Full speed ahead

So after the first day getting everyone used to India, we started to get stuck in on Thursday. After having a real nights sleep we had a top breakfast of poori massala, vadai and boiled eggs at the YMCA to start us off. After a little bit of planning and preparing we once again met with Bernard.

Bernard has prepared a list of priorities for spending at the Boys town in kottivakkum with estimates of cost. He chatted with the team over coffee and biscuits for about an hour before he needed to go off and do some work. We sent out a party to bring us lunch as it was now 1215 and we had decided to go and visit places at 1300. It was a great lunch as everyone quickly downed a hot puff before we got on to our bus. It was, as per our instructions, non A/C so you open the windows and feel the breeze, see the city and smell the city as well. At least 2 of those are good things!

We travelled to the north of the city to visit 2 YMCA community centres, Sathmanagar and Tondiarpet. There were no programs running at either, and we had only decided to visit about an hour and a half eariler, so we di see things as they are. This meant that it still feels that Sathmanagar is an amazing place, which does actually have the community around it coming in. Our welcome was brilliant as ever, and we politely declined cool drinks. The building really is looking in a bad shape now, with cracks becoming apparent after the ravages of time and monsoon. It was built in 1974, so it is getting on a bit. They have asked us about a rebuild of the centre to include extending it out by 20feet! This more than doubles the floor space and we will need to see a budget to think about going ahead.

Tondiarpet was a centre we paid to be refurbished last year, and hadn’t seen the finished article. It looked amazing, the grounds were all in good order, the paint looked good the inside was light and airy, and place you wouldn’t mind going to! We were blown away by how good it looked, and by the plaque that proclaimed it had been refurbished by the Chennai Challenge team in 2009. At both community centres we drew a good deal of interest from locals, but our heads were starting to think of what was yet to come in the day and visiting Kottivakkum.

We had a quick stop at Vepery and met Bernard to go to Kottivakkum, Bernard kidnapped Rob and Cathy to go in his car, while the rest of the team stayed in the bus. Getting to the site at Kottivakkum was great, and to start with we had a look round with the team to show them what was going on. This was interspersed with the occasional shout from a boy of someones name. There were some problems with the site, although they have raised the level a bit there was standing water after some rains last week. This meant that the space behind the cottages was flooded with stagnant water and so the Boys could not use the toilets there, but had to go to the school. This is one of the items that is on the list of things to be considered to do. After seeing the cottages we had a meeting in the Tsunami home with Bernard and the 2 secretaries of Kottivakkum, Prince and George. As we walked past the dining room the Boys saw us and emited a huge roar of excitement, and we knew that it would not be long before we were going to see them and play games.

Our meeting was attended by Mr. Selvakumar, the Chairman of kottivakkum branch who added his welcome to that of Bernards. Prince and George spoke of the priority work for them and how the site operated and Rob also had to say a few words. We were very honoured that as this was happening we were served tea, with acool drink to start, followed by vadai and jellabies with coffee to finish. After this we went to meet the boys and the fun began. Cathy, Isaac and Rob went in first to whip the crowd up into a frenzy. It didn’t take much. Then one by one we introduced the team, bring them in to a huge round of applause and cheers from the boys. Lots of pointing at people to make the boys say their names followed, and the boys were quite good at the names (Fraser was the obvious exception as he was freezer or furiutfgikgffu). Some songs and a bit of silliness followed before we had to leave, happier and much sweatier.

This is enough to fit into a day, but no we continued! Straight back to Vepery for a wash and change of clothes ready to go to dinner with Oasis. Becky, Vijay amd Swamy joined us as we dined at the ritz. We had a good chat and started to plan where we would be helping Oasis this year. All of a sudden it was 11pm, so we decided that this would be time to go home to bed. A very full day where we saw a lot of stuff.

Friday has seen us busy again, once more breakfast at the YMCA with a variety of food to be had. A team meeting talking about the money we will spend before we went to visit Fort school. As ever Fort looks like it it too crowded and about to fall down. Once again we casued mayhem by walking through the school, disturbing all the lessons and we hear shouts of ‘hello’ and ‘how are you?’. We had a minor problem as Alex felt unwell and returned early to Vepery with Cathy and Isaac. The rest of the team were given cool drinks and again Bernard popped in to see us. He also needed to see people from the education board who were there. The school is now at 6 years in a row getting a 100 percent pass rate in government exams, which is amazing for slum children.

After this we had more discussion about money at Vepery before lunch at Doveton. This afternoon is put over to project shopping, planning and preparing before we visit Egmore community centre this evening.

I now feel quite tired from just writing what we have done! Anyway, i better get back and do something useful.

Blog by Rob

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