Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Chennai: Factory Visits

After our distribution of 500 children at Karur a new location for SCAW, we visited the factory where the mosquito nets are made.

The Rotarians at Karur went out of their way to be sure the team and the children were comfortable setting up in the shade or under colourful canopies.

We were able to once again show everyone the contents of the bedkits which resulted in lots of great smiles during the pictures.

The factory visit was to a small cottage industry who makes the mosquito nets. This area was the final stage where the panels are sewn together by women working in cramped quarters for 8 hours a day. From there we went to the next area that weaves the plastic fabric from the fibre into the finished panel which then goes to the ladies who sew the panels together.

I was so impressed with the quality of the product considering the limited size of the working space.

John O’Donnell for Team Chennai 2018
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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Chennai: Madurai

Yesterday was a travel day where we flew on a one hour flight to Madurai. There we were guests at the Rotary 3000 District Conference which was attended by over 2000 Rotary delegates from the surrounding areas. All delegates were treated to a 6 minute video presentation showcasing the creation of SCAW and its founder - Murray Dryden along with a introduction of this years team.

Today we had a distribution of 450 children in Madurai. Once again the needy children came from surrounding communities to receive their bedkits. We had the chance to demonstrate the contents of the bedkit to the children who were waiting before starting the process. They were thrilled to actually see and understand what was in the bedkit.

These children brighten our days more than they know.

John O’Donnell for Team Chennai 2018
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Monday, 29 January 2018

Chennai: Day 3!

After a long day of traveling our 4th destination for distribution was Nellore.
We were invited with other Rotarians to a dinner hosted by “Reddy” and his wife.

Reddy is a successful business man and humanitarian. His contributions include a school for gifted children, a hospital, and a mobile health unit. He has built a large convention centre which employs many locals.  His organization and planning skills were evident with how smoothly this distribution went.

Our distribution of just over 600 bedkits included children that came by bus, some as far away as 80km, which on Indian roads, can take as much as two hours to travel.

We finished the day with a tour of the school and the hospital and left knowing many children would be sleeping well.

Brenda and Mike for Team Chennai 2018
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Sunday, 28 January 2018

Kolkata: It's A Wrap!!

It's a wrap! 6000 bedkits have been given out to children of Kolkata and surrounding areas!  We have had a fabulous time, enjoying the children and meeting wonderful hosts and volunters at each site!

We also have had a fantastic team! Thanks to Judy for guiding us, Jill for assisting, Judy and downloading photos, Helga for her endless energy, Cathy for her humour and her snaps, Donna for leading the children in chants, Ranjan and Rowly for their endless support in so many ways, and Deb for her blogs ...

A huge thank you to our overseas partner The Rotary Club of Dum Dum! You are all gracious hosts and welcomed us so warmly have become extended family and it will be difficult to say our goodbyes...

Signing off from Kolkata India,
Team Kolkata 2018
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Chennai: Rishi Valley

After yesterday’s distribution in Vellore, we travelled about 6 hours to Rishi Valley.  The drive was slow as there seems to be traffic at all hours of the day in India. However, the long drive was totally worth it.

We arrived at Rishi Valley in the dark so I could not see much of the surroundings but I could feel the difference.  We emerged from the van to cool, fresh air and quiet.  A quiet we had not yet experienced in India.  We could no longer hear the horns and engines of the constant traffic that had accompanied us everywhere else.

When the sun rose in the morning we had the pleasure of seeing our surroundings.  We had spent the night in a building meant for the visiting parents of students at a boarding school.  The school, Rishi Valley School, is situated on 300 acres in a rural area, and it is a simple and beautiful campus.

We started our day with breakfast in the main cafeteria for the school.  For the senior students it was an examination day, however before their examinations they were having some fun at breakfast.  We arrived at the cafeteria building to see the students dressed up in costumes.  Cat in the Hat with Thing 1 and Thing 2, Alice in Wonderland, Star Trek’s Spock, and the entire main cast of Star Wars.  They paraded into the cafeteria full of smiles and applause.

After a cheerful breakfast we went to the site of the distribution, a field at the school.  The Rotarians had set up beautiful tents to provide shade for the volunteers and the children.  The sun was hot but the shade from the tents and the breeze made it quite pleasant.  Of course, the weather is completely secondary when you see the smiles of the children.

I was asked to hand the bedkits to the children at this distribution. The bedkits themselves are larger than many of the children who receive them.  Fortunately, we had many older students from the school there to help the children carry their kits.  Most of these children, however, did not need help.  

A few of the first children I met hoisted the bedkits onto their heads and walked off like they were wearing nothing more than a hat on their heads.  Just one more thing that brought a smile from my heart to my face.
By the time the children reach the end of the process, where they receive the bedkit, many are overwhelmed, confused, maybe even a little scared.  They realize that we do not understand their language and very few understand English.  They are told to say “thank you.”  A few of them even said to me, “say thank you.” And so I tried, without holding up the line, to connect with each child by looking deep into their eyes and letting love shine up from my heart and out through my smile.  Most of them understood this and responded with the biggest smile; a smile that shouted their gratitude.

I can only hope that these bedkits make as much of a difference in their lives as they have made in mine.

Team Chennai 2018
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Kolkata: Kindness

There is a kind, caring group of people from various parts of Canada (and this year also from Bangledesh) who have given freely of their time and energy to be a SCAW volunteer.  These volunteers meet up halfway across the world at our destination and become fast friends over a two week period.  We are here for a common purpose, to deliver bedkits to the needy children of Kolkata and surrounding areas.

At our location we meet with our overseas partners, the Rotarians of Dum Dum.  It is evident from the beginning that this is a great thing we are doing.. we are all here for the children - there is such need.  The Rotarians pride themselves in what they can provide for the $35.00 bedkit and the recipients are so fortunate!

Those receiving the bedkits are overwhelmed by your generosity ... they have tears in their eyes, some bless us while others shake our hand in thanks , others freely give hugs ... all happy to be there to meet the SCAW team.

And then we have the kindness of donors - without you none of this is possible!  The volunteers that come on your behalf are very honoured to give your gifts to the children of India.  The children and their families are very grateful of these gifts, thanking us for your kindness and generosity through their smiles and blessings and happiness.

Team Kolkata 2018
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Friday, 26 January 2018

Kolkata: Rock Stars!

We felt like rock stars today at Domkal! Everywhere we went, the children rushed up to us, hoping to have us take their picture or blow bubbles with them!  Or, if you stood still for a second or two, volunteers or hosts would search us out to take our picture!  The paparazzi were out in full force today... Even driving to/from the site, everyone was curious of the van of people in their town... We had another great day!

Team Kolkata 2018
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