Sneha Bhavan, is a unique home for boys who do not have the luxury of being able to live with their families. This can be due to parents not being able to care for the kids appropriately, trouble the kids have had at home, some have run away from home, and were found on the street or hanging out at train stations begging for change. It houses at this current point around about 84 boys. The Director, and the employees at the home are all volunteers from the church, who are trained in social work; they have spent many years with these kids, looking after the day to day needs of the kids, as well as helping them through any troubles they may have. It is unique to Kerala in the way that it is managed and funded, and there are many other shelters from around Kerala and India, mimicking what Sneha Bhavan is doing.
This summer was our first tour of Duty at Sneha Bhavan, having been to the home a few times, albeit just as a pop in, I was sure that we were going to be in for a real treat, but also something that was going to test our ability’s. The summer camp was designed to help build relationships with the kids and the people involved with the boy’s home. The camp had been split into three sections: English, Sports and Construction. Giving the boys and volunteers a chance to learn, have fun and improve their home. As this was the boys summer holidays, it was a time for them to enjoy themselves, and an opportunity for volunteers to get to know the boys on a different level to that of the classroom. It’s not about just getting involved on a surface level with the kids, but to show them that we are here to be an active part of their development, this was our motivation.
Developing relationships is a key element when working in community development and one that is overlooked far too easily. By working to what the community and partners needs are, can a development process start to take hold. Giving the group ownership of what they have done, more so what we have all done together is much more powerful than a hand out. By getting our hands dirty together we earned the respect of the boys and community, to show that we are here for them, here for the long haul.
As we come to the end of an era here in Kerala, we can look back on some fond memories of the last 10 months. In July of 2011, we were given a group of 23 orphanage boys and girls, from the age of 6-13 years. All from the State of Manipur (North-East of India) they were caught in a child labour racket. They were not allowed to be put into the school system in Kerala due to insufficient paper work. So the job of providing these kids with an education was paramount.
Now as we have come into the school holidays we have been able to see the progress in their growth and development over the last 10 months. This has come through watching the kids pull on their first ever sports uniform and football boots, giving them a real sense of being a team, and giving them ownership, something to take care of. Have them reading story books, learning from encyclopedia’s, getting creative with some extraordinary art lessons and seeing them develop an insane love for stickers, something they had never seen before coming here.
There still is no information on what’s happening with the kids at this point. They will need to go to school soon, so fees will need to be paid, books and uniforms purchased. This can only be made possible with the help of donations. We have made a great start, but it is only the beginning of their journey, you can join us on being a part of their journey and future. All this has only been possible through the help of donors both in country and those of you at home.
The Manipuri Children are a group of 23 children from the orphanage in Kerala in which we help. We give them education whilst the orphanage (where they are now living) waits on their paperwork (birth certificates and previous school papers) before they can be admitted to a formal educational institution. Aged between 4 years to 13 years, they were part of child labour trafficking and were brought to Kerala on the promise of earning some money. We are fortunate to be working with these amazingly bright children since June 2011.
We have split up the children into different groups based on their capability and prepared a schedule that involves them with sports, numeracy and literacy abilities and arts /drama or science on a daily basis. This is in line with our long term goals which include language acquisition and helping disadvantaged children. We all work hard towards putting together material for these children without a curriculum at hand. We have got volunteers to use their knowledge and interest to teach the children the vital language skills of reading, writing, listening and speaking.
This past month has been very successful as we have had some qualified teachers and a few experienced and hard working volunteers to help us. One of the most successes has been getting the kids to write out a Spanish folk tale that a volunteer told them. The children got really involved and wrote the story in a book form that is now going into print after we edit it. It goes to show how talented and creative the children are and also how well they are learning. The money we raise from sales is going to go towards buying them more story books. The journey continues and we hope that these beautiful children keep smiling and learning.
As January runs away with us the project is back into the full swing of things in Kerala, India. Recent support for this project has helped us to further develop the sports program with a focus on providing sports shoes and clothing for children who could not afford them. Previously many of the children would need to play sports bare foot leading to injury, broken nails. Cuts and bruises were common, the new shoes help to prevent injury and enhance the performance of the children providing more enjoyment. The sports clothing means the children do not have to play in their uniforms making them sweaty and dirty, the sports clothes also bring a sense of team spirit as they have unified colours and numbers. India project manager Ridhi Patel explains: The donation money has been used for purchasing items that will be beneficial to the school and the children in the long term. The sports equipment is essential so the children have the right kit to play with. The sports coach is also important for the school to provide some structure to sports lessons. In the long term we hope to help the students become more active and confident, practise sports and participate in competitions, all of which is important for their development and growth. There are also a lot of talented children who need the right guidance and given the equipment they could grow up to be successful sportsmen/women.' Funds also enabled us to construct a fence around the sports field. The area in the corner of the sports field had been used to dispose of rubbish bringing a dangerous and unhygienic situation for children playing in the field. Often the ball would roll into the area where rubbish was dumped meaning that the children would be exposed to it. Fencing off the area helps to contain the game on the field and separate the children from this danger.
Thank you to everyone who has supported this project.
With support for this project the school has been able to hold several sports day functions for kids at the school, for the orphanage boys and girls that we are working with, as well as hosting other schools in the local area. First was the sports day for the school, where the kids competed against each other for ultimate glory (and bragging rights). Funds helped to to clean the soccer field and purchase drinks for the kids. The second was the A team playoffs with three other local schools, the A Team is Auxilium schools representative soccer team. Students and teachers came together for a fantastic, competitive and fun day. Thirdly was a games day held for the orphanage boys and girls, they were able to spend the day getting out of the classroom for some fun games together with all of the volunteers.
All of these things would not be possible without the donations received to be able to continue to give the school a greater focus on sports, and it is building more and more. With the donations also funding an excellent sports coach we are continuing to build a solid sports program. These sports days have also attributed to the schools identity both to the students and those in the community. We are building a good sense of loyalty and team work into the kids through doing these programs. Hopefully teaching them lessons you just can’t find in a book. The A Team day was something never done before and was an excellent way to network and build relations with our fellow schools, the kids had an amazing time and is a program that we will definitely do again. The school and students performed amazingly well on and off the field, and showed how a little hard work and want for it to happen can provide a great experience for everyone. In case you were wondering our Auxilium school finished a gutsy second! We’ll get em next time.
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