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Third Update from India

18 March 2010

Hello from Bihar,

I have spent many hours bouncing on motorbikes and in jeeps searching for orphanages in the Gaya region of Bihar.  I have found about 10 orphanages and, incidentally, a number of schools as many of the sites I am told are orphanages turn out to be schools.  I thought I’d share with you details about the most promising one I have found so far, Sunway Children Home.

I met Yrsa S. Grüning, the Founder, by chance while we were both visiting a school for children from poor rural families and she nonchalantly mentioned she runs an orphanage.  What luck!  We reconnected later that day and visited the two homes she runs in the Bodhgaya area.  She and her organization are based in Denmark and have been involved here for about 6 years.  Sunway and Paper Kite share many of the same values, including having no paid western staff to ensure the maximum amount of donations directly benefit the children (Sunway Indian staff are paid; Paper Kite has no paid staff).

Together the two homes care for around 80 children.  The children live in the homes due to having no parents or family breakdown.  While I was there a woman was handing over her children as her husband had committed suicide and she was no longer able to support her children.  It was an emotional time, including for me even although I was only a witness.  Another boy had been rescued by a social worker after villagers reported he was being kept as a slave at a local farm.  Although against the law, the reality here is that there are many children working in agriculture, as home servants or as general labourers.

More information can be found on their website (http://www.sunwaychildren.dk/eindex.html).  Note that some of it is out of date as they moved homes one month ago.

Sunway Children Home stands out from the other orphanages in three main ways:

1) it accepts children who require a greater level of care due to physical or mental challenges.

2) the children remain at the home until they are 18 years old.  Generally, children are no longer allowed at orphanages once they are 14.  When released at this young age, the children often end up getting married or going back to the streets.

3) the home is run with the best from a combination of western and eastern cultures.  For instance, while prevalent in the region, the caste system is not enforced and all the children are treated equally.  On the other hand, while Yrsa is Christian, the children are able to follow whichever belief system they choose.

Paper Kite is currently working with Sunway to install mosquito netting over the windows of one of their homes (I’ll write more on this in a later post).  One of the main detrimental forces working in Bihar is corruption.  Sadly, corruption pervades all levels of government and even local charities.  A major driving force behind Paper Kite is to ensure the orphanages we support are honest.  So far our background search on Sunway has been favourable but we still have some tasks to complete before committing to a larger project with Sunway.  Their next major project is building their own orphanage so they have stability and no longer have to rent facilities.

That’s all for now!

Namaste,

Jason

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