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Published: January 4th 2011
Homes of the Indian Nations (HOINA) is an orphanage about 20km outside of Visag. It has two homes separated by about 100meters, one housing 86 girls and the other over 100 boys ranging in age from babies to late teens. It is the closest thing to paradise I have seen since coming to India. It is set against the backdrop of lush green palm trees, rice paddies, mountains and constantly wandering herds of goats and cows. The children come primarily from Andhra Pradesh and Tamil Nadu, are housed here free of charge, and have their schooling paid for all the way through college or vocational school. Their backgrounds, from what I can gather, seem to be very diverse. Everything from their parents could not feed another mouth and had to put them out to both parents are dead from disease or accidents. One of the men working as a tailor to make the children’s uniforms grew up here. The founder of the orphanage, Mrs. Large, saw him begging in the Secunderabad train station in Hyderabad and asked him if he wanted to come with her. That was about 15 years ago. The cook, Sambia, also grew up here and decided to
stay and work in the place that gave him a life. They seem to have formed a huge family and the staff must be pretty exceptional to have fostered such a loving and open atmosphere. Each morning and evening the children sweep and mop and wipe down the surfaces and several times I have seen them form in lines outside to pick up the small pieces of trash which get dropped around the building. During the evening movies or while watching cricket the youngest will sit on the laps of the older children, and it is beautiful to see how protective and caring they are towards one another. In my time here I have yet to hear a child cry and their enormous smiles are universal. This place has served as a revitalizing breath of fresh air and hope.
I am here because Liana and a group of students from her class at York have come to work for two weeks. Their professor and trip organizer, David Fyfe, is on the Board of Directors for HOINA and each year he gets a group together to do odd jobs that have built up over the past year that are outside
the normal routine of the permanent staff. This year we have been sanding down the walls of mildew and dirt and applying a fresh layer of paint, a job which has taken a few hours each morning. Additionally the students have been exposed to areas within their majors. Of the eight students three are teaching majors who have spent time at the local school, and two are nursing majors who have done rounds at the hospital. The rest of our time has been spent mostly playing endless games of cricket which begin each morning as the sun comes up around 6:15 and continue after school until night makes it too hard to see the ball. The girls have daily crafts and often organize singing and dance shows, several groups of little girls have memorized fairly in-depth dance and song routines.
We have also been helping them in the evenings with their homework, and since most of them attend English-medium schools even their science is English based. This is my favorite part of the day. I was assigned to a group of 13 year old boys. I was impressed with the quality of their handwriting and they struck me as
more studious than most of their American counterparts. Compared to Mona in Egypt their English lessons are better suited to their reading and writing levels, and their science lessons cover material comparable to what 8th grade American students might be learning. On the other hand, it seemed like a disproportionate amount of their studies are focused on memorization. For example, one boy had a completely memorized definition for “uniform speed” but when I asked him to move his body from one pillar to another at a uniform speed he was unable to do so. Another issue was with their reading comprehension. While they were able to sound out words and had passable pronunciation, they weren’t able to answer basic questions about what they had just read. When I asked them to act out basic phrases from a story they were reading, such as “the two boys walked along the wall, one in front of the other” it took them several minutes and a whole lot of discussion to be able to do this fairly simple task. They also had enormous trouble with idioms such as “on the other hand” (as used earlier in this paragraph), which are unfortunately extremely common
in English, and cause a lot of frustration on their part.
I have been suffering my own language problems. During the first three weeks of my trip I did my best to learn the basics of Hindi, the national language. Unfortunately not one of the students or staff here speak Hindi, instead they all speak Telegu, the regional language of Andhra Pradesh. Additionally, when I leave here and go to Tamil Nadu and Kerala until March neither of those regions speak Hindi or Telegu. I have been taking daily Telegu lessons from two teenage girls, Preeti and Ravitay, who have done a good job not getting frustrated with my terrible memory. Preeti came from Chennai and speaks Tamil, Telegu, English, and is learning Hindi; I feel like such a slacker only speaking one language. I have succeeded in learning a few phrases a day and today received a big smile and handshake from an old man herding his sheep when I said “good morning, how are you” in Telegu. Of course I had no idea what his response was.
The rest of the trip has also begun to take a more concrete form. I purchased a plane
ticket from Trivandrum in Kerala to Udaipur in Rajasthan on March 4, and I have a flight home for April 12. That will give me roughly five weeks to go from Udaipur-Jaipur-Agra-Varanasi-somewhere in the Himalayas. I chose that day because it will allow me to take spring break with my family and I know I won’t run out of money before then. Today is the end of my tenth week; I have fourteen more to go.
If anyone would like to sponsor a child it is $30 a month. Whenever I see those commercials on TV I am always skeptical that it is a scam exploiting child poverty but I can vouch that this is a legitimate organization that is doing great things. http://www.hoina.org/category/NOT-Sponsored
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