Thursday, 22 May 2014

Asha's Orissa Days: A guest blog by Asha

Hi, I am Asha.  My best friend Nikita and I have just had a wonderful adventure and we would like to take you along with us.

It all started with one of my Mummy's great ideas.  A few months ago my mother wanted me to experience something new and so after a lot of discussion and prayer Nikita and I said goodbye to Mumbai city life and started our two weeks in Orissa.  

We flew to Bhubaneshwar with Nalini Aunty as our escort and were greeted by Cat Auntie.   She is a  paediatrician who along with Mary Aunty has been working in Orissa for 8 years.   Mary Auntie was a way in Vellore because her adopted son Soma was being operated for a club foot.   Stepping out of the airplane, we found that we had reached a very hot Orissa which was 39 degrees Celsius.

Thankfully we escaped to an air-conditioned meal at Pizza Hut which was scrumptious.   Then we travelled the 3 long hours by jeep to Behrampur.   On the way Cat Auntie told us all about "Love the One" - the organisation we had come to volunteer with.  Love the One helps and cares for children - especially those which special health needs.

When we arrived at Cat Aunty and Mary Aunty's house, we were welcomed by excited barking.  Asha, Molly and Daisy - the three family labradors - were super happy to be with Cat Auntie again! 
Love the One runs a small but colourful preschool during the week.  There is a tiny one-car garage which houses the preschool of about 15 children.  The staff bring the children from their slum homes in the jeep or local autorickshaws.  We helped the kids brush their teeth.  After this  Steph Auntie read a story and showed pictures with the help of Aarti Didi who translated into Odiya.

To use up their abundant energy we sing a few lively action songs.  Then the kids have a snack break where they get a nutritious mini-meal.

Arts and Crafts is next.  The children were given attractive drawings to colour in which they did with much enthusiasm.     

And of course there are the games.   The paddling pool is by far the children's favourite.  With the average temperature of 40 degrees celsius the tiny tots jump in and splash around with glee.  They love it so much that is is hard for the teachers to take them out.  They enjoyed it so much (and so loudly) that I was tempted to jump in as well! 

At the end of the 2 fun-filled hours of play and learning the happy children were taken back to their homes. When Nikita and I went along with them home we got to see the sad condition of their lives in the slums.

One day we heard that one of the cousins of a boy in the locality had a brain tumour and was in a very critical situation.  The family requested us to go and pray for him.  After a scenic 30 kms drive by jeep through the open countryside, we reached the small village where they were living.

The boy was lying the only cot in the room.  His eyes were half-closed and he was breathing loudly and unsteadily.  Nothing could be done for him.  He was at the last stage.  After talking with the sad parents we prayed with our hands outstretched and some of us even cried.   It was a very distressing time and the journey back was very quiet and subdued.   A few days later, though, we heard that he had passed away.  It was sad to see a boy as young as 14 years old die.

Love the One runs a clinic for children every Tuesday in two alternating slums.  

The first Tuesday we went to a part of Behrampur called Khaza street.

The clinic was held in the first floor (an empty hall) of a local Muslim association.  

We got to see many interesting cases like a child who was only 6 months old and was detected with a mild case of Down's syndrome.  We compared her with another 6 month old and could see the difference.   About 11 patients came of which most were Muslims.   The clinic had two stations where the patients were seen.  At each a doctor sat with her interpreter and a colourful bedsheet, a nice knitted teddy bear and toys like rattles helped to distract the kids.   Nikita and I took turns sitting with them and helping with the registration.  Since many of the Muslim ladies spoke Hindi we were able to talk with them too.

The next day we returned to the same place for a special health awareness for the mothers.  While the children were played with ....

... their mothers had a discussion meeting.

The next Tuesday we went to the other clinic.  This was also in a Muslim locality, though much poorer.

The shack in which the clinic was held was really tiny.  It was the hottest time that I have ever experienced in my life.  We had brought two standing fans only to find that there was no electricity there.  The weather forecast read: "41 degrees Celsius - feels like 48" but under the tin roof we felt like it was 60!  I was literally melting.

Despite the heat both the Doctors Cat and Catherine (another volunteer doctor who was there for 3 months) poured themselves into the work. They patiently explained and cared for all the children and mothers who came.

Even though they did not fully know the language, they were able to communicate in a very nice way - by lovingly touching the kids and respecting their mothers.

I think that paediatrics is really intersting because all of the patients are so cute and adorable.

Halfway through our visit Mary Auntie arrived from Vellore along with her son Soma and another boy called Deepu.

Both boys had club feet from when they were small.  The medical situation in Orissa is very poor.  These boys were born with club feet, but did not get the proper medical assistance when they were young.  Both boys are 9 years old.  This was the second major surgery for Soma.  They were taken to CMC Vellore for the operations and were driven back by the jeep.  They were very happy to be home - and everyone was glad that they were back - even the dogs!

Four days after they returned we went to Deepu's village.  It was 10 kms away.  Everybody was very excited to see him and we gathered quite a large crowd.

As the beach was not far we carried on to the beach to cool off after another hot Orissa day!

That same evening after freshening up we were all invited to a nearby hotel for a fare-well dinner as Dr. Catherine was leaving. 

We could see that  Auntie Mary loves being with children!  Here she is with Soma and two other staff children.

Soon it was time to return back to Thane.  Daddy came early on the 19th of May to pick us up - but there was still time for a final mini-project - to paint Deepu and Soma's casts.  Deepu wanted a Spiderman on his cast - which we did...

... and Soma wanted a Buzz Lightyear from Toy Story.  So we got a picture on a mobile and drew it on Soma's cast.  This is a picture of it just before we put on the finishing touches.


And soon it was time for good-byes.  None of us wanted to say good bye to Auntie Cat and Auntie Mary and Soma and Deepu and the dogs and the Love the One staff - but we had to.  We prayed and went to the station and were off!

But not before a final picture with Soma! 

Soma doesn't like saying 'good-bye' - neither do we!  We are so thankful to Auntie Cat and Auntie Mary (and our mothers!) for making this amazing time possible!  Next year?


  1. What a wonderful experience for you and Nikita, Asha!! I hope you have many more such challenging, reviving experiences in the years to come!

  2. What a wonderful piece! I could almost visualize your time in Odisha. You have a gift of writing. Like father, like daughter :-). Please pursue this talent.

    I liked all the photos. I loved the one in the jeep, traveling with kids.

    Keep it up, Asha!
    Lots of love,
    Vijay Uncle

  3. Thoroughly enjoyed this post, Asha. Thank you for sharing your experience with us. I felt I was there with you as you described your experiences. May God continue to bless you and use your many talents for His glory. Lots of love and prayers, Amy and Arpit

  4. Asha what a wonderful writer you are! You made me feel I was there on the trip with you and Nikita. The children in your story are all so precious. Keep up the good work, both writing and going on these wonderful mission trips. Hugs from America!

  5. What a tremendous experience Asha. May the Lord guide you as you seek his perfect will for your future. Loved the pictures and your very clear explanation of the needs of the children. God Bless from Gerry uncle from Australia