Trustees – About New Hope India; Elizabeth and Eileen following their visit to New Hope – July 2014
After a long and eventful journey, having had to change aircraft due to engine failure, Eileen and her granddaughter Ellen, and Elizabeth and her granddaughter Amy arrived safely at New Hope Children’s Village in Kothavalsa to receive a magnificent welcome from the children and staff, most of whom were familiar faces our last visit four years ago. It was like coming home after a long vacation.
The first thing that attracted our attention was the new Jeevan Jyothi School as we had only seen the foundations being built in 2010. We were delighted to see how the finished building blended in with its beautiful surroundings. The classrooms are all painted with colourful designs with information charts, and outside there is a playground with a large dining hall/activity hall in the process of being built. Not only does the new school cater for the New Hope children but also for the children in the surrounding villages, providing long term financial sustainability for the New Hope Rural Leprosy Trust. Sadly though the stigma of HIV is still prevalent and the HIV children, known as the Rainbow Children, are schooled separately.
After looking at the facilities for the Rainbow school and following much discussion it was agreed that the standard of classrooms should be the same in each school for parity. To achieve this it was necessary to change the layout of one of the buildings to create three separate classrooms with their own entrances, and extend the toilet facilities for the children and teachers. We are pleased to say that some of this was achieved during our stay and great fun was had by all painting the new classrooms with pictures of Elephants and trees. Whilst this was going on Eileen was busy re-arranging the school library to create a more practical method of storage and use.
Following a day of observation of teaching methods and sitting in on classes, it was also agreed that there was a need to introduce a sense of fun into the English medium lessons, and to find a way of allowing the children to practice conversational English, alongside their formal English teaching. After meetings with the Head Teacher and subsequently the teachers, we chose eight of the best English speaking pupils to work with. We held a couple of workshops with the group, showing them English ways of speaking conversational English, the idea being that they can be used as mini teachers, cascading down the information to small groups of their own. We will monitor the situation to find out if it has been helpful, but the best way forward would be to have a series of volunteer English teachers to address continuing development. After further discussion we also agreed with the teachers that each child from 7th grade onwards would be given an English dictionary for reference purposes, and a more detailed dictionary to be put in every classroom. This will be financed by NHRCT.
Elizabeth spent time with the nurse Sai Lakshmi, looking at the records and spending time giving additional First Aid training, as she had not been trained in how to deal with trauma emergencies. The nursing facilities have improved greatly and there is now a stronger back up system with a Government hospital nearby and an ambulance service for emergency situations. We did in fact use that facility whilst we were there for a young fifteen years old HIV patient who was five and a half months pregnant and who suddenly developed severe abdominal pain. Fortunately her situation was not critical but it might have been and we were taking no chances with her unborn baby.
Meanwhile Amy and Ellen taught the older children screen printing, and playing ball games in the playground. They also had great fun with the girls after school, doing Henna tattoos on their hands and feet, and experimenting with new hair styles. The children were captivated with Amy and Ellen who were equally delighted with them. One evening we spent a delightful time sitting around in the girl’s hostel singing songs and telling stories. Knitting lessons were given by Eileen, creating knitted squares. Besides being challenging and fun, it was also useful for developing spoken English.
Eliazar took us on a detailed walk around campus to show us his vision of a five year plan of the Children’s Village to house up to two hundred and fifty people, including children’s hostels, mother and child complexes, old age homes, eight of which are already under construction, meditation gardens and much more. A tour of the Roellis Garden was a delight and is full of different crops to sell at market. Presently they are cultivating Drumstick trees which produce long beans, Curry leaf trees, Banana trees, Sweet Corn and a variety of smaller produce. Babu Raj, who is married with a family of his own, is now in charge of the garden and does a great job. In a neighbouring area there were three cows with their calves, and a wonderful selection of goats, many of which are pregnant.
The Bio Gas Plant has now been upgraded with a new ‘chamber’ and the tank reloaded with waste material. It will come on line in late August. Once again it will provide a valuable source of gas supply to the community, reducing costs and helping towards sustainability. New Hope owes a big thank you to Vasu Gabriel for all his hard work on the project.
In the evenings we joined in with the children’s prayer meetings and two social events, one celebrating birthdays for that month, with a cake for each child to share, and the other was a dancing competition where the boys and girls danced on stage, including the visitors to the delight of everyone!! That particular day coincided with ‘friendship day’, so people were asked to say what friendship meant to them. Amy and Ellen had a ‘make over’ by Ruth and her daughter Honey, with new hair styles and Sari’s, and a good time was had by all. I must say the girls looked spectacular in their Sari’s. The celebrations even made even happier by the unexpected visit from former New Hope girls Pavoni and Anita, who are now staff nurses working in the city. Pavoni had travelled for 12 hours overnight to visit us and it was wonderful to see them both again.
One day we travelled for several hours by road to visit a leprosy facility previously managed by the Ghandi memorial Foundation, and now run by New Hope. It provides treatment for leprosy which is not available in in most government institutions. It was an exhausting day but very worthwhile. We were introduced to the patients in the wards who were there for ongoing treatment, and to the team of health workers whose job it is to bring in people from the villages who are suffering from the physical and neurological effects of leprosy, a curable disease caused by bacteria which attacks the tissues and the nerves, resulting in deformity and severe ulcers. We were told that there is a worrying rise in new leprosy cases, many of them children, and that everyone must be vigilant in spotting the symptoms early. After spending time at Kothavalsa we travelled by train to Muniguda , in the state of Orissa. The noise of the jungle and the huge flying insects made life very amusing at times, dodging and diving to avoid them in the evenings as we sat around our table eating!! At night the forest is alive with the sounds of insects and monkeys. One day a couple of coconuts dropped from the tree just outside our room and Eliazer decided for safety reasons to call the man who specialises in climbing the very tall trees to harvest the coconuts – 750 in total!
We were looked after extremely well by the two nurses Susangita and Sangita, as well as Padma, the very lovely and efficient hospital manager, who talked us through how to help with pre-operative preparations for the thirty two tribal patients having cataract surgery, washing their hair and helping them to dress again, putting on our sterile gowns and masks before walking the patients in and out of theatre. Elizabeth was lucky enough to observe several operations, standing behind the surgeon as he worked. The third day we helped with the eye dressings and it was such a delight to observe the moment when the patients were able to ‘see’ again.
Whilst we were in Muniguda we were very fortunate meet up with Sakuntala now a politician for the area, who was previously the tribal nurse for New Hope. She took us to see a tribal market and to visit four tribal villages, one of which was her own. It was like going back in history. It was really fascinating to see how the tribal people and their animals live in such close harmony with each other, and how a government grant has allowed them to build a large chicken house to raise and sell chickens. Even more fascinating was the fact that some of the villages have now got electricity and the occasional TV set, amid their very rural setting. The scenery was spectacular with the mist descending down the mountains all around and a very green vista of paddy fields in the valley
Early the next day we went to the New Hope Tribal Educational Centre, located on the trail to the market. It is used for teaching purposes and holding mother and baby clinics in order to keep a record of how they are thriving and to give extra provision where necessary. We spent time watching the clinic in progress and talked via an interpreter to the young mothers. Later that day Eliazer showed us how they are cultivating a hill where the trees have been cut down, and the management of soil erosion, by planting fruit and nut trees in tiers, interspersed with smaller plants to ‘hold’ the soil.
In the afternoon we visited the ten acre New Hope Farm which is like a very large orchard containing a large variety of mango and cashew nut trees. We observed how cashew nuts are grown and watched a demonstration of how the nuts are processed in a fire to soften the shell, and then fried in oil. In an ideal world it would make a superb meditation centre as it has a very special quality of beauty and tranquillity. Unfortunately it takes up a lot of time and money to keep the farm going and eventually decisions will have to be made regarding its financial viability.
We spent a rewarding time working in Namaste House, a School for children with physical and learning difficulties and Eileen re enforced ways of teaching the children with the 2 teachers. Sadly however the reality is that much of the programme of education and physiotherapy and impetus that was given by Chris and Helen’s visit in 2012 has not been sustainable due to difficulty of getting qualified help in such an outlying area. The head teacher Mr Mishra, a very dedicated man who has been with the children for many years, along with two other teachers and carers, do a wonderful job within their ability and scope, and the children continue to thrive in a loving environment.
Every evening the children have prayers and play musical instruments with Mr. Mishra and the community, and it was great to experience at first-hand how the music stimulated the children. It is hoped that in years to come Eliazer will get permission from the state of Orissa to take these children to the Children’s Village in Andhra Pradesh, as there are more facilities available for them there. The HIV children fortunately have already been transferred, as the need for medication was paramount, and a good case was made for them to be transferred.
We had a wonderful surprise the day we went to see the land which has been bought with the money Mina raised by running the Marathon des Sables, and monies raised by Preston Primary School in Torquay. The land is situated at the base of a mountain in a very lush area of vegetation. It is a superb place for future investment for the children, and one which already has an infra-structure of a bus route and train station nearby. It is hoped in time that we can raise more money to ensure the future of every orphaned child in New Hope.
It is so difficult to convey to the reader how vibrant and exhilarating it was to be part of New Hope’s experience and life style. India is a living theatre and sadly our visit came to an end all too soon. It was an absolute delighted for us both to have been able to take our respective granddaughters with us and to give them an unparalleled experience of life in rural India and the extensive work of New Hope Rural Leprosy trust (NHRLT).
Amy and Ellen’s words of response when asked about the trip were ‘magical and incredible’. They both said how happy everyone was, with infectious smiles and so inspiring. A big Thank You from us all to Eliazer, Ruth and everyone who made this visit such a positive experience.Working in both New Hope Campuses was an enjoyable experience. We played games, sang ‘ You Can’t Stop the Beat’ in front of a school, helped with the Cataract surgeries, spent a whole afternoon running around, taught children how to knit, went to buy flowers for the Roellis garden and we even went to a Bollywood box office hit. All of these things resulted in a smile from ear to ear.
This experience was incredible, as a final note I would like to say thank you to Ruth and Eliazar, for their warmth and kindness and making my visit one that I will remember for years to come. Also the children, staff and patients of New Hope, who were all so welcoming, made sure we had everything we needed and managed to get us out of our comfort zone to sing and dance. Finally, thank you to Grandma for inviting me to go on this once in a life time opportunity and to Amy and Elizabeth for also making this trip one I will remember for years to come.The first week we spent in Kottalavalsa doing many different things, including helping out in the school. I was forced numerous times to sing or dance for the students! very embarrassing but a lot of fun. Eliazar and Ruth greeted us on our arrival, the most lovely people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. The week was full of activities, but the best parts where always spending time with the children and seeing how incredibly happy they are.
The second week we travelled to Muniguda where there is a different New Hope campus. We helped with the cataract surgery, helping patients in and out of surgery, and with eye drops the next day! The miraculous recovery’s and watching the patients regain their sight was incredible to witness. We also travelled into the hills where tribal women were having their babies weighed, and it was wonderful to see how different people’s lives are and how simplistic and how happy everyone is. It was very humbling to see that. We visited the fruit farm where fresh pineapples and jackfruits and fresh cashew nuts were growing! It was glorious to see all the different fruits, a beautiful sight. We also visited the local market, full of life and colour and wonderful to see.
The third week we travelled back to Kothavalasa where we helped in the school, teaching English and playing games with the children. We also painted the Rainbow schools walls, and the children helped. I painted two blue elephants on the wall, it was nice to leave that behind as a remembrance.
Trustees – About New Hope India; Amy – The wonderful people were so full of joy and so inspiring. Every moment in India was incredible from riding in a Tuk Tuk to the goodbye disco with all the children dancing. I came home so overwhelmed with joy I wanted to return straight away. India is crazy, the way they drive is insane, but India is crazy because of how beautiful it is. So peaceful even thought the trains are noisy. It’s safe to say I enjoyed my time with everyone in India and I hope in the future to return!