||TAMARA KAFTALOVICH, Guest Blogger
As a SCAW volunteer, there are several roles you play at a distribution: the photographer, the label puller, the organizer. Probably one of my favourite roles would be the interviewer.
Throughout the trip, we were responsible for interviewing a total of 25 parents or guardians of the children receiving the bedkit. It gave us a chance to not only learn whether or not the contents of the bedkit were of necessity to the children, but it was also a great opportunity to interact with the parents and learn more about their lives.
Photo by Tamara Kaftolovich
I had an opportunity to interview parents from Belgaum (where we distributed 1,000 bedkits), Bailhongal (500 bedkits) and Yellapur (100 bedkits). Some were married, others were widowers. They all had approximately three to four children. In fact, if they had any less than three children, it was often frowned upon by others in their community.
The majority rent their home, which is typically one room. Renting a home costs on average 400 rupees per month (approximately $8). The men typically work in factories or on farms. The women are maids, basket weavers or labourers. They made no more than 90 rupees per day (less than $2).
The most difficult time of the year, financially, is rainy season, mainly because work isn’t available or accessible to them during this time. The rainy season typically lasts two to three months, and since they aren’t able to work, they aren’t making money. In order to get by during this time, the parents store food throughout the year, to be used sparingly until they are able to get back to steady work.
Photo by Tamara Kaftolovich
Some of the saddest moments I experienced were listening to them talk about raising their children as single parents. One man I talked to lost his wife due to stomach problems — she went in for surgery one day, probably with a “quak,” and never made it back out. Another woman told me her husband committed suicide because he couldn’t handle the stress of not being able to support his family.
I also spoke with a grandmother who was the primary caregiver of her daughter’s little girl because she wasn’t able to support her and the rest of her kids at the same time. All were heart-wrenching stories that really put life into perspective for me.
Keep in mind, these families have absolutely nothing. The local organizations that Sleeping Children Around the World works with (Rotary Club and Inner Wheel) visit the homes in advance of the distribution and select the children who will receive the bedkits.
Typically, these children don’t have their own mat to sleep on; in fact, they don’t even have their own pillow. Although the public school system serves free lunch to the kids, unless they bring their own plate to eat off of, they don’t receive lunch. The school doesn’t pay for the child’s school supplies. So the bedkit has a mat, a pillow, cups and saucers, and school supplies — necessities the parents now have to support their children.
Photo by Tamara Kaftalovich
I asked the parents what their biggest dream was for their child. All of them said: to finish school and get a job to help support the family. Unfortunately, the probability of these children going to college is low because it costs money, unlike elementary or high school, which is paid for by the government. So unless a child is sponsored or receives a scholarship, there’s not much chance to get an education past Grade 12.
So why does SCAW support these children? Because every child, no matter who they are or how much money their family has, deserves a good night’s sleep and an opportunity to put their best foot forward each day while they are at school. Kids have wonderful imaginations, hopes and dreams, and if we can help prepare them for the day ahead, then we’re giving them a chance at life.
After each interview, I had to take a few minutes to myself to process everything I had learned. It’s not easy listening to these stories and then meeting the children that are affected by them. It can be quite emotional and sad. But the one thing that kept us going was seeing the beautiful smiling faces of these children and the life that’s inside them. Hopefully we were able to represent “a moment” they’ll never forget.
In fact, call it karma, coincidence, fate, whatever, but our Mumbai tour guide, Amin, who I talked about in earlier blogs, received a bedkit when he was growing up in the orphanage — and look at him now. Now that’s a full circle moment.
Date Added: February 23, 2011 | Comments (0)
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