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Archive for February, 2012


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A typical day for a Paper Kite volunteer in India – Field Blog #3

A typical day for a Paper Kite volunteer in Bodhgaya, Bihar starts at 7:00am when we wake up and prepare for the day. Following breakfast at Be Happy Cafe, we attend Morning Prayer at 10:00am with the 350 children at Jeanamitabh orphanage. The children sing the Indian, French and Canadian national anthem, and listen to the daily news from Bihar. After prayer, the children attend class until 4pm. During class, Paper Kite volunteers leave with the orphanage managers to purchase items from the local community. In order to maximize our time in Bihar, we decide on items we want to purchase prior to leaving. We receive a list of requests from the orphanages and Paper Kite’s board of directors go through all items in detail to ensure they are within our four supporting programs (proper nutrition, clean water, education, health and welfare). All items purchased are for the benefit of the children and are not used for administration, logistics or transportation. The two orphanages we currently support were selected from 14 orphanages we researched and evaluated in 2010. The selection was based on our observations of the orphanages’ daily practices and their ability to provide proper financial statements, including operation costs.

Purchasing supplies is somewhat of an art and it takes time to perfect the skills such as bargaining and judging the quality of materials. In order to develop these skills, we have to cultivate relationships with local merchants as prices for foreigners tend be significantly higher than for locals. In all cases, we have to rely on the orphanage managers to help us barter and translate for us. Since this is Paper Kite’s third year here, volunteers have become familiar with the prices and are able to push for the lowest prices possible. We know that every dollar counts, so we make the effort to maximize our budget. As well, we are actively involved in the purchasing process and check the quality and quantity of all items we purchase.

In the evening we spend time with the children. Spending time with the children is one of the most fulfilling aspects of our field work. In just a few days, we went from being “the volunteers” to “Tarik Brother” and “Navi Sister.” It is an honour to be welcomed into the children’s hearts but it is hard to not form an emotional bond with them. Not only do we become emotionally invested in the children’s well-being, but we also learn about the children’s daily needs beyond the items requested by orphanage managers. For instance, Navi noticed that the girls’ hair could use some TLC, so she purchased hair clips for all of them. Although such items are basic necessities, you don’t realize what kids need until you see them in person and observe them on a daily basis.

At Paper Kite, we are lucky to be able to see the children in their element. This is something that is unique to our organization. As well, volunteers cover their own travels, accommodations and food in Bihar to ensure that all donations to Paper Kite are spent responsibly on items that the children require.

Navi, Paper Kite Volunteer
Tarik, Paper Kite President & Founder

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In Loving Memory of Motak – Field Blog #2

We have come to learn that Motak, a physically-disabled boy who lived in the Jeanamitabh orphanage passed away recently. Paper Kite’s President Tarik met Motak during our field work in 2011.

Motak was an energetic boy who had aspirations of finishing school and becoming a social computer teacher. He also enjoyed wearing Tarik’s sunglasses and learning about Canadian culture.

While he was home visiting his family, Motak contracted Meningitis. Meningitis is an infection of the membranes covering the brain and spinal cord (meninges). Meningitis can be cause by bacteria, viruses, fungi and even certain chemicals. Bacterial Meningitis is the most common type of Meningitis appearing in healthy individuals and also the most dangerous. It requires immediate medical treatment. Unfortunately, Motak’s parents were not aware of the symptoms of Meningitis and did not seek medical care when he started feeling sick. Additionally, since hospital visits are very expensive, they were reluctant to take him to the hospital. Although Motak was experiencing symptoms, his family was not aware that anything was wrong until he fell into coma. At that time, he was rushed to the hospital, but it was too late, and unfortunately he died on the way.

This situation could have been prevented if his parents had been informed about Meningitis symptoms, but basic health promotion is still lacking in local villages. Health promotion is just as important to community members as it is to the children in the orphanages. Paper Kite is planning to organize a health team to come to India to provide basic health education to the children and community members in the future to help prevent this from happening again.

Navi, Paper Kite Volunteer
Tarik, Paper Kite President & Founder

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We Are All Connected – Field Blog #1

It’s our third day in Bodh Gaya, Bihar, India. It’s so great to be back this year and see all the children at Jeanamithab and Sunway—the two orphanages we support. The orphanages have made great use of the items we bought last year such as benches for classrooms, tables and a water pump.

This year, through the hard work of our volunteers and your donations, we have $12,000 to spend. And as always, every dollar we raise goes directly to helping the children here.

It’s only been a few days, but Navi and I wasted no time as we immediately started purchasing items for both orphanages including fabric for the student uniforms, plates, undergarments and wiring materials for lighting. We still have many items to purchase over the next 10 days – food for a month, medicine, wood for making beds, shoes, kitchen utensils, etc.

Ten days may sound like a long time to buy supplies, but it takes a lot of time and patience to go through the process of making purchases from small shops in Bodh Gaya. India is very different from Canada in terms of pace and service.

Unlike in Canada where you can easily purchase an item from a store, in India, the process of buying is a lot more complex. First, you have to source various businesses, then you negotiate a price, and finally, you hope that you aren’t overpaying. While the process can be laborious, it is the only way to do business here.  This particular difference between Western and Indian culture is what makes it so hard for charities to set up shop in Bihar.Unless you are willing to adopt the practices of the local culture, it is very difficult to earn a positive reputation as a credible organization. This fact alone is what makes Paper Kite unique—we are cognizant of the cultural differences and actively use this knowledge to build trust with the local community.

The rest of our time is focused around purchasing supplies and spending time with the children at both orphanages. Thanks for reading and watch here for more updates!

Navi, Paper Kite Volunteer
Tarik, Paper Kite President & Founder

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