Today, we visit a children home in the city of Coimbatore, South India.
When we arrive, we are very surprised: We stop in front of a nicely painted entry and a lot of the children have prepared a warm welcome. They are at least as curious as we are: a huge number of childrens’ eyes are looking at us when we step out of the minibus.
What will they think about us? For sure, we, the German people in strange clothes look differently and somehow strange. However, we have one thing in common, right from the beginning: we are all excited about this “come together”.
A warm welcome and traditions
We are welcomed in a very traditional way and it does not take a long time that we really conect to the children aged between 8 to 19 years. The flower necklaces which we get smell fantastic! The garlands are generally made with white jasmine and orange marigold flowers. They are weaved in thread.
Another highlight and – unusual ritual for us Europeans – is the tilak.
The tilak is a ritual mark on the forehead. It can be put in many forms as a sign of blessing , greeting or auspiciousness. The tilak is usually made out of a red vermilion paste (kumkum) which is a mixture of turmeric, alum, iodine, camphor, etc. It can also be of a sandalwood paste (chandan) blended with musk. The tilak is applied on the spot between the brows which is considered the seat of latent wisdom and mental concentration, and is very important for worship. This is the spot on which yogis meditate to become one with Lord Brahma. All thoughts and actions are said to be governed by this spot.
Some hours at ABHAYA
But back to our visit…We are at ABHAYA. This is a home for school girls whose parents died from HIV. It is project driven via the German Karl Kübel foundation in collaboration with the local VARMUTHKA federation (see also earlier post). The project has been launched in 2004 due to the very critical situation of HIV infected families and homeless children in the city of Coimbatore. The Abhaya home was founded and built a few years later. Today, Abhaya has been become a real home for these children. Most of the elder children have spent already ten years at this home and they have developed really well. Not just in terms of having a home, but also with regards to their personal development.
There are some very specific reasons for that: Like in Peermade a few days ago, we meet here two students from weltwärts, a program driven by the german government in collaboration with deveral NGOs around the world. Also the karl Kübel institute participates in this program. The two students from Germany have spent the last seven months with the children. They regular play with them, dance, learn from each other. What is obvious: these children speak English rather well, they are self-confident and most of them among the best of their classes.
We spend some very funny and nice hours here at Abhaya: sitting together in small groups we play together, they children tell us about their daily life and ask many questions: What our children are doing at school, how we live, if we are severe parents … Well, I notice that these questions make me think and watch at things in a different way. I’m severe? What does it mean, severity? And what do these children connect with this term? Probably our children and young generation in Europe has a lot of freedom this Indian kids do not even dream about. But all is relative. Questions that seem to be that easy sometimes can get even very difficult to answer.
Before we leave, the Abhaya girls dance. Modern Indian music and somehow also funky. If you come the first time to the city and you see the poverty outsite you would not expect that you can find inside a children home this huge amount of happiness. The way these children behave, their education and their plans for the future are overwhelming – even with less chances as we are used to. Simply because often there is no chance for a good professional education after 18 years when they have to leave . “But we try to offer them all the basics they need to conduct a self-sufficient life, we put all our energies in them to go “beyond” and to enable them decide on how to live,” says one teacher in the home. It is a fantastic challenge and way to educate.
So, no poverty at all?
There is a lot of financial poverty in the daily life. It’s obvious. In terms of food that is not rich, no own properties, the monthly fear if there will be enough money to buy the basics for all children, school material, bags, clothing, books, health coverage … . The governmental support is not sufficient as often the implementation lacks. Food that was promised comes days later, materials for school are not avaialbe at the moment etc. Private sponsors can guarantee for a certain period to support the children, but there are not enough. And every yesar there is a huge fear that the sponsors for the girls will not pay for the next year…
However, with all the problems the home is running I am pretty sure that these girls will have a future that looks not too bad. If they will have people who will give them some money to have good food and education!
A good parentship per year costs ca. 450 EUR. If you are interested to help, please let me know.