Sunday, 28 February 2010

Kenya: The team has arrived

The Kenya 2010 Travelling Team
Left to right: (Back row) Kay Mountford, Nitin Shah,
Alan Ingram (Team Leader),Patti Penny,
(Front row) George Foster, Helen Scutt.
From Kenya 2010 Photos
Safely arrived after a long but pleasant flight to Nairobi. Settled into our lodgings which are basic but comfortable.

Today we met with the Nairobi Rotary Club members for briefing on their progress with organization of the bedkits and preparation for our distribution tomorrow. We are eager to begin (with Pinball Clemons Foundation as the first donor label).

Hoping the rain will hold off until after our distribution is completed.

The 2010 Kenyan Team,
Alan Ingram, George Foster, Kay Mountford, Helen Scutt, Patti Penny, Nitin Shah

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Saturday, 20 February 2010

Pune: Two very important days

Days 6 & 7

On Thursday, we celebrated the successful distribution of 4,000 bedkits but there was still much more to come!

From Pune 2010 Photos
On Friday, the Rotarians took the team back to the area north of the city where the Pune 2009 distribution had been held. How had the bedkit items stood up after one year’s use? Had all items been useful? Did the caregivers and children have any advice for us?

The three-hour drive took us to Sarole Pathar. We visited homes and had an amazing “town hall” meeting in a schoolroom with parents, education officials, teachers, and children. Over 100 participants in a 24' by 20' room talked about the bedkit items for over an hour. Much was learned including their preference for an umbrella instead of the raincoat (to provide shade as well as protect from the rain), and their desire to alter the quilt so that it could be washed more readily.

From Pune 2010 Photos
Saturday was more of a catch-up day with some team members writing their newsletter articles and others shopping. Jean and I went to a school site in a Hindu temple where students had received bedkits two years ago. Here we met with two groups of parents, teachers, and children, as well as visited homes.

On both days it was evident that the bedkit items had been used, had had a positive impact on the children’s lives, and had been so valuable as to have been repaired by hand in many cases so that they would remain functional well beyond a normal life span. The bedding items tended to last longer than the clothing and school supply items.

Saturday night it was the Rotary Club of Pune’s Wrap-Up dinner celebrating their involvement with SCAW and their success with a Rubella program: great food and great fellowship. Before the festivities we had a one-hour Post-Distribution Meeting so that all volunteers could pass on their opinions on our successes and areas where we could make things even better.

This morning as I write this blog the team is preparing to depart in a variety of directions. This is a great SCAW team: hard working, caring, fun to be with, they are the perfect match for our Rotarian and teacher partners. My thanks to them all!

Dave Dryden
Team Pune 2010

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Friday, 19 February 2010

Mumbai: Mission Accomplished

Day 12

Well, we've done it! 4,000 bedkits have been distributed to needy children in the Mumbai area of India, and the team is tired and very happy! Thanks to all our donors, families, and friends who have helped support us financially and emotionally on this trip. Your enthusiasm has made all of this possible.

As Team leader, I have given the task of "Blogging" to the other team members as I have had the pleasure of doing other daily "house-keeping" tasks associated with the distribution. This is now my opportunity to acknowledge the incredible job that Faith, Julie, Joyce, Richard, and Russ have done in ensuring that the children have received their bedkits. Special mention goes to Raj Reshamwala, the co-ordinator of the Mumbai distribution and all the members of the 68 Rotary Clubs we have worked with. None of this would have been possible without the help of Ballu, our driver, translator and site manager. We would have been lost without him.

The team has been shown nothing but kindness and hospitality throughout our time here and our Rotary hosts keep telling us just how much the children and their families appreciate the kindness of our donors.

Danyavad and Namaste to you all. (Thanks and Good night).

Lynette Jenkins
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Thursday, 18 February 2010

Pune: Tamhini

From Pune 2010 Photos
Day 5: Our Last Distribution Day

We drove to a place called Tamhini about 68 Km. outside of Pune. We were surrounded by beautiful mountains and a winding lake.

A school band received us, all in fancy dress-up and playing their instruments. They paraded us into the schoolyard. As has been the custom every day we were anointed on our foreheads with the customary coloured powders and handed a flower.

The children were already in place sitting orderly on the ground waiting for our instructions. We handed out 539 bedkits today.

From Pune 2010 Photos
This was the fifth day that I had the chance to observe these kids. What comes to mind is “great discipline.” There was not one incident of pushing, rough housing, etc. After handing out 4,000 bedkits I have to commend the parents and teachers for a job well done.

The day ended with a daily meal shared with some students. They sat on the floor, plate in front, heads bowed, eyes closed, hands folded, and sang a prayer: a touching moment!

After a ceremony of speeches and gift receiving we departed.

A most fulfilling day!

Erika Zecha
For Team Pune 2010

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Belgaum: Mission Accomplished

From Belgaum Photos 2010
Our last distribution was in a rural area centered in the town of Kundgol. 300 children received bedkits and the local Rotarians (a small club) worked hard to host the distribution in a local school. As our distribution of 4,000 bedkits in the Karnataka area comes to an end, we pay tribute to hundreds of volunteers and Rotarians who made it possible for our SCAW team to take photographs for our donors and to hand out the bedkits on behalf of our many wonderful donors.

We would also like to pay tribute to our 7th member of the SCAW Belgaum Team: Manjunath, our driver. Not only did he get us safely to and from each distribution site, he was with us at each site volunteering his time from start to finish and helping us interpret the needs of the children and volunteers. The Sleeping Children program is just like a big circle starting with our donors, followed by the volunteers in the SCAW office who pass the baton to our exceptional Overseas Volunteers (The Rotarians headed by the Belgaum Club) and then back to our donors with pictures and newsletters.

From Belgaum Photos 2010
At our last meeting with the Rotarians, we celebrated SCAW's 40th Birthday, with Judy Dryden cutting the cake as we sang "Happy Birthday to SCAW!"

Here ends our distribution in Karnataka. "Thank You" to all who had a hand in this wonderful adventure. 4,000 children are sleeping peacefully tonight in Karnataka, India. WOW!

Team Belgaum

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Mumbai: Wada

Day 11

We drove from Mumbai about three hours and covered about 90 kilometers. We first went to a remote tribal school. This was the first time a Canadian had visited the school. The kids were waiting patiently when we arrived. After the distribution of 100 bedkits the boys entertained us with a walk on their hands and other acrobatic feats. The girls sang and danced with candles. This is another dormitory school where the kids stay during the week and only go home on the weekends.

The second distribution was nearby at the Saloni Farm. It was a beautiful setting in the mango trees and teak trees. Here we gave bedkits to the 325 children. Some children were brought about 40 kilometers. On the way home we observed a group of 51 kids in one truck including the bedkits and back packs. A very full load.

On the drive out from the farm we saw other bedkits on their way. The Rotary members treated us to a farm lunch after the distribution.

Another successful day. We have now delivered about 3600 bedkits to very needy children. Thank you donors in Canada.

Russ Hope and Richard Poth
for the Mumbai 2010 Team

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Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Pune: Jamgaon

Day 4

We met 1011 beautiful children from 33 schools today. Each school was represented by at least one teacher.

Some of us had fun with the children before the distribution started. They enjoyed demonstrating their English language skills by chanting English rhymes.

After the distribution we talked to the teachers and encouraged them to discuss with the children and their parents the importance and use of the mosquito net.

During an interview with a parent and a school supervisor we learned that the blanket and mosquito net were very important. The mosquito net was valued in the prevention of both malaria and dengue fever.

Jean Bennett
For Team Pune 2010

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Mumbai: Dahanu and Sutrakar

Day 10

Both distributions were an interesting drive from our beach accommodation. The homes were much like what we've seen each day but the children were bright cheery and waiting in anticipation of the day ahead. With help from the local Rotary members the morning went smoothly and efficiently.

The afternoon had the students entertain us with music and dance from their tribal villages. The children had been transported from villages in the mountains on a long and rough trek. We were thrilled to be able to pass the bedkits to them

It continues to be a rewarding and special time for all of us.

Faith Clark
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Belgaum: Hubli

From Belgaum Photos 2010
Day 6

This is the 25th year of distributing SCAW bedkits in Hubli. In their opening ceremony the Rotarians thanked Sleeping Children and paid homage to Murray and Margaret Dryden for the contribution they have made to this community over the years. The Drydens are fondly remembered here.

Today 900 smiling children took home a bedkit of new belongings designed to give them a better night's sleep and to help them be successful in school.

From Belgaum Photos 2010
We interviewed ten parents to get their feedback about the quality and usefulness of items in the bedkit. Parent interviews are an integral part of the distribution process. Their feedback is needed to ensure that we are meeting the needs of the children in the best possible way. Next year's bedkit will be designed with the suggestions of the parents in mind.

It is hard to believe that tomorrow is our last distribution day: 3700 bedkits have been given out and there are only 300 to go.

It is true that time flies when you are enjoying what you do. We feel blessed to be part of this wonderful experience.

The Belgaum team

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Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Belgaum: Ranebennur

From Belgaum Photos 2010
Day 5

We are off to an early start today. It is barely eight o'clock and the sun is already hot. We have driven 100 miles and we are welcomed like Bollywood stars. The crowd is excited and anticipating great things. We are greeted and blessed and the hosts are well organized.

There is a special ceremony welcoming Judy Dryden, daughter of the founder of SCAW. Photographs are taken in front of his portrait of yesteryear. The children are happy, and we move along.

We have 700 bedkits to distribute, and we carry on in the heat for hours. A great shout arises from the Rotarians when the numbers balance. Success!

Another great giving completed - smiles everywhere.

Tomorrow, we distribute 900 bedkits in Hubli.

David Kiddle,
Team Belgaum, 2010

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Mumbai: Warm welcomes at every turn

Day 9

I have been so impressed at the wonderful welcome we receive everywhere we go. At a number of our distribution sites we have arrived to beautiful warm smiles from the children, parents and all the Rotarians. They put these gorgeous designs on the ground with a coloured powder to welcome us they are called Rangolis and the children have put on some beautiful shows for us with singing and dancing with some gorgeous costumes.

The Rotarians have helped us with alot of details that I never realized were a part of bringing this whole project together until now that I have done this trip.

We have been invited into a number of the Rotarians homes for snacks or lunches and it so very nice of them to open their homes to us! They are very hospitable people wanting to make sure we are all comfortable and they can not thank us enough for helping the needy children of India but we also thank them for all their work, if they were not a part of our team we would have alot of trouble getting these bedkits to the children!

Julie Merkley
Mumbai Team 2010

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Pune: Pomgaon

From Pune 2010 Photos
What a day!

Our third day of distribution was totally amazing! First of all we drove through some spectacular countryside overlooking a beautiful lake surrounded by cascading hills.

Our drivers navigated along a narrow, bumpy road which wove through mountainous terrain to Pomgaon, north-west of Pune.

Upon arrival we were greeted by drummers and an elderly man playing a long circular horn. The six of us were loaded into a cart pulled by two oxen dyed pink for the occasion. With villagers on both sides of the lane this is how we made our entrance into town!

We were given a tikki (red dots on our forehead) before we began our work for the day. This was truly a memorable welcome for our team.

The distribution site was perfect and the surrounding scenery breathtaking. The children were well behaved and 422 bedkits were given out.

From Pune 2010 Photos
At the end of the day we were presented with a beautiful woolen blanket (hand woven by the villagers) to keep us warm in Canada.

We left Pomgaon with warm blankets and very welcome hearts.

Brenda Oliver
for Team Pune 2010

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Monday, 15 February 2010

Chennai: Mission Accomplished

I am pleased to confirm that the Chennai Trip and Distribution concluded yesterday with the distribution of 200 bedkits in a small Island community of Baratang Island. This brings to a conclusion a most successful trip for all of us. Our team sincerely hopes that our many blog readers have enjoyed experiencing our trip as much as each of us has in bringing it to you. The experiences we had over the last two plus weeks have been varied and many. The fact that 6,400 needy children now have a comfortable place to sleep brings a sense of deep satisfaction and pride to all of us.

The volunteers on this trip -- and on all Sleeping Children trips for that matter -- work extremely hard to accomplish our goals: to bring bedkits to those most in need. We experience all the emotional feelings when we meet and greet our needy friends. We go through extreme conditions for a prolonged period of time during these trips: almost unbearable heat, high humidity, long hours, early mornings, some sleepless nights, new diets and foods, rumbling bus rides, horrific roads, wonderful countrysides, boats and ferries teaming with people, and always a touch of danger and wonderment.

Hats off to our team of dedicated volunteers on this trip and all other SCAW trips who always do their very best to accomplish the goals of representing SCAW and our donors.

"Long Live Murray's Dream."

Tom Belton
for Team Chennai

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Mumbai: Two days in the country

On Day 8 and Day 9, the Sleeping Children 2010 Mumbai Team is in a remote area delivering bedkits. We do not have email connections. We will give an update when we return to Mumbai on Day 10. Do watch for our news.

The distributions are going well

Richard Poth
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Belgaum: Bailhongal

From Belgaum Photos 2010
Day 4

"Ee doo mee mah gah ghee" is the phonetically pronounced version of "This is for you" in the Kannada dialect. This phrase was mispronounced and generally mangled 501 times as the boys and girls received their bedkits at the Bailhongal distribution yesterday. Some children looked a bit bewildered at the fractured use of their language, but it was apparent that others understood. One girl's eyes grew big and she had a huge smile on her face as the words sunk in and she looked at the size of the bedkit bag.

From Belgaum Photos 2010
We were fortunate to have help from a group of teenage girls and boys from the National Cadet Corps. The girls helped organize the children for their photos, and the boys hauled the heavy bedkits out to the waiting families. Not an easy task in mid 30 degree temperatures.

With the 501 bedkits distributed in Bailhongal, this brings the total to 2,100 with another 1,900 to go.

Today we're off to Ranebennur for our next distribution.

Team Belgaum 2010

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Mumbai: Palgar and Boiser

Day 8

We left Mumbai early in the morning for a 3-hour drive to our next destination of Palgar.

They say India is a country of villages and it is so true. We drove through village to village, dodging cows, ox carts, trucks, autorickshaws, bicycles, mortorcyles and other cars to give out our 125 bedkits.

As we drove we could see gorgeous mountains in the distance.

When we arrived at Palgar, we set up and were merrily giving out the bedkits and all at once a cow came strolling through the distribution.

We then drove to a village called Boiser for another distribution of 125 bedkits.

Both of these distributions went smoothly and to very deserving children.

Since we were 150 km from Mumbai we stayed overnight at a hotel in Dahane. To our delight, it was across from a beach on the Arabian Sea. It was not a beach to swim at but it certainly was a nice change from the noise and pollution of Mumbai.

We have now distributed over 3,000 bedkits.

Thank you donors.

Joyce Poth
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Sunday, 14 February 2010

Pune: A Valentines Day distribution

From Pune 2010 Photos
The SCAW Pune Team wants to assure those who are concerned for our welfare and tried to contact us following the media reports of the bombing in Pune. We are all fine and continuing "Business as usual." We had no indication of the blast at 7:30 PM. Apparently it took place 4 - 5 km. distant from our hotel. Although there were bulletins on the TV News Channels we weren't really concerned.

When we awoke in the morning and read the newspaper headlines we were reassured when Aloysius Pereira, the leader of the SCAW Rotary Project visited us at our hotel. Aloysius had already received a call from Linda Webb and had informed her that our team was in no way affected by the bombing. We talked with Aloysius and all agreed to continue with our scheduled distribution at a site west of Pune.

From Pune 2010 Photos
Approaching the Day Two distribution site we saw numerous children and their caregivers on the side of the road. It wasn't long before some hitched a ride with us in our convoy of cars. I think that we were as excited as they were.

We have marvelled at the unity of purpose that exists amongst the different volunteer groups at each site. Rotarians, community elders, school officials, teachers, local youth that turn out to help, all pitching in with a common purpose to help the children in their communities. After giving out another 978 bedkits we were all tired but inspired. We just felt lucky to be spending our Valentines Day in this way.

After the last bedkit was given out we were asked to join the community in a "home-cooked" meal. It was heartwarming and humbling to be treated so kindly by people willing to share what little they have.

Tomorrow we travel further into the countryside but have fewer (493) bedkits to deliver. We're sure that it will be as inspiring as today.

Dave Dryden
for Team Pune 2010

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Mumbai: Thane and Mulund

Day 7

Today is Sunday and traffic is light. We arrived at Thane early. We set up and waited for the children. They were sponsored by eight different Rotary Clubs. Total distribution was 300 children. Some were deaf and mute. It was wonderful to see their faces when they received their back packs and the large bag. There was a large crowd of parents, Rotary members, and just onlookers.

The host club treated us to lunch at an international restaurant. We saw "potatoe fingers" on the menu and discovered that is French fries. Of course we had to order some of them. It is interesting to sit down with Rotary members and discover the work they are doing.

The second distribution was at Mulund. This was held behind some large apartment buildings at a small school. They had erected a huge canopy to shelter the children and the distribution workers from the sun. They prepared a huge welcome with drummers and young girls dressed in beautiful saris. They performed a traditional welcome dance. After a brief formal ceremony we went to work delivering about 85 bedkits.

I was responsible for several interviews with parents. They were very appreciative of the gifts. They in particular were pleased to have the mosquito net. This group all mentioned malaria as a concern. Another rewarding day for the team and 400 happy children and families.

Thank you donors for your support.

Submitted by Russ Hope
for Mumbai 2010 Team

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Belgaum: A day off

From Belgaum Photos 2010
Happy Valentine's Day from the Belgaum Team!

Today was our day off -- no distribution of bedkits -- but our Rotary partners had arranged for us to visit two "factories" in Belgaum where the clothing included in the bedkit is made. We were pleased to see that the "factories" are in fact family-run cottage industries providing employment for dozens of people.

Our first stop was to a small shop where the shirts, shorts, and frocks are produced. The quality of the fabric that is used in making these items is very good and the clothing included in the bedkit is well-made, durable, and attractive. It takes this cottage industry four months to complete the Sleeping Children order. The children look wonderful in their new clothes and their smiles attest to the fact that they are very happy with their new look! David and Duncan couldn't resist being measured for tunics that will be ready for them in less than 24 hours!

From Belgaum Photos 2010
The second stop was at the shop that produces the sweaters in the kit. They are handsome, well-made V-neck sweaters made from a wool/polyester blend. There is one mechanical knitting machine and nine hand-driven machines in this shop; it takes two months for this cottage industry to fill the order for the SCAW bedkits. Sunday is a holiday for the workers in this shop but several of them were there to show us how the sweaters are produced.

The Sleeping Children team thinks that the quality of the items in the Belgaum bedkit is very good and the three parents that were interviewed during the Chikodi distribution on Saturday agree. They are very pleased with the bedkits and are grateful to the donors for this gift.

Tomorrow, we are back to "work" and will distribute 500 bedkits. We can't wait!

Judy Skelton on behalf of
The Belgaum Team.

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Chennai: Baratang

From Chennai Photos 2010
The last distribution in Baratang was full of mixed emotions. You are happy to have delivered a useful gift, but sad to know you won’t see so many thankful little faces at one stretch for a long time.

This was our smallest number: 236. Our setup was quickly done, so we began with the children present and continued as they arrived by bus. It was my pleasure to sit with a beautiful, patient, and polite child as she waited for seven more children to arrive for the giving of our final eight bedkits.

From Chennai Photos 2010
We also had the pleasure of visiting two recipients’ homes to better understand what their daily accommodations are and see why the bedkits are such an enhancement to their lives.

Thank you Sleeping Children for giving me the opportunity and thank you to all the wonderful Indian people who made our task as easy and rewarding as they could.

Patsy Leamon

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Saturday, 13 February 2010

Pune: All is well


All is well with the Canadian 2010 Pune travelling team. The clock at right shows the time there -- about ten and a half hours later than Toronto time. Here is their first report from Pune.

It is Saturday evening and we have just returned from Andgaon, the site of our first Pune distribution. 1050 children received bedkits today thanks to the generosity of SCAW donors.

All of the Canadian volunteers were struck by these Indian children. It was a hot day (28° C) and there were delays, but they waited with a patience unexpected in children so young.

We were also struck by the spirit of our Indian counterparts, the Rotary Club of Pune Cantonment. We had met with them last night for a dinner meeting and found them interesting, delightful, full of ideas and opinions, and all with a genuine appreciation for each other. They have worked for a year on this Sleeping Children project and are happy to be seeing it through to its conclusion. They have worked hard for the 4000 children who by the end of next week will have received a bedkit.

It was a pleasure to work alongside the Rotarians, community members, and teachers from the local schools who are all determined to make the day a success for the children.

It was great to see the giddy pleasure of the children as they almost danced from the site carrying their bedkits and wearing their new school uniforms and wonderful new shoes.

Mary Jo Lang
for Team Pune 2010

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Belgaum: Chikodi

From Belgaum Photos 2010
Our third day of distributions took us to Chikodi, 72 km north-east of Belgaum.

We were warmly greeted by enthusiastic cheering from the already assembled children, parents, Rotary club members, and other local volunteers. We were presented with a garland of yellow flowers to drape around our neck. A bindi (red dot) was placed on our forehead and a blessing was bestowed on us. Six girls were standing on the stairsteps holding a sign with our individual names on it. We sure felt very welcome.

After the setup, the distribution process began in an orderly and efficient manner. This would not be possible without the crew of volunteer help organized by the Rotary club.

From Belgaum Photos 2010
Today my job was to hand out the bedkits to 350 special children from this area. I felt like Santa Claus when I presented each child with their very own heavy bag filled with 25 items. The bag was as tall as some of the youngest children. With a "Thank you" and a shy smile from some and a huge grin from others, they set off to find their parents waiting nearby. Of course one of the volunteers was needed to carry the bedkit. I'm sure the children and parents will be excited and happy today when they get home and unpack their new things.

Thanks to all our donors 350 children in the Chikodi area will have sweet dreams tonight.

Anne Andrew
for Team Belgaum 2010

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Mumbai: More moving moments

Distribution Day 6

Once again with the help of our Canadian donors we have made another group of children very happy today!! We started out this morning in the gymnasium of our hotel with a smaller group of 150 children, some of whom were deaf and blind.

My job today was getting the children all lined up and checked for their picture! Faith and I were setting them up for their picture and they were all smiles right from the start of their arrival. They were so very excited and so well-behaved. I have been so impressed all week by how these children are so well-behaved and very patient at waiting for their turn throughout the process from arriving, to dressing in their new clothes, to waiting for their picture to be taken, to the final receiving of their gift from Canada!!

We were then off to the next site: Andheri. We arrived to 225 smiling faces and another eager group of Rotarians ready to help us out. They had all the kids well-organized and ready to go!

I had three young boys that were next to go for their pictures and as they were walking up to me they were all smiles and asked me for my autograph! I laughed and they were so serious pointing at their hands and repeating, "Autograph. Autograph."

And I thought, "I can't disappoint them," so I signed their hands!! LOL!! It brings a smile to my face just thinking of their innocent faces staring up at me smiling away after I signed their hand!!

Parents, Children, and the Rotarians can not thank us enough for helping them out. It is truly an amazing feeling!

Julie Merkley
Mumbai Team 2010

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Friday, 12 February 2010

Belgaum: Second distribution day

From Belgaum Photos 2010
Our second day of distributions took place in Belgaum, which is the city where we are now based.

Today, we gave out 1000 bedkits ... it sounded like a daunting task. On arrival ,the street in front of the area was packed with parents so this had to be cleared to allow us to get in. We had an amazing greeting from 1000 children, waving and smiling at us.

The Rotarians are very organized, so the flow of processing the children was very functional. In the afternoon I had the "job" of helping to hand out the bedkits. I found this a very emotional experience, since I was being personally thanked with grateful smiles and beautiful eyes.

From Belgaum Photos 2010
I am humbled to be able to be thanked on each donor's behalf, and to witness the joy in each child's face and their parent's face, as they departed with the treasured bedkit.


Suzanne Andrew,
On behalf of Team Belgaum 2010

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Mumbai: Domivali

We have just returned from Domivali where we distributed 370 bedkits. Today is the national holiday in honour of Lord Shiva, so the traffic was less hectic.

There were ten Rotary clubs responsible for selecting the children and arranging for this distribution. It was held in a park-like setting where the main Rotary club meets each week.
Since this was a holiday, many parents were able to come and watch and the beautiful colour of the saris added to the peaceful setting.

After the children had had their pictures taken, they were to come to me to receive their bedkit and have a "smiley face" marked on the thumb of their right hand. This was to make sure each child received only one bedkit.

Often they weren't sure where to go next and so I waved to them and all at once, I would have several running towards me with excited faces. Some were in barefeet, some in flip flops, and some in shoes too big as they had borrowed them or worn their parent's shoes.

As I held each hand to make the "smiley face," I noticed one little boy with two thumbs and four fingers and another one with only two fingers on his hand. As I handed them their bedkit, I tried to make eye contact with each child and often saw a bewildered look turn to a happy smile as they finally understood that the big white bag was theirs to take home.

I always said "This gift is from Canada, with love," as I gave them the bedkit. Most of them had learned to say "Thank you" in English or would shake my hand, or give me the biggest, widest smile ever.

As I saw the parents and children leave carrying their bedkits, I waved and they waved back. I wish all you donors could have seen the waves and smiles and felt what I did. I think they all had just experienced a day they will remember that someone in Canada loves them.

Joyce Poth
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Thursday, 11 February 2010

Belgaum: Athani

From Belgaum Photos 2010
Tonight, 250 boys and girls are sleeping comfortably thanks to their new bedkits.

When we arrived in this rural village this morning we were greeted by a gallery full of children smiling and waving and 250 bags containing bedkits were laid out on the floor of the main room.

Soon afterwards the youngsters were in their new outfits - beautiful coloured frocks for the girls and crisp shirts and shorts for the boys. They thought our puppets and Duncan's magic tricks were pretty silly, so there was lots of laughter.

The Belgaum Rotarians and the Rotarians and Inner Wheel from Athani kept things running smoothly, and everyone went home happy.

Belgaum Team 2010

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Chennai: Port Blair, Andaman Islands, India

From Chennai Photos 2010
It was a hot and humid day on Thursday February 11th, 2010 when we made our way over to the secondary school in Port Blair for our second last distribution of this campaign. The first job we had, as with most of the distributions, was to find a suitable spot for taking photos. Choices were limited and we finally determined that we would take the photographs in the hot sun. There were unfortunately no shaded areas that met our needs.

All the children were inside a large hall at the school and we started off with a welcome ceremony attended by a high government official, the deputy commissioner for the area. We were met with rousing applause and hundreds of small waving hands and arms.

It’s hard to believe this is opening day for the Winter Olympics back in Canada. Even the thought of snowy hills and sub-zero temperatures didn’t help to reduce the sauna-like heat as we moved the kids through the photo area.

From Chennai Photos 2010
We attempted to keep the kids inside as long as possible. Every patch of shaded area outside the hall was occupied by parents waiting for their special child to complete the task of having an image made for the SCAW donors. Today we distributed nearly 500 bedkits and collected hundreds of smiles. The smiles are the currency with which the volunteers are paid and personally I feel we were once again well-paid.

Knowing how hot it was and how we were looking forward to cold drinks and air conditioning, I realized that the kids and their families had no such luxury awaiting them. They would need to cope with the heat and high humidity without respite. I also realized that at least one child in the family would have a bedkit to help ease the burden and for that we thank the donors.

From Chennai Photos 2010
Each bedkit carries with it a special message that someone cares for them. Someone is concerned about their well being and their plight. That someone is a SCAW donor. While the SCAW volunteers receive the thanks and the smiles, we are well aware that we are receiving these on your behalf.

Nevertheless, the smiles I collect are mine to keep and I shall hold onto these for many years to come.

Bill Baker, SCAW Volunteer
for Team Chennai 2010

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Mumbai: Abernath

On each distribution day, the jobs, excluding the photography, are a rotation for the remaining five team members. Today I had the wonderful task of putting the bedkit into the hands of all the excited little ones who have been through the routine of changing clothes, lining up and smiling for the picture, and waiting. The children today were from tribal villages and for many it was a first ride in a motor vehicle, a first encounter with 'white' people and a first visit to the 'city.' The excitement was equal for both sides of the distribution!! Watching tiny folk walk away dragging this heavy but precious gift was a reminder of how special this project is.

This was followed by an impromptu visit to the school. They had arrived back not long before us but the teachers had prepared a welcome for the Canadian visitors and we were treated to songs and a message spoken in English by a child in each class. Could this get any better?

For the children,

Faith Clark
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Wednesday, 10 February 2010

Mumbai: Three teams meet in Mumbai

From Pune 2010 Photos

Three SCAW teams meet in India: the Belgaum, Pune, and Mumbai Sleeping Children Around the World travelling teams for 2010
(Left to right) Sitting on floor: Lynette Jenkins, Anne Andrew, Judy Dryden.
Sitting on chairs: Jean Bennett, Richard Poth, David Kiddle, Dave Dryden, Russ Hope.
Standing: Suman Patel, Joyce Poth, Duncan Macgregor, Brenda Oliver, Faith Clarke, Erika Zecha, Mary Jo Lang, Suzanne Andrew, Judy Skelton, Julie Merkley.

Chennai: Ambattur

From Chennai Photos 2010
The distribution today was held at the T V Nager Educational Society.

This school is run by the Rotary Club of Ambattur. It is a Tamil medium school with 570 students attending. The school has all the regular courses as well as a computer lab and a Home Theater for educational purposes.

When we arrived at the site there was a tent-covered area with a colourful backdrop where the pictures were to be taken. Once we arrived we were able to set up fairly fast as chairs, benches and tables were moved into place very quickly. However the problem of lighting up the beautiful dark faces of the children has been a problem for our photographers so a new “toy” had been purchased and we did not start for about one half hour as they played with the new reflector. This piece of equipment was able to reflect the outside light directly at the faces of the children making it possible to see the features of the children’s faces much easier.

We also did three interviews with three separate parents and their children. An interpreter helped us to communicate with them. The parent and child were shown the bedkit and asked questions about the contents and quality of the contents.
From Chennai Photos 2010
They also were asked what two articles will be the most useful to the parent and the child, how it will affect the child’s health, etc. They were asked if there were other articles they would like to see in the bedkit and if they would like to see different questions in the questionnaire.

It appears that all parents think all the items are useful to them.

During the time that the Ambattur Rotary Club has been involved with Sleeping Children Around the World, they have provided 62,500 bedkits and 8,215 layettes to needy children and babies.

As we were starting to clean up after the distributions, we were asked to present the Murray Dryden Scholarship prizes to the ten winners, the top student in each class. Of course we were pleased to do this. Each winner was presented with 2,000 rupees, equivalent to about $46 Canadian.

From Chennai Photos 2010
In the evening we were invited to take part in the Ambattur Rotary Club meeting. Both the ladies and the men in our SCAW team were dressed by Rotary members in true Indian style. We were all asked to say a few words and Tom gave his “going away” speech. Pictures from this event will be posted either with the blog or be added to the photo album.

We left this meeting about 10 PM and made our way to the hotel where we first helped each other get undressed so we could pack the clothes we had on into suitcases to be stored in a Rotarians home. We then had a couple of hours sleep and got up at 2 AM to catch a plane to our next distribution.

Helen Brown
for Team Chennai 2010

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Mumbai: Karjit

Today the distribution was at the village of Karjt located about two and half hours north east. The driving was fairly good -- most of it along four-lane highways. We were in the country and saw rice paddies, men with oxen working in the paddies, and women transplanting the rice.

On arrival all the children (almost 400) were dressed in their new finery and waiting under a large tent. We were greeted with an elaborate ceremony and presented with roses. Some of the children sang in their native language. Following a smooth distribution we watched the children carry their bedkits home on their heads. This was followed by a traditional Indian lunch at the country home of one of the Rotarians.

Later in the afternoon we visited the homes of two children who received bedkits last year. The homes were simple buildings with only one room in the first, while the second home had three rooms. They were very clean and tidy. This visit demonstrated the value of the Sleeping Children Program.

Russ Hope
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Belgaum: Flying to Belgaum

After meeting with the Mumbai and Pune Teams last night, the Belgaum Team left their hotel early this morning to fly out of Mumbai to Kolhapur, south of Mumbai.

After arriving safely In Kolhapur, our driver, Manjunath, picked us up and delivered us to our hotel in Belgaum at 1:30 p.m.

Tonight, we meet with our Overseas Volunteer Organization, the Rotary Club of Belgaum, for our Pre-distribution meeting. To-morrow, we meet 250 children in Athani.

We can't wait! Stay tuned!!

The Belgaum Team

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Tuesday, 9 February 2010

Mumbai: Versai

An early start and Mumbai rush hour -- is there any other time in Mumbai? -- and we headed off to Versai to be greeted by crowds of people and a hall full of anxious and expectant children. All were dressed in their best, the girls in pigtails with red ribbons -- all sittting on the floor in perfect behaviour.

Once we got everyone organized the distribution went well with the Rotarians taking an active role supervising the kids as they waited their turn for photos and the treasured bedkits. It is wonderful when the SCAW team is as excited as our hundreds of recipients!

Faith Clark
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Chennai: T. Nagar

From Chennai Photos 2010
Monday, February 8, 2010

Sarada Vidyalaya Girls’ Higher Secondary School

Today was another exciting and successful distribution. We were able to sleep in till 7 AM this morning and have time for coffee and breakfast since the location was not very far from our hotel.

We were in the bus at 8 AM and on our way to our location, which was a high school for girls. The children were mostly bused in and some were close enough to walk. There were not the usual crowds of waiting parents since most of the children had arrived by bus with their teachers.
Today’s distribution provided 774 children with bedkits. Many, many children will be able to sleep more comfortably tonight.

We were ably assisted by hordes of high school students. The young women were pleasant and friendly and very good with the children. They were especially helpful with the little ones who were hesitant and anxious about the whole process.

From Chennai Photos 2010
I did the best job of all today: handing out the bedkits. It was wonderful to be able to welcome every child and look into their beautiful eyes as they received their bedkits. I noticed several children today who were mentally-challenged, several who were deaf and two little girls with Down’s Syndrome. I also noticed quite a few children whose physical size was quite small for their age.

Many of the older children had learned a few English words. When asked, “How are you?” they clearly responded, “I am fine.” They were also able to respond to “What is your name?” The high school girls translated for me when a child did not understand.

After the long line of children had made it through and received their bedkits I was able to take a photo of a large group of children sitting outside the distribution area with their teachers waiting for their bus. I asked them to hold up some special signs for me to thank my friends at home. They thought I wanted their autograph so the papers were passed around the group and I now have the autographs of some very special children. I also got the picture I wanted though. They all love having their pictures taken.

From Chennai Photos 2010
After the distribution we were entertained by some of the high school girls with special cultural dances and singing. We were honoured that they had prepared this for us.

Although tired, dusty, and dirty, the whole team headed back to the hotel uplifted by the many children who had brightened our day.

Jan Gayman
for Team Chennai 2010

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Monday, 8 February 2010

Pune: The team has arrived

Good morning,

Now there are three SCAW teams in Mumbai staying under the same roof!

This morning in the dining-room we met up with the two other teams: the Mumbai team, beginning their second day of distribution and the Belgaum team doing a city tour today.

The trip here for five members of the Pune team was uneventful and pleasant. The team members are getting themselves oriented before moving on to Pune on Thursday. The sixth member of our team will be joining us later today, as Suman has been in India since December.

All our best to family and friends at home. We are looking forward to the orientation/preparation opportunity in the next couple of days, and then on to Pune, and 4000 children.

For the children,

Team Pune 2010

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Pune: Post your comments here

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Mumbai: Navi & Sion distributions

From Mumbai Photos 2010
Our first distribution day and what an amazing day it was!!!

We started off to our first site Navi Mumbai to deliver 130 bedkits. We arrived to a very warm welcome at the front door by the Rotarians with a little ceremony that involved each of us receiving a Bindi, a sprinkle of rice on our heads and a tray with incense waved in front of us. We then entered the school where we were to meet the children that were arriving for their gift from our Canadian donors.

We set up the location and we were set to go! The first couple of groups of children were very shy and looked scared -- but as they travelled through our line they were starting to see that we were not scary after all and the smiles were starting to show. Some of them would walk right up and be so very proud as they would practice what English they knew and others just stood and smiled. They are so very sweet with their big brown eyes and their adorable smiles.

I had tears in my eyes when I noticed that some of the children arrived with no shoes on and some others had holes where their toe was sticking out. This is the reason we are here to help bring a little sunshine to them.

We were then off to our second village Sion and we handed out 105 bedkits there. The children again were so happy and thankful for their gifts that we gave them.

Julie Merkley
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Chennai: Avadi

From Chennai Photos 2010
We are here for the children and, once again, the children did not disappoint.

After about a forty-minute drive through the usual crazy traffic we arrived at the beautiful Jayagopal Garodia Higher Secondary School in Avadi for our distribution of 477 bedkits. The organizers were very efficient and prepared so that our set up took the least amount of time so far. We were told about the history of the school which helped us understand the layout, construction, and goals the supporters had set for the education of their children.

We were fortunate to have the assistance of senior male students. They were energetic, cooperative individuals who helped make the delivery go very smoothly. They treated the little ones with care as they helped them from one point to another; as well as moving all the heavy kits from a secure room to the area we needed the bedkits to be for delivery to the children.

From Chennai Photos 2010
The children receiving the bedkits were such willing little tykes from beginning to end. It is so easy for anyone to find happiness in their smiles and giggles, in their ability to accept the day as it is, in their sense of curiosity about these SCAW people who want to help them. Because they are already clothed in one of the gifts -- a shirt and shorts or skirt -- it is easy to forget how needy they are, how disadvantaged they are by physical problems and poverty.

I was fortunate to be at the “giving the bedkit” station today. It allowed me to hear their “thank you” and to see their lovely faces light up. They all just warm you from the inside out.

By the end of the delivery, the heat and work has you pretty tired; but, I had one more cause for joy yet to come. The senior boys heard that I tap dance and asked me to do so for them. I did and it was pure delight seeing what fun they had from it.

Thank you children for being the treasures that you are.

Patsy Leamon
for Team Chennai 2010

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Sunday, 7 February 2010

Chennai: Thiruvallur

We were up bright and early today, meeting our bus at 6:45 AM. Our hotel generously opened an hour earlier to accommodate our breakfast needs, and off we set for Thiruvallur, a small town located northwest of Chennai. This marks the third time I have been there making a distribution.

We arrived at a school that is sponsored by a Family Trust set up by the great grandfather of one of the Rotarians from the Ambattur Rotary Club. This generous family sponsors some five schools in the Chennai District. They support all the activities of this and their other schools, educating some 10,000 children. The school follows the State Educational Programs, but is dependent on the Family Trust for funding. This type of arrangement is not uncommon in India and accounts for a large portion of the schools. Those students who attend these schools are very fortunate indeed as the education and care is better than in the regular public system.

In Thiruvallur, we were going out some 548 bedkits to the needy. This distribution is much like the others, so I want to point out a few things of interest to you.

Today we interviewed three sets of parents along with their child receiving the bedkit. These interviews allow an exchange of ideas and opinions between the parent and child and SCAW, evaluating the bedkit as well as giving us some backgrounds about the status of things in the area where the bedkits are going. We found out:
  1. All three children do not have any mosquito nets.
  2. All three children slept on a woven mat on the clay floor of their home.
  3. All expect to improve their grades using the items in the bedkit.
  4. All will be sleeping under their mosquito nets tonight.
We spoke to one father who, in answer to what season of the year he dreaded the most, said it was the winter season when the weather was wetter. I had expected to hear that he dreaded the winter because of the cold -- but no, it was the wetness.

"Why?" I asked.

Because he would lose work. You see, he was a farm labourer who couldn't work in the fields during rainy times. Most of the people here live a "hand-to-mouth" existence and don't have savings or Employment Insurance to tide them over between work stoppages. The very existence of their family depends on steady work. No work = no food. And besides, this family has a young girl who lost her left leg when she was two years old through an accident. They need the support. Needless to say, the gift of a bedkit was very much in need and appreciated.

During the interviews, I was able to explain to the parents and child just how these bedkits came to be. They were donated by people who care. These donors know that they are donating a bedkit to someone who doesn't have a bed to sleep in. They consciously wanted your child to have a bedkit. Schools are a very important group that support the SCAW program. Children in these schools hold fund raisers; sales of toys; car washes; bake sales; used-book sales; doing chores around their homes; etc. This was very much about "children helping other children who need bedkits."

While the parent and child were listening to what I was saying, I could see they were visibly moved when they learned of the involvement of "children helping other children." They heard that the pictures taken of them earlier, would go to the donor to be hung up in schools, hung up in homes, in bedrooms, fastened to fridge doors by magnets, and otherwise displayed prominently in homes and offices, with pride. It was the donor's connection to your child and the bedkit they had paid for.

Thank you, donors, for making all this possible. Another 548 young minds and bodies are sleeping more comfortably tonight.

Respectfully submitted by
Tom Belton, Team Leader
for Team Chennai 2010

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Mumbai: Day Two

India is a country of contrasts. I woke up to the noise of the air conditioner muffling the mosque's call to prayer, the crows cawing, and the start of the traffic. I opened the balcony door and looked on to a city waking up. Two men that slept on the sidewalk were rolling up their piece of cloth. Others were washing their yellow and black taxis. Children were yelling in the park with no grass but a dirt playground. I was hit with the difference between this and my home in Canada.

From this experience I realize many people sleep on the ground and know that the children we will give the bedkits to will sleep better. I am anxious to get started tomorrow.

I thank the people of Canada who have contributed to these bedkits.

Joyce Poth
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Chennai: Nellore

From Chennai Photos 2010
Friday, February 5th
DK Government Degree College for Women

Well, today had its good and bad times, mostly I would have to say good. We were able to distribute 652 bedkits to mostly younger children. They were brought in to us at the school mostly from the countryside by bus, rickshaw, and, I expect, by car. Some were in wheelchairs or carried by a parent or guardian, from what I expect to be the grim results of polio. Some were blind and some were deaf. Some cried from fright but mostly we could get a heart-warming smile of excitement and pleasure.

The day started for us when we left the hotel in Chennai at 6 AM. It was to be a 165-kilometer drive to reach Nellore, north of Chennai. Along the way we stopped for a coffee and some breakfast that was brought to us in a bag. We encountered the usual traffic problems. One case in particular was a long bus blocking our two lanes of a four-lane highway forcing us to travel the wrong way on the other side for a short distance. Scary!!! We finally arrived at our destination about 10 AM.

From Chennai Photos 2010
What a reception greeted us. Coming off the four-lane highway the first thing we spotted were three billboards that must have been at least 20 feet by 8 feet announcing for every person in town that the SCAW team was arriving. The next surprise, when we reached the college, was a welcoming committee consisting, amongst others, of six pretty teenage girls with beautiful garlands that were placed around our necks. That was just the start. As we proceeded into the school all around our path we had more pretty girls showering us with flower petals. You can tell that you are reading the musings of an old bachelor when he talks of being swarmed by pretty girls.

During the whole day these girls constantly assisted us. Every time you turned around there was one waiting to help. The result of this is that the distribution was the fastest, most-organized and pleasant we have had so far.

After the distribution was over we were pleasantly hosted to another surprise catered lunch at the home of the Rotarian in charge of the Nellore distribution, Mr. Prabakar Reddy. We arrived back at our hotel around 10:00 PM after negotiating another traffic jam.

From Chennai Photos 2010
What can I say? In spite of our early start, in spite of our traffic problems, which are more common than not, and in spite of witnessing the hardships of the handicapped children, it was a rewarding day.

I am going to climb into my bed tonight knowing 652 children have a decent place to lay their heads as well, thanks to many of you.

Doug Cunningham
for Team Chennai 2010

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Mumbai: The team has arrived

From Mumbai Photos 2010
Nana steh or hello from the Mumbai 2010 Team. We all arrived on Friday. We have met with the Rotary Team and are planning to start our distributions on Monday morning.

The Mumbai 2010 Team are pictured at right: (Left to right) Julie Merkley, Richard Poth, Lynette Jenkins (Team Leader), Joyce Poth, Faith Clark, Russ Hope.

Please do remember if you send us a reply is is public information for all to see.

We hope to provide many updates.

Richard Poth
for Team Mumbai 2010

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Mumbai: Post your comments here

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Saturday, 6 February 2010

Belgaum: The team ready to go up, up, and away!

From Belgaum Photos 2010
The Belgaum Team leaves Toronto International Airport on Saturday evening, February 6th. We will arrive in Mumbai in the early morning hours of Monday, February 8th. On the 9th, we expect to be a part of a historical occasion when three SCAW Teams -- the Mumbai, Belgaum, and Pune teams -- meet in one spot. Watch the live reports for the pictures of this event.

The 2010 Belgaum team are: (Back Row) Suzanne Andrew from Lucknow, ON; Dave Kiddle from Milton, ON; Duncan Macgregor (Team Leader) from Toronto, ON; (Front Row) Judy Skelton from Toronto, ON; Anne Andrew from Lucknow, ON; Judy Dryden from Victoria, BC.

The Belgaum Team will start distributing 4,000 bedkits with the help of the Rotary Club of Belgaum on Thursday, February 11th.

We're keeping Murray's Dream Alive!

Team Belgaum 2010

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Belgaum: Post your comments here

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Thursday, 4 February 2010

Kolkata: Mission Accomplished

Sixty five hundred children in West Bengal are having a better night's sleep.

We have, along with the Rotary Club of Dum Dum, extended the generosity of SCAW donors to many needy and deserving children. We gave relief to those recently hit by a devestating tornado near the border of Bangladesh, visited families in villages whose gratitude was overwhelming and sobering, and gave a measure of comfort to many confined in the crowded city of Kolkata.

Thank you to all donors who made the trip possible. It was a most satisfying and rewarding experience for all of us. And Kudos to the Rotary Club of Dum Dum, who have encouraged the involvment and partnership of forty other participating clubs, enabling us to venture into remote areass.

The Kolkata distribution was a great example of friends and partners, perhaps divided by oceans, culture and diversity, but united in purpose, coming together to bring smiles to so many children and their families.

Team Kolkata 2010

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Kolkata: More photos

From Kolkata Rotary Photos 2010

From Kolkata Rotary Photos 2010

From Kolkata Rotary Photos 2010

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