Thursday, 5 March 2015

Mumbai: Post-Mumbai Reflections

I can’t believe my 5 days of distribution in Mumbai are finished and I’m home.  We all did many jobs while we were there and I enjoyed them all.  I did interviews on two days with 3 families each day.  So interesting to meet with the parents of children receiving bedkits to see how they live and learn how much they appreciated the many gifts their children were about to receive.  Sad to hear of the conditions they live in but also great to hear their expectations for their children.  When asked of their dreams for their children they wanted their child to grow to be strong, a good person helping in their village and a good person with their families.  All wanted their children to complete schooling to at least Grade 10 and hoped they could also go farther.

The day I got to do the handing out of the bedkits was fantastic.  When each child came to me I shook their hand and watch their face light up and a huge smile appeared as I handed them their bedkit.  All said thank you in English and many said Namasté, which is spoken with a slight bow and hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointing upwards, thumbs close to the chest.  I was puzzled by many who would touch my foot and then their forehead or heart.  I asked the person helping me and they said they are saying “God Bless You”.  I was blessed many, many times that day and I will remain blessed forever because of this tremendous trip.

Ken Thompson for Team Mumbai 2015
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Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Kenya: All Of Our Pictures

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Kenya: Our Last Distribution!

Our friendly neighbourhood rooster woke us up yet again for our seventh and final distribution day.  Today was a well organized site, at another primary school, with senior students and teachers assisting. Most of the 500 children were dressed and ready upon our arrival.  Their initial trepidation soon melted into giggles and beautiful smiles.  Their good behavior was a credit to the parents and teachers, thus making it a smooth and enjoyable day.  At the closing ceremonies the children performed for us with action songs.  We were privileged to be invited for tea and conversation with the staff and administration afterwards.

Then we were once again back in the van to return to a previous distribution site where some students had been unable to attend on the initial date.  These 38 students were thrilled to finally receive their bedkits.  Once again we were treated to a performance of songs of farewell.  This was a perfect way to finish off our mission of 4000 bedkits which leaves us with such a feeling of elation but at the same time we realize there is much left to be done here and many more needy children that remain.

Team Kenya 2015
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Mumbai: Distributions Completed!

There are 2,100 happy children in the greater Mumbai - Maharashtra area who have received their bedkits thanks to SCAW. Our Overseas Volunteer Partners have been working hard over the last six months to ensure that everything would be ready when the SCAW Travelling Team arrived last week. After five full days we handed out the bedkits and received thousands of smiles from the children in return. This year's distributions were special because we had 87 year old Billie Kemp as a team member. She is a dedicated SCAW veteran and she was accompanied by her son Kirk and grand-daughter Erin. Billie still got down on the ground and played with the children, letting them try on her SCAW hat or playing games with them. What an inspiration to all who were present at the distributions, but especially to her fellow team members. We also had three members from Sleep Country Canada (SCC). They ensured that 100+ children in each of the five pictures that documented SCC's donations looked great.

Bill Sergeant for Team Mumbai
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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Mumbai: A First-Time Experience

Being my first time with SCAW as well as coming to India, I had no idea what to expect. On distribution day one it took us approximately 3 hours to arrive to our destination. The village was very rural. Goats, cows, chickens and pigs all shared the roads along with auto rickshaws, scooters, motorcycles and trucks.

The children had put up welcome signs and decorated the dirt path with colorful sand designs.

Once we unpacked and set up, the welcome ceremony began. Five young girls began to do a dance in their finest clothes. What impressed me most is how well behaved the rest of the children were while watching. All sitting still in single file.

Finally we got started. My days task was to draw a smiley face on the children's thumb once they had had their picture taken so that we wouldn't give them two bedkits. I loved that job because I saw how excited they were to finally receive their gift. The children were very small for their ages, clearly signs of malnutrition. A few also had sores that were infected or vision or hearing disadvantages. Those kids seemed the most happy.

All in all the day went well and we gave out around 200 bedkits to these children. I can't wait to do it all again 

Adam Steeves for Team Mumbai 2015
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Kenya: Happy Smiles!

It was not such an early start this morning as we actually slept in until 6 a.m.!!! It still took us an hour and a half in city traffic to reach the site which today was one of extreme poverty.  The distribution was challenging as there were other functions happening along with noisy construction, and the ever present Kenyan dust blowing.

The centre offered education to 2300 students, from primary through high school.  We were impressed with quality of the buildings, that also included a nursery and family clinic.  The recipients of the bedkits were extremely excited and joyful.  Their beautiful faces were smiling from ear to ear.  Thank you once again to all our  generous donors for making this distribution of 1000 bedkits possible.  A dream come true for these children and our founder Murray.

Team Kenya 2015
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Monday, 2 March 2015

Kenya: Off The Beaten Track!

We were on the road by 5:30 this morning to start our 3 hour drive to the distribution site and avoid Nairobi traffic.   We had one pit stop en route, (which was a souvenir shop too!).  The last hour of the journey gave new meaning to “off the beaten track" as it is the end of the dry season.  It was dusty, extremely narrow and bumpy as we climbed up the mountain.  However, there was a warm greeting awaiting when we finally arrived, of children and parents anxious to see us.

As it was such an isolated spot, the children were again very needy, mostly without shoes, with threadbare uniforms and some of them were deaf.  However, we soon saw smiles lighting up their faces when some of the Team members starting blowing bubbles again whilst the rest of us were setting up.

We were entertained for a Kenyan lunch after the distribution, by a gentleman whose grandfather had built the school and everything had to be brought up the hill by donkeys. 

The children were so anxious to try their new mattresses that the headmaster kindly decided school was finished for the day and they could all go home!!!

Team Kenya 2015

Sunday, 1 March 2015

Mumbai: Dinner with Amin

For the SCAW Travelling volunteers who have had the pleasure of taking a tour with Amin Sheikh, a previous bedkit recipient, you will remember is warm smile and positive attitude. Four members of this year's Mumbai team had the wonderful opportunity to add to those memories when Amin invited Billie, Kirk and Erin Kemp along with Bill Sergeant back to his house to have supper with him, his sisters, his mother and another family friend. Amin's sister Sabina is a wonderful cook who made a dozen of her favourite dishes to serve us - it was all delicious. We also celebrated the fact that Amin's book was published in an 8th language, Hindi, that day. He is hoping that they next time that we come back to India, we will be able to have a coffee in his coffee shop. We hope so too and are looking forward to the opportunity.

Bill Sergeant for Team Mumbai 2015
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Mumbai: Only Two More Distributions!

 We have been a busy team since landing in Mumbai and are already over halfway through our distributions. When we arrived Adam Steeves asked what we would do when it rained on Saturday. Our Rotarian hosts told him that it rarely rains in February and not to worry. Well Adam was right! It started raining just as we were finishing yesterday's 611 bedkit distribution with the Bombay Airport Rotary Club and it rained through the night, stopping just as we arrived for the this morning's distribution at a government school. The local club put out large carpets to set the 400 bedkits on as well as having lots of them for the children to sit on while they waited for the photos. The smiles from the children melted our hearts today as we gave out the bedkits. Their happiness was measureable when one recipient joined his mother during the interviews that were being conducted by Billie and Kirk Kemp wit the assistance of Rtn Dr. Dave, who . The child had not been aware of what was in the bedkit that she had been carrying, and when she was shown by Billie and Kirk, her eyes just about popped out of her head and she could not stop smiling. What a wonderful experience for all of us.

Our Overseas Volunteer Partners (OVPs) have been wonderful. Not only have they helped get everything ready for the distributions and lend their time and talents to help run them, they have hosted us on a number of occasions too. Last evening was one of those memorable occasions as Raj and Manish Resham hosted us at the Jewel of India restaurant. The Rotary District Governor Ajay Gupta and the Assistant District Governor came to the restaurant to thank SCAW and us for all of the good work that we are doing 'for the children' of India. What a tremendous evening.

Bill Sergeant for Team Mumbai 2015
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Mumbai: Opportunity of a Lifetime!

Having an opportunity of a lifetime to be traveling to India with my daughter and Mom handing out bedkits to children who are less fortunate. Today we were at a school just outside Mumbai where we handed out 400 bedkits. My mom and I interviewed parents of 7 children who were to receive the bedkits. Not one of these families had a bed in their house or a mosquito net . To hear how grateful they were for not only the bedkit but for the fact that we would travel half half way around the world to do this work was extremely humbling. Mom asked them what was their dream for their children and all dreamed that their children could go to University so they could end the cycle of poverty. But all knew that it would never happen as they couldn't afford it. If I had the money in my pocket I would have given them enough right then. It was very sad to see they had hopes and dreams that most likely would never be fulfilled. They did say that they were inspired by us and that has given them a lot of hope.  This trip has been a real eye opener to see how far India has come but just how far they have left to go to enable their people to realize their dreams. The lasting reward for me is to see a 87 year old lady who can barely see come alive like a 60 year old.

Kirk. A true believer from Team Mumbai 2015
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