||TAMARA KAFTALOVICH, Guest Blogger
Our two days of touring are officially over. We took a flight from Mumbai to Hubli and then drove to Belgaum, our home base for the next five days as we drive in and out of some of the most rural parts of India.
The first thing we did upon our arrival was visit some of the homes that received a bedkit from past distributions. We did this for a number of reasons: Not only is it a good idea to make sure the bedkits are getting into the hands of children who need them most, but we also want to make sure they are using them properly and they are equipped with what the child needs most (mosquito nets, clothing, mat/bedding/pillow, school supplies, kitchenware, shoes, backpack and a towel).
Volunteers and SCAW working together in Nipani, India, to distribute 100 bedkits. Photo by Tamara Kaftalovich
I’ve been to very poor communities throughout the world so I had prepared myself in advance for what I was about to see, but no matter how much you prepare yourself, it doesn’t seem to really matter.
The families live in the tiniest of houses, if you can even call them houses. A typical home is about 10×10 ft, broken up into a kitchen and sleeping quarters. One of the homes we visited slept 15 people in one room, which is common.
Luckily, the families we visited had running water nearby. But there was no electricity and families cooked out of fire pits in or just outside of their homes. They had no real possessions and food was something they could never rely on having. One great thing about the children SCAW reaches is they all go to school, so the contents of the bedkit help that child get a good night’s rest so they can be ready for school the next day — the motto SCAW prides itself on.
The following day was our first distribution. We visited two communities, Athani and Nepani, which were located approximately two to three hours outside of Belgaum. Driving to each distribution reminded me of driving through parts of rural Africa — workers building small cement homes, people pushing cattle up the road, lots of small storefronts representing pocketed communities.
Both distributions took place in community buildings. One was a local auditorium, the other a school. Local Rotary and Inner Wheel organizations (along with the Rotary Club of Belgaum) were instrumental in putting on the distribution. These groups, headed by doctors, entrepreneurs and factory owners, were responsible for selecting the children that would receive the bedkits, as well as assembling the bedkits and organizing the festivities for the day.
Really, our job was the easiest part, which was to ensure all the bedkit contents were accounted for, that each child received their bedkit, and that a photo of each child in their new clothes (from the bedkit) was taken so it could later be shared with the original donor. In a nutshell, here’s how a bedkit distribution day works:
A neighbourhood outside of Belgaum, India. Photo by Tamara Kaftalovich
• SCAW arrives and is greeted by Rotarians and volunteers (all the bedkits are already assembled).
• The parents and children arrive and are separated, so as not to cause confusion or chaos. Depending on how large the venue is, the parents may not be present during the actual distribution.
• SCAW sets up and the distribution begins.
• A child checks in with a ticket given in advance and receives their clothing.
• The child changes into their new clothes and proceeds to a line for their photo. After the photo is taken, SCAW marks the bedkit off a list, and the child receives the remainder of the bedkit.
Obviously, there is much more that takes place in between, including all the fun we have with the children (the best part!), but this gives you an idea of what’s involved and how organized everyone has to be to get the job done, and done right.
We gave out 450 bedkits of the 4,000 total bedkits we are delivering on this trip.
This was my first time participating in a bedkit distribution. I had a sense of what to expect based on what I heard from other traveling volunteers, but nothing prepared me for witnessing it firsthand. From the curiosity and smiles of the children receiving the bedkits, to the team work between SCAW, the local rotary clubs and volunteers, to the support from the donors back home in North America, it was really a 360-degree moment for all.
Date Added: February 17, 2011 | Comments (0)
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