Saturday, 30 April 2011

An introduction to Educators’ Trust India

Those of you who follow me on Facebook and Twitter may have seen my frequent references over the last week to a small, local charity called Educators’ Trust India.  I met one of their founders quite by chance last Tuesday and he invited me to visit one of the free schools which they run here for the children of impoverished migrant workers.  I ended up spending a day at the school (more on this to follow), joining them when they visited an extremely sick child with kidney failure in the Panjim hospital, spending time with the children at the beach one afternoon (here I am with the girls!) and also tagging along when they visited a slum settlement to give a basic literacy lesson and provide fruit to the children there (more on that too).
It’s almost impossible to believe how much great work these guys do for the children on virtually no money at all;  they are staffed almost entirely by volunteers from around the world and their core team includes a retired British GP and a former headmaster from a tough school in Halifax.  Their faith in the power of education to overcome illiteracy, child labour and poverty  is unshakable and I am so impressed with their passion and love for these forgotten children that I’ve offered my services to help with their new website
Here’s a few words from one of their board members, Dr Mistry,  from a email I received from him yesterday:
” … all our brothers and sisters and uncles and aunties who are involved with our ET project are all very disciplined and genuine in the term of caring,compassion and going that extra mile in helping the most vulnerable children with their family in our society.
We, the Indians are poor, but India is rich.
It is one country that I know which has a system which is so extreme, there is a law for the rich and a law for the poor.
We have a school for the rich and a school for the poor, the education standard is such that, it is almost impossible for a poor child to go through the education till age 21 to 24 yrs, this as you know, in UK it is normal for a student to go through, the primary, secondary and University level, UK, gives help at each stages.
We at ET, the Essence is to Empower these deprived children to have the same high standard as the rich, we believe we will achieve this, we obviously need help from likeminded people. We welcome you in this mission and as times goes on,  we all be able to see the outcome, in these little flowers who will blossoms into excellent citizen, who in turn  will help their own people who are going through the same journey.”

One particularly positive piece of news that I can share is that Educators’ Trust India were able to help Jyoti,  the little girl with the injured foot whom I met in my first week here. She is now fully healed and doesn’t even limp, thanks to them treating her at their free weekly drop-in clinic.  These people do such wonderful work for the children – I’m proud to be helping them in some small way and will write more about their projects in my next couple of blog posts

"Authored by Cleo Thompson and originally published on  - (c) Cleo Thompson" 

The flip-flops have landed!

It shows the ETI team distributing the children’s flip-flops which (fellow volunteer) Natasha and I bought a few days before I left Goa.  We went to the local (non-touristy) market and,  with the help of our lovely taxi driver Satish,  negotiated a good price for 20 pairs of sturdy, rigid soled flip-flops in assorted sizes,  from ages 3 to 12.
They worked out at around £1 per pair;  we could have paid less,  but we wanted to get the better quality flip-flops so that they stood up to the wear and tear of life in the rural slum and on the beach.
So here are the children trying on the flip-flops for size – don’t their parents look proud and happy? The mums are looking on and smiling,  the dads are helping to fit the shoes to the feet.

And here’s a group shot of all the kids with,  for some of them,  their first ever pair of shoes.
I just love seeing how much difference a tiny amount of money can make to these children’s lives.  While I was away,  my very wonderful friend Liz saw my Facebook updates about ETI and e-banked me £20,  simply saying: “spend it how you see fit.”
That £20 bought milk for the children and mums in the field for a month.
£10 will buy 10 pairs of children’s flip-flops and help to protect the feet of girls like Jyoti.
£10 also enables the teachers and children at one of the charity’s schools to have rice for their lunch for a month.
£5 will buy apples and bananas for 30 children.
Small potatoes for us – big impact for these kids.
I’m gradually building a fabulous collection of photos featuring Educators’ Trust India and their work and I’ll post a link to my online album once I get it set up.
"Authored by Cleo Thompson and originally published on  - (c) Cleo Thompson" 

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Guest post: On the healing power of love

This is a guest post by Dr. Dhiru Mistry, an Indian born British GP who took early retirement from the National Health Service in order to return to India and devote his life and his medical skills to helping the poor and dispossessed.
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Namaste, as we say in India – it is a lovely greeting from the heart. The greeting has inner significance, let me just explain briefly.  By holding both hands in a prayer position and looking at the eyes of the person you are greeting, this means that with my five senses of perception, five organs of action and with my soul I greet you. It also means that I see God in you and I welcome you with that intention and purpose. This is much better than our western greeting of just saying hello or shaking hands.
Having read Cleo’s article on the work of Educators’ Trust India, I was very impressed. It carried the point home to the reader: that in India, we have a tremendous gap between the poor and the rich, and yet out there we still have noble people who want to make a difference.
Let’s get serious.  My mind boggles to see this extreme poverty, this obvious carelessness and selfishness which is quite apparent when we visit the slums. I have the deep feeling that in the 21st century, this should not be allowed to exist – the obvious pain, the suffering born of  hunger and illness, no proper human being should allow this to happen. Well, it is happening, what are we doing? This world belongs to us all, not just the Goan, the Indians, the British but to us all, and our teaching from the great books says it all, that there should be no class based, creed based, religious based, colour based discrimination.  As humans, we should be utterly ashamed of our apparent lack of love and concern for the needs of these poor, displaced people in our society.
At Educators’ Trust India, we are empowering these children through education and trying to give a few of them food and clothing, but this is a drop in the ocean.
Our Morning Light project, where we provide a mobile health, education, sanitation and nutritional service to slum dwellers is the best that I have ever undertaken.  I say this with experience – my voluntary missionary work and philanthropy in medical fields have taken me to various parts of the world – but this is the ONLY project in Goa where we are going to the poor, the destitute and displaced people.  These people are so poor, so illiterate, so hungry that they do not have the energy to know how to fight their corner.  India is boasting that they are a world power; I disagree,  as one cannot be rich by means of acquiring  gold or dollars, one gets richness when the hearts and mind and the physical health of all its citizens are fulfilled, without hunger, homelessness, illiteracy  or holding out of the hands for a few rupees.  It makes me not angry, but sad at the thought of such treatment in an open society as ours. Remember,  slavery is now forbidden, but in reality it still exists.
At Morning Light each week, our volunteers, all of whom come from wealthy Western backgrounds, see no difference in colour, creed or race, they see all as one and the love flows. Everyone is engaged in various tasks – you will see them washing, bathing, shampooing the children hoping to get rid of their suffering due to head lice. These children just do not have the simple itching manifestation of head lice:  they have bleeding, scarring and intense itching – why? It is obvious they have been neglected.  You can also see our volunteers playing, cuddling with joy and affection at the same time as teaching some basics to the children.  I am engaged in treating the illness that comes alone, with the help of our nurse.  We may be doing basic treatments and they do not need somebody like me with extensive experience to deal with minor illnesses, but the point is that we care for them and it is done with unconditional Love.
Remember, Love heals.
This requires patience, tolerance, fortitude, equanimity and fraternity – these will prove invaluable attributes in our pilgrimage to the souls of the poor and the needy. Remember, we need to be a flower which radiates charm and fragrance, whether it is for a poor child or a rich child.  As with all things good and noble, the project, as a mobile clinic bringing medical relief, feeding and education, empowering and educating the neglected Indians in the squalor of the slums, brings home the lesson that Love and Service are like the two wings of a bird.
Flight is not possible with just one wing alone.
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Educators’ Trust India now has a Justgiving page. Please click here to make a donation if you can – even a few pounds or dollars makes a huge difference to both these children’s lives and to the work carried out by Dhiru and his team. Thank you.

"Authored by Cleo Thompson and originally published on  - (c) Cleo Thompson"