We made it!

We made it!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Day 10 Mysore – Project Visit and A Day We Will Never Forget

Today started as all days with the visit from the monkeys and being chaperoned down to breakfast by the monkey herder with his sling shot. India received a visit from the Indian Tooth Fairy last night having lost a tooth and found a rupee under her pillow this morning. As we sat and enjoyed our breakfast we had the outside restaurant to ourselves and Gus enjoyed riding his scooter up and down the path alongside out table spotting monkeys in the distance and entertaining the waiters. As a team we took some time to review the first leg of our journey and had a discussion about what has been working well, what hasn’t been working so well and ideas for the next leg. It was a fruitful discussion filled with many positive observations and some good ideas for the next leg.

After breakfast we headed out to the Mysore Press Club for a meeting with the Press. Having never done anything like this before we had no idea what to expect or what would ensue. We all walked in and there was a small stage with a long table at the front of the room with 5 chairs behind it. Bec, the kids and I sat at the front with Prem Kumar from the ChildFund India National office and Father Jonas from the Local Project we are supporting here in Mysore. Mum, Nick, Eibh and Nicola sat in the seats with the journalists. There would have been maybe 15 journalists in the room. Prem and Father Jonas talked first and then I shared some information about our walk and why we were doing it and what it was all about. There were a few questions from the press and then Gus decided to share a few of his thoughts about his goats before we were off. I didn’t think I would ever be a part of a press conference especially not in India, but there you go. As we were leaving Bec pointed out the lifesize portrait of Mahatma Ghandi on the back wall, it felt very much like he is with us in spirit.

From the press meeting we then headed out to visit two of the local child care centres that are part of the Kiriya Pushpa Family Helper Project, which is supported by funding from ChildFund India. Each was located in a small brick hut and filled with beautiful young children. Bec had brought bubbles to blow for the kids and we had balls to play with and after a quick introduction we pretty much played with the kids the whole time we were there. Gus brought along his scooter and put on a show for the kids. We learnt how ChildFund, in conjunction with the local project office, work with the community to identify areas where government programs are not available and there is a gap in the provision of care for children. These centres allow parents to leave their children 6 days a week whilst they go to work (mostly as labourers) and the children are taught, receive nutritious meals and monthly medical checks. As always it was beautiful watching our kids interact so naturally with the Indian kids, they all had a great time together.

After the visits we had a quick 30 minutes back at the hotel before heading out to the St Teresa’s grounds and the project office. A presentation had been planned for us to be able to meet with the children who were going to be the recipients of many of the items we had been fundraising for. Upon arrival we were greeted by many of the staff from the project office and the ChildFund India National office including Antony and Prem. There was another journalist from the Indian times wanting an interview and several photographers also present. We just can’t believe the level of attention our walk is getting from the Indian Press. We are very pleased to be able to use our walk to raise the awareness to the wonderful work of ChildFund India and the many current needs of vulnerable children. According to our friends from ChildFund India the press attention has been creating a great deal of interest in the work of ChildFund India and many requests for further information.

We sent some time playing with the kids and talking with the staff before heading around the back of the project office to the school hall and the venue for our presentation. As we walked behind the project office building and walked across the school grounds it was apparent that this was going to be an amazing event. As we approached the hall there was an incredible buzz emanating from the building and as we got closer there were literally hundreds (approx. 500-600!) of children and parents, teachers and staff waiting for us. The hall was set up like a church with two rows of long chairs set up at either side of the hall and a long aisle up the middle, complete with red carpet! As we walked up the aisle there were just so many kids, they were all so happy to see us, as were we to see them.

At the front of the hall was a large stage with chairs set up for all of our team and Father Jonas and Antony. There was a large “Coast to Coast” banner behind the chairs welcoming us to the event. As we walked up to the stage, we looked back into a sea of beautiful faces, it just took our breath away. We had welcome speeches from Father Jonas and Antony and then there was traditional and modern dancing from the children, and some short plays about HIV awareness and child rights. I was asked to light a welcome candle on the stage and I went up with Indy, Maggie and Gus and we each took a turn at lighting one of the candles. This was fine until Gus decided he would start blowing them out as we were lighting them! We got there in the end. It was all just quite beautiful. I could tell from the looks on the faces of my friends and family that they were as blown away as I was by the whole event. We were very honoured to see the Bishop of Mysore join us for the presentation. At one point Maggie was sitting next to the Bishop and they were having a nice old chat, Maggie loves to talk – would love to have been in on what they were chatting about!

Then came the moment we had been building up to for the last 15 months. We were asked to come down from the stage and present the children with their items. Firstly there were many girls who received brand new bikes to enable them to school. In September we identified during my visit that there were several children who had to walk up to 5 or 6 kilometres each day back and forth to attend school. This was not only time consuming and difficult but also unsafe. We were able to present these girls today with their brand new bikes, it was so wonderful to see the look on their faces as they were each presented, by my daughter India, with their new bikes.

After the bikes we presented new school bags and school kits to orphaned children. There must have been over 100 amazing kids who were called up to receive their brand new satchel from either Maggie or Gus. The children must have ranged in age from 3-4 year olds up to teenagers. One at a time they came up with the most beautiful and grateful look in their eyes. I just took the moment to kneel down and look into the eyes of each one of these incredible kids. I looked over to see Bec having a quiet tear to herself back at the chairs and decided to join her in what would have to be one of the most special moments of our lives. After the hundreds of kids received their school bags and kits it was time for Eibhlin to distribute her water filters for the local schools. These filters will ensure the children at these many schools get access to fresh drinking water. The whole process was just the most unbelievable experience and I just felt numb all over.

I am sure I am not doing the day justice, but for those of you who are reading this and have donated to ChildFund as part of our walk, these are your funds going directly to these children. We actually saw the kids who were benefiting directly from your generous donations. If only you could have seen the looks on the faces of the kids as one after one they received their much needed items. In this community we are also providing funds for emergency medical treatment for HIV infected children, a cause we are very committed to supporting.

By this stage the kids were whipped up into a bit of a frenzy. I was asked to give a small speech and as I came up on the stage with Bec and the kids Gus had his first moment he had been waiting for. He had been watching all of the kids dancing and acting on the stage, and all the while asking “when is it my turn?”, well it was now his turn. So as I started to speak Gus put on a show of cartwheels and backflips (technically forward rolls but Gus refers to them as his backflips) While the “Gus show” was going on I gave a small speech where I talked about the fact that every child in this world is special, and every child deserves the right to grow up in a safe environment, healthy and able to go to school. That we want to live in a world where this is not an aspiration, but a reality. I shared with people my experience of the warm and friendly hospitality I have always experienced when in India and shared our two most special quotes – “No one can do everything, but everyone can do something’ and ‘be the change you want to see in the world’. I mentioned that the people in the audience who were clearly so grateful for what we were doing, would probably never truly understand how special it is for my family and I to be here, and to experience first hand, the difference the contribution we are making from Australia will make to the lives of the children in the room. I thanked them very much for allowing us to a part of today.

I then handed the microphone to India who provided a very moving and inspired talk about the impact this whole experience was having on her life and how grateful she was to be able to see first had the impact the funds raised were having on kids, followed by a few beautiful and heart felt words from Maggie. Maggie then handed the microphone to Gus who was waiting for this moment. On stage 500 people in the palm of his hand and he was off. He talked about goats, he talked about helping kids, he talked about our driver Raju, he talked about all sorts of stuff. One hand on his hip the other on the microphone. He had to get the wind up from India and Mags or he would probably still be talking now. Bec decided not to talk today and was happy to leave it to the rest of us to convey just how thankful we were for the experience we were sharing together today.

After our presentation the Bishop of Mysore gave a very heartfelt talk, including his thanks and appreciation for the commitment being made to the children of Mysore. After the Bishop it was time for another play from the children and then another highlight of the day, dancing from Veenai and his team. Wow, what a performance, he was spectacular, look out Bollywood. The day was drawing to a close and after a few final words of thanks the presentation was over and we all adjourned to the school grounds for tea. As we were having tea all of the children were walking around with their new bikes or school kits, it was just amazing. Veeni came up to Eibhlin and I and presented each of us with a beautiful gift that he had obviously organised of his own accord which was incredibly touching. Veeni, you may recall from a recent blog is an 11 year old boy and just such a special kid. He is on the waiting list to be a sponsored child and whilst benefiting from community programs and sponsorships has not yet been sponsored himself, until now. He is a beautiful example of the many, many children who families can provide regular support to through a child sponsorship through ChildFund International.

Gus took off again on his scooter across the grounds so I followed him away from the main group to find a small concrete area for Gus to practice his scooter moves. I just took a moment to look around the school field and just watch the kids. There were girls with their new bikes looking super proud as they rode around. There were kids wearing their new school bags on their backs, some of them barely bigger than their bags. I took a moment to think about 15 months earlier in Barwon Heads Caravan Park when I had been feeling pretty flat about my life and wanted to do something more. I was tired, anxious and lacking motivation for life and work. I thought about the contribution I wanted to make in this world and I thought about what I would like to do that would be extraordinary and I turned to my wife as we were pushing Gus on a swing and said “I want to walk across India”. Fast forward 15 months and here we are. Together with many wonderful friends and family members we have collectively raised well over $50,000AUD and on our way to my initial secret target of $100,000AUD. We are walking across India as a family and on the way meeting some wonderful people and children and having an experience of a lifetime. I am hoping our journey is also encouraging others to find a way of doing something extraordinary for themselves and inspiring people to make their contribution to this world. It doesn’t have to be a walk across India, it can be anything. Remember everyone can do something,

As the sky was becoming darker and the day drawing to a close the kids were slowly coming past to say goodbye, There were so many friendly faces and so many parents coming up to say thankyou for the support we were providing. We spent time saying our goodbyes and then all fell back in the bus with a quiet sense of euphoria and shared stories of the day. When we returned home it all became too much for our little man Gus who had a major meltdown. No sleep during the day and a very big day. There was screaming ‘I don’t like you’ ‘ don’t look at me’ and one of the biggest meltdowns we have seen from our tired little man. Just so you know that it is not all euphoric experiences over here! As this was going on Indy had a little meltdown of her own, hers a more happy one. She was so emotional about what she had experienced during the day and it just all caught up with her. She is now of an age where she really gets it, what we are trying to do as a family and for her to witness through her own eyes was incredibly moving for our beautiful Indy. After a little talk, lots of cuddles and a wash she was off next door to play Uno for the beds with Nicola and Eibhlin. Meanwhile Manny had calmed down enough for me to give him a cuddle and he expressed that he didn’t like it when people were pinching his cheeks. It turned out that once again there was a moment when he was surrounded by people, all wanting to touch his cheeks and he got very scared and overwhelmed. In case we needed it (and we shouldn’t have) Gus was reminding us that he needs to feel safe when we are at these events so we made a promise together that this wouldn’t happen again. He had two cups of tea and went to bed.

As I sit here and type my blog, bowl of noodles for dinner, Bec and the rest of the team are down enjoying dinner and as I understand it very emotional about what they were invited to be a part of. The celebration today organised by Dola, Antony and in particular Prem Kumar from the ChildFund India office together with our friends from the Kyria Pushpa project, Father Jonas and his team have provided us with a day we will never forget, thankyou.


  1. Wow Nicky what a spectacular event. No wonder you were all so emotional. I certainly am just reading about it. Congratulations! What a superb outcome of all your hard work. Love A JaneX

  2. OMG reading this makes me feel like I am there with you and your team! What a day, such amazing achievements. You are all an inspiration to the rest of us!
    I shall continue reading......