

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Mumbai: Distributions are underway

The SCAW 2009 distribution team to Mumbai, India consists of Vic Wilbee, Grace Wood, Sarah Axelson, Lynette Jenkins, Doug Cunningham, (Team leader), and Lisa Remillard. We left Canada at 6 pm on the 31st of January, 2009 for a two-week distribution of 4,000 bedkits in the Mumbai district.

The photo shows us at Toronto Pearson Airport.The plane was delayed leaving for one hour as we had to be "de-iced" before take-off as we left in the middle of a raging snow storm! We finally made it to our destination at 1.00 a.m on the 2nd of February (My - how time flies when you are having fun ...)

Later in the day we visited the "Gateway to India," opposite the Taj Mahal hotel - and you can see how happy we are to have escaped the cold.

Tuesday, the 3rd of February saw us doing two distributions: one in Mumbai central and the other in Chembur - a sample of our Bedkit is in the next photo. We were impressed with the quality of the items in the bedkit and have been delighted with the children who have been chosen to receive them.

We will keep you posted as the trip continues.

The Mumbai 2009 Team

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Sunday, 1 February 2009

Chennai: 567 Bedkits in Thiravullur

From Chennai Photo Album 2009
February 1, 2009

Wow! What a day!

We started our day with our second distribution of this trip. We travelled through busy Sunday morning traffic to Thiravullur where we were greeted by over 50 young volunteers - from the National Service, Girl Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Junior Red Cross - and the local welcoming committee which included Mr. Vanket, whose grandfather founded the school at which we were distributing.

After we were formally welcomed and each presented with a ceremonial necklace, we quickly set to work distributing 567 bedkits; in this task our job and process was pleasantly assisted by the young volunteers.

Having finished our distribution, we headed off to Vellore and the Golden Temple, enjoying a delightful traditional South Indian meal at a popular highway stop on the Chennai - Banlgadesh highway, hosted by our accompanying Ambattur Rotarians who explained our foods to us.

On our arrival in Vellore, we headed to the magnificent Golden Temple. The structure is incredible, recently completed with a long walkway on which the Amma's sayings are displayed. The temple itself is completely covered with gold. In the evening we attended a puja and had a personal audience with Sri Narayani Amma, the 33-year old founder of the Golden Temple. We will be spending the night at the retreat attached to the temple.

I must say, it was a unique way to spend my birthday.

Kathy Greiner
for Team Chennai 2009

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