Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Mumbai/Belgaum: Almost Done!

The Belgaum-Mumbai team met with the Belgaum OVP team for their post-distrution meeting and open-air BBQ last evening. After discussing each of the distribution sites, the bedkit items, the Overseas Reporting Package and finances, we thanked each other for a very successful distribution and the friendships that we have made or renewed. The team will miss these friends but will long remember the wonderful experiences that we have shared, especially the Belgaum 25th Anniversary of their SCAW Partnership and the tremendous celebration of it. In particular, we will miss our driver, Manjunath. He has been such an integral part of our team over the past two weeks and we could not of done the distribution as successfully without him. 

The distribution is not quite complete though. Our OVPs will be handing out 63 more bedkits in the next week when the bedkits are received from Mumbai. Manjunath will advise them about the set up and taking pictures. The OVPs will then post them to us to complete the distribution. Once that is done, there will be 7,000 children whose lives will have been improved in this area of India thanks to the SCAW donors.

Bill Sergeant for Team Mumbai/Belgaum
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Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Mumbai/Belgaum: Elephants, Camels and Horses

We conducted our southerly most distribution today in the city of Ranebennur. It was held in an elementary school that was ideally laid out to ensure that the distribution went smoothly. One of the Rotarians was a retired aerospace engineer who had work on the Indian space program in Bangalore until he retired last year. He now volunteers his time as an educator, mentor and counselor for young people in the Ranebennur area. One of his recent projects was to hold a space exhibition in that city so that 7,000 school children could learn about space and India’s involvement in the final frontier. He was also a great help during the distribution today, ensuring that things went as smooth as possible.

The area of Ranebennur is also known for its cotton fields and associated industries. It was also an area where we saw numerous herds of horses, something that we had not seen until today. Another unusual sight on the way back to the hotel was an elephant that was tied up along the side of the road. Due to the rush hour traffic we could not stop to take pictures of it, but it was evidently being used to give rides to those people who were willing to pay to do so. It was similar to the camels that were giving rides to the citizens of Belgaum last Sunday.

We only have three distributions to go. Tomorrow we are off to the Ashram at Yellapur, about 3.5 hours south west of Hubli.  

Monday, 25 February 2013

Mumbai/Belgaum: Nagamma

So today was a large distribution day, however I believe the team had a sigh of relief knowing that we have done 1200, so 900 can be done.  Our distribution was set in the city of Hubli, so travel time was only about 10 minutes, allowing us to get an early start.  We were told by Rotarians, that it is hotter in Hubli, so beginning in the morning was important.  They were right, by afternoon we were at 34 degrees, and not a bit of breeze.  Definitely a hot day today.

Our distribution  was set up nicely, with the kids doing a full circle.  I spent part of the distribution following a little girl to show an example of how the distributions are run. Her name is Nagamma. Nagamma is 10 years old and in the 3rd grade.  She lives in a village around Hubli.   

The distribution begins with families, and schools congregating at the distribution site. They are kept out of the compound while Rotarians sort through the identification cards they have distributed.  One by one children are let into the compound to line up.  This distribution was different in the sense that a parent accompanied the child through part of the process to take their belongings.

Nagamma and her mother came through the gate, and her id card was again checked by the Rotarians at a station, and given coupons for some of the items she was to receive.

She and her mother then moved on pick up a sweater, her new dress and petticoat, sandals, and a raincoat. This is where the coupons came in.  Just a note on the dress, each child receives two outfits in their kit, one they wear, and one in the bag.  All clothing is tailored by a man from Belgaum named Ramesh, who feels it is important to attend every distribution to ensure children are properly fitted. 

Nagamma and her mother then go into the girls change room to put on her pretty new dress.  After she is dressed she will go to a holding room, where she is called to line up for the photo, again once the Id ticket has been checked. 

At this point, mom is led out, again accounted for, and she will pass through to have her photo taken.  Children are arranged for their photo, and effort to have equal boys and girls in the photo is given.  The team then pays special attention to detail, ensuring the girls dresses are fluffed, hair is in place, boys shirts are tucked, and they are seated nicely.  I think the girls enjoy this, having a little pampering never hurts anyone. 

Once the photo is taken,  a mark will be placed on her finger to show that a bedkit has been received.  A big smile appears as she is made aware of what she is being given.  Mom is there at the gate to meet her.

She will sleep happy tonight.
Love the children
Kristein for Team Mumbai/Belgaum
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Sunday, 24 February 2013

Mumbai/Belgaum: Hubli

We had another big day, 900 bed kits, but the good news was that the site was only 15 minutes away.  So it was still cool when we arrived and the heat of the Hubli sun had not intensified.  All the pictures were of 10 children so we felt even though we had lots of bed kits to give out the process would go smoothly.  The reality is that there are always a few hiccups at the start and once they are sorted out and we figure out our role and that of the many volunteers everything seems to develop into a sort of an efficient rhythm. 

Today’s unexpected excitement and there always is some type of the unexpected, was provided by Hubli Police Dept.  Our first encounter was on the way to the site when we were pulled over for a short few minutes.  The end result was we didn’t really know if the $100 rupee (less than $5) was for a small fine or a donation to the force.  The second visit by the police was rather official and they wanted to see our event permit since Hubli was holding an election and the fear was that we were a vote purchasing rally.  Finally satisfied the police left and we continued with the distribution until we were asked to pause to take part in a presentation by the Rotarian Club.   Hubli has been involved in SCAW since the late 80s and they were proud to have present some of the original Rotarian organizers and they planned to honour them while welcoming us.  First our heads were wound with shocking pink fabric in an elaborate turban and then we were blessed, presented with sandalwood garlands and given small gifts.  Presentations were made to the original Rotarians who were first to partner with SCAW over 30 years ago and also to the present day executive.  Bill made a moving speech which was more meaningful as his parents where part of that first team that came to Hubli.   Then it was back to business as we still had more than half of the children to process.  Our job is to keep the distribution flow moving while keeping a smile on the children’s faces which in 40 degree temperatures can get a bit tricky. 

Today we tried to focus on following a few of the children as they arrived at the site, somewhat anxious, fearful, and inadequately clothed to happy and confident and proud as the bed kit was handed to them.  Kirsten found one little girl who was typical of the children today and through an interpreter explained to the mother our plan and did a photographic journey of her day.   She was followed from registration at her entry into the site to her departure.  I hope the pictures show the transformation as her expression changed into one of delight as she and her mother realize that the items in the bed kit were actually going to be hers to take home.   Helen captured one before and after shot of one more child which really tells the entire story of SCAW more eloquently than any amount of words.

Today was also a true Rotarian success story.  Simultaneously with the SCAW distribution an “Eliminate Polio” event was being carried on at the same time in the same location.  What a remarkable contribution Rotary Clubs make to the health of the children of India.

Pat Corlett for Team Mumbai/Belgaum 

Mumbai/Belgaum: Bailhongal

Our journey began today with a check out of the hotel at Belgaum, it can be a bit sad, considering a person does tend to get to know the staff at the hotel.

We drove for about an hour and a half to the city of Bailhongal to distribute 400 bedkits.  Again we arrived at a well organized distribution site, where children were excited to see us, and ready for the day to begin.  Our help was probably the best we have seen yet.  We were assisted by young military students, both boys and girls.  There were at least 25 of them, helping sort cloths, sweaters, raincoats, sandals, as well as the other jobs.

One student stuck out for all of us.  She was the Sergeant for the girls squad, and definitely headed towards success.  She could lead a country, or certainly assist women to with empowerment in India. With her at the camera with Bill, the children were seated, set up, and smiling within seconds.  This allows the distribution to go quickly, and reduce the time that they are sitting in the heat.   Awesome day.

We then drove another 2 – 2.5 hours into our final hotel at Hubli.  Greeted with a great welcome from a Rotarian and his wife, we settled in.  3 of us took a rickshaw down to the local mall for some shopping at FabIndia, as well as finding the Indian version of Walmart.  We then all headed out with the Rotarians to experience this areas local food.  We were served up on a banana leaf with a vegetarian meal.  It was a treat to have someone provide us with the experience.  Once dinner was done, we went to a tiny shop where they prepare a leaf with various thing in it, roll it up, and eat it.  It assists with digestion.  Ours contained sweet fruit preserves, as well as rose peddles.  It wasn’t necessarily my taste, but I still go home with the experience of it.  I will ask today the name of this treat, and blog it again.  

The count is down, 5 distributions to go. 

Allison for Team Mumabi/Belgaum

Mumbai/Belgaum: Silver Anniversary Celebration

We handed out a record 1,200 bedkits to needy children in the Belgaum area on the day that the Rotary Club of Belgaum celebrated its 25th anniversary of its partnership with SCAW.

We arrived at a private club that hosted the distribution in its gardens at 7:30 a.m. where the gates that we had to enter by were jammed hundreds of parents already. It took a while for the local Rotarians to clear the way for us, and once inside the grounds, we were greeted like rock stars by the waiting children. Their cheers and clapping reached a crescendo when we showed them what they were going to receive in their bedkits.
The children were fed a hearty breakfast that had been donated by the Potdar family, which they have done for the past few years. Once done, the well organized distribution proceeded flawlessly thanks to the excellent support of all the members of the Belgaum Rotary Club, the ladies of the Inner Wheel and other family relations. In recognition of the 25th anniversary of the partnership with SCAW, the Rotary Club also donated a battery operated LED lamp that would light up a 10’ x 12’, which would provide ample lighting for the children to do their homework because most of their villages do not have electricity.
The team returned to the hotel to freshen up prior to the Silver Anniversary celebrations that evening.  Dilip Chitnis, (SCAW Trust Chairman), Sanjay Kulkarni (Treasurer), and Jeevan Khatav  (AV Specialist) had organized the celebration. It included speeches by the Rotary District Governor Dr. Jorson Fernandez, the SCAW Team Leader Bill Sergeant and an emotional recorded video message by Duncan Macgregor. Dr Fernandez speech talked about the major accomplishments of Rotary in India, in particular with making India polio free for the last two years, as well as the benefits of SCAW to the most needy in their society. He challenged the members of the Belgaum Rotary to research and document what has happened to the recipients of the bedkits from 18 – 25 years ago. He wanted to publicize the impact on those recipients of having received a bedkit. One successful example cited was Amin Sheikh in Mumbai. Presentations of flowers were then made to the SCAW team and in return, the Rotary Club President was presented with a framed, signed letter by Dave Dryden and commemorative book that documented the history of the Belgaum distribution from 1988 to 2013. Dilip Chitnis was then presented with a Fanta orange pop and a kazoo by the team on behalf of Duncan Macgregor in his absence.

The celebration included the presentation of several floral arrangements to the SCAW team from representatives of the outlying Rotary Clubs who host distributions. The 25th Anniversary cake was then cut and the national anthems of India and Canada were sung.

The evening concluded in style with a delicious Indian meal and great conversation about past distributions. Many of the original members of the SCAW Trust from 1988 were present and reminisced about the four-person team that Laura Harper led on that initial distribution. They also talked about going to Hubli to learn about how to run a distribution from an OVP perspective. Ironically, the tables are turned today and it is the Belgaum Club that is providing the expertise and advice to the other clubs who are organizing the distributions.

Bill Sergeant for Team Mumbai/Belgaum 2013
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Friday, 22 February 2013

Mumbai/Belgaum: 1200 Bedkits!!

Today we faced a monumental challenge. Could we really distribute 1200 bedkits in one single day distribution? No one has ever done this before.

We left the hotel before 7:30 this morning for the 10 minute drive to a recreation complex in Belguam. As we turned onto the street where the gates of the complex were located, we noticed that the street was already jammed with parents trying to get close to see their children.

Once inside the gates we were given a great welcome by approximately 300 children that were already there waiting for us. We got things setup and by 9AM were ready to start the distribution.

This was the 25th anniversary of the first Belgaum distribution and the Rotary Club were there in full force to help make this went as smoothly as possible. The venue was setup really well with no chance of kids crossing lines and getting out of sequence.

Once we got started, everything moved like clockwork. We were busy, but time flies by when things are running smoothly and the sea of smiling faces and high fives energized the team and kept us going.
All too soon it was done. We were having such a good time that we could have kept going for a couple more hours, which would be about the amount of time we all thought that we would be there anyway.

Thanks to the Rotary Club of Belgaum for making this such a great experience, and thanks to all the extremely generous people who donated bedkits for this historic distribution.

Tonight we are going to a 25th anniversary celebration with the Rotary Club and I am sure that someone on the team will be bloging about that later.

Jim Howley for Team Mumbai/Belguam 2013
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Thursday, 21 February 2013

Mumbai/Belgaum: Ramdung

In this blog I fully intended to describe todays distribution in Ramdung and tell you all about the almost 3 hour journey it took us to get there.  You would of read about little villages waking up, children getting dressed in their school uniforms and farm workers making their way across the sugar fields to start the day.   I also was going to mention the interesting fortress which dates back to the years  when Britain ruled India. 

However instead I am going to share with you our adventures on our return to the hotel.  Sometime on the long trip home we decided we needed some "down" time and felt a Belgaum shopping spree would be the answer.  Bill had his afternoon planned and Jim needed rest so the remaining female team members, Allison, Kristen, Helen and this writer convinced a rather reluctant rickshaw driver to accommodate 4 and with the help of the front desk instructions to the city market, off we went.  Not that Bill was concerned, but he did arm us with the team telephone, Dilip's card and of course the hotel card to show the driver where to bring us home.  On  the way we had to hold the door closed so Allison wouldn't fall out but it was a short trip and we managed to hang on to her.   When we unfolded from the rickshaw it took us a little time to source out the shops and after making a few turns we found exactly what we were looking for, Indian dollar/rupee stores, glitzy imitation jewellery to go with our Indian fashion for the 25th Belgaum anniversary "gala" and of course some semi tacky souvenir shops.  We bought so much in the "dollar store" the clerk that stuck with us through out the shopping received a commission.  For our return we flagged another rickshaw and reversed the process but this time Kristein crouched, I had to find a location for one leg as there wasn't room for two and again we held the door closed.  You can call this team building or just plain crazy but we did have fun and considering the very long days we have had on this distribution, fun was exactly the remedy we needed.  I think collectively we spent the equivalent of $50 but the memory of the afternoon will stay with us for a very long time.  
Something else that will stay with me for a very long time is a remark one of the mothers made to me during today's interviews.  The interpreter told me the mother wanted to be sure that we realized that " It would take me an entire year to earn the money to buy all these things for her family and now she can use her money for food."
Today's interviews were done with three mothers who came into the room together with a female interpreter from Rotary.  When we all sat in a circle and discussed the bedkit contents the conversation developed I could feel a connection building.  Besides having the opportunity to check the contents with the user these interviews at times generate a connection between the woman and hopefully foster mutual support.   All together it was an amazing day.

Pat Corlett for Team Mumbai/Belgaum 
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Wednesday, 20 February 2013

Mumbai/Belgaum: Nipani

We started later today giving the team time to catch up on needed sleep.  Then, the SCAW team enjoyed 1 1/2 hours at the Belgaum downtown bazaar for shopping before another distribution.

At 1:30 p.m., we were off to Nipani, less than 90 minutes away from Belgaum.  400 bedkits were delivered to 400 wonderful smiling children.  The Rotary Club of Nipani was well organized and many volunteers, including Rotaractor students, were on the scene to help out.  Our hats are off to our Rotarian Partners who selected the children and made the day at Nipani such a success. We arrived back at our hotel by 8:00 p.m.  This brings the total number of bedkits to 1,300 on the Belgaum distribution to-date (3,700 more to go).

A unique feature of the Belgaum distribution are the dresses for the 12 year old girls.  The Saris are beautiful and the girls can't stop smiling and looking at them - a WOW moment for each of them! 

One of the unsung heroes during the past 5 years has been our driver, Manjunath.  "Manju", as we often call him, has been with the past 5 SCAW Teams in the Belgaum SCAW distributions (2009-2013). But, he is much more than our driver!  He steps in and does any job where there is a position to fill during a distribution.  Every year, we ask that Manju be with the SCAW Team and every year he shows up at the airport to greet us!  It takes a lot of people to successfully host a SCAW distribution.  We are blessed to have Manju as one of those people.


Duncan Macgregor
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Tuesday, 19 February 2013

Mumbai/Belgaum: Double Distribution Day

Today we had two distribution sites.  After leaving the hotel at 7:30 am, we reached Harugiri in about 3 hours.  The distribution went very well, and the young adults from the Rotaract Club were extremely helpful.  We gave our Team Leader a chance to hand out bedkits, and Duncan took the helm at the camera.  Wearing the Canada hat, Jim was a motivator for the children, and gave them 'high fives' as they raced to get their new clothes, pictures taken and finally their bedkit.
Then we hopped on our mini-bus and headed to Ugar to distribute 200 bedkits.  We were warmly greeted and treated to a wonderful meal before starting our work.  The women from the Sugar Factory Ladies Club were out in full force and did a magnificent job of organizing this distribution.  Many of the children that received bedkits were from families that survive on seasonal work, and living a nomad lifestyle. The teachers told us that it is very hard for the children to complete their schooling when they move so often. 
For me the day was special because we had the honour of personally delivering some bedkits that our dear friends and family from Canada have donated.  Thanks to EVERYONE for your support of SCAW!  Each time you donate, you make a difference for a very special child.

Helen Scutt for Team Mumbai/Belgaum 2013
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Monday, 18 February 2013

Mumbai/Belgaum: Athani

Our day began at 7:30 am, and a 3.5 hour drive to Athani.  This drive had a whole new appeal to it, with fields as far as the eye could see with sugarcane, and the odd field of grapes and corn.  We passed bikes, motorbikes, tractors with trailers, and big trucks full of sugarcane.  In the fields we passed little areas full of straw huts, which housed the farm workers and their families.  I would imagine they pack up regularly and move from field to field.  It is obvious that they work long, hard days, from sun up to sun down.  You could see the work being done by hand, pulling out sugarcane, clearing fields and tying the straw.  I felt as though I was dropped into Little House on the Prairie, only with vehicles.  Tractors are decorated, and people bussing all around.  This made it impossible to rest, because you don’t want to miss what is around the next corner.

Our distribution began at approximately noon, with 400 kits to deliver.  The Rotarians were there ready to go, so we began right after the small ceremony.  We were blessed with flowers and ritual dots on our heads.  All made us feel very welcome.  The children were excited and full of smiles and hellos.  Duncan had the children giggling within minutes like usual.  Our distribution lasted about 3.5 hours, and was very well organized. 

We then joined the Rotarians for lunch next door, and headed off back to Belgaum.  It didn’t take long for our hot, tired bodies to relax for the journey home.  All in all, a wonderful day.  It always warms the heart to see the children smile with their bag in hand, and know that 400 more will have a better sleep tonight.

To add to the great day, back at the hotel, outside the window is a party going on for a 12 day old baby.  Babies are given naming ceremonies.  This babies name is being revealed tonight.  There are probably over a hundred people celebrating. 

Kristein and Allison for Team Mumbai 2013
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Sunday, 17 February 2013

Mumbai: First Full Day in Belgaum!!

Our first full day in Belgaum is being spent on several activities:  winding down from the travel of last week in the Mumbai area; seeing several suppliers of items that were produced for the SCAW Belgaum bedkit; visiting two previous bedkit recipients; and meeting with our Overseas Volunteer Partners, The Rotary Club of Belgaum, for our Pre-distribution Meeting in the evening.

After a leisurely breakfast and an opportunity to sleep in, we headed to two of our our suppliers.  The first supplier looks after the girl's dresses and frocks plus the boy's shorts and shirts.  The owner of this business, Ramesh, and his staff work for 2 months night and day to put the SCAW order together.  In addition, Ramesh attends each Belgaum distribution centre to ensure that the children receive the proper sizes and do not have any zipper problems.  He has been supplying items for SCAW bedkits for over 15 years.  The second visit was to our sweater manufacturer - another small family business.  Preparing 5,000 sweaters requires one month's production and the owner informed us that the Belgaum order is the biggest that he has ever prepared.  In both cases, these important suppliers asked their staff to come in on their day off to host the SCAW Team and they were happy to oblige.

After visiting the suppliers, we left Belgaum City for a 30 minute drive to a forested rural area in hill country to visit the homes of two children who received bedkits last year.  In both cases, the bedkit items were in good use and the two families were more than pleased to show us their homes where their animals (eg: cows) also reside.  There is no doubt that the bedkits were valued and used. The fathers in both cases were labourers who worked where ever they could find work.  This gave our team the opportunity to appreciate the obvious need of those receiving SCAW bedkits.

The evening will be spent with our Rotary Partners reviewing the schedules and plans for the next two weeks.  We can assure our donors that their dollars are being wisely spent by The Rotary Club of Belgaum. They are certainly a BIG PART of the reason that SCAW can continue to be "THE 100% CHARITY". 

SCAW Team Mumbai/Belgaum
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Saturday, 16 February 2013

Mumbai: Travelling to Belgaum

Today was a travel day so we loaded the van, checked out and left the hotel at 9:30a.m and drove out of Mumbai over the amazing sea link bridge.  Our flight on Jet Airways was at 12:05 and after multiple security checks and a bus out to the tarmac we began our one hour flight to Goa.  The humidity and heat of this place hits you immediately and you realize why most of the passengers seem to be Europeans escaping the cold.  Manjunath our driver was waiting for us and helped  load the van and begin our journey to Belgaum.  The road with many switchbacks takes you over the Chula summitt.   The foliage is lush along the side of the road and you can see brown monkeys amongst the trees and egrets perched on their branches.  A storm must of passed through the night before as the road was washed out in one area and one of the highly decorated "Goods Carriers" (delivery truck) had rolled over on the side of the road.  Nobody seemed hurt and a crowd of locals were busy trying to help sort out the incident. Our driver, Manjunath, was amazing and being able to finesse the traffic in India takes ultimate skill.   After close to 4 hours of this winding narrow road we approached Belgaum and stopped at a business location of Mr. Dilip Chitnis who had thoughtfully provided us with a place to freshen up and enjoy a cold drink before we were to view the finishing touches of the bedkit packing.  We were brought to a nearby area and lead around to the back of another factory where a flurry of activity was taking place with an assembly line of  least 30 Rotarians packing bedkits.  They were delighted  to show us how they had sourced out good quality items and  contents definitely looked impressive to us.  After this stop we all felt tired after the long day so we were brought to our hotel in Belgaum. This city in the province of Karnataka has 1.5 million people and is the 2nd largest manufacturing centre in this part of India.  It too has the busy somewhat chaotic feel of Mombai.

Tomorrow is not a distribution day and we will have time to visit some of the suppliers and the homes of previous bedkit recipients which should be interesting. 
Pat Corlett for Team Mumbai 2013
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Thursday, 14 February 2013

Mumbai: 250 Smiles!

Our destination today was Bhiwandi to distribute 250 bedkits.  Handing the bedkits to the children after their pictures are taken is such a rewarding job - seeing the smile of each child as they receive their gift is just incredible.  Our Rotarian hosts were very helpful and the distribution went very well.  On our way back to our accommodation in Dahanu, we had an unexpected and very interesting tour of a chicoo (small very sweet tree fruit) farm with trees over 90 years old, and to a co-operative packaging plant.  Our Rotarian hosts treated us to another wonderful dinner at a local restaurant.  We really enjoy their friendship and camaraderie.

Helen Scutt for Team Mumbai 2013
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Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Pune: Hearing the Dreams

I was back in the villages to see the impact of the bedkit, to talk with the kids, and the parents and the teachers.  What I heard from these individuals did not surprise me, it was what I have heard over many years in different locations and in different languages as a volunteer for SCAW.   The feedback is good, we’re getting it right- the children are sleeping well, their health is good, they are attending school and learning.  I shift my questions, trying to pry out new answers; how could it be that a simple bedkit be this good?  How much would you pay at the market for this item (more than what our overseas partners have negotiated)?  Is there anything you would sell from the bedkit in order to help with other family needs (a vehement “no” to that one).  Rephrased, reconfigured, the answers are the same “everything is helpful, everything is good”.   Do they wish for more?  Sometimes no, sometimes yes. It makes me happy when there are requests for more.  A stronger backpack, more school supplies, a laptop, could we move the medical center closer to their home please? These are not the requests of people who are ungrateful, there is an overwhelming abundance of gratitude expressed; rather, these are the requests of people who are starting to dream big dreams.  It seems to me that people are able to dream big when their basic needs are covered, are blanketed in this case.  So when I hear the requests for more, it tells me again that we are getting it right by providing the children with their basic human right for a good night’s sleep.  The bedkit donations are allowing people to dream in more ways than one.

These photos are taken in the village of Badgi.  One shows Ashwini last year, and now again this year.  In the photo of Ashwini and her family, they are holding some of the photos I took of them last year.

Debbie for Team Pune 2013
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Mumbai: The Value of a Bedkit

The Value of the Bedkit to the Tribal Children

After driving four hours north of Mumbai, we arrived at a country school that was located on the outskirts of Dahanu.  Today was a special day on the Hindu calendar which honoured their god Ganash.  The children did two dances that related the importance of Ganash in their lives and presented us with pictures that they had made that told of local history.

Despite the high heat and humidity, the children travelled between 35 and 120 kms to attend today’s distribution. The children were excited to receive the wonderful backpacks and bedkit filled with schools supplies, a ground sheet, thick mattress blanket, a covering blanket, clothing, pillow, pillow cover and age appropriate clothing. When the few parents that were present were interviewed, they said that the bedkit was a gift that would provide them with an immense boost to their quality of living. Most earned about 100 Rupees a day, or $2.00 Canadian dollars. One of the local Rotarian volunteers said that most of the children would not be able to sleep this evening because of their excitement. They would never have dream of being given such a lavish gift that would be theirs and theirs alone. We talked with one person who said that there were 35 members of their extended family living under their roof.

It is hard to describe how this sort of feedback makes us feel as we represent the SCAW donors on this trip. It truly is an honour and a blessing to be able to experience what we are experiencing on this trip and know that all that is being done by the many volunteers here in India is, “for the children”.

Team Mumbai 2013

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Mumbai: Karjat

Today we left the hotel In Mumbai at 8AM and drove for nearly 3 hours to get to the distribution in Karjat. We drove through an ever changing landscape of cities followed by rural areas and then more cities and rural areas. Once we reached the mountains and turned off the main road we drove for half an hour through a rural area that had many signs for new luxury apartments and resorts that are to be built in this beautiful mountainous region. We drove through many villages and passed lots of brick works, but did not see any new luxury highrises
Around 11AM we arrived at the distribution site to find a shelter set up with more than 400 children sitting in orderly rows waiting for our arrival. After setting up the area for photographs, we went into the shelter and were formally welcomed by the Rotarians and then 6 of the girls got up and sang a song of welcome in Hindi and then 6 more came up and did a dance number complete with all the Bollywood dance moves that every girl here must learn at the time when our girls are learning ballet and jazz.

Our distribution went very well. 416 children received their bedkits. The Rotarians on site were a great help in keeping the flow of children moving to the appropriate places.

As this was a rural distribution, we saw the children and bedkits being loaded onto busses and trucks and being driven away smiling and waving. It was wonderful to see how happy they were with the new clothes and all the other items they received today.   

Team Mumbai 2013 
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Sunday, 10 February 2013

Pune: Mission Accomplished!

On the last day of our distribution, smiles were abundant as the children scampered to receive their bedkits from the SCAW team and our Pune Rotarian partners.  We were especially fortunate to be supported by eager, enthusiastic, and well-organized student helpers and teachers from the surrounding schools.  As usual, the team was treated to local hospitality and cooking following the distribution of the bedkits.

We were given a special opportunity to visit a woman devoted to the education of young girls.  For 25 years, her hostel and school have been a safe haven for orphans and daughters of very poor families living in remote villages.  These girls are given the chance for a better life and a good education.  Several of her ‘daughters’ have gone on to become teachers, doctors and employed in other professions.

Our mission to deliver 5,000 bedkits over five days has been accomplished successfully.   It touches our hearts that these children will be getting a good night sleep each night from now on.

Peggy, Evan, and Karen for Team Pune 2013
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Mumbai: A Tour Behind the Curtain of Bombay

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This day was an awesome way to learn about Mumbai and all it has to offer. We were picked up this morning by a young man named Amin,  who is about 30, and a previous recipient from SCAW.  His goal in his words was to
provide us with a tour that shows the "heart of Bombay".  For me, this is what he accomplished.  Amin dreams of opening a coffee shop to help the orphans who live in his previous orphanage, funding it through his book about his life.

Amin toured us through the devastation of the poorest areas, and the red light districts, which he told us not to photograph.  Apparently these areas are controlled by Mafia, and it could create a safety issue. Through this part of the tour, Amin shared parts of his own life, adding a sense of reality to what we were witnessing.  He himself growing up on the streets, and in an orphanage. living through very difficult situations.

Also as part of our tour, we were able to see areas of extreme wealth, and the tourist spots such as the festival, and the Gates of India.  During our tour, every turn, every street, and building were explained to us. This made the tour awesome due to it being told by someone so passionate about his home.  What took 5 hours, seem to be moments, and could have went on for much longer.

The day consisted of tears, smiles, and laughs.  It was such an amazing way to begin our distributions.  As a first-timer to Mumbai, I will be-able to look at situations, people, and this experience differently.

Thank you to Amin, who so kindly provided us a day with true honesty, and a tour that came directly from your heart. I look forward to reading your book, "Life is Life, I am Because of You".

Kristein Johnson
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