Finishing my job as an Employment Advisor at a Children’s Centre
Watching, and enjoying, ‘The Hangover’
Meeting a good friend from school and enjoying a Baileys & Oreo Milkshake together
Seeing ‘The Adjustment Bureau’ for free – not bad Mr K Dick, not bad
Working one day in a new position on the front desk of a theatre
Following, with bated breath, the Arts Council Funding decisions
It’s not been a quiet week then, and what with the financial situation here, and particularly the cuts to the arts (I work in the arts you see) I’ve been thinking a lot about money. I try very hard not to worry about such things, to trust that God will provide. But sometimes it is very hard. Becky Swamickan and all at Oasis are firmly in my thoughts at the moment. As well as all of the children and teachers at Fort School. I just can’t tell you how much I wish I knew how to make the money to help provide for them. To rebuild Fort School is a dream that we have had for a number of years now, and it’s difficult to keep revisiting and not be able to deliver.
I sometimes forget how much money we’re dealing with when we’re in India. It is all transformed into Indian Rupees – and we are in posession of millions of rupees. It all seems unreal, and feels a bit like Monopoly money, so I stop thinking about it as real. I am however amazed that in spite of holding tens of lakhs rupees we don’t have the money to do everything that we want.
I suspect that no matter how much money we have, we’ll never be able to do everything we want. Would we ever be satisfied? We obviously need to raise money to complete the project that we run. The more money we raise, the more we can do. But if I’m honest the thing that is most memorable for our team members and the boys from the Boys Town particularly is the time spent together. An old friend of ours from Chennai once said:
You must continue to visit. Don’t worry about bringing money – the money isn’t important. You must continue to visit to spend time with your friends.
And that’s what they are. They are not poor people on the other side of the world. They are our friends. We have friends in the staff at YMCA and Oasis, we have friends in the groups that we work with in the slums, we have friends in the boys at the Boys Town, and each year we get to visit our friends. Call me sentimental, but the fact that we are able to spend time with our friends, and have incredible fun with the boys is worth more to me than the money. It helps to remember that when struggling to raise the money we need!
(P.S. by no means am I suggesting that you should not donate to Chennai Challenge easily and securely here!)
Recently I have been following 40acts. 40acts is seeking transform generosity. I like the sound of this, especially when trying to raise funds, if people became more generous. However, it is not all about money. One day this week 40acts looked at being generous with hospitality, and how the most important thing is not having a house where everything is well ordered, tidy and dust free, or even having wonderful homemade quiche and cakes for people to enjoy. The most important thing is making people feel welcome and at home. If things are a little rough around the edges, people won’t mind.
Now today I ignored part of that advice and spent plenty of time preparing the house for visitors. This involved a lot of tidying and dusting and the like, as well as Cathy making some bread and cakes. Most of the reason we tidied up was due to the fact it was our parents coming round. Both sets of parents at once and it makes life easier if the house is clean when they come over.
We had a lovely time with everyone round, and I think we did our best to be as hospitable as possible.
Still, I do think that 40acts are on to something, because the places I have found to be most generous with their hospitality have not been grand places, but simple humble ones. Every time I visit Chennai I am blown away by how much hospitality we receive. The best example of this was at the Sathmanagar community centre. The community centre is always full of life and is a pleasure to visit, and we are always made to feel amazingly welcome. This was taken to another level when the local leader, who we have seen over a number of years, asked us to visit his house. Even though we were busy we made a few minute detour to visit. His house was tiny. We struggled to fit all of us in the front room, and yet it was an amazing act of generous hospitality. It was a remarkably and humbling experience, as we were supposed to be the generous people helping out. I think it would be a good thing to take a lesson from 40acts and the people of sathmanagar, they seem to know about being generous.
Yes he has. The sun is shining quite enthusiastically here in London. I ate my lunch outside today and it was more than bearable, it was positively gorgeous. It feels like Spring. In fact, it almost feels like Summer and I LOVE IT. Apparently it is a mind shattering 16C here today. 16C!? As if that is actually hot. Still, it feels it. Chennai on the other hand is currently experiencing temperatures of 32C (although according to The Weather Channel it feels like 34C!). Now that’s hot.
I like crisp cold weather and being wrapped up in a massive scarf, but if I’m honest I much MUCH prefer shorts, t-shirts and sun. Today has reminded me of that. Of course it makes me think of Chennai (I can find a link most of the time). I absolutely love that thick, humid heat you get in India during August. The sort of heat that surrounds you. I know that for many people on the team the climate is a massive challenge, but I have always really enjoyed it.
Every year one of the first things we do is ask the team to identify things that they think they will find a challenge. Common answers include Witnessing Poverty first hand; Flying; the Food; Cultural clashes and of course, the Climate! I get it. It’s a completely different environment, and we’re not used to it. For some people it makes everything more tiring and more difficult. Most of us don’t drink enough water <short pause as I go and fill my bottle with water> and we wander around our lives dehydrated. If we did that in India then we feel the consequences much more harshly, and much more quickly. So getting used to drinking enough water (we ususally recommend about 2 litres a day – although there is some debate about how much we should drink) can be difficult.
Yes, it means that we have to alter the way we work. Give ourselves enough rest, enough water and often a slower pace, but I still simply love the heat of Chennai. I can’t wait for that disorientating sensation of walking out of a freezing cold air conditioned restaurant into the baking hot Chennai evening. Lots to do before we get that pleasure though. Money to be raised, injections to be had, preparations to be made! Here’s to the summer!
Human nature is a funny thing. We always want the latest phone with all the apps, the newest car, the football shirt for this season etc. but are we ever happy with what we get or do we always think we can do better?
Today I visited the Education Show ready to get bags of freebies and the best deals possible. Ambling round the stalls, my colleagues and I were moaning about the lack of freebies and the absence of generosity from the retailers. Even though in my hand I held numerous bags containing; CD roms, pens, pencils and glue sticks (a much-needed teacher resource!) which I managed to obtain without burning too much of a hole in my pocket! As I was nearing the end of the enormous trek around the NEC, I stumbled across an outdoor play retailer. The friendly stall guide began his sales pitch trying to persuade us to buy these amazing products. After the pitch he asked about the facilities already in place. As I began to reel off the items within our brand new school I saw his eyes light up and a smile spread across his face. He was amazed by the facilities our school provides for our children. The discussion quickly changed to how fortunate the children are. At this point I was very quick in explaining how the children don’t see this and they will only learn the true value of our facilities when they leave in Yr6 and no longer have access to them. This was a great reminder to me that we all struggle with being grateful for what we have. When was the last time you thought about how fortunate you are?
For the last two years I have accompanied Chennai Challenge to India and for most team members the hardest issue to deal with personally is this issue of us individually being too materialistic. These trips not only allow us to help the deprived and disadvantaged, they challenge us to think about the way in which we live our lives and our personal attitudes and values. I was particularly challenged through seeing the lack of possessions the children at the Boys Town have. I tell no lie when I say they can fit all their possessions in a small suitcase the size of my hand-luggage case! When I think about this and compare it to the possessions of children within my Yr6 class it disappoints me that they cannot see their fortunes and maybe adopt a more gracious attitude.
The people of Chennai live for what they have rather than what they don’t have. Jealousy and greed are two emotions that can drive us as humans however I believe that we need to adopt an attitude of gratitude, focusing on what is right in our lives and be thankful for those things. This opportunity to visit Chennai not only affects the people who we go and help but it allows us to adapt our personal views and in turn highlight to others how lucky we all are. I can’t wait to return this year to see what a difference we made last year and how we can help now!