Friday, 27 February 2015

Kenya: Day Five!!

Today we were at another new distribution site, quite isolated and around 12 hours outside Nairobi. It was tight quarters but it ran quite smoothly with only a few hiccups. The children were very needy; some without shoes, some deaf, some physically disabled, etc. Giving out the bedkits brought as much joy to us as it did to the receiving children and their families. We were very grateful to have been a part of the distribution this year and hope to return again! After the distribution, we were warmly invited to a lovely traditional Kenyan picnic at one of the Rotarians houses nearby. We were so thankful to share it with the Rotarians, Rotaracts (young Rotarians) and family members. On the way back to the hotel, we stopped briefly at a beautiful public viewpoint of Lake Victoria.

Tomorrow is an early start, driving to game reserve to enjoy a few tours before heading back to Nairobi on Sunday! Therefore, we will be out of touch until Monday evening, after our fifth distribution. Asanti Sana!

Team Kenya 2015

Kenya: Update!

After being without internet for 30+ hours, we are most anxious to be able to update you on our activities!

The 25th was mostly a travel day with only a few stops in between departure and destination. The first being a very inspirational and touching school founded by a man, who had himself been poor and unable to receive an education until later in life. The school is solely dedicated to taking in, feeding, educating and loving orphans and street kids. We were very grateful to have been invited into his house, got a tour of the school grounds as well as a VERY big warm welcome from the students and teachers. We all decided to contribute towards the purchase of 200 chicks to enable them to begin their chicken coop. This chicken coop will teach the children agriculture and business; concepts we find very important. It was a stop none of us will ever forget.  We arrived in our hotel around 7:30, enjoyed dinner and turned in early.

The 26th was a distribution day! To be very warmly welcome by children anxious to shake our hands with their beautiful smiling faces, was an amazing start to our day. The children were absolutely blown away by our bubbles, it created such spontaneous excitement and broad smiles. The distribution went by flawlessly considering it was the school’s first time hosting SCAW. The children were very patient, kind and mature. Ready for an early start tomorrow to another distribution site with 500 bedkits to give out. Excited to see all their smiling faces!

Team Kenya 2015

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Thursday, 26 February 2015

Mumbai: Getting Ready

Team Mumbai is ready to start its first distribution tomorrow after spending the morning with our Overseas Volunteer Partners (OVPs) . They have been working since last August to select the 19 Rotary Clubs that will be participating in the five distributions in the coming week. We will be handing out good quality bedkits to 2,100 children. 

The team met with Rajnikant Resham, the SCAW Advisor in Mumbai; and his team of Apurva Shah (Co-chairman), Neelesh Suchak, Sandeep Shah, and Prakesh Shah to discuss their preparations and plans for the distributions. They have put a lot of effort into 'reaching the unreached' throughout the western part of Maharashtra state. The new members of the SCAW travelling team members learned a lot about how invaluable the assistance and support of the OVPs is to the success of the distribution and just how much preparation, planning, coordination and work they put into each one.

Bill Sergeant for Team Mumbai 2015
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Mumbai 2015: Post Your Comments Here

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Wednesday, 25 February 2015

Belgaum: Post-Distribution Meeting

The SCAW Travelling Team met with the members of the Belgaum SCAW Trust at the Belgaum Club on the evening of the 24th for the post-distribution meeting.  The meeting took place in a 180 year-old stone building which was the former stables for the Officers’ Mess at the British Garrison in Belgaum.

Sanjay Kulkarni was the acting President of the Trust in the absence of Dilip Chitnis. He opened the meeting with a moment of silence in remembrance of Aparana Chitnis, Dilip’s wife who had passed away suddenly two days prior.

Afterward, the SCAW Team Leader Bill Sergeant provided his report about the distributions, the quality of the bedkit, and the Overseas Reporting Package, he thanked the Trust for all that they have done and are doing for SCAW. He was then presented with a Certificate of Honour by Dr. Archelakar thanking him for his leadership and friendship over the last four years. Next year’s Team Leader, Sue Orr, then presented the Trust President with a gift from the team and told them that she was looking forward to bringing a new team over for the next distribution.

When the meeting was adjourned, the SCAW Belgaum Trust members invited the team to a buffet meal at the Belgaum Club. This allowed everyone an opportunity to get to know one another better. For Bill, it was an opportunity to thank the Trust members individually for all that they are doing for SCAW and cement the friendships that he has established over the past four years.

Bill Sergeant for Team Belgaum 2015

Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Belgaum: An Extra Day Off

Today was an extra day off due to a change in the distribution schedule.  Our destination is Beldami.  Enroute we stop for breakfast at a friend of one of the Belgaum Rotarians.  We enjoyed Indian Idili (a small dhal and rice pancake served with dipping sauces) and very yummy papdi (a popular Indian sweet).  Our next stop is Pattadakal which is Unesco World Heritage site.  It is a collection of temples built by the Chalukyan civilization around 740 AD as a cultural hub

The architecture is beautiful.  The final stop for the day is a series of intricate caves in Belgami. We tour all four caves and are entertained by the monkeys.

A very enjoyable day off!

Cathy Miles for Team Belgaum 2015
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Kenya: Day 3!

Today we travelled about hour from Nairobi to a school/orphanage that was founded and supported by the Rotary Club of Nairobi.  Our mission was to distribute 500 bedkits.  The school was founded 13 years ago and once the elementary school kids got older the Club started a high school. 

With the help of school and Rotary volunteers along with teachers, we organized the children into groups of 50’s then 8’s and downward until we were taking photos of just one child at a time.  We found a lovely shaded spot to take the photos thus trying to avoid high contrast in the photos.  The process worked very smoothly and the kids were delighted with their new bedkits. We began our interviews with parents in order to determine if there are areas in which we can improve.  The parents were very appreciative of the gifts that our SCAW donors provided.  They commented on the quality of the items in the kits.

After the distribution we were served a lovely cup of tea and Kenyan style donuts (donut holes intact) and visited the orphanage. 

Tomorrow is a travel day and we will be out of Nairobi for the next 4 days.  We will blog if we can find internet service in the areas we visit.

Kenya SCAW Team 2015
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Belgaum: Distributions Complete!

Team Belgaum completed its final distribution of 200 bedkits at Kundgol today. The Kundgol Rotarians brought in a number of local college students to assist with the distribution, which made it fun as it only took a little over an hour to hand out the kits to children. There were a surprising number of the children who spoke English and they loved to practice it with us while exchanging high fives before they had their pictures taken. 

After taking the usual pictures, the team travelled back to Belgaum in our team mini-bus with Manjunath at the wheel. Manju never ceases to amaze us with his ability to weave in and out of traffice and avoid head on collisions as the on coming traffic takes up all of the available lanes in front of us. We will miss Manju and the rest of the support team who have helped us make the 10 distributions (4,000 bedkits) a success. The role that Manjunath, Nagu, Ramesh and his tailoring team play at the distributions has been invaluable as SCAW becomes more and more respected in this area of India. For example, one of the waiters in our hotel in Belgaum came up to us when we arrived back at the hotel, after being away for three days, to tell us that he was from Ramdurg and had read in the paper yesterday about the SCAW distribution there and all of the good things that the charity was doing for the children of India. 

We will miss the many friends and acquaintances that we have made during our distributions but we will still have the wonderful memories of all that we have seen and done in this great land. 

Bill Sergeant, Team Leader, for Team Belgaum 2015
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Monday, 23 February 2015

Kenya: Lala Salama!

After an early wake up, (5:15) we set out  to avoid the horrendous morning rush hour traffic, arriving 2 hours later at the school site.  Today there were 500 bedkits waiting for distribution.  It was an easy first day for our 2 “newbies”  Melissa and Lauren, as the pictures were all in groups of ten. 

All of the recipients were richly deserving of their bedkit especially those with physical and intellectual challenges. The generous donors can be assured these children will sleep well. As they were wished in Swalhili “Lala Salama” Sleep well!

After the distribution., we visited the home of one of last year’s recipients.  The home was a mud hut, made from cow dung, approximately 6 ‘ x10’ overlooking a spectacular Kenyan vista. Owned by a grandmother of Masai origin, who was wearing  beautiful, traditional beadwork she was very proud and happy to welcome us into her home.

Finally, we visited a residential school for rescued girls, (from forced early marriages or difficult family living conditions). The joy and happiness of these girls was very evident.

All in all a rewarding first day!

Team Kenya 2015
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Kenya: Our First Day

Tiring but fulfilling day today! Started with breakfast and a meeting with the team and the Nairobi Rotary Club members. We discussed past Kenyan distributions and how they went before turning onto this years. We got some tips and suggestions on how to keep things running smoothly- and hopefully problem free! As well as the general plan for the days to come.

Our amazing driver, took us to the Village Market Mall where we traded in money as well as eating some lunch. We then went to the first manufacturer of the day, Priscilla! She was very grateful and happy to have received the SCAW contract to expand her business, we were very happy to see that. Priscilla hand makes all 4,000 backpacks for the bedkits in her very small shop with only 4 sewing machines. We got a tour of the place as well as meeting a few youngsters who were absolutely delighted to see and have their photo taken.

As a change of size, we all piled into our van and drove to the HUGE building of the mattress manufacturer. The owner and the general manager took us on a long narrated tour! Seeing all the hundreds of mattresses they make and the work that goes into them was amazing. We all clambered back into the van and went to the clothing manufacturer where the pajama set and sweaters were made for the distribution. The embroidery process for other jobs they have was pretty cool.

Lastly we finished at the location where the bed kits are stored until they are needed. But only after we sort of got lost and went through a very poor part of Nairobi, where around 3 million people live. It touched us all and still can’t be put into words how we felt, it was good to see it though.

Looking forward to a good 1st day of distribution tomorrow. (February 23rd) Up bright and early at 5:30 with only 500 bedkits to give out and hopefully stopping to visit previous recipients! Sleep well, or as we were taught to say in Swahili; Lanasalama!!!! 

Team Kenya 2015
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Kenya: Post Your Comments Here

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Belgaum: On the Move to Hubli

We're on the move to Hubli and our last two distributions!

As we were loading the van for an early start, about 500 children ran passed us in some sort of a school race. It made me think of our Canadian Terry Fox runs. The earliest runners weren't to be distracted, but partway through the group, boys veered over to our side of the road to receive "high fives" and running encouragement from us. So much for an early beginning, but wonderful excitement at this day's start! There have been many surprises during this trip.

This distribution took place at a school. A group of deaf children went through our circuit without us realizing their predicament - so who's got the handicap?

We finished the day with 35 special needs children - the neediest of the needy and for us a great finally.

After receiving sandalwood leis and smiling for lots of group pictures with the Rotarians, we were invited to the Gymkhana club for an Indian lunch. This club was built by the English years ago.

We were given time to freshen up and unpack suitcases in our new hotel.Then we were invited to visit a local orphanage.

It's a private home called Felicia Kids Home and was started by Mini, who was an orphan herself. She and her husband now have 29 children and are hoping that the government allow them to have more in the future. She ensures these children go to good schools. The children seem very well adjusted and very happy and were very excited about our visit. We entertained each other with songs and watched some of their dances. This was another surprise to our day and very enjoyable.

Pamela Horricks for Team Belgaum 2015
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Sunday, 22 February 2015

Belgaum: A Day Off

Today is a much earned day off after 8 distributions done; 900 bedkits to go, in 2 distributions.  It has been a busy week of leaving Belgaum daily going to 8 different sites, driving north, east, west and south from Belgaum.  We are now getting familiar with the highways and road.  The many sights along the roads of people, farms, cows, and homes are still of interest.  We never lose the urge to take just one more picture of a child or family.  Even at the distribution cameras are always at the ready. We don't want to miss one memory.  Today is a day off to relax.  We are going sight seeing and shopping.

We drive an hour out of Belgaum to visit an ancient Shri Temple in the village of Hashi. It was built 800-1000 years ago.  A guide in the temple the different gods and statues.  The includes a statue of a pig's head with a human body.  The statues are very detailed with cravings   The temple is maintained by a young man who has taken over the responsibilities that his father had previously.  Children and adults from the local school come in and pray and light candles.

We stop for coffee at a friend of bus driver's home.  It is an neat old building with many bedrooms and beautiful wooden doors.

We head back to Belgaum to go to a big market. On a Saturday the market is buzzing, lots of people.  Anything you want to buy from spices, clothing, fruits, vegetables, shoes, purses, etc are available.  There are streets and streets of these market stalls

Our first stop is at the gold and silver store to get some "bling".  We move on to the candy store for some sweets to take home.  We are given generous samples of the goodies.  We stop at the copper shop and buy some copper jugs. Hope they will fit in the luggage.  Next some cashews for which India is known for.

Time to call it a day, money is getting low and so we take a quick trip in a Rickshaw that gets us safely back to the hotel with time to relax before dinner.   A good day off.

Team Belgaum 2015
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Saturday, 21 February 2015

Belgaum: Celebrating a Wonderful Relationship!

After a very successful distribution of 1,000 bedkits, the SCAW travelling team was invited by the Belgaum Rotary Club to attend their Friday evening meeting. The club President, Sharad Pai, gave us a warm welcome and dedicated a major portion of the meeting to talk about SCAW and the 27-year relationship that the club has enjoyed with the Canadian charity. The Belgaum SCAW Trust President, Dilip Chitnis, and its Secretary, Sanjay Kulkarni, spoke in glowing terms about all that SCAW has done for the children of India and challenged the Rotarians to 'open their hands' to donate bedkits. President Sharad stated that his club was passionate and dedicated in its support of SCAW and would continue to 'reach out to the unreached'. Many of Rotarians stated that they are more than willing to donate, so Secretary Sanjay stated that he is willing to work with SCAW Canada to find a way that they can donated and still get a tax break in India. This would be a major step forward in SCAW's relationship with its OVPs (Overseas Volunteer Partners) in India. 

This year's Belgaum Distribution Chairman, Basavaraj (Basu) Vibhuti, then thanked the many volunteers who helped make today's distribution the success that it was. Basu had been working since November to organize the distribution. In comparison, our jobs are relatively easy and enjoyable when we arrive to take pictures of the children and hand out the bedkits. 

The Rotary Club's President Sharad Pai then made a special announcement to the SCAW team and Rotary members. He and his wife, Padmaja, invited all of us to celebrate and bless the marriage of his son Chetin to Pooja Potnis by attending it on the 28th of February. A couple of the SCAW team members were pleased to tell President Sharad that they were going to change their plans in order to attend the wedding, which pleased him greatly. 

After the meeting, the Rotary Club hosted the SCAW team to a delicious buffet dinner. It gave them an opportunity to say farewell and thank you to Bill Sergeant for his leadership of the SCAW team for the past few years. They also asked that he and Duncan Macgregor come back to Belgaum at some point in the future. Bill said that he will miss the friends that he has made in Belgaum, but would love to see them at some point in the future, either in Canada or back here in Belgaum.

Team Belgaum 2015
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Belgaum: Belgaum Distribution!

When we arrived at the Belgaum distribution...we were in awe of the system they are using to keep all things organized.  They have been blessed with a donation of buses that transport the kids back and forth.  This is very helpful when you have 1000 eager kids and parents waiting.  They also brought the kids in shifts  (9:00am and 12:00pm) so that no one was waiting too long.  The Belgaum Rotary club has had a donation from family that also donates all the food for each child.  This makes the whole experience a positive one for the child.  

The Rotarians have been very organized and I have the highest respect for the amount of time they put into a distribution.  They personally interview the children, purchase the items locally, they attend every site distribution. Planning this day happens all year round!  We only arrive really on their final day and truly enjoy the moments with the children.

Sue Orr on behalf of Team Belgaum 2015

Thursday, 19 February 2015

Belgaum: Bailhongal

If this is Thursday, it must be Bailhongal and a 300 kit distribution. We left the hotel  at 8:15 but for some reason the traffic was not as heavy as usual and we made it to Bailhongal ahead of time. Still many children were there and sitting under large canopy.

We were greeted with warm handshakes and again presented with roses.

We started off with a tour of the facility seeing first the location where the children would be served a breakfast. Then we went through the route they would follow to pick up their clothing, have the photo taken and finally get the actual Bedkit. All looked good.

Then it was down to the canopy area to show the children the contents of the bedkit. Loud cheers greeted each item. Pamela brought her marionette CAMEL out and entertained the children while we set up the photo area.

It is amazing to see the different reactions of the children having there photo taken. Some have the biggest grins while others sit stern-faced through the entire process. Some will break into a smile then shyly cover up and if the picture was not captured at the right moment we are out of luck.

We had the help of many Rotarians and their wives as well as many Cadets. There help was very much appreciated.

Following the distribution we get to play the star roll. We are wanted by all for photos. We join a group and then are not sure which of the 20 or so cameras to look at. We are treated as very special people and it is wonderful to be honoured in this way.

When we finally got moving toward our bus the most important picture of the day was requested - several children who had received bed kits rushed up to us asking to have a picture with us.

We then went to a hotel owned by one of the Rotarians for a delicious lunch. Returning to our hotel by  4:30. We may be ready for a light supper at 7;30

Team Belgaum 2015
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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Belgaum: Gobak

We left for Gokak at 8:15 for a distribution of 200 bedkits at a school. The country side had many interesting spots. We passed a cotton factory, textile factory, an abandoned sugar cane factory, a spot that we dubbed "India's Grand Canyon" and a huge dam.

The children were all seated on the floor, girls on one side, boys on the other, in one classroom, when we arrived. Cathy and I entertained the children while the rest of the team set up the "SCAW circuit". We showed them our bubbles and a hand puppet. So as not to frighten them, one needs to be extremely gentle in presenting and approaching these children with a puppet. Some of the children sang songs to us. I wish you in Canada could have heard their cheers when we showed them the individual items in the bedkits. They were spontaneous and very appreciative. These children are poor! Yesterday I told a parent and some hotel management students the cost of one kit. They were flabbergasted at the generosity of Canadians.

After the distribution, the Gokak Rotarians treated us to a lunch of sandwiches, fruit and homemade cocoa cake. Delicious!

It was suggested that we visit the local temple and a local Shiva festival. We met up with recipients at the temple who were there to thank their goddess for their gifts from SCAW. The temple is built to honour the goddess "Laxmi" who protects their town.

On to the festival, which was held at a second larger temple. This temple had a swing bridge, built the British, crossing the Ghatprabha River, beside it. We were escorted past the hundreds of people going to the temple and blessed by receiving a yellow dot on our forehead. Today is Ash Wednesday.

The people are always thrilled to see "white people" and to see their own image in our cameras. We were elbow To elbow with crowds of people at the festival and felt perfectly safe.

Tonight we went to a recommended restaurant close to our hotel and celebrated an early surprise birthday for Lorna. The restaurant presented her with special packages of candy. A wonderful finish to another great day in India.

Pamela Horricks for Team Belgaum 2015
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Belgaum: Ramdurg

I left the hotel at 7:45 am for the 2 1/5 hour drive to Ramdurg. The drive through the country was mainly valleys and farms. Sugar cane is the big crop. We pass trucks, bicycles, motorcycles and oxen carts loaded with stalks of sugar cane, as much as they can hold.  They are delivered to the nearby sugar refinery. It is a big business employing 6000 people. The stalks are pressed to remove the fluid. The remaining husks are chopped into saw dust and made into blocks to burn for heat.

We arrive at the distribution site at 10:30 am and am welcomed by he Rotary Club of Ramdurg with roses. The children and parents have already been waiting 1 1/5 hours.  There is an air of excitement. We enter the school to meet the children's who receive the bedkits. We show the children the contents of the kit. They are very excited by the school books and supplies. One thing that is scarce for the children is toys, no "wii" games or computers to play.   The only toy I saw was a boy rolling a tire along with a stick. We play a few action games and sing with the children. Few of them speak English but respond to the action games enthusiastically. They are happy to,play catch and blow bubbles. The children are nervous about hand puppets having never seen one before.

The distribution area has been well organized by the Rotary Club with a few minor changes we start taking the pictures and giving out the bedkits. The distribution went well. The temperature was 35 degrees. The children needed a little prompting to smile and some start giggling.  It is all so strange and new. I'm sure the donors from Canada will be happy to see their gift has improved the life of a child.

We load up the van and drive to a nearby hotel for lunch with the Rotary Club. We try several Indian dishes that were delicious but too hard to name.

The trip back to the hotel is quiet. We're all tired from the distribution but we enjoyed every minute, seeing the happy children and parents walking away with their bedkits.

Lorna Hedger for Team Belgaum 2015
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Monday, 16 February 2015

Belgaum: A Double Distribution Day!

The SCAW Belgaum team did double duty today with distributions at Harugeri and Ugar. Both were well organized and a joy to be part of.

When we arrived at the morning distribution at Harugeri, we were greeted joyfully by the 300 children and their parents as we stepped off the bus. We were introduced to the children by Dr. P, the distribution chairman, who explained to them where we came from and why. We then took out the bedkit items to show the children and they applauded each one more than the one before. It was more than they could dream of receiving. After the distribution, about 30 children and their families stayed behind while the teachers of the school that hosted the distribution honoured us by presenting us with garlands of flowers. It was their way of saying thank you for making a difference in the children's lives.

We then drove north-west along roads that were filled with ox carts or wagons loaded with sugar cane. It was all heading to the Ugar Sugar Factory, where the next distribution took place. The owners, Prakar and Smita Shirgaokar, greeted us warmly with a garland of Indonesian Cherries as well as bouquets of them. They also put on a delicious luncheon for us with special table decorations to welcome the SCAW team. The Ladies Club from the Ugar Sugar Factory choose to wear green saris this year as they helped us with the distribution, as seen in the attached picture. Smita and Prakar, our gracious hosts, then asked us to present a bouquet to the distribution organizer in honour of the tremendous job that he did. The distribution was one of the more relaxing and enjoyable ones that we did.

Team Belgaum 2015