An update on the Anchal Chaya Orphanage, Baghola, the Morning Star Slum & Dust Collector Schools, Faridabad & the ECHO Sewing project for women. This newsletter is available on our new website, www.reachforthemoonindia.org and you can follow us on facebook & instagram at Reach for the Moon India.
2016 was a year of consolidation and progress. The first phase of building work at our new Dust Collector school is almost finalized and the original slum school has been “rebuilt”. Children in both schools can now concentrate on their studies in better conditions. At Anchal Chaya many of the children have reached the critical late teen years. The question now is how to help them choose the right path for the future in terms of studies and training. By paying half the monthly salary roll since January 2016 we have managed to hold on to the great group of staff, creating precious stability and a real sense of family. The ECHO sewing project for women is now an almost professional set up. The sewing room is so clean and tidy you can see a pin on the floor. A rare feat in an Indian slum ! In the same area we opened a small medical clinic in September where doctors see around 40 women and children every morning.
Much is said in the media about progress being made in India. Many question why we help women & children in a country that has rockets in space and ranks among the top 10 highest defense spenders in the world. Western logic assumes that basic needs are already covered. Sadly this is not the case. For all its innovative drive India leaves many millions totally out of the picture. World Bank figures show 25% of the population living below the latest poverty line of $1.25 dollars a day, over 60% with no access to lavatories and millions of children still not attending school. The UN Convention on the rights of a child lists these rights – Health, Expression, Information, Education, Food, Respect, Equality, Family, Protection from exploitation and abuse, and reminds us of our duty as adults to do all we can to ensure that these rights are respected across the world. At Reach for the Moon we have chosen to focus our energy on these small groups of children in India, helping them acquire the basic life skills they need to move on to a hopefully very different life in rapidly changing India.
Concerning donations, two new approaches. In November we launched a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign that we hope to renew in 2017. Secondly, we have decided to introduce a “non-nominative” sponsorship programme inspired by the Pour Un Sourire d’Enfant model. Regular donations over the long-term are the key to long-term success. Our level of input will remain the same in 2017 until we see how the new “Sponsor” scheme takes off. Our May fund-raising sale in Rennes was a great success and local schools and universities continue their support along with the French Medical Association. Once again friends and volunteers spent time in India, helping us keep track of progress on the ground. An ancient proverb says “If you want to go quickly, go alone; if you want to go far, go together”. We hope that in 2017 you will join, or stay with us, on the road ahead !
Sarah Conty-Hodgkins Vishy Bandhu
Founder and President Reach for the Moon Co-Ordinator India January 2016
ANCHAL CHAYA ORPHANAGE, BAGHOLA, HARYANA – 70 km south of Delhi
In July 1997, Santosh Kakaar business woman from Delhi and Anand Shukla, philosopher from Benares, set up the Anchal Chaya Orphanage, 70 km south of Delhi on the main Calcutta Trunk road that has grown in recent years into a densely industrialized area. From the early days with just 10 children, today the orphanage is home to nearly 50 children age 5 to 18, a small group of handicapped children and a full-time staff of 12.
Abandoned in the streets, in train stations or on the road side, runaways or victims of abuse our kids at Anchal Chaya are among the nameless millions of children in India deprived of the care, love and safety every child deserves to grow. Since 2008 Reach for the Moon has been helping the founders to provide access to decent Hygiene, Health, Security and Education.
Today every child has their own bed, a place to keep their belongings, a date of birth and regular health check ups. Most of the children attend school in the nearby town of Palwal and some of the older children have started secondary studies and apprenticeships.
Child Protection Officers from the District Commission in Palwal continue to visit regularly and promise to help out with grants towards salaries once final registration has been obtained. We have been waiting now for 4 years and there always seems to be some loophole to prevent them from actually awarding the awaited grants. In view of the efforts made and immense progress in the past two years, since January 2016 we have been covering half of fixed salary costs for the staff of 12 on a monthly basis. This number has been imposed by the inspectors and includes a Housekeeper, Girls Attendant, Boys Attendant, Girls Night Supervisor, Watchman, Driver, Cook, Under-Cook, Laundry Lady, Odd Job Man, Accountant/Manager and Cleaner. Ensuring decent salaries for the staff means slower staff turnover and a more stable environment for the children who have all experienced very chaotic lives for their young years. Salary costs for 2017 are stable at 30000 rupees / 400€ a month.
HEALTH & NUTRITION
General health has improved immensely in the past two years with doctors visiting regularly and children receiving hospital and other treatment when needed. The children have plenty to eat every day, though could do with more variety in their staple diet of rice, dal, curried vegetables and chapatis. Fruit & vegetables are hugely expensive in India, with apples currently at 1,70€ and oranges at 0,85€ per kg. That’s 380€ a month to give each child an apple a day. Basic foods have also gone up steeply with rice at 0,80€ and daal at 1,40€ per kg. As the kids have a vegetarian diet, lentils are a main source of protein. We would like to be able to give more support towards food costs in the future.
Kalpana & Poonam Bananas Usha reading Gobind
Namita, who arrived lame with post-polio paralysis in 2010 and started to walk in November 2014 following two years in ankle calipers, continues to make progress and still dreams of going to school. We live in hope that this will happen in April 2017 as there is one school in Palwal where the bus can drive right up to the school gate making access easier. Usha, whose left eye we saved with an operation in 2010, finally moved to a home for the partially sighted in Delhi in July 2016 after years of negotiations. Here she is learning brail in Hindi and English, making great progress. Though Usha can still read her field of vision is limited and brail could be very useful. On the down side, Usha has not been able to return to Anchal Chaya to see her “brothers and sisters”, since last July. This unacceptable situation is down to red tape and lack of co-operation from the Child Welfare department. We are actively looking for a way around the problem in collaboration with the principal of Usha’s school, Babaji & Santosh and a lawyer from Palwal. This situation is an ideal example of what we are aiming to do on the ground, working on individual cases.
EDUCATION & TRAINING
In 2015 Manju became the first girl to graduate from 12th grade (equivalent of A levels or the Baccalaureat). She is now studying her second year of a B.Tech course at a local College and continues to live at Anchal Chaya. In April 2016 another girl, Kanchan also passed 12th grade and is now studying law in a nearby town where she is a monthly boarder. In March 2017 four more students, two boys and two girls will pass 12th grade. Reaching this level is a real achievement for any child as many stop their education at 10th grade. We are very proud. One of the oldest boys, Bhura, is working as an apprentice in a local factory. Another of the older boys has now moved on from Anchal Chaya and works as a painter-decorator in the local town where in November last year he married his sweetheart from the Orphanage, Poonam. A group of the older girls continues to attend daily sewing classes in Palwal.
Manju Bhura Gopal, Kartik, Sunny, Ravi Kanchan
Following the success of our first cinema outing in March 2015, in November 2016 we organized a second visit to
the cinema complex in Faridabad to see Shahrhuk Kahn’s latest movie. The film was followed by a trip to the town park to play games and by an evening meal in the Hare Krishna Dobha in Palwal. Great fun was had by all, including the Child Welfare officers, the orphanage staff and their families and of course, the kids. These outings give vital contact with the “real” world and help the children feel less ostracised. It would be great to be able to organize two outings like this every year, but costs are prohibitive at around 30 000 rs./425€ for a group of 70, or 6€ per head.
Arriving at the cinema Eating out Santosh, Sita, Sureka In the town park
Many of the main objectives we set in 2010 have now been reached in terms of hygiene, education & security.
During 2016 real progress continued to be made on building projects. There still remains much to do in terms of maintenance & leisure activities. Games, swings, slides, footballs, cricket, badminton, table tennis & designated recreational areas would be fantastic. Hot, humid summers with temperatures up to 48°C & cold, foggy winters with them down to 3°C at night means paintwork, ceiling fans and coolers need mending or replacing regularly. The “To Do” list never ends and with fifty people sharing the premises, once you’ve finished painting one room it’s time to start another. Today we need your help to finance ongoing running costs, education, food, activities and especially the staff salaries. Keeping our great team of people is crucial to creating the beneficial sense of security and family our kids need to grow into responsible, balanced, happy adults with a real chance in life.
MORNING STAR SLUM & DUST COLLECTOR SCHOOLS – Faridabad
Pastor Rakesh Raj started the Morning Star School in the Shiv Colony Slum, Faridabad, 40km south of Delhi in December 2009. To begin with it was an open air affair, with kids sitting on mats. Reach for the Moon supported Rakesh from the start in his aim to bring education into an area 2km by 500m, home to nearly 10 000, mostly young families originally from Bihar. In 2010 we were able to build a wooden structure with tarpaulin covers and in April 2014 we built a bigger school with concrete pillars and a cement floor. In July 2015 government bulldozers totally destroyed the school and about a third of “homes” in Shiv Colony Slum. A month later we found land and built a brick school 2km from the slum. With two schools we now pay salaries to two teachers, plus Shobha, the head teacher. These additional costs to our previous budget are well worth the 70€ per month per teacher. In September 2016 we decided, for the first time, to pay a salary to Rakesh who is head teacher at the Dust Collector School.
2011 2012 2015 2016
DUST COLLECTOR SCHOOL – MORNING STAR
The main challenge here has been convincing parents of dust collector kids that education is a good idea. As for our slum parents, a mouth at school is a mouth not earning money. Rakesh continues to work hard persuading local dust collector families of the purpose of education. He did this when we started the slum school and we will have to be patient. After a bumpy start, today we have a group of 30 kids who attend regularly, most of them siblings from a small group of families. Their progress over the year has been incredible and the light in their eyes shines bright as they love learning and experience coming to school as a privilege and a joy. Our aim is to reach 100 children by 2018. Here we need your support for ongoing construction work, uniforms, teachers salaries but also for equipment ; as we can lock the door at night we can invest in books, blackboards, cupboards, desks, games material…and so on.
Construction work august 2015 Lessons November 2016 Playtime January 2016
In 2016 we laid a concrete floor and installed electricity for overhead fans and lighting. The plan now is to divide the space to create a corridor-lobby for hand-washing and lunch boxes, separate from the classroom, and to create a small office for Rakesh. All the brick walls need plastering and painting with blackboards built into the walls at regular intervals, one per class. Outside we would like to build a boundary wall and bathrooms for boys and girls. As for the Slum School the kids all need uniforms. These give them the chance to feel clean and proud, along with a sense of identity, dignity and shared values in their precarious world.
SLUM SCHOOL – MORNING STAR
The simple bamboo structure with tarpaulins we rebuilt in August 2015 continues to welcome around 90 kids, 6 days a week. In 2016 a boundary “wall” of retrieved corrugated plastic and wooden planks was constructed to create a sense of privacy. It is now much easier for the children to concentrate on their studies and they can play more freely in the playground beyond the stares of other slum dwellers and children. Following the crowdfunding campaign of November 2016 we were able to give a new uniform to each child for the end of the year for the first time since the original school was destroyed in 2015. It is difficult to describe the importance of uniforms for these kids who live in the most abject poverty. In 2017 the Shiv Colony slum school needs your support for desks and chairs, tarpaulins (replaced 6 times a year) bamboo poles, teacher salaries, materials, books and blackboards.
Distribution of uniforms December First day new uniforms Republic Day new uniforms
As government bulldozers continue to make sporadic, yet less violent, forays into the slum Rakesh has set up a Civil Rights Group along with slum leaders in order to find a long-term solution with the authorities. The process will be lengthy yet initial talks are promising and it is highly probable that in the near future the government will designate a new area of land for us all to move to. We would have to pay a small rent but it is the price to pay for peace of mind and stability.
Since 2011 the Sainte Croix-Sainte Agnès School in Saint Malo has been corresponding with the Morning Star and donating funds from the “Bowl of Rice” day on Good Friday to projects there. Thanks to the energy and motivation of the teachers in France, in April 2016 the school managed to raise a significant sum towards school uniforms and organized an exhibition on India that was a huge success with parents and children alike. In 2017 we will open up the scheme to the children in our Dust Collector school too. This link remains a rare chance to learn and grow for the kids on both continents.
Primary class – March 2016 Great teachers Dust collector kid drawing
ECHO WOMEN’S EMPOWERMENT PROJECT – SECTOR 4 FARIDABAD
In October 2013 myself and Pascale Mordret, founder of the colourful La Fiancée du Mékong clothing franchise in France, teamed up with our main correspondents in India, Vishav and Kranti Bandhu, to develop a meaningful, income- generating sewing project for a group of women in the Sector 4 Slum, Faridabad. After nearly a year of sewing lessons, and much frustration, production finally began for good in 2014 and a first shipment of bracelets and bags arrived in France in October 2014 to be sold in the La Fiancée du Mékong outlets. All proceeds return directly to the women via Reach for the Moon in the form of a monthly salary switched every month via Western Union.
Bharat, the tailor Making bags, neat & tidy workroom Sewing Class
The first batch of bracelets sold like hot cakes and soon a second line of small cotton bags was started. From 6 women initially, we now have 20 women, all mothers, making printed cotton bags in exchange for a permanent monthly wage overseen by Kranti. They are paid per bag and slowly develop financial independence. As the ECHO women progress with their sewing skills they are able to mend and make clothes, cushions and other items for their own count.
The original workshop has grown into a lively centre where the women can meet and share. As the project grows, so does the number of bags produced. Pascale is doing great work with her suppliers in India for the material and around forty La Fiancée du Mékong franchisers are now selling the bags too. Reach for the Moon covers the costs for accessories, thread, needles, scissors, machines and in 2017 will help towards the rent.
Kranti & Vishy infront of clinic Consultation Water pump Sector 4 Canal
Vishy and Kranti Bandhu, founders of the sewing centre, also run a school on the same site and in September 2016 they opened a Medical Centre to treat the women and children who attend our projects. 50 patients attend the clinic every day and our seen by two doctors. We need your support here for paying salaries, supplying equipment and infrastructure such as water tanks and medical items. Vishy has recently found new premises to open a bigger medical centre and a kindergarten. This project will be one of our main focuses in 2017 and 2018.
FUND-RAISING & SUPPORT INITIATIVES
In 2016 over 60% of our income came from fund-raising events and initiatives. In May, our annual Spring Sale in Rennes was a great success. This was made possible thanks to Pascale Mordret and her team, and to a combined effort involving a team of volunteers and a group of students from Rennes university, supporting us for the 4th year running. From 6h30 to 17h30 we had an army of helpers working in shifts to welcome the public. A huge thank you to Caroline Danvert, Roselyne Carpentier, Yvonne Daguet, Marie Touquet, Anne Guegan-Brigardis, Preshini Wilkes, Anne-Cécile Nogrix, Sophie Henry, Françoise Gateblé-Brun, Marie-Line Huybrechts, Aline Verger, Marjorie Guegan- Raux and to the students Rachel Even, Emilie Bébin, Célia Boscher, Katell Favennec, Clemence Favrais, Marion Lebrun, Marie Doumalin, Victor Langouet and Alexandre Bouvier. We will be organizing a similar event this year on Saturday 13th May at the same place.
Uni students at the May sale Some of the helpers Dinner ladies, Pierre-Gildas Robin & the children
For the fifth year running the Sainte Croix- Sainte Agnès School in Saint Malo donated proceeds from the Bowl of Rice day on Good Friday towards the Morning Star School. For the fourth year running we had the support of 8 first-year students at the IUT university in Rennes who organised a Football Tournament on campus April 19th. For the second year running we received the support of the French Medical Association in Brittany. A sincere thank you to Professor Alain Leguerrier and all the committee.
Once again a number of friends and students visited Anchal Chaya, the Morning Star Schools and the ECHO project. Students Tatiana Allpress & Tilli Fleming stayed with Rakesh in January 2016 and helped out at the schools. In March Pascale Mordret visited all the projects with her cousin and writer, Karine Fougeray. Student Ugo de Checchi visited for a month in July and in November, at the age of 77, my own mother, Ann Hodgkins made her first visit to India where her thirty years of experience as a head teacher were put to excellent use. These visits are key to maintaining close links with our contacts in India and staying in touch with all the children. A thank you to all.
Pascale Mordret Tatiana Allpress & Tilly Flemming Ann Hodgkins Karine Fougeray
“You make a living by what you get; you make a life by what you give” – Winston Churchill
Above and beyond all the initiatives mentioned in this newsletter, Reach for the Moon could not exist without your individual donations and support. This year we are introducing a new non-nominative sponsorship scheme. Forms for both types of support are attached to this newsletter, ready to scan by email or send by post. Every little helps to making a real difference in the lives of the children and women in India we have chosen to support.
A massive THANK YOU to all.