Editor's note: Tamara Kaftalovich is volunteering with Sleeping Children Around the World (SCAW) - a 100% charity that provides bedkits to children in underdeveloped and developing countries around the world. This is the final post in a blog series detailing her trip to India.
Our eighth and final distribution was located approximately two hours south of Hubli in a town called Yellapur. It is known for its two beautiful and natural waterfalls – Magod falls and Satoddi falls. The distribution took place inside of an Ashram. It was beautiful. The grounds were filled with rings of rich purple flowers, tall white historic buildings and old cobblestone paths. We all knew right away this was going to be a great place to deliver the last of our bedkits.
Spiritual leaders greeted us with flowers and a religious offering, took us inside one of the buildings where the meditation took place, and told us more about what went on inside of an Ashram. In essence, it’s similar to what Julia Roberts visited in Eat, Pray, Love — a beautiful and spiritual haven where people from all over the world gather to be with their thoughts for days, even months.
Following the information session, we were led to the distribution site. All 100 kids were lined up to get changed into their new clothes and receive their bedkit. Once all the kids were changed, they lined up in order and in the shade as they waited to get their picture taken. My duty of the day was interviews, which I was pretty excited about because it gave me a chance to interact with the parents again. One of the Rotarian wives, who also owns a copper piping factory with her husband, was acting as my translator. Right away, I knew I was going to like this woman. She was extremely organized, eager to help and a strong woman.
The first question I asked her was “where were all the parents”? Typically, we see hundreds of parents waiting outside to greet their children after receiving their bedkit. However this time around, I only noticed about 30 women around the grounds. This was because the majority of children receiving a bedkit lived one to two hours away from the Ashram and rather than the parents missing a day of work, they organized a bus to transport the children to and from the distribution site. Even more, the Rotarians fed the children a nice large breakfast when they arrived, followed by snack while waiting for their picture, and then ending off with lunch post distribution. Mind you, the distribution was 100 children, quite less than some of our other distributions on this trip, but regardless my team and I loved all the kind gestures, going one step further towards making sure the children had a special day and were truly cared about.
Back to the parents …
It was me, the translator (her name is Rajani), and approximately twenty mothers from very different yet similar living arrangements. Although most seem to still be married and have zero health problems in their family, we did meet a few mothers who were struggling just a little more. One woman lost her husband to stomach problems and another to diabetes. Two mothers had children who were sick — both children fell quite hard at one point and hurt their arms, which never fully healed.
I met this one woman who was taking care of not only her children, but her sister’s children as well — their parents both died not too long ago (their father died of alcohol poisoning four years ago and their mother died two years later as a result of stress).
I had a chance to meet the children later that day and although both were very shy, they seemed like happy children thankful to their aunt for looking after them.
We also met one eight year old boy who was a burn victim. Boiled water accidentally fell on top of him and now his entire face (and part of his body) is covered with burn scars. Despite the local Rotarians taking him under their wing and paying for his medical expenses, his burn scars are quite severe. Not only did the incident leave a mark on the outside, but also on the inside. I noticed throughout the whole distribution, the little boy kept to himself. No kid approached him and he didn’t approach them back. Luckily Tom, our resident surgeon on the team, had a chance to learn more about the case and has offered to investigate the potential of performing a surgery on the child here in Canada that would close to eliminate all of the boy’s scars.
We left the last distribution site feeling the same way we felt leaving every other distribution site: on a natural high after being surrounded by so many beautiful children and parents. But it was also a little bitter sweet, given that it was our last distribution and we were about to go home, back to our everyday lives. Part of me wanted to keep on going, join another distribution team and continue to hand out bedkits. I’m not gonna lie, part of me was pretty tired — waking up at 6:00 a.m., getting back to the hotel and 8 or 9:00 p.m., and sitting on the bus for hours on end each day and spending whatever free time I had, writing. But I wouldn’t have traded this for the world.
As we prepared for the end of our trip, I know I speak for the majority of the team when I talk about the mixed emotions we had throughout these past two weeks — there were the happy times when the children laughed as they were getting ready to get their picture taken or participating in one of many many games we played with them (mostly they were laughing at us for acting so crazy, which we were totally fine with).
Then there were the sad times, listening to the stories from parents, seeing a 12 year old boy maneuver himself in a clunky old homemade wheel chair with no legs, refusing any help and getting himself up to the area for his picture. One thing is for sure, no matter how each of the distribution trips made us feel, we left the trip a better person, thankful we were able to share these moments with each other and with the children.
I know this may sound like a bit of a cliché, but I hope I’ve sparked a little something in each one of you reading my blog, and whether or not its a SCAW distribution or some other travel adventure you’ve always wanted to do, life’s too short to just wait for these moments to come to you. Grab them now while you have the chance!