Volunteers: Adam & Michael arrive in Darjeeling – Week 1
Week 1 Blog:
We arrived in Darjeeling on Wednesday after more than 20 hours of travelling via Heathrow, New Delhi and Bagdogra. The town is located 2,800m up into the Himalayan mountains at the north eastern tip of India. After exploring the town on day 1 with the help of Cath and Gautham (our local tour-guides and guardians in Darjeeling) we quickly learned the rich culture of the area. Situated close to the Chinese, Nepali and Bangladesh borders the town is full of different nationalities, religions and cultures.
The next day we arrived at the Foundation, which was about a 30 min walk from our apartment and is located on the edge of Darjeeling with stunning mountain views. Namrata introduced us to all of the staff and gave us a tour of the Foundation which includes a Boys house, Girls house, playground, Day Care Centre with classrooms, counselling and care rooms. Namrata talked us through the two main income streams of the Foundation (Ireland and Indian Government) as well as the accounting processes in place for expenditures, budgeting and payroll. Later on, we got to work on the book-keeping for the Foundation for April to July as there was a fair bit of backlog seen as Namrata has to prepare the accounts primarily on her own.
Once the children finished their morning lessons, we got the chance to meet them all. There are approximately 70 children in the Foundation – and over 100 if you include day care schooling kids too. The Foundation looks after kids from the ages of 6 to 18. On our first day we were lucky enough to play football with some of the boys, they’re well able to play. Unfortunately the “footballs” they were using were as small as a sliotar and fairly worn down. That didn’t stop the lads, and we were overwhelmed by their energy and excitement, they were delighted to let us join them straight away.
One of the boys, Ghoukan, was an especially talented player, and we learned that himself and his brother and sister were staying in the Foundation since their mother died and father became an alcoholic. After that, we joined the children for lunch which was made up of a rice alongside some butternut squash and daal. We had the lovely opportunity to serve the kids their lunch and appreciated how mannerly they were. The school children from town returned to the Foundation then where we helped them with their homework in English and Maths.
Later on that day, a 15 year old girl was brought to the Foundation by the local police. Her mother had sold her to a 55 year old man who repeatedly raped and abused her while the mother left Darjeeling. We immediately understood how important the counselling and care work the Foundation provides is. The Foundation provides these children with a home and with friends where they do not have to be afraid anymore.
Hearing some of the stories of the children you never would have believed some of the back-stories behind how they came to the Foundation – whether it be through child labour, abuse, trafficking or the death of their parents.