Saturday, 31 January 2015

Chennai: Hope

You may have noticed that there has been no blog for a few days. Sorry, but we have been too busy riding elephants, visiting spice plantations and travelling from one location to another.  Consequently we have returned too late at night to create a blog. So the following blog for today was written en route and is being added now that we have settled in again.


The SCAW bed kit gives each child articles, such as exercise books, pencils and a back pack, that will support them in school and hopefully to stay in school. The clothes help them to feel better about themselves. With the blanket, sheets, quilted pad and ground cover, the SCAW bedkit encourages a good night sleep so that each child can embrace the day and make it the best it can be. The bedkit provides a towel, nail clippers and bedding to encourage cleanliness, respect for the body and quality sleep.

But the biggest gift of the bed kit is the hope you see in the child’s eyes when he or she receives it. That is the magic of the bed kit. It gives each child the ability to dream of a better tomorrow. In Theni we delivered 409 bed kits and thanks to your donations the children had hope in their eyes and bigger dreams. 

Team Chennai 2015
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Friday, 30 January 2015

Kolkata: It's a Wrap!

We delivered our last bedkit Thursday morning.  The little boy had waited patiently, finally receiving his gift, joined by his mother, to officially end the distribution.

Many had already left the neighbourhood site, some walking

Some on bike,

Some in a tuk tuk

It was a happy day for them

We were honoured guests at a final banquet, at which Rotarians and their families joined to bid us farewell. It has been a special distribution for them as they celebrate the 50th anniversary of their club and their 17th SCAW distribution. We return to Canada, embraced by the warmth of their kind hospitality and overwhelmed by the tremendous amount of work they do to make each year's distribution so efficient and successful.

We leave, leaving a little bit of ourselves in spirit and friendship in Kolkata, but take with us many treasured memories that will last forever.

Team Kolkata 2015
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Thursday, 29 January 2015

Kolkata: Krishnanagar

Each day brings a unique experience, a new destination, a wonderful gathering of Rotarians, volunteers and of course, hundreds of delightful children.  Some are sombre, needing much coaxing to bring forth a smile; others quite outgoing, anxious to practise their English.  All are in need and so deserving of the SCAW bedkit.

Today’s journey was a 6 hour round trip to Krishnanagar, reached by the only road that leads to Bangladesh and Assam.  Consequently, our skillful driver battled for space on the road with many cars, wagons, motorcycles and trucks.. 

Each distribution has much in common:

Entertaining the children, coaxing out those smiles

Helping set up the photo shoot

Sharing special moments

Accepting the sincere gratitude of bedkit recipients

Working with Rotarians who have become our friends

At day’s end we had brought smiles to 460 children in Krishnanagar.  Just once more chance to bring joy and comfort to children in our last distribution tomorrow.  Just one more chance to accept the wonderful hospitality of our hosts, members of the Rotary Club of Dum Dum.  Just one more day to collect some treasured moments. And one more day to see those beautiful smiles and happy children.

Irene Harrison for Team Kolkata 2015

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Kolkata: Barrackpore

Our Day 8 distribution was at Barrackpore, a military installation in Kolkata, on the shores of the Ganges River. It was a large site, and the children arrived bright and early to receive their bedkits. Temperatures have been rising steadily over the past week, so the children no longer choose to wear their new fleece jackets from their bedkits for their photos. As the day got hotter we were able to find shade for the children under the trees. There were lots of smiles from the children before they left with their new bedkits.

At the end of the distribution we had the privilege of touring the Gandhi Museum located on the site.

Only two more distributions before all 5,000 children will have the joy of a better sleep.

Judy Dryden for Team Kolkata 2015

Monday, 26 January 2015

Kolkata: Chandra's Garden

Today was another memorable day in Kolkata. 

The team travelled 60 kilometers to Chandra's Garden, the site for today's distribution. This site is owned by an Indian company that produces snack food, and is used by them for special events. This was a beautiful setting, with lovely manicured lawns, well-tended gardens and modern buildings.

The most notable thing was the dramatic contrast between a place like this and the "village" we visited yesterday where bedkit recipients live. In fact, as you travel to and from every distribution site the scene from the van window always seems slightly chaotic, with people, bikes, motorcycles, tuk tuks, wagons, cars and trucks weaving over every inch of road. At the side of the road the prominent color this time of year is grey; the grey of shanties and shacks, buildings and worn advertising signs. Chandra's Garden was quite an oasis in the midst of this.

Surprisingly, the children lining up to have their photos taken did not seem impressed at all. They are much more interested in the bedkit process, the items they will receive and in clowning around with their friends in line. With our normal league of volunteers including some Rotary children, the process was as smooth as ever. Today was our biggest distribution of this trip - 640 bedkits, 640 warm and appreciative smiles.

Tonight we are off to a wedding. One of the Dum Dum Rotarian's daughters is getting married and we have been graciously invited.

Oh dear, what to wear?!

Lynn Benson for Team Kolkata
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Sunday, 25 January 2015

Kolkata: Bira

Today, we travelled about 50 km to arrive at the distribution in Bira, Ashoknagar. Using rural roads in India, travelling time is double that which we might expect at home.  However, compared to the first group of children who received bedkits, that was very little distance at all.  Those youngsters left their homes at 3:00 am in order to travel over 100 km and still arrive on time for the distribution. They lived near Sunderban, an area close to the sanctuary to protect Bengal tigers which are in danger of extinction in India.

Our Overseas Partners once again made sure that all children were fed before they prepared for the distribution, itself a fairly lengthy process for children who are tired and perhaps a little wary of strangers.

Happy faces,

Beautiful smiles

Even watchful parents,

Made yet another memorable day for us.

Following the customary generous lunch , we had the opportunity to visit a nearby village to see where some of the bedkit recipients live.  What a humbling experience that was, seeing the conditions in which these children grow up.  Yet the children were so happy and excited to meet us.

 It was a community of squatters who had moved onto some unused railway lands, starting about fifteen years ago.  They had very little, with many families, often with seven or eight members sharing a single room. Even so we’ll never forget  the little girl who had received her bedkit this morning.  When asked what her favourite item in the kit was, her smile grew and her eyes sparkled as she proudly displayed the lovely blue dress she was wearing.
She was absolutely beautiful!

Anne and Larry Kell for Team Kolkata 2015
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Chennai: Day 3 Distribution at Kilpauk

Today was a warm, sunny day and the distribution ran smoothly. At times there was even a feeling that an external source (God?) was synchronizing our actions. We were outside in a school yard and because it was Sunday we did not have any children from that school to help or hinder. Our overseas volunteers, The Rotarians of Ambattur helped with the communications. We are always very thankful for their help.

One the joys of our day was hearing about a letter posted on Marg’s Facebook page written by the children from an orphanage. Yesterday they received bedkits from SCAW and were filled with a wonderful sense of joy which spread to us all. (Happiness is Contagious)

Team Chennai 2015

Saturday, 24 January 2015

Chennai: Happiness is Contagious!!

Day 2 – Scaw’s 2015 Chennai Distribution in Vallore was a three hour drive from our hotel. Fortified with a breakfast stop along the way, we arrived at the community centre mid-morning.  After a few last minute details were ironed out, the event was soon underway. The 600 children quickly warmed to the occasion. Their smiles and excitement were contagious.

As with any SCAW distribution, it can be said that the volunteers benefited as much from the experience as the children and their families. We may have been separated by language and culture but we could easily connect by sharing a happy day.  The children would on occasion approach these “white” people with trepidation and some fear but the sheer joy on their faces when they received their bedkits made it all worthwhile. A smile would light up their faces as most of them struggled to carry the heavy kit by themselves.

As a grand finale, we were treated to some impromptu singing and dancing by the children of the Mercy Home Orphanage, Tiruvannamalai. They laughed and sang with complete abandon and delight. Their day was almost over and they had a new bedkit to take with them.

A delicious lunch at a nearby restaurant was provided for the volunteers by Shan of Rotary Club Vellore. Shan was the organizer of today’s event. All of us then piled into the van for the trip back to Chennai – tired but happy.

Team Chennai 2015
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Kolkata: Our Road Trip

Dahlias seemed to be the theme of these distributions.  The first day on the road we visited Gangadharpur, for a distribution at a college.  On the same site, Rotary is building a hospital to care for patients with eye problems, particularly cataracts.  We had lots of volunteer help, and our photo site was in front of a garden featuring dahlias.  It was a beautiful backdrop to the lovely children we saw.

Student Teacher Volunteers

Children and parents were fed before each child received its bedkit, a testimony to the extra effort  that our Overseas Partners make to ensure the success of the distribution.  Many children had travelled considerable distances to reach the distribution site.

After a short drive we visited Howrah for another distribution.  It was the first time the Rotary Clubs in that area had hosted a distribution and they put a great deal of effort into it, with good success.  The children were tired, and the sun was casting long shadows by the time we finished. But they were extremely pleased with their bedkit and it was satisfying to know that they will now have a good nights rest after a long, weary ride home.

We stayed overnight in Kharagpur where we were very well-treated by the Rotary team.  The following day there was a distribution at the Tata Bearing Factory compound.  It was another well-run distribution and the photo backdrop was a row of potted dahlias.  They were a compliment to the bright colours of the girls' dresses.

After the long drive back to Kolkata, today is our rest day.  More than half of the 5,000 bedkits have been handed out to needy children, and tomorrow we're looking forward to the start of giving the gift of a bedkit to the rest of the children. 

Judy Dryden for Team Kolkata 2015