Make Parenting a Pleasure – in India, Ethiopia or Oregon

Tell me and I forget.  Show me and I remember.  Involve me and I understand.

As a trainer of parent educators, Minalee Saks has often quoted this proverb to explain how children learn.

Until recently, she had never heard it sung. “Suddenly, I was hearing social workers attending a training in Pune, India, combine their voices and actions to add new meaning to the words,” she recently wrote in a guest article for The Eugene Register-Guard.

Minalee is the founder and executive director of Birth to Three, an organization that provides parenting education and support for families of young children. In previous years, Holt partnered with Birth to Three for trainings in Romania and Ukraine. The program was a great success with parents and educators alike.  So when Holt decided to organize a training for social workers from around the globe, they asked Minalee to lead it.  In February, 19 women from 6 countries traveled to Pune, India to learn Birth to Three’s “Make Parenting a Pleasure” curriculum.

From day one, Minalee couldn’t stop smiling.  After four days, she left India resolute about one universal truth: “Parents are parents throughout the world. Regardless of cultures, allegiances, experiences, living situations or countries — people love their children and want the best for them. Whether living in Creswell, Eugene, Kiev or Addis Ababa, all parents have hopes and dreams for their children.”

Read Minalee’s full article here.

 

When you send a girl to school…

After completing her education, Shyla returned to VCT to teach children at the care center.

“In the Indian culture, when you send a boy to school, you change his life and that continues to be so important. But when you send a girl to school, you can change an entire generation.”

So says Mary Paul, director of Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT), a Holt partner organization in India.  Every year, Holt’s wonderful sponsors send hundreds of children in India — mostly girls — to school.  Most of these girls would otherwise be working as domestic servants, earning income to help support their families.

Recently, the Center for the Study of Women in Society at the University of Oregon featured the story of one girl and her strong single mother* who, determined to give her daughter an education, asked VCT to sponsor her education.  That was 11 years ago.  Today, this girl is 29 years old.  She works as an assistant teacher at the same place that gave her an education — teaching children in care, and changing generations to come.

Click here to read Shyla’s story in full.

To learn more about Holt’s work in India, click here.

Click this link to read about Holt sponsorship and how you can send a girl to school in India.

* Correction:  In the story, Shyla’s mother is described as “unwed.” She was in fact married, but raised Shyla on her own as a “single mother.”

Season of Love, Gifts of Hope: Whoever Welcomes a Little Child

Mrs. Suja Pillai, a 41-year-old foster mother from Pune, India has loved and encouraged 65 children in the last 13 years. Some children have stayed with her for only a few months. Some she has nurtured for several years. She often cares for two children at the same time. One of 26 families currently participating in Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra’s (BSSK) foster care program, Suja cannot imagine her life without the children.

BSSK introduced foster care in 1982 as a way to provide loving, temporary care for children. Being a foster mother requires a lot of time, work and love. When foster parents join BSSK’s program, they participate in a 5-day training to learn how to safely and effectively care for children. Foster parents learn a range of skills, including how to bathe children, boil bottles and prepare food. Regularly scheduled foster parent meetings follow the initial training. In addition to providing training and guidance to foster parents, BSSK helps to offset some of the costs involved by providing a small subsidy for each child, plus money for supplies, clothes and transportation to doctor’s appointments.

Although this support helps with the actual cost of supporting each child, the love and affection each foster parent contributes is priceless.  Suja smiles when asked why she became a foster mother. “Initially I had financial problems and wanted to work from home. Now, I love it and cannot live without the children!” she says.

Suja is now considered one of the most experienced foster mothers in the program, offering guidance and support to some of the less experienced foster parents. She has the formal title of “Head Foster Mother” in the area, which makes her responsible for coordinating 16 foster homes, organizing the distribution of supplies, performing home visits and arranging local transport for doctor visits.

Holding up the photograph of a smartly dressed little girl, she says: “The hardest part of being a foster mother is being able to let go. One child stayed with me for three years before she was adopted internationally.” There are tears in her eyes as she talks about the child she has not seen in ten years. “I don’t know what her life is like now, but I will always know I had some influence.” She smiles through her tears. “That is what being a foster mother is about.”

Wishing for the Best

Ranjan has a family!

by Robin Munro, senior writer

“Good Morning! All the best!” *Ranjan says in one breath, with a thumbs-up to greet the child care staff at Vathsalya Charitable Trust (VCT) – a child care center in Bangalore, India.

Today, Ranjan is hopeful and optimistic, wishing for the best – an extraordinary attitude for a boy who, in 5 years of life, has experienced child abandonment, severe health problems, developmental delays and hearing impairment.

Born premature with multiple medical conditions, Ranjan was abandoned at a large government hospital at just a few weeks of age. He came into VCT’s care at 2 months old, weighing a mere 1.5 kg. Shortly thereafter, Ranjan joined a foster family provided by VCT. This blessing has proven instrumental to Ranjan’s growth and development.

Ranjan’s foster mother, a crèche nurse trained in child care, tackled Ranjan’s speech, motor and mental delays as challenges to overcome – relishing small victories as Ranjan worked toward major milestones. “Ranjan smiled today,” she’d enthusiastically report during early visits with VCT child care staff. She noticed, with delight, the first time Ranjan moved his toes. And after two years of occupational therapy and encouragement from his foster family, Ranjan finally learned to walk. Continue reading “Wishing for the Best”

Changing a Generation

Give a Gift of Hope to a girl in India

By Brian Campbell, creative services director

Bangalore, India – Traditional music blasts out of a makeshift shrine to Ganesha – a deity worshiped in the Hindu religion. It’s festival season here in India and people from all over have traveled to Bangalore to be with family and participate in the celebration. Families have scraped together their meager wages and purchased idols and treats for the elephant god – the Hindu god of success.

On this particular day, however, individuals moved by a different God step out of their cars and follow VCT Director Mary Paul into the depths of the Bangalore slum.

The guys from NewSong and a group of school-aged girls in Vathsalya Charitable Trust’s (VCT) child sponsorship program – a program that keeps young girls in school when families cannot afford their education –make their way through the rough alleys. Today, these girls will invite NewSong into their humble homes.

One girl, *Seveta, momentarily pauses to observe the half-clothed children running through the alley and women washing clothes in pans filled with dingy water. The alley smells of waste.

“I’m ashamed to show these men my home,” says Seveta to Mary Paul. “It’s much too small for them.” Mary Paul just smiles and encourages Seveta to carry on, but only if she is comfortable. Seveta rocks her head from side to side – a common gesture of agreement in India.

Arriving at her home, Seveta disappears through the small, dark doorway and, without hesitation, Eddie, Russ, Billy and Matt follow Mary Paul inside. Measuring about 7 feet by 10 feet, this tiny, one-room home – shared by Seveta, her parents and sister – is tidy and clean.

Seveta’s sister attends college, but her parents could not afford Seveta’s education. Her father suffered from alcoholism, and her mother became the principle provider for the family. With Holt’s help, VCT provided Seveta with books, paper, a uniform and other supplies needed to attend school.

The guys are impressed with Seveta’s story and her willingness to work so hard. Continue reading “Changing a Generation”

These are the hands and feet…

Contemporary Christian music group NewSong, founder of Winter Jam, is currently traveling in India to view Holt’s childcare and family preservation programs there.

by Brian Campbell, creative services director

Pune, India – The van stops at the mouth of a back alley neighborhood, where Billy, Eddie, Matt and Russ of the Christian music group NewSong step out with Roxana Kalyanvala, BSSK’s director. As they wind through the alley, the NewSong members begin to notice the houses that line these narrow streets – tiny, one-room dwellings with makeshift doors composed of wood, sheet metal and roofing tin.

The guys pause outside the doorway of a family in BSSK’s family preservation program, where a woman named *Shveta answers the door. With gracious gestures, she welcomes the NewSong members into her home. The guys politely remove their shoes and enter the home’s one room – roughly 8 feet by 12 feet in size. They stand beneath a corrugated iron roof, which, heated by the sun, has turned the room into a sauna. But the guys are eager to hear Shveta’s story and don’t seem to mind the heat as they listen to her talk, and Roxana translate.

Day laborers, Shveta and her husband work when they can. In India, the average day laborer earns an annual income of roughly 4,000 rupees, or less than $100 a year. To help support the family, their two children – a teenage son and young daughter – quit school to work. With day-to-day survival the main concern, the long-term goal of

education had fallen to the wayside.

Recognizing their need, BSSK stepped in to help this family out of dire poverty. The social

NewSong in the alleys of Pune, India

service organization provided tailor training for Shveta and employment leads for her husband. BSSK also provided the resources the children need to continue school.

“How does a family live on less than $10 a month?” Matt whispers as the group steps out of the house. Then, the thought sinking into his heart, he continues, “What did these children eat for less than $100 a year?”

In the alley outside Shveta’s home, Russ and Matt turn and look around for the answer.

“The folks of Holt International are the feet and hands here on the ground,” says Eddie. “They come in here and do what they can for these kids to have a better future.”

Holt International’s child sponsorship program is the best way to support the continuing efforts of BSSK’s family preservation program.

NewSong Kicks off Tour of Holt childcare projects in India

Contemporary Christian music group NewSong, founder of Winter Jam, is currently traveling in India to view Holt’s childcare programs there. Here, Holt’s creative services director, Brian Campbell, describes their visit to BSSK – a model childcare and social service center founded by Holt in 1979.

by Brian Campbell

Pune, India – The children line at the window. For the last few weeks, they’ve eagerly anticipated the arrival of the four performing artists who make up the Christian band NewSong. They’ve prepared songs and dances for Eddie, Russ, Matt and Billy, and can’t wait to do a little performing themselves.

When the vans pull up and the guys step out, the children squeal with excitement. As Newsong begins to climb the stairs, the children call out “Mama, mama!” – the word for uncle in Marathi, the main Indian dialect used here in the city of Pune, India. A BSSK staff member hands the guys a guitar, brought from home. The children beg them to sing Jingle Bells and Old MacDonald, and the guys proceed to belt them out with great gusto. But their biggest hit requires audience participation: “If you’re happy and you know it.” The children catch on quickly, and begin to sing along, mimicking the guys’ clapping, stomping gestures. When the song ends, the children cry, “Encore!” Not to disappoint their fans, the guys repeat “If you’re happy,” this time picking up the pace and challenging the children to sing faster.

The next stop on NewSong’s tour of BSSK is a room full of toddlers. This audience isn’t quite so immediately sold on the four rockers who enter their room. Staring at the strangers, they warily move toward their caregivers. But it’s not long before the guys are on the floor, playing with the children, now friendlier and more at ease. The guys each hold several of the little ones. “This is amazing,” Matt Butler says to his bandmate, in a near whisper, as a child grabs the end of his nose. “Look at all these little faces.”

Before too long, the guys lead a siege of youngsters to the playground. They push swings. They catch children at the bottom of slides. They spin the merry-go-round. Laughing, Matt, Eddie, Billy and Russ play as naturally as the rest of the kids.

As they pile back into their van at the end of the day, Russ Lee smiles. “What a blessing to be with those kids,” he says.

These are the fruits…

By Brian Campbell, Director of Creative Services

Pune, IndiaBefore the first call of birds, the morning is greeted by the beeping of horns. Little auto rickshaws and scooters buzz through the streets of Pune, and vendors – selling all sorts of goods –  prepare their services for the day.

Outside his tidy, modest home, *Sanjay arranges green pears on his cart.  A smile breaches his face as he talks about his family and his small, successful fruit stand – the stand he utilizes to keep his family together and his children in school.  His daughter, *Ahsha, stands beside him in her crisp, clean uniform ready to start her school day.  She stands tall and proud, practicing a few common English greetings and beaming with satisfaction at our group’s approval. A smile and a glow of pride overtakes Sanjay’s face.

Today, Sanjay’s family, thanks to Bharatiya Samaj Seva Kendra (BSSK),  is thriving.

Just a few months ago, however, this scenario didn’t seem likely.

The family struggled under economic pressures.  Sanjay’s future as a truck driver was uncertain, and his children, in order to put food on the table, almost had to quit school and join the workforce.  Identified by community input and social workers from BSSK, Sanjay was provided with a micro loan to start a fruit stand business.

Today, long-term stability is a reality for this family. Sanjay looks forward to growing his small business and even plans on purchasing a motorized truck for selling and buying fruit. His son plans to graduate and become a police officer, and his daughter is looking forward to completing the 5th grade.

The fruits of family preservation and child sponsorship.

*names have been changed

We Are Fully Blessed

A mother’s hearing loss, five years prior, leads to the adoption of a hearing impaired son from India

By Ellen Singh

Praise God from whom all blessings flow! And what a blessing Deelip is to us!

My husband, Dave, and I already had two biological daughters, Katelyn and Anna, and one son, Michael, who we adopted from India. Our life was full with our young brood. Yet, for the past several years, we’d continued to casually look at Holt’s “Waiting Child” page. About two years ago, we read a brief description about Deelip, a 3-year-old boy from India, and knew God wanted us to pursue this child.

All we knew about Deelip was his age and his disability of being profoundly deaf. We were specifically interested in a child with hearing issues due to a major event that changed our lives five years prior. In 2004, I contracted bacterial meningitis. By God’s matchless mercy my life was spared. I woke up from a drug-induced coma with complete hearing loss in my left ear. As a result, we have learned so much about hearing issues and have a great sensitivity to others in similar situations. At age 36, I had to instantly learn how to live with single-sided hearing loss, which has been a great challenge.

Through this devastating event, I got to know various hearing professionals and volunteer in hearing loss research. I learned that St. Louis, near where we live, is a Mecca of hearing loss treatment and research in this country. Plus, there were several schools for the deaf nearby!

After discussing Deelip’s medical records with my ENT specialist and touring a local school for the deaf, we were absolutely confirmed that God was leading us to pursue Deelip. Continue reading “We Are Fully Blessed”