Rooouuunnnnddd twoooo bing bing bing bing!
Posted by India Kolkata Action Team 2011-12 at 12:45 on 21st January 2012
Happy New Year!! We are over half way through our time here in Kolkata now. Can you believe it?!
Christmas Eve was an interesting experience! I don’t think any of us have ever spent it at a baptism, in a water park. Seeing as we are in India, you would expect it to be nice and hot… No, it’s still winter and believe it or not it is actually pretty cold! It was a good laugh though and great to see someone completely handing their life over to God.
Josh, Ellen, Naomi and Harriet on the water slide! (It looks as though we are going nice and fast but in reality... we were stuck.)
Christmas day the girls dressed up in their new saree’s and Josh in his Punjabi suit. We went to church and then spent the day opening presents and enjoying an interesting Christmas dinner with our supervisor, Anu, and her family. It was a lovely day all round, but of course we were all missing our families a lot.
The team all dressed up for Christmas!
After Christmas we were just relaxing and packing ready for our mid-way holiday to Goa. We left on the 27th Dec, it took 3 days to get there, and 3 days to get home again. Ouch! But over all we had a great holiday, spending time on the beach, eating good food, doing a bit of shopping! However, Ellen did have to spend 24 hours in Hospital being re-hydrated. This wasn’t so great. You will be happy to hear she is fully recovered and back to her chatty self now. We saw New Year in on the beach in Goa, and danced in one of the beach shacks until the early hours. Again, I think we were all feeling quite homesick but we enjoyed it none the less.
On the beach in Goa!
We got back to Kolkata ready and raring to get back into our weekly regime. We did take a couple of days off to recover from the long train journey, but we were soon set to get on with things.
Now that our holiday is over, its time for round two of our Indian adventure! This started with school. We were so excited to see the children again, and I think they felt the same about us! We have been teaching on and off in the various different age groups. Some children understand things much easier than others. It is frustrating when you are trying to teach a child to write the letter ‘A’ and he refuses to write anything other than ‘H’!
We also went to the baby care centre for a day on the 17th Jan. This is also run by the Good News Children Education Mission, but it is for babies aged 6 months- 3 years old. The day starts at 9am and finishes around 3/4pm. It was a long day!! There were about 20 adorable babies there. As usual, there are the ones who keep themselves to themselves and get on with things, ones that sleep all the time, the odd one that hits the other ones, the one that won't let you put them down, and the ones that are always crying! So there was always something to do! We didn't get back to the guesthouse until after 5pm. And we were shattered! We probably wouldn’t do this for a full day again, but we will hopefully go after school a few more times just for the afternoon.
Wednesdays are usually Freeset days but seeing as Steve (our supervisor type thing) isn't back from New Zealand until 28th, we are finding different things to do to substitute for a while. On this particular Wednesday (18th Jan) Josh stayed home as he wasn’t feeling too good, Ellen went to school again and Harriet and Naomi decided to go to Mother house (Mother Teresa) just down the road to see if they could volunteer for a day.
Harriet and Naomi outside Mother House.
Seeing as nothing particularly special happened for Ellen and Josh, we will write about our day at the Mother house. Here we had breakfast with the rest of the volunteers, which consisted of bread and chai. After a song and a prayer, the various volunteers dispersed to their different assignments. There are about 7 houses in Kolkata that you can volunteer at. As we were only getting a day pass, we were sent to help out at Prem Dan.
The big white building is Prem Dan.
Prem Dan is located right next to a railway track/station which has quite a large slum along it. We got a bus here - another interesting experience! Hanging out of the doors of vehicles is starting to become a regular occurrence!
This building has a men's side and a women's side. The men work with the men and the ladies work with the ladies. We walked into the main area where the ladies are being looked after and the pain and suffering of these women hits you right in the face. Nothing is sugar coated or hidden behind doors. The first lady we saw had no eyes, and the skin on her face was pulled tight as if she had been seriously burnt or something similar. Around her were ladies with huge open sores, missing limbs, broken (visible) bones, mental problems, cancer, anorexia.. Anything you can think of, there was someone there who was suffering with it. Even some as young as 20 years old. It was really hard to see this, as you can imagine.
We started the day by doing some laundry. The clothes and sheets go through a long process of cleaning before being taken up bucket after bucket to the roof to be hung out to dry. We weren't doing this for long before we were asked to help clean mattresses. It’s not as bad as it sounds, they were made of plastic and you literally just had to wipe them down. After this we lay them on their metal frames which make up the beds, and put 3 different sheets on each one. This process is done every day by the sisters and volunteers.
Indian volunteers cleaning. Behind where the lady is stood by the curtain is where the ladies beds are set out in rows for them to rest after dinner.
We helped the ladies to the toilet that couldn't go themselves, change foiled sheets, clean the ladies where necessary, give hand lotion and massages, and just be a friend to them. I bet your face is crinkled up in a form of disgust isn't it? "They had to change foiled sheets?" - We would be the same if someone had told us beforehand that that's what we would be doing. But trust me, when it comes to it, something kicks in and you just get on with it. You want to protect the ladies dignity as much as possible, and they're going to be far more embarrassed by you so squirming isn't going to do anyone any good. And actually, this day is probably one of the most rewarding we’ve had yet. We finished the day by feeding some ladies that couldn't feed themselves. Naomi fed an old lady who almost refused to eat and kept hiding under her bed cover, and Harriet fed one for about an hour to only get a quarter of the way through the meal, then she fell asleep... Both ladies couldn't even sit up... Ever fed someone lying down? Rice.everywhere.
We have now all registered to do some regular work with the Missionaries of Charity. Harriet and Naomi will be doing Wednesday and Saturday mornings at Shanti Dan. Shanti means "peace"; Dan means "gift of." This is a home for mentally disabled and abused women and girls. Josh and Ellen have registered to do Wednesday and Saturday afternoons at Kali Ghat, the home for the dying and destitute. After 3 weeks we can change which home we work at if we wish, or add more in. So this is a possibility. We are all hoping to do a couple of afternoons at Daya Dan too, which is a home for mentally and physically disabled children.
So our weeks are looking a bit fuller now, but we are all really excited to be getting involved with new projects. They will be really challenging, but I think we will all benefit from them and feel like the work we are doing, though there are lots of volunteers, is really making a difference.
Bring on part 2 of our amazing Indian experience!
Josh, Harriet, Naomi and Ellen xx
Kolkata Action Team