Sunday, 30 October 2011

Okay, so I was told that for my R.S homework, I had to write about Natural and Man-made suffering, so I took the opportunity to write about the most incredible experience I have ever had.
This summer (July '11) I got the opportunity to go to India. For two years, I and a group of students from my mum's school, had worked to fund the trip. We worked (and still are working) alongside India Direct, a charity improving the lives of the children in the Bethel and Joy children's homes in TamilNadu in the East of India. You may be wondering why you have never heard of the charity, and I will tell you why. Charities who advertise get the money that the need to do so from the donations they receive. India Direct wastes no money: every single penny of the donations that they get goes directly to the people who need it most, and to do that, they must cut out the cost of advertising.
The next part is the homework that I wrote:

Natural Suffering
Natural suffering is suffering which is caused by an unavoidable natural event, such as an earthquake or volcano erupting.
On December 26th 2004, a massive Earthquake occurred under the sea of the west coast of Sumatra. The earthquake was caused by subduction and triggered a series of devastating tsunamis along the coasts of most landmasses bordering the Indian Ocean, killing over 230,000 people in fourteen countries, and inundating coastal communities with waves up to 30 meters (98 ft) high.
With a magnitude of Mw 9.1–9.3, it is the third largest earthquake ever recorded on a seismograph. This earthquake had the longest duration of faulting ever observed, between 8.3 and 10 minutes.
We visited a village  that was struck by the disaster: the wave washed away all of the palm leaf huts that the local fishermen had built as their homes along the beach. Having visited the beach this summer, 7 years after the disaster, I still saw the effects of the Tsunami. There is little left of the village, still, because the Tsunami swept away any source of income that the local people had. Their fishing boats, which many of the people were using at the time the Tsunami struck, consisted simply of two planks of wood tied together with a piece of rope.
David and Karen Armstrong, and their three children were in Madras (Chennai) in South India over the 2004 Christmas holidays. On Boxing day morning, Karen felt the house move and a few hours later, on the coast just 20 miles away the Tsunami struck, killing thousands.
When the true enormity of the disaster became apparent, it was decided that Dave and two locals would buy 150 sets of clothes, blankets and bed mats, and drive 300km south to visit remote coastal villages near Nagalpattinam that would be much less  able to help themselves than the nearby coastal areas of Madras.  It was 3 days after the disaster when they arrived and the air was filled with the smell of death.  They distributed their aid through local churches and invited people to tell their stories.  They filmed these interviews to help fund raising back home in the UK. They spoke to a lady who was caught in the branches of a tree as she clung to her two children but fainted, and lost the children to the floods. A 17 year old girl left with seven brothers and sisters, asked “What should I do?” One of many fishermen had lost his boat and source of income. All had lost their homes. Dave realised that with so many children orphaned, perhaps their best contribution would be to use their knowledge of orphanages, and to rent some houses further from the coast. Each one could house, feed, school and care for 20 children with two staff, for the cost of about £100 per week.   Annie, Pastor Martin and Omega, the Trustees of the ‘Love and Care Charitable Trust’ (the Indian Christian partner charity to India Direct) and other Pastors in the local area would supervise them.
Annie started Joy Children’s Home as a direct result of seeing the devastation caused by this horrific event.

Man Made Suffering

Man Made Suffering is suffering caused by humans.

While in India, I also participated in a Medical Camp in one of the local villages. The aim was to provide basic medical care and attention for the 360 desperate people. Many were literally starving, and there were a number of elderly and widowed people who were living on the streets. The Indian government has recently reduced the amount at which it believes people can live on. This causes even more desperation and distress when people are sick. 
These people had nothing because of their class: they are seen as ‘untouchables’ and so ignored despite the desperate poverty they live in. Some villagers also suffer because of their own families:  they cannot afford to feed everybody in their house, so many of the elderly have been thrown out of their own homes by their children and left on the streets.
This suffering is a direct result of humans treating members of their own species like animals because of society’s views and because of class divide. Side note: This was almost definitely the most difficult part of the trip: one elderly woman, with whom I had nothing in common, sat with me for hours. We didn't talk. She just wanted to hold my hand. I was the only source of human contact she had. No one deserves that.
The poverty in India is also visible in the less rural areas of the country: right in the centre of Chennai, it is obvious too. You can drive through the city, seeing huge buildings, massive shopping malls and elaborately dressed temples, and right next door or across the road there is a tiny palm-leaf hut or a child looking through the rubbish on the street.

After going to India, we gave a presentation evening at my Mum's school for all of the people who had helped us along the way, and for the Mayor of East Cheshire. We all had to speak about one part of the trip, and I chose to speak about Joy Children's home.
My Speech:

Joy is, in the truest sense of the word, a home: safe, secure. Bethel, at times, still seemed slightly institutionalised due to the lack of open spaces. That is not to say that the children were unhappy, quite the opposite, in fact. But at Joy, the open space and freedom that the children have there is what makes it a home.
To have witnessed the evolution of this place is an incredible thing. The garden, which was once just a tiny patch of land, has now become a life source, producing incredible amounts of food in what relatively little time there has been since the first India trip.
Also, the play park. The fact that this place is the same age as Hotel Mano and is used by so many children and yet is still in perfect condition astounds me. These people, both the children and the staff at Joy, are obviously very proud of their home, and with good reason.
Little could be added to Joy to make it better, but somehow, as a team, we managed it. The addition of the cow and calf to the gradually growing menagerie there will surely be nothing but beneficial to the children and staff of Joy.
Taking the Joy children to the beach showed, I think, everyone on the team what joy really is. It is safe to say that most of us felt some reservation about the beach. To us it was dirty and an uncomfortable place to be. But the children didn’t care. I think that, at that moment, those children were the ones helping us. They showed use that something doesn’t need to be perfect, in fact few thing are, for you to enjoy it. Seeing things simply is the easiest way to enjoy something, it is up to you whether you choose to make the most of it or not. And that is what Joy Home is about: it is basic, but each individual person there, children and adults alike, has made it a home.

Whilst in India, I realised that people have to change. It disgusts me that during fundraising events, like bag packing, some people don't give money because they think that "India has a big enough economy - they don't need our money."
They have not seen it.
In reality, in India, the rich only get richer and the poor only get poorer.

I have also realised that I have changed. I had dreams and aspirations. I still do. But now, I see that, if I am going to be someone memorable, then it should not just be about acting or singing. I have to use that as a way of helping other people. We all have our idols, and I bet that most of them are all rich and famous: I must admit I am the same. But I have 5 new idols who mean more to me than any actor or musician ever will:

Annie, Omega and Martin:
These people amaze me. Entirely. Especially Annie, she is just the most inspiring and amazing woman I have ever had the joy to meet. They, completely selflessly, started a charity from nothing. They help over 150 children every single day. They gave them a home.

Grace + Paul Nadin-Salter:

They run India Direct, and believe me, if it weren't for them, the charity would be nothing.

Here are some pictures from India:

                                          'Poynton Play Park' at Joy Home

                                  The village which the Tsunami hit

This sounds so cheesy, but if you give just £10 pounds this Christmas, you can give one of the children, who are all incredible, or one of the widows that the charity also supports:
New outfit or sari
Christmas meal of chicken biryani served on a banana leaf (special treat in India!)
A small gift
Large sack of rice for a widow
Travel expenses for family to visit
A visit from Santa

Think about it. £10 gives a child the opportunity to spend Christmas with their family.
You can also get pictures of whoever your money goes to.
Imagine looking at that postcard.
Imagine knowing that you have helped someone.

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