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

22 February 2012

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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