Monday, 31 January 2011

Chennai: Tiruchchirappalli

From Chennai 2011
We spent a little over five hours riding on a train and enjoying the countryside. A whole new angle at seeing India's marvelous country with many rice paddies and farms along the way.

We were greeted by our wonderful Rotarians and brought to a lovely hotel in the city of Tiruchchirappalli (Trichy). We awoke the next morning to a delightful buffet before we set out for our third distribution.

Travelling on the country road for a short period of time we reached our destination at a college gymnasium that is still under construction. Here we set up the bedkits and the children started to arrive. Some of them had been travelling before sunrise to receive a bedkit -- what real troopers these young children are.

Working with SCAW comes with great happiness knowing that we all made and are making a difference in many peoples' lives; and seeing these children smile when they receive the bedkit comes with the greatest feeling of all -- the feeling of love, the love one gets after helping one another.

Dante Racioppo
for the Chennai 2011 Team

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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Chennai: Avadi

Our first distribution of 412 bedkits at Avadi was very successful.

The children arrived nervous and excited, but the kindness of the Rotarians and their helpers made the day run smoothly.

I was able to talk with several of the mothers of the children who received bedkits. These women were so grateful for the contents, as they had a chance to touch and handle the items of an open one. Such an appreciation was so heartfelt that I truly was humbled.

A great day was had by all.

Roberta Harris
for the Chennai 2011 Team

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Friday, 28 January 2011

Chennai: The team has arrived

Click for Chennai, India Forecast
Just to let you know that we have arrived in Chennai to a warm welcome from our Rotarian OVOs.

Today we attended a pre-distribution meeting and met all our fellow volunteers. The Rotarian Club of Ambattur presented us with tee shirts to commemorate their 25th Anniversary working with SCAW.

Every effort will be made to send daily reports as we ere expecting to travel on several nights.

Eileen Rademacher
for the Chennai 2011 Team

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Thursday, 27 January 2011

Kolkata: Mission Accomplished

Click photo to go to the Kolkata Photo Album

Boo hoo, it's over.

I would be lying if I said we didn't have tears in our eyes as we escorted the final six children hand-in-hand to receive their bedkits. As we realized that we will no longer have the daily contact with the children we reminisce about our time together with the children and each other and laugh and get sad over our life-changing experience.

Thank you to all the donors. We have been blessed by having the opportunity to be the ones who physically handed a bedkit to each and every child.

As we head home to our own families we will each be leaving a little bit of our hearts here in Kolkata.

Team Kolkata 2011

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Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Kolkata: Day 8

The Bedkit

Today we had the privilege of seeing how the bedkits that were distributed last year are being used in the children's homes. At the distribution in the village of Howrah, an hour and half north of Kolkata, we visited two homes of past recipients. An extended family of nine shared a pristine two-room mud hut. This home had hard-packed dirt floors with and bamboo and mud walls that are said to last five to six years.

The cherished items they received last year are well used and are in top condition. The mosquito net and mattress were on the family bed and offered comfort and protection for the whole family. The baby was sleeping in a saree hammock and toothbrushes were placed in a cupholder on the mudbrick wall in the small shared courtyard. No matter how poor the people or how small the homes, they are organized, tidy, and spotlessly clean.

Each of the recipients had said these gifts had improved their lives and they were extemely grateful. The families invited us back anytime we were visiting Howrah.

We continued our day and successfully distributed 731 bedkits to the children.

Marianne Langford
for Team Kolkata 2011

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Kolkata: Slide Show 3

Monday, 24 January 2011

Kolkata: Day 7

The long, winding, and bumpy road to our Day 7 distribution in Kakdwip took us to a small remote village along the way. It was the home of one of our overseas volunteers. We stopped for a short coconut break. We wandered along the narrow pathways in the village and we were invited in as honoured guests by the the villagers.

It was an extended family of four brothers, their wives, children, grandchildren, and mother all living under one roof. it was a cottage industry where two of the son's wives were adding bead work and intricate details to colourful saris. They told us that they work between two and three full days to earn about 300 Rupees (about $ 6.50) when the saris are completed.

After a short visit and introductions we continued the forty-five kilometres to our bedkit distribution for the day.

We spent four hours under sunny skies and 35°C to complete our 737 bedkit distribution.

From the smiling faces we know there will be 737 children getting a good night's sleep so they are ready to face the next days challenges and attend school.

Thanks to our donors.

Edie Haslauer
for Team Kolkata 2011

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Sunday, 23 January 2011

Kolkata: A Visit to Mother's House

We had the privilege to visit Mother Teresa's house in Kolkata.

All of us were touched by the serenity of the residence close to the chaos of the street. Some time was spent in reflection at her tomb and we viewed her spartan room.

A brief visit to one of her orphanages was moving. It's miraculous that a tiny woman from Albania had such an impact on the disenfranchised of the world.

Murray Dryden's project started from a small distribution and grew until the millionth bedkit was given last year.

We feel blessed to be a part of the Drydens' vision and feel gratitude to the donors who help us carry forward the sharing of bedkits.

Gail Tedford
for Team Kolkata 2011

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Saturday, 22 January 2011

Kolkata: Day 5

We're on the road to Basirhat. It's a long drive along a bumpy and windy road. There are detours and town signs that are not complete.

We see a 16-foot van turn on a 12-foot-wide street.

We're heading to the Ganges and are within a 5-minute walk to the border of Bangladesh.

We're welcomed by conch horns trumpeting and anointed with oil ... the smell of incense ... candles blowing and a Hindu blessing ... presented with bouquets of flowers and showered with marigold petals. We have all been on vacations before as tourists ... now we feel like travellers immersed in the local customs and ways of India.

Eight days ago, when landing in Kolkata, who would have thought that today when we sat down to eat with our Overseas Volunteer Organization partners after a long and dusty day we would find ourselves mixing our Dal and rice with our fingers and eating with our hand just like our new friends.

Oh Kolkata!!

Warren Wagstaff
for Team Kolkata 2011

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Thursday, 20 January 2011

Kolkata: The fourth distribution

It can't be!!!

On our fourth distribution day, we arrived in the village of Barrackpore, about an hour outside Kolkata, to an open field surrounded by waiting parents and children. The Rotary Club members were eager to help us transform this barren area into our SCAW distribution site.

From Kolkata 2011
After setting up the bedkit display against a beautiful rustic background for the photos of the children, we waited for the trucks with the bedkits to arrive. We went to meet the future bedkit recipients and their parents.

As we meandered through the long colourful line, shook hands, and photographed the incredible faces, I began to shake a little boy's hand. He was wearing a blue knit sweater with two white reindeer. As i shook his hand and looked at the sweater, my thought process was as follows: "I've seen that pattern on a sweater before ... It is definitely Canadian ... It looks familiar ... My boys had sweaters just like it."

And then it hit me. My mother knit my sons sweaters just like it years ago. I gave them away to a charity a few years later. In my emotional reaction to this discovery, I checked for a label to make sure I wasn't going crazy and that maybe it was a storebought purchase. No label. It was a hand-knit sweater. What are the chances that this could be one of the two sweaters my mom knitted a lifetime ago? This little boy halfway across the world may be wearing a sweater my boys wore. I am shaking as write this blog still in disbelief thinking that this could not possibly be a reality.

I just know that this SCAW distribution in a little village outside Kolkata is where I am supposed to be at this point in my life and that, maybe, my mom agrees.

Marianne Langford
for Team Kolkata 2011

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Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Kolkata: Poetry from India

Hold on to your hats!

Women carrying bowls of dung,
Mangy dogs, baby goats,
Cocky roosters and runaway cows,
Dotted lines that don't mean a thing,
Whoever honks the loudest merges,
Signs, that say, "Obey traffic rules,"
Green bananas lining the streets,
Chickens huddled in large cages,
Villagers meeting at the market,
Locals waiting in the rice paddies,
Open-air butcher and barber shops,
Rickshaws, carts, bicycles, and buses loaded with bedkits,
Multi-coloured sarees,
Children with smiles,
Sunset over the Indian mustard fields.
Another day of grateful children, families and SCAW volunteers!

Marianne Langford
for Team Kolkata 2011

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Sunday, 16 January 2011

Kolkata: The team is complete

From Kolkata 2011

Special thanks to Rotarian K. B. Ghosh for emailing us the pictures and blog post.

You can see more in the Kolkata 2011 Photo Album.

Team Kolkata has arrived!!!!!

Shown in the photo above are (Left to right) Back row: Gail Tedford, Warren Wagstaff (Team Leader). Middle row: Suzanne Silverberg, Marianne Langford, George Foster. Front row: Edie Haslauer.

Over the past 24 hours each member of the team has made his or her way to Kolkata. Regardless of the time of day of arrival -- 10 pm, 10 am, or 1 am -- each member of the team was met by the smiling faces of our hosts, the Rotary club of Dum Dum and their wives and were presented with beautiful garlands which perfumed the air.
From Kolkata 2011

As each team member arrived they joined the welcoming committe and our numbers grew till we were all here ... The team is now complete!!!!!

With bags stowed in the cars, the new arrivals were whisked through the streets of Kolkata, experiencing the sites, sounds, smells, and colours of our new home for the next two weeks. It is a jumble and assault to the senses as we are all weary and a little sleep-deprived and disoriented after twenty four hours of travel -- but we perked up instantly at the excitement that was all around us -- and we can't wait to see children in a day or so ...

Warren Wagstaff
for Team Kolkata 2010

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Saturday, 15 January 2011

Kolkata: The team has arrived

A message was received by telephone from Kolkata this morning. The team wants you all to know they are preparing for a distribution of 6,500 bedkits in Kolkata, India.
"We have no Internet access at the moment.

"We have all arrived safely and were greeted warmly by the Rotarians and then enjoyed a sumptuous dinner hosted by the Rotarians. We have also visited the facility where the bedkits are being bundled and are impressed with the quality and number of items in the bedkits.

"We are all excited about the adventures to come."

Warren Wagstaff
for Team Kolkata 2010
As soon as more information arrives, we'll post it here.

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Thursday, 6 January 2011

Chennai: The team prepares

Sleeping Children Around the World's Chennai 2011 travelling team met at SCAW Headquarters, 28 Pinehurst, to prepare for their distribution of 6,000 bedkits in Chennai later this month.

Pictured Left to right: Dante Racioppo, Karen Morgan, Doug. Cunningham (Team Leader), Eileen Rademacher, Roberta Harris, Don Harris.

Click photo to see a larger version.

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