Visit to Heal 27th – 30th January 2008
Report from Adele and Albert Alcock:
Albert and I first visited Heal Children’s Village in 2006 and the happy memories of that visit stayed with us and encouraged us to start to save up straight away to visit again and finally at 4pm on the 27th January 2008 we arrived at Vijayawada airport. Vijayawada is approx 60km from the Children’s Village. Vijayalakshmi (sponsorship secretary) and George (Vijaya’s husband) had offered to meet us at the airport and transport us to Heal. Meeting Vijaya and George again was brilliant as we had spent time with them on our previous visit and had stayed in touch via email ever since.
The journey on India’s roads is not for the faint hearted but surprisingly once you get used to the constant honking of horns and pot holes on the roads you learn to sit back and enjoy the ride – all the drivers we experienced were excellent!
The journey to Heal took us 1.5hours and we were met on arrival by Dr Manga Devi, it was wonderful to meet this remarkable lady again.
Dr Manga Devi organised a lovely meal for us and we caught up with the latest developments at the village. Getting used to using fingers to eat rather than knives and forks takes a bit of practice especially when you are eating curry and rice!
We were also introduced to Kirsty Brodie who had been working as a volunteer at the village since arriving earlier in the month after taking part in the Cycle India sponsored bike ride from Hyderabad.
The following morning before going for breakfast we sat outside the guest apartment to take in the peace and tranquillity of the campus and watch the children going by to carry out their early morning tasks. Whilst doing this Hafisa (our eldest sponsored child age 14 yrs) arrived with her friend to greet us – it was so good to see her again and we couldn’t get over how much she had grown up and also overcome the shyness we had seen at the previous visit. At breakfast we met up with Kirsty again and we made plans to visit the two schools on the campus – The English Medium School and The Telegu School. There are children from Heal at both schools.
We started off by watching the morning assembly at the English Medium School then following that after encouragement from Hafisa and her friend went to watch the year 9 students morning karate class – or so we thought but all three of us where dragged in to participate!!!!!!!!! Whilst this was happening Marudhvathi, Co-ordinating Officer, arrived to greet us and arranged for our us to meet for the first time our younger sponsored child – 5 yr old Ambedkar – his smile was just beautiful and whilst he couldn’t speak/ understand much English Hafisa and Marudhvathi translated. Both children were then given some time away from their morning lessons to accompany us around the Teleguise school and to allow us to have some quality time with them. We visited the Toy Library and met some of the pre-school children, played with them for a while and made our minds up that before we left we would arrange to buy some new tricycles as the existing ones in the library where past their best. We also visited some of the other younger children and they recited nursery rhymes for us and we watched as they played games such as their version of ‘Simon says’ and musical chairs.
Maraudhvathi explained that they had an ongoing project on the campus to train teachers and there was to be a seminar later that afternoon where the trainees would benefit greatly from being able to talk to us and ask us questions around our culture and the education system etc in the England if Albert, Kirsty and I where agreeable – we said of course but we hadn’t bargained for being asked individually to stand up and make a speech!!!!!!!!!
Later that evening we went to visit the Heal children at their cottages and everyone wanted to hold your hand or play thumb wars with you ( a game introduced to them by Kirsty) and when they saw the camcorder they all wanted their photo taken then playing back to them. Everyone was trying to talk to us at once all trying to practice their English – as they were supposed to be studying we kept our visit brief and promised to see them all again the next day.
The next day we spent some more time with Hafisa and Ambedkar before they went to school. We then went into the schools again for a while before going to Vijaya & George’s home for lunch. It was nice to be able to sit and chat and look through the photo albums recording various events that had happened at Heal. Before returning to Heal we managed to find a toy shop in Guntur to purchase a couple of tricycles for the nursery children – 500 rupees for two (approx £6 sterling!!!!!!!!) Albert got some strange looks as he walked down the main street in Gunter carrying them. We then spent the evening with Marudhvathi sorting out the gifts we had brought from England for the children as it had been arranged for us to see all the Heal children together before school the following morning to distribute everything.
Our final day at Heal arrived too quickly – after breakfast we went to meet with the Heal children outside their cottages.
They were all sat spick and span in their school uniforms waiting for us. As we arrived they all started waving and clapping the site brought tears to our eyes!
After speaking to the children and encouraging them to continue to work and play hard and take care of each other we then, with the help of Kirsty and some of the older children, distributed small gifts to each child, ensuring each child got a lollipop and then another small item – balls, stickers or puzzles for the younger boys, hair bands, slides and clips for the girls with coloured pens, pencils or crayons for the older children. Marudhvathi then showed the children the books and DVD’s we had also brought for them all to share. The sheer joy you see on the children’s faces when they receive the smallest of gifts is a pleasure hard to imagine without experiencing it yourself. Photos and camcorder footage again taken in abundance and everyone crowding round wanting to see the pictures. Too soon it was time for the children to go to school so we said our goodbyes and arranged for Hafisa and Ambedkar to come to the guest apartment at lunchtime so that we could say our goodbyes to them before we left for our afternoon flight back to Hyderabad.
Through out our stay where ever we went children would be coming up to us wanting to talk to us, hold our hands, show us different things. The House Mothers made our meals brought us drinks and snacks and generally looked after us – we couldn’t have wished to have been better looked after and we were very sad to have to leave and hope to be able to visit again in the future.
Adele & Albert Alcock
21st February 2008