While visiting a Holt-supported day care program in Bangalore, India, Holt staff member Aloura DiGiallonardo celebrates the Indian holiday Holi with the children in care.
Holi is known as the festival of colors, or the festival of love. I certainly felt the love and saw the color during my Holi experience at Vasthayla Charitable Trust (VCT) in Bangalore, India last week.
VCT is a longtime partner of Holt International, and up until very recently operated as a childcare center for children in the adoption process. Due to changes in the adoption process, as well as Central Adoption Resource Authority (CARA) regulations and funding, VCT made the decision last year to dedicate the organization’s efforts to family strengthening and preservation for families with children living in Bangalore and nearby villages. One of these efforts is a day care program for the children of migrant construction workers in Bangalore. At present, 60 children attend VCT’s day care program while their parents work as day laborers. VCT’s driver either picks them up, or they are dropped off by a parent or a relative — traveling either on motorbike, by rickshaw or on foot. At the day care, the children are lavished with attention and love in a healthy, nourishing environment. They receive a bath if needed, a cooked lunch and two healthy snacks. For several hours during the day, the children also take part in preschool or informal age-and-grade-appropriate classes to help them get up to speed with their peers, which gives them a chance to be accepted into formal schools.
The day care center is a safe place for children to eat, learn and play. Before VCT opened its doors to them, the children most often stayed alone on the construction sites while their parent worked.
March 6 was an extra special day for these children. Two separate families in the community felt the desire to assist VCT by donating a special meal for the children. So the kids received an extra yummy breakfast and special lunch. They loved it!
Soon after lunch, they had another surprise in store for the children. The celebration of Holi. VCT staff gathered the children on the roof — a safe, enclosed space — of the building where, on a patio table, over a half-dozen bowls were filled with different colored powders. Vibrant blues and greens, neon yellow, tickle-me pink… the whole rainbow and more were represented. They eagerly circled around and as soon as the last color appeared on the table, they were off!
The staff turned on music, but it was drowned out by the sounds of laughter, playful yelling and cheers.
Although the Holi holiday is not traditionally celebrated in the southern states of India — nor at VCT — many of VCT’s migrant families have come here from northern regions of India. So the staff decided it would be a fun treat to let the children in the day care program throw the colorful powders in celebration of this springtime holiday. It was clear that for some children, this was their first Holi experience. They were a little confused and overwhelmed by the colorful transformation taking place around them. However, many of the children had clearly celebrated before and were more than happy to show the newbies how to partake in the festivities.
Alongside one of my fellow colleagues from the U.S, nutrition scientist Zeina Makhoul of our partner the SPOON Foundation, some VCT staff and all of the children, I participated in the throwing of color and dancing that came with the Holi festivities. The children loved attacking us with handfuls of colored powder and we had just as much fun. As some adults did not want to look like they fell through a Lisa Frank painting, they instead snapped photos or huddled at the roof’s entrance — enjoying the fun. Any adult that stepped onto the main floor, however, was fair game.
That is some of the magic of Holi.
When all was said and done, we gathered together in the kitchen. The children cleaned off and were given new, clean T-shirts, skirts and pants to wear. The Holt and SPOON team purchased Cream Stone ice cream for the children’s afternoon snack. It was a satisfying and sweet ending to a very sweet day.
Aloura DiGiallonardo | Africa, Haiti and Orphan Nutrition Programs Coordinator