Monday, 19 February 2018

Belgaum: A tour with Preeta

Today our team had the honour of visiting the homes in the Haugiri area. I was greeted by a little girl who took my hand to meet to meet her grandma who welcomes me into her small little home. I was then taken to visit three of her friends homes. 

All the homes were surrounded by sugar cane, water buffaloes, and goats. With pride the grandma showed us the bathtub, kitchen and a home made swing. The experience and little Preeta is something we will hold in our hearts for many years to come.

Team Belgaum 2018
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Sunday, 18 February 2018

Belgaum: A 3 Part Day!

The second day of our distribution included three components.

The first, and most important, included the distribution of 400 bedkits to the children of Nipani. Nipani is a town about 1.5 hours drive from Belgaum. We were greeted by a room full of smiling little faces and a large crowd of anxiously waiting parents beyond the gates of the school. It didn’t take very long for the children to become excited and boisterous with the introduction of some balloons and balls from Canada!  As they watched the SCAW group show the contents of the kits, their excitement exponentially grew.

One of the reasons why today’s distribution went smoothly was the involvement of several dozen Rotarians, the Women’s Inner Circle group, and, of special note, the Rotaracts. Rotaracts are energetic and enthusiastic junior Rotarians who volunteer countless hours to benefit their communities.

In the courtyard of our distribution today, there was a sign that read “coming together is beginning, keeping together is progress, and working together is success”. All of these men and women volunteers demonstrated that success is possible.

The second component of the day included the opening of a local health care facility and surgery in Belgaum. We were given the privilege of sharing in the pride and progress of a team of eight doctors (4 father and son teams!) as they ceremonially opened this new facility.  Not only was the pride evident on the faces of the staff and community members, but their hard work and commitment was measurable.  It was an honour to be part of this proud day for Belgaum.

The third, and final part of today took place later in the evening. We were invited to be guests at the wedding reception for a daughter of a Rotarian in Belgaum. Again, what a surprise and privilege to find ourselves amongst 800 wedding guests.  Each guest was beautiful in their colourful saris and best clothes. Music played and food was served. The hospitality, generosity and openness of the Indian people was overwhelming. If all the world could open their arms (like the wedding party did to seven strangers from Canada), the world would surely be a better, more inclusive and kinder place.

As we are anticipating an early start and busy day tomorrow, we were unable to see the end of the festivities; however each team member went to bed with feelings of warmth, pride and excitement for the days to come.

Check out "Our First Blog" to see our new pictures.

Team Belgaum 2018
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Saturday, 17 February 2018

Belgaum: Our First Blog!

Today was the start of our distribution. We began at 7:30 with a three hour drive to Athani to give out 400 bedkits. We drove through primarily rural areas that traditionally grow sugar cane but are now also growing grapes. We shared the road with heavily loaded wagons of sugar cane, oxen carts, motor bikes, trucks, buses, bicycles and children walking to school.

When we arrived we were warmly welcomed by the Athani Rotarians, parents and the locals. There was a slight delay as adjustments were made to the layout.

The children were provided breakfast before gathering in the balcony. The team members enjoyed the enthusiast greetings from the kids.

Children came in all sizes, some so small that the bedkit bag was bigger than them.

Some of the children had help from a parent to navigate the process.

Today was the first distribution for Neil and Jeff who had the honour of handing out the bedkits.

Team Belgaum 2018
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Sunday, 4 February 2018

Chennai: Mission Accomplished!

Mission Accomplished - The seed has been planted!

Today on our final distribution we were thrilled to have about 50 young people helping us. These high school students were very special in that 7 or 8 years ago that were recipients of SCAW  bedkits at this same school. Their energy, understanding of the process and zest for helping us took us by surprise. They could have run the distribution themselves!!! And they did all this on a Sunday! Many thanks to the teachers who worked endlessly today to ensure the day went smoothly.

We began with giving out 30 baby layettes which has been a long time coming and ended with handing out 10 Rotary scholarships to high school students.


We are exhausted and thrilled and exited to know we have planted the seed in 6000 children and look forward to seeing their growth in years to come.

Thanks to all the SCAW supporters to help make this another incredible journey!!

Theresa Carravetta - Team Leader
for Team Chennai 2018
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Chennai: T. Nagur

By this time in our adventure it feels like we are into a bit of a routine. Our team has gelled. We all draw on each other’s unique strengths making each distribution run a little smoother than the last.

Each distribution is unique. The venues are different. The volunteer helpers are different. The Rotary members are different. And the children are different. Our team has developed some routines but we remain flexible and adapt to the differences.

Each distribution has a flow. The children need to be changed into their new clothing, then checked in, their photo taken, the bedkits handed to them along with a snack, and then they are sent on their way.

Each venue presents different challenges and opportunities for establishing a smooth flow. That is our first task when we arrive. While some of the SCAW team members work on this, others are meeting the children, establishing trust and building rapport.

So many of the children we have seen are scared or confused, or simply overwhelmed. Meeting them with a big, heartfelt smile showing them photos and teaching them the “hokey pokey” helps to ease some the tension.

Many people are needed to keep the children flowing through the distribution smoothly. We don’t want them waiting too long for their turns in front of the camera. And many of them need help to carry their bedkits. Some of the children are actually smaller than the kits themselves.

The help of young adult volunteers is essential to our success. Today it was the Girl Guides and the Junior Red Cross. These young women helped to escort the children from one area to the next, handed the snacks to the children, and also helped the children carry their new bedkits to their waiting parents and teachers.

All the children are grateful for their new bedkits. Some smile so big it fills their face, while others are more subtle, but the gratitude is there; you can feel it.

Today, there was one girl who was the most friendly child we had seen. She asked our names and after receiving her kit, while waiting for her bus to take her home, called out to both Kay and myself. She gave us hugs and we simply had to capture her exuberance on camera. Our distribution today was at a school in the city. At the rural distributions most children arrive by bus. But in the city, children arrive in just about every form of transportation we have seen in India. It still amazes me how much stuff and people can carry on a motorbike or scooter. This dad drove off with two bedkits and two kids on his scooter. Others climbed into their school bus with their bedkits.

While each distribution is unique, the one thing that remains the same is the happiness and gratitude that is so evident in these children.

Team Chennai 2018
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Friday, 2 February 2018

Chennai: Home Visits!

Today was our smallest distribution of 443 students held at a local high school. We were greeted by a delightful band and then had the assistance of about 50 young men of NSS - National Service Scheme. Needless to say the day went very smoothly with their help and the aid of the teachers some of which have been at the school and assisting with SCAW for 11 years.

We then went to the homes of 2 students who received bedkits today to see their homes.

In the first house lived a widowed mother - aged 30, who pays 2500 rupees per month rent for a thatched roof hut covered with multiple layers of plastic tarps.

Picking up plastic, paper and bottles from the trash, she makes about 6000 rupees per month - more if there has been a festival.

The 2nd mother owned her house also with a thatched roof which was destroyed in the cyclone in December 2016. In order to replace the roof, she took a loan from the bank and pays 1000 rupees ($20.00) per month on the loan which is half of what she makes per month as a house maid for 2 families where she works 6 hours per day (3 in the morning and 3 in the evening.) Grandmother lives with them and another daughter.

They are so happy as they don’t know any different but what they do know is that their lives have just been so graciously enriched because the the SCAW donors. We promised to come back and see them next year to see how they have been able to use their new items.

Theresa Carravetta for Team Chennai 2018
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Chennai: A Story of Renewal and Hope.

During one of the distributions we had the honour of meeting a woman who brought 50 children from a rural area to receive their bedkits. Dr. Supraja Dharini not only helps these children by transporting them to and from the distribution but she also helps animals in need.

The team all agreed to travel an extra 6 hours after the plane ride back from the Karur distribution to meet 3 very special elephants in an Elephant Care Facility. They had been captive in a temple, chained by the foot for 23 hours a day. 

They suffered massive abscesses, foot problems and depression. Dr. Supraja Dharini, a friend of our Rotary, just happened to be at the temple. Thus, began the long process of releasing them into the freedom of a new space.

Our team first met the 3 elephant girls in a palm jungle!! We fed them special treats and got to know each other. We walked amongst them along a path, where they were scooping up leaves from the trees with their massive trunks. They are such beautiful gentle giants. They mesmerized us! As Supraja was preparing their food, the three of them rumbled with delight and charged into the feeding area, surprising me.

We were able to feed them bananas and homemade super large brownies. Actually, they were delicious steamed food squares – I ate some! What an amazing 4 sets of teeth they have.

The doctor has devoted so much of her time, love and finances for these elephants. They need special care every day to heal their abscesses and abused feet and bodies, but it’s working. They are so happy and love to be stroked and spoken to.

The doctor has plans to build a Biodiversity Education Centre on their newly purchased larger property. Children will be able to come and visit and learn to experience first hand the value and richness of nature in all living things. Presently she invites classes to visit the elephants and each bring a handful of feed. Every little bit helps!

As we left the Facility, a flock of magnificent peacocks bid us farewell across from the orange sun setting over the Bay of Bengal.

Click here to watch a video and visit their website: to know more about the elephants and the care facility that we had the opportunity to visit.

Kay Mountford for Chennai SCAW Team 2018
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Wednesday, 31 January 2018

Chennai: Factory Visits

After our distribution of 500 children at Karur a new location for SCAW, we visited the factory where the mosquito nets are made.

The Rotarians at Karur went out of their way to be sure the team and the children were comfortable setting up in the shade or under colourful canopies.

We were able to once again show everyone the contents of the bedkits which resulted in lots of great smiles during the pictures.

The factory visit was to a small cottage industry who makes the mosquito nets. This area was the final stage where the panels are sewn together by women working in cramped quarters for 8 hours a day. From there we went to the next area that weaves the plastic fabric from the fibre into the finished panel which then goes to the ladies who sew the panels together.

I was so impressed with the quality of the product considering the limited size of the working space.

John O’Donnell for Team Chennai 2018
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Tuesday, 30 January 2018

Chennai: Madurai

Yesterday was a travel day where we flew on a one hour flight to Madurai. There we were guests at the Rotary 3000 District Conference which was attended by over 2000 Rotary delegates from the surrounding areas. All delegates were treated to a 6 minute video presentation showcasing the creation of SCAW and its founder - Murray Dryden along with a introduction of this years team.

Today we had a distribution of 450 children in Madurai. Once again the needy children came from surrounding communities to receive their bedkits. We had the chance to demonstrate the contents of the bedkit to the children who were waiting before starting the process. They were thrilled to actually see and understand what was in the bedkit.

These children brighten our days more than they know.

John O’Donnell for Team Chennai 2018
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