We made it!

We made it!

Monday, January 2, 2012

Christmas Day Reflections

This year we did something a little different, it started with a special Christmas Eve dinner. We had a couple of trestle tables brought into our room and set up for a lovely family dinner. We read the night before Christmas and all retired quite early, given Kate and the kids were still getting over their travel. Maggie left out a few snacks for Santa and the reindeers and all the kids hoped Santa would find his way to Bangalore. Well the tooth fairy found us, surely Santa would too.

I slept in one bedroom with Gus and Bec slept in the other with the girls. Gus was particularly excited about the notion of leaving a pillowcase by the end of the bed and santa coming to fill it during the night. Christmas morning and I can hear the footsteps of Ally and Max in the next room, still on Adelaide time. After a short time Gus started to stir and I quietly reminded him about his sack at the end of the bed. It was like I’d given him a surging shot of adrenaline, Gus immediately jumped up, still very bleary eyed, to find his sack with presents in it (not full this year, but Gus was just as excited). We grabbed the sack and headed down to the girls room to wake them up.

The presents were open firstly by Gus, then by Maggie and then by Indi. A pretty modest set of presents this year but enjoyed just as much. We opened up the doors and joined in for morning Christmas wishes with Jen, Nick, Kate and the kids. We were all very excited about what was in store for us today. After our breakfast we all packed up and headed out in the car to the sneehadan children’s care home and Shining Star School (for HIV infected children). Driving through the streets of Bangalore felt very surreal, as we reminded ourselves on a few occasions that it was actually Christmas Day and here we were in India. Only about 5% of the population in Bangalore is Christian so Christmas Day was not a big affair for most of the locals.

The drive took us over an hour and we eventually arrived. We drove into a place with large grounds, church, housing, farm area and vegetable garden and importantly a school. We arrived a little early and the children were still at their morning mass. As we waited we were able to have a short tour of the classrooms which were full of colour and information designed to create a wonderfully positive learning environment for the children. There are approximately 100 orphaned children aged 4-12 who live at the home and attend the school. Here they are able to receive the medical attention they require as well as a more nutritious diet that enables much healthier kids. We were later informed that the life expectancy for many of these children if left in their villages was only 13-14 years of age. The staff at the home make great importance of retaining the link with the child’s family and go to great lengths to identify living relatives and work to maintain a strong and regular link.

After a while the children in small groups started to make their way back from the church back to the school. Beautiful children that we were so excited to see. Courtesy of ChildFund India and the funds we had raised we were able in discussion with the school identify a range of sports equipment and games that the children would enjoy. Ofcourse we had cricket sets, we had badminton, board games, frisbies, skipping ropes and carom boards (a kind of Indian finger snooker). It was a very informal visit and we basically just spent a few hours playing with the kids. We start with some songs, singing some Christmas carols together, first the kids then all of us. Bec’s bubbles again proved a huge hit, Gus was playing running and sliding games up and down the verandah with a large group of kids and we all just enjoyed our time interacting together. Again I find a moment to just stand there and take in what is happening around me. Usually on Christmas Day by now we would be on to our 3rd or 4th drink, eating more than any person should consume in one day and sharing a multitude of gifts. Not that there is anything wrong with this and we will quite possibly be doing the same next year. This year though is different. As I look around there are smiling kids everywhere. The joy and simplicity of blowing bubbles has many kids in raptures, other kids running around together, some sitting and talking, what an amazing moment, one to be remembered for all time.

We have a tour of the school rooms, the dormitories, the kitchen and offices. Father Matthew discusses his plans for a vocational training centre for the children so when they have finished school there is another option for them. He has some land and has plans drawn up. The centre has received funding from USAID for many years and this year that funding is coming to an end. Father Matthew is quite positive about it and says he has confidence funds will come in from somewhere. I certainly hope so, this is one of the most important services for children, kids who are in need of nourishment, medication, love and support. We discuss other needs for the children and father Matthew discusses his interest in Spirulina being made available, particularly for their most malnourished children, he already had two children who had just started the treatment and he would be very interested in securing additional Spirulina for the children. We make a note and follow up with Antony from ChildFund.

Our kids get to have a look at where the kids live, it is very clean and well organised and looks like a camp centre that the kids would enjoy when they go on their school camp. The reality though is that this isn’t camp this is life, one bunk bed, one locker in a shared room, with about 20-30 kids per room. The boys in two rooms and the girls in two rooms. These have been the experiences in recent trips that have stayed with the kids when they return home so I am happy that Ally and Max get to share in this experience.

We spend some time saying our goodbyes and the kids head out for their lunch. We head back to the hotel taking a moment to absorb all that our morning meant to us, a very special Christmas day. We return to our rooms to share a small gift for each of the team and then enjoy our dinner together. An amazing day we have had and we hope that all of our friends and family also shared in a very special day of their own.

No comments:

Post a Comment