The last few weeks have been somewhat busy with the number of children we are helping increasing on a daily basis. The current count is around 80, which is way beyond our original expected number of 50, which was in itself, double of what we did last year. Due to this, I was truly thankful for the helping hand of Camille who had been searching for volunteer work in Goa. She had tried to contact 4 or 5 different schools and children's homes but had not received any replies, so when she got in touch, she was delighted and surprised for a quick response.
Camille's timing was perfect, we had already bought around 70 bags and still had lots of items which needed adding to each bag. Camille and Robert spent the day going through the checklist and ensuring each bag had the correct set of items in the pencil cases, and that if uniforms were already stitched and school sandals bought, they were in the correct bag. Extra items like rulers, umbrellas and health packs were also shared out between the bags. The hardest job was ensuring that each pencil case had age specific items in and we had to double check that each child had rulers as we thought we might have missed one, so after completing everything we had a quick look through and found two or three which had been left out. It took most of the day to go through the bags between us, each one labelled and listing the items in each so that when more uniforms are stitched we can ensure they go in the correct bags. There was still a lot more to do and some of the children hadn't been measured for uniforms yet and the majority still needed to visit Mapusa for selecting their school sandals.
For the majority of the children we hadn't received book lists from the schools so we were unable to sort note books out for the bags, although Camille kindly purchased around 100 books for the kids which will be added at a later date.
It has now been two weeks since Camille was here and the bags are nearly complete. Extra books, pens, geometry boxes and umbrellas have been purchased for the ones we did not manage to finish earlier. We have also received around 43 completed uniforms with another 20 waiting to be received, the final ones have been delayed as the children are in the village for the holidays, once they return we will take them to the tailor for measurements and hopefully they will be completed a few days later. A similar number of school sandals will have to be bought later for the same reason, but we will ensure all the children will be sorted in time.
The last week has seen the first sets of bags being given out. Twenty complete bags have been given out and we will continue to give to the children once the last few items are secured. I send a huge thank you to the lovely Camille who was a life saver.
Well life is never boring looking after the kids; tonight has seen one of the young boys get into a little bit of trouble after he was accused of stealing an ice cream, the boy in question had been out late and on the way home visited the local shop where things got a little heated. Both sides were accusing the other by the time Robert reached the scene to find a gang of around 6 guys intimidating the boy.
Unfortunately as I only have basic Hindi skills it was hard to keep up with the conversation but within a couple of minutes one man slapped the boy across the face so Robert got in the middle to protect the lad and then decided it was best to start filming the incident to make sure any other altercations were caught on camera. Sadly the lighting was pretty bad as by this time it was midnight.
The boy continued to explain, and Robert was under the impression that the police had been called although during the 30 minutes he was there they didn't arrive, so it seems all they had in mind was to harass the boy. A few more men arrived and the boy continued to say he just paid for the bread and did not steal any ice cream. After the same man hit the boy again Robert got in the middle again and also received a blow to the head which sent his glasses to the ground, this seemed to make the other men a little less interested in continuing so Robert escorted the boy away for a time out and gingerly drove home as the lens of his glasses had broken and he probably wouldn't see a neon elephant if it was in the middle of the road! But they arrived safely and after finding a spare pair of glasses and letting a good 15 minutes pass, Robert escorted the boy home and made sure he got safely inside before leaving. Thankfully this is not a common event and the video of the encounter has been saved and logged just in-case it is needed. In the morning Robert will visit the police station with a copy of the video for their record and see what the police recommend.
Five of the children that I have helped over the last year received the results of their exams which finally came online yesterday (24 May). These finals began at the end of March and lasted for around two weeks so it has seemed a long wait for the results.
One of the children had spent many afternoons at Roberts before his exams in the 'study room', basically just a room with a work surface away from the hustle and bustle of the slum, cramming in as much revision as he could before the exams. He was very apprehensive and just wanted the long wait to be over.
I was primed the day before about the exam results going live, and as soon as the time came I got a call from the excited children to check. I navigated to the education results website and all I needed from the children were their seat numbers. As I typed the first one in, the results were almost instantaneous, although I am sure that every second felt an eternity for the children. There were six subjects, English, Hindi, Marathi, Maths, Science and Social Science. I read through each with the score and grade, and finally at the end the all important result which simply said 'Result : PASSES'. Then for the next minute or two all I heard was screaming down the phone and comments like 'Are you sure', 'You telling truth, nah', and then shouts of Joy. After the excitement had calmed down, the second boy was also there and a quick check showed that he also passed.
The three girls hadn't asked me to check, so I gave them a call and asked for their seat numbers. A quick check and I was happy to tell them all they had passed, but two especially were also very sceptical whether I was joking or telling the truth. I printed out the results for them. The first boy was not 100% sure about his seat number so a quick drive home to check put his mind at rest. We then visited the girls' home and saw their mother who we showed the results to. The girls had just gone to the pharmacy for tablets, when they returned we sat down and went through their results and then double checked again, just to make sure! All the students were so relieved and thankful. It was lovely to be part of the experience. I was especially happy as the one who had been coming to the 'study room' had received the highest percentage; he had worked so hard the last few weeks and I was delighted to see it all pay off, although of course, all of the children had made me so very proud.