Blogs from Mehsana, Gujarat, India, Asia

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Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana March 1st 2018

I am just a few days away from leaving the Child Haven home. And the last 10 days or so have been very different from the previous weeks as I was invited to visit and share the "normal" life of several staff members. I often expected just a quick visit, but there is not such thing here, people took great pride in showing me their area, taking me on journeys to local temples, historic sites, or other places. Neighbours were always pouring in, wanting to see the face of a "real foreigner"! And soon I would be invited for a cup of chai at their house as well. In one case, the village was far enough that I stayed for 4 days, a very unique chance to immerse myself in the indian way of life. It ... read more
The sun temple
Preparing delicious food
A painting at the Gandhi Ashram

Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana February 16th 2018

A few days ago, it was Shivaratri, another special day in the Hindi tradition. Kids had no school and I found out that most staff members were fasting that day, so I decided to join them. However, I soon found out that it wasn't a complete fast. In the morning, we had our very sweet chai, which is almost like a meal! After chai, I joined the boys and staff on a beautiful walk to a nearby village where we went to small temples. The temples were interesting, but the real treat was just once again to witness "normal life", totally out of the beaten track. I would have liked to take some pictures, but my hands were quite busy holding small hands! Once we were back at the home, it was the girls' turn to ... read more
One of the very few pictures I took at one of the temples
old temple

Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana February 10th 2018

Many times I mentioned hospitality and generosity as two of the characteristics of Indian people. Even if Child Haven is a Canadian/American/Indian organization, it gets a lot of local support, and not just from wealthy people. Several times over the last 2 months, "normal" people and even families that live very simply came to donate a meal, biscuits, clothes or school supplies for the kids. This week, a group of 3 men from a NGO based in Mumbai that runs a school in a nearby village came to offer a lunch even if they also struggle with financing their own project. 2 days later, I had the chance to go and visit their school. As we were getting ready to go, I asked if we were going by car or motorbike, as it can be a ... read more
At the Jain temple
Fully dressed to handle the cool morning (28 degrees... Celsius)
At the Jain temple

Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana February 7th 2018

It is marriage season in India, and I knew that one of the staff members who worked here until recently was getting married today. I also knew I was invited. But that was all I knew. So as we got closer to the date, I tried to get a little more information such as if I were really invited, where, when, etc. But as usual, the answers I got varied a lot, so I resorted to my usual technique: just wait and see. So this morning, like every morning, I got up and went to the dining hall with the kids for their morning soy milk, had chai with staff, and went back to my room to wash some clothes. Around 8 am, one of the staff members knocked on my door: "Sister! Are you ready?" ... read more
The groom's arrival
The ceremony
The newly wed

Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana January 26th 2018

Today is Republic Day, so it is a day off, and we had some dancing and singing and amazing food with a few government officials present for the occasion. But the big highlight of this week was yesterday... There is a new waterpark in Mahesana, the nearest "city", and Child Haven children and staff were invited for the opening. The kids were so amazingly excited, what a special treat for them, and on a school day on top of that! I was also looking forward to the opportunity to take some photos of the event (sorry, no photo on the blog, I took them with my big camera and can't upload them at the moment...)! But I had no idea about how a day at the waterpark was like in India. What to bring, what to ... read more
older girls dance
young boys dance
boys grand finale!

Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana January 21st 2018

Now that I described a typical day at Child Haven in Gujarat, here are some random events that change the routine... Yesterday, I was sitting in the sun with one of the staff members, as we were waiting for the kids to come back from school. All of a sudden, Nita grabbed the sleeve of my shirt and pulled it up as high as she could towards my shoulder. Without only a few very basic words to communicate, I was once again silently trying to figure out what she wanted... Then she looked at another staff member and said "my room". So, still not understanding what this was about, I followed her to her room, and there she got her nicest sari out of her trunk and "told" me to try it on. All she wanted ... read more
everybody helps in the kitchen
dalbati, a special delicious Gujarati meal
the girls ready to enjoy dalbati

Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana January 15th 2018

Today was a day that the children were talking about for weeks: the kite festival. Celebrated throughout India, there is probably no better place to enjoy it than in a home with 60+ children! Already yesterday, we could feel there was something special in the air. And this morning, the children put some nice clothes and we had a special breakfast of "chikkis", some kind of very sweet bars or balls made with seeds or nuts and a lot of sugar, it was a change from our usual spicy breakfast, closer to my usual peanut butter! Then each child got a few kites to play with and for the first time, I got the camera out and most children didn't pay attention to it because they were too busy with their kites. That was fantastic as ... read more
One of the children with her new kite
With some of the staff
Staff preparing amazing food

Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana January 2nd 2018

Here I will try to describe a "typical day" at Child Haven in Gujarat. I thought I would write about it sooner, but it took some time to figure out what a typical day is because there always seemed to be something special that changed the normal schedule. Kids go to school Monday to Saturday. They wake up around 5:30, and in winter because it is cold (!), they don't exercise in the morning but they apparently do in thesummer. Then it's time for bathing until 6:30 when all the kids go to the dining hall and have a glass of soy milk produced on site with soy beans purchased from an external source. This ensures the kids have sufficient protein. Then it's time for homework until about 9ish, at least on the girls' side since ... read more
one of the schools
one of the rooms, girls side
the cooks busy making chapatis

Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana December 27th 2017

Do they celebrate Christmas in India? Well, in the Child Haven homes, all festivals are celebrated, whether they are religious or not. Already on Christmas Eve, we could feel some real excitement in the air, and in the morning, everyone was up even earlier than usual, despite the "cold" temperature (12 C). We had breakfast as usual but the dining hall was nicely decorated and the children all came to wish me a "Happy Merry Christmas". After breakfast, the children went to their rooms and they came out dressed in their loveliest clothes, kept for very special occasions. They looked beautiful, and very, very proud. I can't remember if I mentioned it, but I arrived here with only 2 sets of Indian dresses and pants, and it didn't take long that the staff here started giving ... read more
Our Christmas tree
Dining hall, decorated
With the boys, on Christmas day

Asia » India » Gujarat » Mehsana December 18th 2017

Where to start... There is so much to say about life in Meu! It is a little bit like magic. Life is extremely simple here, the schedule is mostly the same every day, and at first I really struggled with the pace. I felt like I had to be busy, doing things all the time and felt bad if I wasn't fully productive, useful. But I am adjusting now, to taking things as they come, to be OK with not always being active, to even take some time to myself when I need it, to not be very creative with activities with the children. I realized that even if I didn't do as much as other volunteers probably did, no one asked me to be someone else, no one criticized me, they take me as I ... read more
Spreading ghee (butter) on the rotlas
Everybody participates in the rotla making process
Professional rotla maker!




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