Taking the Important Things Into the New Year

Podanur, India (Part 3 of 3)

Putting aside our disappointing freight and revenues in 2015 — and the fact that our tractor and trailer repairs cost as much as a small BMW  sports coupe — we finished the year with true wealth.

The wealth a person feels when they do something for no return.

The three Rs are important at FCC, but there’s a healthy component of exercise and play.

The three Rs are important at FFC, but there’s a healthy component of exercise and play.

Our 2015 highlight  was the three days we spent volunteering at the Families For Children orphanage in India.

In life, the shit never ends. Count on it. The economy is always up or down. Count on it.  But health, happiness and the ability to give kindness are life’s greatest payoffs.

The orphanage is on the outskirts of the smoggy and grimy industrial city of Coimbatore in the state of Tamil Nadu. It sprung from the kind heart of a Canadian woman, Sandra Simpson, some 40 years ago.

The center courtyard of Families For Children where recess brings shrieks of delight.

The center courtyard of Families For Children where recess brings shrieks of delight.

While at Families for Children, we met Debbie Hogan, a nurse from Ottawa with 27 years’ experience. She signed on for a month of volunteering to train new nurses, review best practices and medications, and of course, to care for, play with, and cuddle the children.

Canadian nurse Debbie Hogan volunteered one-month at Families For Children to help train new nurses and review practices and medications. The local women who care for the physically and developmentally challenged children, she says, are heroes. Their work is backbreaking and emotionally consuming. She says a big challenge is to get these abandoned children used to human touch so that they can be helped with physical and other therapies.

Canadian nurse Debbie Hogan volunteered one-month at Families For Children to help train new nurses and review practices and medications. A big challenge, she says,  is to get these challenged, and often abandoned, children used to human touch so that they can be helped with physical and other therapies.

“The amount of joy among the staff and residents is incredible,” Hogan told us. “If you have the courage to come, you will be filled up with love.”

She found the children “naturally nurtured” each other, with the older children watching out for the younger ones.

“All the kids have chores, they have a rounded upbringing, they are learning responsibility,” she said.

Families For Children (FFC) saves lives by rescuing children from the street, or from bonded servitude and abusive families. In fact while we were there, one newborn, hours old, was brought into the orphanage. Hogan examined the baby girl and found her to be in perfect condition, but she had been abandoned on the street.

This one-day old baby was left on the street, passersby brought her to Families For Children where she was examined by Ottawa nurse Debbie Hogan and Kalai, Families For Children Chief Administrator. Since the baby was healthy, wearing new clothes and packed in a bassinet with a gold ring and a brick of 1,000 Rupee notes, FCCs officials felt she was born out of wedlock, but will be an excellent candidate for adoption.

This hours-old baby was left on the street. Passersby brought her to Families For Children where she was examined by Ottawa nurse Debbie Hogan and Kalai, Families For Children Chief Administrator. Since the baby was healthy, wearing new clothes and packed in a bassinet with a gold ring and a brick of 1,000 Rupee notes, FFC officials felt she was born out of wedlock. She will be an excellent candidate for adoption.

FFC not only gives these children a home. It provides them with a meaningful life. The real achievement, we found, is the atmosphere of joy and love that is frequently punctuated with laughter. This nurtures all the children — even the most severely afflicted.  It’s obvious to even the casual observer that these children are growing up with hope, education and training to prepare them for a future in which they will be contributing members of their society, to the best of their ability.

Today, there are 300 residents at FFC, of which 175 are challenged physically, developmentally or both. Because there are so few programs for these children, FFC is shifting its focus to them.

The children are cared for by 125 devoted staff, many of whom perform what Hogan described as back-breaking and emotionally exhausting work. Staff feed, change, cuddle, and come to care deeply for these children, many of whom are not mobile and cannot control their bodies or feed themselves.

Rani Ferris was another volunteer we met. She was adopted from Families For Children by a Canadian couple when she was two. She has returned to the orphanage five times as a volunteer.

Born in India, left at Families For Children as a child, adopted and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories in Canada, Rani Ferris has returned as a volunteer. The baby in her arms arrived underweight, non-responsive and a poor prognosis. This is the result of several weeks of cuddling. Eyes open, smiling and playing.

Born in India, left at Families For Children as a child, adopted and raised in Whitehorse, Yukon Territories in Canada, Rani Ferris has returned as a volunteer. The baby in her arms arrived underweight, non-responsive and a poor prognosis. This is the result of several weeks of cuddling. Eyes open, smiling and playing.

“They are doing incredible work here,” Rani said. We came to learn that Rani had done incredible work, too. She had sparked the spirit of a non-responsive infant by spending hours cuddling and singing “You Are My Sunshine” to the baby.

“We have a responsibility to our fellow man to make a difference,” Rani said.

Every child at Families For Children goes to school. The Families for Children staff includes 25 teachers. Of the 300 children who live at the orphanage, 175 are challenged, physically or developmentally. The children speak Tamil, the local language, and learn English. Speaking English is an important and respected skill that leads to good jobs.

Every child at Families For Children goes to school. The children speak Tamil, the local language, and learn English as it is an important and respected skill that leads to good jobs.

There are 25 teachers at FFC who guide their charges from kindergarten to grade eight. Each child learns the Three Rs in Tamil, the local language. They also learn to read, write and speak English, a much-respected skill in India. After grade eight, students are given the opportunity for more education or to learn a trade, depending on their interests. FFC has sent 30 students to university.

The staff also includes physical therapists, who work with antiquated equipment, a librarian, gardeners, kitchen and laundry staff.

Shainee is the manager of the canteen and also grew up at Families For Children. An amazing chef, she feeds volunteers and staff and teaches the girls how to cook for themselves and their future families, a skill that their mothers would usually pass on.

Shainee is the manager of the canteen and also grew up at Families For Children. An amazing chef, she feeds volunteers and staff and teaches the girls how to cook for themselves and their future families, a skill that their mothers would usually pass on.

Many of the organization’s leaders, such as Shainee, the gregarious canteen manager, were themselves, FFC orphans. An amazing chef, Shainee delighted us with her breakfast dosas and her tomato and coconut chutnies. She is also the cooking teacher.

“No spicy, yes?” she asked us on our first day. We’re sure she was thinking “boring North Americans.” “Yes,” we replied.  “No spice.”  Vegetables from the orphanage’s organic garden came alive as delicately spiced curries under her giant wooden spoon.

We found FFC through two unconnected friends. Both Shernaz, a teacher on Canada’s west coast and Leo, a childhood friend of MacGyver’s from Ontario, have fundraised and volunteered for FFC for several years.

Families For Children is grateful for all its volunteers of time and money and honors them wherever it can. This room was created by fundraising by The York School in Toronto. So the room was named for them.

Families For Children is grateful for all its volunteers of time and money and honors them wherever it can. This room was created by fundraising by The York School in Toronto. So the room was named for them.

“Go,” Leo told us. “You will be amazed.”

The needs at FFC are enormous. But Indians have an incredible talent for reincarnation, or recycling. Everything and everyone who comes through the door contributes in some way or another.

The search for donations never ends. In addition to food and education, they need to pay for medications and surgeries. So FFC is very focused on being as self-sustaining as possible.

The orphanage has beehives so they can sell honey to the community. They’ve set up a mushroom farming operation, in a country where there is no word for mushroom, so they can sell the excess to local restaurants. Their pride and joy is the organic garden, overseen by Thangaraj, who grew up at FFC and is their official librarian. Now he’s the organization’s organic specialist growing eggplants and spinach.

Sewing is just one way that Families For Children creates income. On the top floor of a three-story walk up building on the grounds is the Women’s Co-op. The whirring of fans competes with the whirring of the pedal-powered sewing machines.

Sewing is just one way that Families For Children creates income.

FFC is also home to a women’s co-op where the seamstresses use waste silk and saris to make bags and purses for sale. Damaged cocoons are collected and spun into silk threads, which are then woven into fabric to create other products.

In 2013, FFC opened a training school, where 55 of the residents – challenged adults — learn skills to the best of their ability. Some reincarnate old denim clothes into laptop and yoga bags. Others turn old newspapers into hand-embroidered greeting cards.

Every resident contributes in any way he or she can. Everyone is encouraged — and expected — to perform to their best ability.

The woman's co-op creates these wine gift bags by recycling sari fabric and using medleri silk that they weave themselves.

The woman’s co-op creates these wine gift bags by recycling sari fabric and using medleri silk that they weave themselves.

Inspired by these happy children and productive students, our plan for 2016 is to carry on to the best of our ability.

Thank you for reading our blog. We wish you a healthy, happy and productive year ahead.

To honor you, our friends, we’ve made a financial contribution to Families For Children, so now, you are part of this success story.

To make a donation to Families For Children online, Canadians can go to CanadaHelps.org and Americans can visit JustGive.org.

Donations can also be mailed to FFC at:

111 Roseheath Avenue
Toronto, Ontario
Canada
M4C 3P6

Or

FFC-USA
P.O. Box 305
Stockton, NJ 08559-305

Gallery: Families For Children – India

8 thoughts on “Taking the Important Things Into the New Year

  1. HAPPY NEW YEAR!

    Your blog is an excellent way to start the new year for all of us. Having a rich life isn’t about accumulating toys and wealth, it’s about having rich experiences and trying to make each day a little better for someone else.

    Got to run, we have to be out the door soon for a Wwhale watching trip. I renewed our membership in the Pacific Whale Foundation. I know we won’t save enough money on the membership to pay for it in discounts, but it helps the foundation do it’s job, protecting what they can, and educating people, particularly children, they make the world a better place for every creature.

    Luv Sis

    Like

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