After an intense time in Varanasi, we took 2 flights to reach South India, especially Tiruchirappalli, also called Trichy. This is the biggest city near the DKSHA orphanage, where we planned to stay the next 3 weeks.
Trichy was a short stop but we could already notice the difference between North and South India. We are now in Tamil Nadu state and every state has its own culture: different food, different language, different architecture, different clothes.
In Trichy, we visited the Sri Ranganathaswamy Hindu temple. We took a public bus to reach it, located in a small island between 2 rivers. It is the largest temple compound in India and one of the largest religious complexes in the world! It was completely different from everything we had seen so far, very colourful and well taken care of.
Our arrival at Deva Kirubai Social Help Association (DKSHA)
The next day, we took a bus to Manapparai, 50 km away from Trichy. Isaac, the founder and director of DKSHA, was waiting for us at the bus station. As soon as we jumped on the car, he announced us that some celebrations were happening on the night: the birthday and last day of a French volunteer and also our first day! It was a great start but we definitely didn't expect what was coming up.
After 15 mins, we arrived at the orphanage and were welcomed by all the children in a big room clapping hands to welcome us! The first hour was truly unreal: so much smiles, beautiful faces and all of them were eager to learn about us. We also were lucky to have a welcoming ceremony with dance, songs, speeches. We had never experienced this before and I felt I was in a TV report.
Our first impressions
Past the first night, we had some time to get an overview of the orphanage. 72 children are currently taken care of, 39 boys and 23 girls. Some of them are orphans or semi-orphans (1 parent still alive). Most of the time, they either gave up their children after their 2nd marriage or are in the incapacity to raise them (alcoholic, in jail or economical issues).
We were very surprised to see how great the facilities and condition of life were here. Children have enough food to eat every day, they have a computer room, the place is clean and most importantly, the main word to describe the atmosphere at first sight was happiness.
Our help to DKSHA
We provided 3 types of help:
- The first one was on a day to day basis. We supported the children by being with them on their daily activities (meals, games, etc). The majority of them were not shy at all and always looking for our attention. We were solicited all the time and we felt pretty tired at the end of each day!
- Secondly, I provided English lessons and Edouard computer lessons. Each day, they have coaching classes after school to give them as many chance as possible to succeed. The English teacher being away, I had full autonomy to create the content. It was really interesting. The challenge was to be understood by the kids as their level is sometimes very basic. Edouard liked it so much too! He taught some children how to code :)
- Finally, we provided support in the office. We updated the website, created a fundraising campaign (see the project here), participated in promoting children's success stories, created an induction package for volunteers, etc.
We hope we have been useful and that some of them will remember what we taught them.
How the NGO runs and our overall feeling
The association is fully independent from local authorities so the only way it works is through donations. We understood that they have regular ones as well as irregular and also a partnership with Miracle Foundation who finances higher studies.
Isaac is also involved in many associations and networks. We could see that he struggles sometimes to get the funds he needs for all the projects but he always find the right people to move forward, little by little. We found that he always does what is best for the orphans.
The more we stayed, the more we asked questions and the more we discovered another facet of the place. It is not always shiny and happiness here. We have heard some of the children's sad stories and why they were here. We also saw children crying and fighting. One of them also ran away on 2 occasions during our stay.
Despite all of this, we have lived a fantastic experience. Thanks to Isaac, we attended a lot of different events and ceremonies (birthday celebration, teachers' day, 2 weddings, a day to provide free doctor's appointment to poor people, meeting with some marginal & isolated farmers the association work with and even a ceremony for a girl who reached puberty!). It was always very colourful and we had the impression to be treated like special guests all the time.
It was very hard to say goodbye. Despite the basic facilities, we have been received so well by Isaac, his family, the staff and the children.
When I was young, I wanted to become children educator and I actually found some similarities between HR and Isaac's role. We will stay in contact with Isaac for sure and can't thank him enough for everything he shared with us.
We will keep in our heart and our memory all the children who lighted up our life in the orphanage.