Slum Kid Goodie Bags

Trip Start Mar 29, 2007
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57
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Trip End Sep 30, 2009


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Flag of India  , Andhra Pradesh,
Sunday, November 30, 2008

My wonderful girlfriend Tanya runs a charity for the poor children of India (visit baaldan.com if you would like to learn more) and it just so happens that I have some street/slum children near my home.  Tanya's has always wanted to do something with these kids so with her help, the help of Baal Dan donors, and the help of my driver, watchman and many others, we organized a little surprise for the children in my neighborhood slum.

Pretty much every area in India...even the richest of neighborhoods will have a neighborhood slum located somewhere close by.  I live in an area called Film Nagar which is where a lot of Tollywood starts live and Film Studios are located...and just outside my building is a slum (ironically next door to the slum is the house of one of the most famous former Tollywood movie stars: Superstar Krishna).  So the concept of zoning or "poor areas" really does not exist in India...everything is sort of all mixed together.  If you've seen the movie Slumdog Millionaire, then you can probably visualize what life in the slums of India is like.  Their "houses" are corrugated tin shacks sometimes with just tarp walls or a ceiling.  It's usually just a single room for the entire family so forget about privacy.  Bathrooms are communal and for the slum in my neighborhood, there's a lake close by so every morning there's a line of people walking down to the lake for their morning constitutional.  But for all that...the people seem very happy.  Once a month or so someone in the slum has a party and there is dancing, drinking and music until the wee hours of the morning.  There are traveling music and circus shows that entertain the slums and I've been able to watch a few of those from my rooftop patio.  Bottom line...their life may seem difficult and tragic to our standards...but for them they seem happy and content...especially the kids.  The kids are great and as I return home from work each day it's pretty common for a group of slum kids to be waiting near my driveway to greet me home with furious waves and screams of "Hello!  How are you!".

With the help of my former building watchman Murthy who knows the slum kids very well, Tanya prepared a list of all the children in the slum by name, age, clothing side and shoe size.  Using that list, she and my driver Ryas went shopping, and together they negotiated some amazing deals on clothes goodies for the kids  In addition, she also bought 4 HUGE bags of rice and from that prepared 10 pound sacks of rice for the children to take back to their families.  Tanya then prepared individual goodie bags for each of the 50+ children who were on the list (I think she sort of felt like Santa Clause) and within each bag she placed new clothes, shoes, candies, mosquito coils, toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap and protein biscuits.  We asked Murthy and our new watchman, Shiva, to spread word to the kids of the slum that the following Sunday morning they were to show up on the driveway and there would be a special gift for them.  When Sunday morning came around we moved all the goodie bags and rice-bags into the parking garage and prepared for the onslaught.  The first few kids that came by were asked to wait patiently in the yard which they did...they were on their very best behavior.  But things soon spiraled out of control.  As we started calling kids into the parking garage by name, some of the parents in the slum took an interest into what was going on....pretty soon we had about 100 adults from the slum and neighboring villages at the gates of the parking garage.  And how lucky we are that my parking garage has gates as my watchman and another driver were able to keep the masses at bay as we continued to call children into the garage.  Some of the parents tried to sneak a few kids in or tried to have their kids come in twice...but I think we managed to push all of those back out.  It sucks that you have to do that...but there is so much chaos when it comes to doing something like this in India that you have to have some semblance of a program or plan to pull it off....and if you have to tell some people "no" or "go away" so that others can benefit...then so be it.

All in all we managed to make about 50 kids (and their families) very happy thanks to the efforts of Tanya and her team of volunteers.  Hopefully we can do it again!  Enjoy the pics.
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