Kathryn and Jane’s Fund Report 2011
Kathryn and Jane’s Memorial Fund had a good year. We were able to make small grants to a number of projects and make important differences in the lives of children and refugees.
Earlier this year our group of five young women and three older folks went to India and visited several orphanages and relief organizations. Plenty people on this trip, in our group included Lisa Wartinger, Plenty Board member, Jerry Hutchens, former Plenty volunteer, and three ex-Kids to the Country councilors (Kaya Wartinger, Faith Hutchens, and Kiya Vega-Hutchens). We had money with us from donations to the Plenty fund set up in honor of Kathryn Hutchens and her mother, Jane Fleet.
The most difficult and yet valuable parts of our visit involved street kids, orphans, and HIV-positive kids—the neediest of the needy. One of our best connections was with the sweet kids and their guardians at three orphanages supported by Worlds’ Children in the city of Hyderabad. We were also impressed with the work of Salaam Baalak Trust with the street kids of Delhi. In the Tibetan refugee village of McLeod Ganj we spent time with LIT (Learning and Ideas for Tibet) and organization helping refugees and ex-political prisoners from Tibet, and educating others about the situation. These are each important groups doing critical work. We also used small amounts from the Fund to help struggling individuals we met in various ways.
It is painful to witness the desperate situations of some of the children in India. In the grey light of morning in Bodhgaya, we were moving from one hotel to another via bicycle rickshaws. Older women with short handled brooms swept trash from the walkways in front of restaurants, Internet cafes, and shops into heaps of torn paper, plastic bags, decomposing food scraps, and worse. The stench of urine and decay mixed with a dark cloud of diesel fumes from passing buses. Boney dogs were sniffing their way around the sweepings when a raggedy crowd of a dozen or so skinny kids came quickly down the street. I love kids. Love seeing a big crowd of them play. These kids were too hungry to play. Their clothes were stained the color of the street; their hair was gummy and unkempt. A boy of about ten was in the lead as they moved in desperate arcs from one rotting mound to another, fingers darting into fetid piles and turning garbage. A couple of small girls brought up the rear of the band. I watched a child of about five as she bent and swiftly grabbed a morsel that the dogs had skipped and in a sudden jerky motion stuffed it into her mouth.
Once in New Delhi, near the train station, a girl of about eight came over to me from a group of smaller girls she was playing with. Her hair was stringy and her clothing soiled, but her eyes, her eyes were on fire. She extended a filthy hand and pleaded, “Baksheesh, sahib. Baksheesh.” She wanted money. No problem. I reached into my jeans pocket and pulled out a couple of coins but before I could open my hand, half a dozen screaming girls were grabbing my fingers. I pulled back in surprise and their fingernails opened several long bleeding scratches from my elbow to the wrist.
Over time, we grew more accustomed to the situation and began carrying a bag of small fruits, usually oranges or guavas, or biscuits, to pass out to begging children. But we never got used to their hunger or their desperation. Their faces and voices are with us always. I look at our children and grandchildren and think of those hungry ones sleeping on the streets, vulnerable and needy.
World’s Children in Hyderabad
We visited the city of Hyderabad, in the dry center of India. There are three orphanages there under the financial umbrella of World’s Children. David Purviance, a former Director of Plenty, is the Executive Director of World’s Children. Jean Purviance is the Secretary and Assistant Director. Bruce Moore is Treasurer. Joan Dixon and Roslyn Moore are on the Board of Directors. World’s Children has 44 orphanages in India. Purviance recommended we visit and photo document conditions at three orphanages.
The Kumars, Shoba and her husband Uttam, run Balavikasitha, the first home for orphans in Hyderabad we visited. I fell in love with these folks. They are real sweeties who have taken about forty kids into their home and are caring for them with family love. These kids feel covered. We had a wonderful time playing games, singing and dancing. Shoba and Uttam have taken these kids on until they are launched—educated for work and ready for the world.
More Than Warmth (MTW), a Nashville-based organization started by Judy Meeker, had given us quilts and blank quilt squares to take to kids in India. More Than Warmth is an educational project where kids around the world draw pictures on cloth squares that are later sewed into quilts that are given to kids in other counties. Judy hoped we could give finished quilts to kids who needed them and get kids in India to decorate squares for additional quilts. When the kids and staff at Balavikasitha saw the project, they were enthusiastic and eager to make their own quilts.
In addition to her devotion to Balavikasitha, Shoba is the in-country director of Worlds’ Children orphanages in India. David had told me, “At the center of every successful orphanage is a strong woman.” Shoba is just such a woman. She explained that one of their greatest needs was for a permanent place for the kids to live in. They had just purchased a piece of land. Since then a well has been dug and construction has begun. Hurray! We wanted to help in anyway we could. As I was trying to hand Uttam a donation from Kathryn and Jane’s Memorial Fund, he kept asking me, “Are you sure?” “Yes!” “But you have young people with you and you are so very far from your home.” I explained that this donation was separate from our travel money and was from people who had given money in honor of Kathryn and Jane in order to help in places like Balavikasitha. Then he accepted.
The day after we met them, Shoba and Uttam took us to Assunta Asha Nilayam Orphanage (AAN). The thirty kids there are all HIV-positive orphans whose parents have died of AIDS. The syndrome runs like this: the family loses or is pushed off their land. The father goes off in search of work. He contacts AIDS, comes home, and gives it to his wife. She gives birth to an HIV-positive baby. The parents die. Family and community, who have little understanding of the virus, ostracize the kids. The orphans are then on the street, homeless, hungry, traumatized by the death of their parents, abandoned by family, immune compromised, and knowing they have a terminal incurable disease. These kids fit into the category of “neediest of the needy.” They deserve to live a full and happy life. They deserve a chance.
Once at AAN we were warmly met by a crowd of curious kids, while two girls daubed paint on our faces in what we were told was a traditional greeting. Later I learned the paint on my face was not in usual places. Ha! Ha! Those of us who were visiting sat on chairs in front of the assembled kids. To be honest, I expected a room full of HIV-positive adolescents and younger to have an aura of grimness about it—listless bodies and vacant stares. But after a round of introductions, we were treated to a series of high-energy Bollywood dances by groups of girls and boys. The performances were unexpected and amazing in the unrestrained exuberance of the kids. I was laughing and clapping and soon tiny hands were dragging me in front of the assembly to show off my groovy moves. While my dance was more entertaining than artistic the effort was well received. What amazed us most was how vibrant and thriving the kids appeared. And to be sure —these kids are loved.
All the kids are on prescription drugs to manage the disease and are eating healthy foods in a clean environment. They are planning engaged and joyful futures. Sister Mary Joseph, one of the Franciscan Sisters who run Assunta Asha Nilayam, told us they lost three kids when they first started the home, but there have been no deaths for the last few years. Sadly, since our visit, a teenage girl in the home lost her struggle with the virus. Everything possible was done for her. We have given Assunta Asha Nilayam $200 from Kathryn and Jane’s Memorial Fund for a medical emergency fund to help cover unexpected expenses that come up when a child slips into crisis.
A few days into our stay in Hyderabad, we went to Shanti Nilayam, a new orphanage with for HIV-positive kids. Shanti Nilayam had been started about a year earlier by a dedicated young doctor, Dr S. Bala Raja Reddy, who gathered together nearly forty kids. Dr Reddy died suddenly in October 2010. His wife has taken over the management of the kids, while dealing with grief and the situation of being a young widow in a difficult part of the world. Shanti Nilayam was getting about 80% of its funding from local donors, but it was not enough to give the kids a sense of security. We could feel it almost immediately. There is hope for them. But India can be a hard place. We gave them enough money from Kathryn and Jane’s Memorial Fund to cover a month’s rent. Since our visit in June, World’s Children has found sponsors for each kid in the orphanage.
Salaam Baalak Trust
Landing in New Delhi was a shock — the noise, poverty, pollution, the hustle, and confusion. We connected with Salaam Baalak Trust, an organization that cares for street kids in the neighborhoods around the Delhi train station. Salaam Baalak organizes tours of the area led by former street kids. Faith and I took this tour in late winter 2008. It is a good way to pickup some street smarts and see up close what life is like for these kids. Street kids are some of the most hardened and abused children on this Earth. Salaam Baalak provides counseling, food, medicine, shelter, and job training. When we were there in 2008 we noted how few girls there were in Salaam Baalak’s system. The staff explained that girls who ran away from home or were abandoned by their caretakers were often snatched up by gangs and sold into prostitution. We were relieved to learn Salaam Baalak just started a safe haven for girls who have runaway or been abandoned. We gave the girls’ shelter a cash donation from Kathryn and Jane’s Memorial Fund.
Learning and Ideas for Tibet
From Delhi we took a van up to McLeod Ganj, home of 15,000 Tibetan refugees. There is a good crew here in an organization, started in part by friends of mine, called Learning and Ideas for Tibet (LIT). They work mainly with getting ex-political prisoners who have escaped from Chinese held Tibet integrated into the refugee community in India. We took a momo dumpling cooking class from LIT and went to a talk with questions and answers from a recently arrived young man, a refugee from Chinese occupied Tibet, who showed us his wounds and scars and spoke of the changes he has been through. A couple of years ago we sold some Tibetan religious paintings, thangkas, to raise the money to buy a computer for LIT. That was still their only computer and it was in constant use. They want to have computer classes, so we gave them a donation from Kathryn and Jane’s Fund toward another computer.
Tibetan Organic Farmers in India
We were walking down a rocky path below the Tibetan Children’s Village in Forsyth Ganj in north India, when Kiya, Kathryn’s granddaughter, recognized an Indian friend from college. She was with Leann Halsey an energetic activist from Fayetteville, Arkansas who is assisting Tibetan Organic Farmers in India. Tibetan refugees in eight different settlements are growing organic rice and developing a market for the rice and other organically grown foods. Currently over 400 Tibetan farmers are growing organic food. Leann’s group, Pennies for Partnerships, purchases some of the grain crop at a fair price and distributes the bags of organic rice locally to families who live on less than a dollar a day and experience hunger on a regular basis. We used Kathryn and Jane’s fund to buy a bag of rice on the spot for Pennies for Partnerships to handout to needy families later.
Other times the Fund came in handy for things like buying a jacket for a leper we got to know who was sleeping on the street at night. Raj did not speak English and we figured out with drawings and pantomime that, since his fingers were rotted off, he needed a sleeveless vest with a zipper instead of buttons. It was some of the most satisfying shopping we did.