Odisha News

April 16, 2018


Dear Friends of Shared Blessings:

New year has brought a lot of news and changes that I would like to bring to your attention. It has been difficult few months for Behera, our AGPV staff and for us here at Shared Blessings.

But first I want to let you all know that our children at AGPV took their final exams in early March.  All of them successfully completed their exams and were promoted to the next grade. This year we did not have any child taking the 10th Standard Board Examination which would have them go to pre-university courses at colleges.  Next year, there will be six students who will be taking these exams. Our children who are in 11th, 12th and first year of undergrad classes have all completed their exams; their results are not out yet at this point.

As school security has been a major concern for the staff at AGPV, we allocated money to build a peripheral wall around the property. Given the size of the property, this has been an expensive endeavor. The walls have gone up on two sides, but the work has stalled for lack of funds. We are hoping that the funds can be raised so this critical work can be completed. I have enclosed a couple of photos of the wall being built.

Towards the end of January, we lost a wonderful, committed supported of our school. Anitha Madhusudan, a close family member of mine passed away very suddenly.  Anitha was a founding member of AGPV, and a crucial part of the team that obtained us a bulk of the funds back in 2009 to complete the ground floor of the school. The school and the children were very close to her heart. We all miss her and dedication to the children.

Anitha was, again, critical in getting the tech. company in India to promise us the funds needed to build the second floor and complete other necessary projects at the school. Sadly, upon her death, the company backed out of their commitment, and have told us that their willingness to fund AGPV has been put on hold indefinitely.  This was a very upsetting blow to Behera and the staff – there was quite a bit of planning that had gone on to preparing for the construction. We are disappointed with this development but will continue with our work to support the school and look towards a time when we can finish the construction of the building.

More difficult news was yet to come. I want to put this in overall context so I can explain the new situation.  The government of Odisha has come up with new guidelines that dictate the requirement for who can be housed in “Child Care Institutions.” As one of those licensed child care institutions, APPV needs to meet these new criteria.  According to this, only “true” orphans can be residing at these institutions – meaning they cannot have either parent alive and should not have any guardians either. Below is Behera’s explanation for the reasoning that the government has provided.

1-  As the older children both boys and girls where they are staying in the CCIs, in most of the cases, the children’s villages are very close to the CCIs; as a result, they are getting the opportunity to visit their village frequently due to some reason or other and these visits and sometimes long absence of children are hampering their education.

2-  Another most serious and important matter is that when an adolescent tribal girl visits her family and village, she comes in contact with the boys in her own community and keep physical relation (as this practice is culturally sanctioned by the tribal community) which gives scope for unwanted pregnancy. A number of this type of cases have come to the notice of the Government and matter has been highly criticized by both print and electronic media and many times, the Government. has been defamed and questions have been raised by all fronts on the protection and security of children as this is a gross violation of child rights.

3-  Another objective is that to provide better education to all children in a relatively good schools/environment where children will more concentrate on study and will have less opportunity to visit their village without any sufficient reason. This shifting of older children will also give an opportunity to purely orphan children having no parents and no opportunity to get into education.

As you might know, most of our children are not “true” orphans.  We specifically took the children who had the most need for support, and had no access to education.  The residence for them was built in Dasmantpur to house them while they pursued education. Our goal was to keep them close to their families so they will not lose their connections to their communities.   AGPV has seen some of these issues at our school, but not to the extent that it warranted such serious action. Sadly, none of these reasons is satisfactory to the government. So, it looks a lot of our children have to be moved. At present, the government is only applying this ruling to older children – those who are going into 9th and 10th Standards – this would be about twenty-eight children who are supported by Shared Blessings as well as the organization in Canada.

Behera has worked hard to convince the officials not to split up the children as they have grown up together and scattering them among many schools would be very hard for them. The officials relented and have instructed Behera to make plans to move the children to another boarding school, further away from Dasmantpur where they will continue to with their schooling.  Behera and his staff have visited the school, and feel that under the circumstances, this school might work well for the children. The children and their families all participated in the discussions that were held to decide plan of action. All of the children felt that they would like to move to the new school, rather than be sent home – and struggle to get to school in Dasmantpur each day. As they are getting ready to take their 10th Standard board exams, they also felt that they would have left AGPV in a year or two anyway.

Schools in India open in May. So, there is not much time before the children will be moved to the new school. This school is about 50 miles from Dasmantpur. It means our children will not be able to go home except during vacations.  However, Behera and AGPV staff are committed to travel there frequently and continue monitoring the children and provide support – much like what they are doing with our older children in college.

We plan to continue supporting these children even if they are not residing at AGPV. I have seen these children from the time they were little. We built the school for them. Because of your support, they got the education and hope for aspiring for more. They are all looking towards the coming years when they go to college or go on to obtain vocational training and lead a productive life – one that will hopefully better their families and communities. I look for the days I can send reports about how they are doing in college, jobs and life.

Here on out, only “true” orphans will be admitted into our school. While we do not agree that desperately poor children should not be left out because they have a parent or guardian, we will abide by the government’s decision.  We will continue supporting Behera, his dedicated staff and AGPV, and hope that you will too.

We pray for Behera and his team as they work through this new situation and focus on not only the wellbeing of the children at other schools, but also on the new children who will be coming into the school.

Please let me know if you have any questions or need more information.

Blessings,

Shaila

Download (Jan-2018-letter-to-supporters.pdf, PDF)

Dear Friends of Shared Blessings,

AGPV -An Update-June 2017

 

There is lots of news from Odisha and all of it is good!  Shaila, our Odisha progam manager, will tell you all about it in her letter below.

Blessings,

Audrey

A LETTER FROM SHAILA

We have wonderful news to report.  The tech company in India that helped with the construction of the first floor of our residential school in Dasmantpur, has come through again.  They have promised to grant sufficient funds to complete the second floor. Longtime supporters may recall that when we initially had the plans drawn out, it was for a building with two floors that could house about hundred children.  For lack of funds, the plan for second floor was tabled, but we kept our hopes and prayers to see this dream become a reality. Now, it looks like our prayers have been answered.  Plans are being revisited. Recently, we had an engineer visit the school to make sure that the first floor was built properly to bear the weight of the second floor.  As soon the first quarter funds are released, construction will begin.  We were hoping to have the walls and roof up before the rainy season starts (by June) but now we think that it might be delayed. In any case, it will take about a year to get it all completed.

In addition to funding the construction of the second floor, the same company has also approved funding to finish up couple of projects that were taken up but not totally completed. While we funded the kitchen construction, it still needed a storage room as well as water tank.  Also, construction for separate bathrooms and toilets for boys and girls was taken up but was not finished – again for lack of funds. I am thrilled to report that now both of these projects will be finished in the near future.  We are still raising funds to get the solar panels.  We will wait until the roof for second floor is finished where the panels can be installed.  This will give us more time to raise the funds.

As part of our fundraising efforts, several supporters in Sacramento area are spearheading a yard sale to be held on April 29th.  If it rains that day, the event will be put off for a week, and held on May 6th.  The sale will be held on the grounds of on St. John Vianney Parish in Rancho Cordova.  We have Sharon Hanson, Cathy Ewing, Anna Weimann and Kathy Masters who are coordinating the collection and sales. If you live in the area, or want to support our efforts, please stop by on the 29th between 9:30 am and 3 pm.  The address is: 10497 Coloma Road Rancho Cordova, CA 95670.  We have lots of wonderful things that are waiting for you.

Our first auction fundraiser was such a big success, we want to do another one.  Look for more details for an auction/dinner night in December.  Just in time for your Christmas shopping. We already have some beautiful items from India that will be on the auction block.  Kobasics family have generously agreed to provide the space to hold the event.

Our children are done with their finals.  Two girls (Bhagyabati and Sarita) took the high school board exam.  We hope that they pass the exams and join the three girls who are already attending preuniversity classes in Bhuvaneshwar. All of the children are now enjoying the summer break. Yes, it is already summer there.  While they go home for summer, they typically do return to the school after sometime.

We are planning a trip to India in December.  Looks like we will have several people joining us. If anyone is interested in joining the group, please contact me soon.  It will be wonderful to be able to visit the child you sponsor, and see for yourself the changes you have made possible for his/her.  Even though the second floor construction will not be complete by then, we can see the progress and get a feel for how the school will be when completed.  You can also do a little sightseeing; we will help arrange an itinerary that gets the most out of the time you will have.

And that is our news for now!

Yard Sale in Sacramento for Odisha, India

A yard sale to raise money for solar panels for our school in Odisha India went well.  Here is what Shaila Rao, program manager, wrote about it:
Our yard sale on Saturday, April 21 was a success. Lots of items were donated for sale. We had a stream of people throughout the day.  We raised over $600 for our solar panels.  Much of the work was done by Sharon Hanson, Anna Weimann, Cathy Ewing, Noel Neuburger, Kathy Masters, Bob Ream, and Sharon’s three wonderful children, Nick, Cassie and Jacob. 

 

SHAILA RAO brings us News from ODISHA, India

 

Christmas was celebrated by all our school children on the 25th of December. Local pastor, Ajit Bagh, graced the occasion and spoke on the importance of Christmas to the children. Sweets, cakes and chocolate were distributed to the children. They also received a goodie bag each containing a new school bag, two sets of dresses or shirt and pants, one pair of shoes, and a blanket. Each child also received one additional personal item such as a hat, bracelet, pen, etc.

A little one enjoying his first cupcake ever!

Children receiving gifts on Christmas

Children receiving gifts on Christmas2

Kids are very much interested in getting the latest news.

One of the Emcees – Ashok. He is looking so good!

Pastor Ajit Bagh leading Christmas prayers

Smrithi distributing cupcakes

Tribal Dancers

children

Our representative Sushrutha visited the school as he has done every December for the past ten years. He was accompanied by his 13 year old daughter, Smrithi, and 19 year old niece, Dhrithi. Smrithi, an avid baker, spent her allowance money and time to bake 80 cupcakes for the children; the girls filled up an entire suitcase with boxes containing the cupcakes. Needless to say, the children enjoyed the tasty treat. Both girls were duly impressed by how well the children interacted with the staff, each other, and visitors. One comment that stood out – they were amazed at the interest children showed in the world events – they looked forward to reading daily newspaper!

Raising funds for the solar panels is getting off to a good start. Each month, precious Rupee is spent on electricity supply for the generator that gets the water to the school (despite attempts to dig a well to get water on the premises was unsuccessful) – money that is needed to care for the children. For about $10,000, we can install enough panels that will meet the school’s need. We have raised about $2,500 right now. We want to meet our goal before the cost estimate goes up. A few fundraising ideas are being looked at. In the spring we will have a yard sale with the entire proceeding going to the school. We also have lots of wonderful Indian items; hoping to do an auction again later this year.

There are sixty-one children AGPV who are part of the sponsorship program. Shared Blessings supports forty of these children; we also take care of seven older children who are now attending junior college or technical training institute. Ten children are supported by an organization in Canada. That means, eleven children are currently without sponsors. Behera is managing to care for these by stretching the money, and looking for other sources in India. Sadly, the local child welfare department has decided that the school is where orphan children can just be dropped off – not considering whether there is room for them or not. They also do not provide a single rupee to support the children. This has created a dire situation for Behera. While turning away orphan children is not an option, caring for all these additional children has IDS incurring expenses they are prepared to bear. Sadly, saying no to the welfare department is not an option. So currently, the total number of children residing there is close to eighty!

Our seven older children missed being at the school to partake in the celebrations.. but they are all thriving and working hard in school. Each one of them wrote a heartwarming letter to their sponsors thanking them for the continued support, and providing them with an opportunity they never imagined they would have.
It has been ten years since Shared Blessings started the sponsorship program in Odisha. I still remember the first trip I took back in 2007 – it is amazing how much has been accomplished, and how much more needs to be done. Without you, the steadfast supporters of Shared Blessings, these children’s lives would not changed. They dream of going to college, getting trained in special areas, going back to their communities to be teachers, technicians, businessmen. That dream is what got us involved a decade ago. I know Behera, AGPV staff, the children and their families are all grateful for the kindness you have shown over the years, for getting them to dream, and helping to make that dream a possibility.

Have a wonderful new year.

Shaila

A SHARED BLESSINGS UPDATE FROM SHAILA:

Dear Friends,
Hope all of you had a wonderful time celebrating Thanksgiving with your family and loved ones.  As promised, here is the update from Odisha.

News from Odisha

After summer break, all of the children have returned to school, and are progressing nicely.  It was a truly wonderful moment to see our first girls move to Bhuvaneshwar to go to college.  According to Behera, Mamata, Uja and Sara have settled in nicely in their new environment.  They as well as Kumuti are doing well in their respective colleges and making sincere efforts to study well.  All of them have written to their sponsors expressing their appreciation for the opportunity they have been given.  Fakir, who initially struggled to adjust to being away from familiar confines and course expectations, has made remarkable progress and is now reported to be doing much better. Amanath, in his second year at college, continues to flourish.

          Inline image 1         Inline image 2 

It always feels good to get care packets from home!

 Behera reports that two more girls are preparing to take their high school board exams this year.  Sarita Sagar and Bhagyabati Jani took the pretest exams in September, and did very well.  It is hoped that they too will be successful next year and are able to join the tribal college in Bhuvaneshwar.  While it is wonderful to see our older children succeed and move on with their education, we are grappling with the reality of meeting their education expenses and the possibility of government adding to the school children who would not have sponsors.  The Education Fund that Shared Blessings has set up to meet the needs of children at school as well as those who are college bound has been instrumental in providing support for our children. 
Krupasindhu Muduli, studying in class 7th, is a very active, sincere boy who does very well at school. He is considered to be one of the best students in all of Dasmantpur area; he excels not only in academics, he is a talented artist and an skilled debater.  Over the years, Krupa has participated in many competitions representing the school.  Recently, Krupa participated in block level drawing competition which was held on date September 25, 2016 and organised by SAMAJ (local news paper ) and he captured third position among the students. Krupa received merit certificate and a small financial scholarship from Block Development Officer.

 

                          Inline image 3 Krupasindhu Muduli showing his certificate.  Congratulations, Krupa!
Other achievements during this period included our Seventh Standard student Sanyasi Jain who participated in Magic Mathematics project at the district level science exhibition.   
As it happens every year, with the climate change, as many as twenty-four children came down with viral fever; with prompt medical attention, all have recovered. 
Behera reports that the children enjoy playing various outdoor games. One enthusiastic boy, Ratana, kicked more than a soccer ball and ended up fracturing his leg.  While it limited his mobility, Ratana enjoyed all the attention his cast brought him!

           Inline image 5   Ratana Paraja being pampered by his friends!

We have finally been able to get our Chandra properly assessed by an audiologist in Koraput; Chandra has received hearing aids which surely will make an immense difference in the boy’s life.  Support for this project came through a government program assisting children.

Life at the school has been busy.  The children celebrated various events such as Teachers’ Day, Children’s Day and various holidays.  Behera reports that the members of the children’s committee participated in organizing and overseeing these events.

Children take pride in the garden project that they restarted when they returned to school.  They have already harvested vegetables such as pumpkins, radish, various greens, bitter gourds, green beans, egg plants and green papaya.  These have substantially augmented the vegetable supply for the kitchen.

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                                                                     Fruits of our children’s hard work

During the reporting period, the main entrance gate inside the school campus has been fixed with iron gate and this has been a great support for the safety and security of the children.

                            Inline image 10

Christmas is coming soon.  As always, Shared Blessings hosts a Christmas party for our children who eagerly await the day.  They receive new clothes, shoes, school supplies and sweets; they also enjoy a delicious meal, usually provided through contribution from a donor.  Sushrutha, our representative in India, will be traveling to Dasmanpur to partake in the celebration.  The children will likely put on a program celebrating Christmas and a skit addressing an identified social message; both boys and girls enjoy performing traditional tribal dances.  It is not too late to help Shared Blessings and AGPV in making sure our children have a great time!

Annual reports for the children are here.  Sponsors should receive them within the next couple of weeks.  It is heartwarming to see how well each child is doing.


Merry Christmas to you all.

Shaila

A letter from Shaila:

It is very exhilarating and humbling at the same time to report that the results of high school board examination came out in June to show that the three girls who joined the program in 2006-2007 passed the exams.  Uja, Mamata and Sara are the first female children among their villages not only to matriculate from high school, but all three were accepted and admitted to college in Bhuvaneshwar.  This is the same tribal institution that our Amanath is attending his second year.  The girls had no hesitation about moving so far; the three expressed their commitment to further their education and come back to their own community to work.

 

In addition, Kumuti and Padaman also passed the board exam; they preferred to attend technical institution in Bhuvaneshwar to get training in a technical or electronic field.  This institute already has Fakir attending his second year.  Fakir, who initially had trouble adjusting to city living, being away from home and family, is now doing much better.  Behera reports that the few months of uncertainty actually taught him to realize the opportunity he was given.

 

We are very appreciative of the generosity of our sponsors who have contributed to the education fund we have set aside to meet the expenses of higher education.  It is hoped that these children will return to their communities to contribute to the welfare of all.  Already they are talking about becoming teachers, nurses and electricians, etc., and help their villages.

 

Ashok has completed one year of treatment for his Hodgkin’s lymphoma; results show that he is on his way to being cancer free.  Instead of having to travel each month for chemo treatment, he is now expected to go once a quarter for checkups.  His treatment would not have been possible without the generous support and prayers from many people.

 

Rest of the children enjoyed their summer break; they are now back at school.  Behera reports that all are doing well – except for a few minor illnesses which is to be expected, now that monsoon season is here.  They have started working in the vegetable garden again, and soon will be enjoying the fruits of their labor.

 

There are seventy children at AGPV now.  Both Behera and we are hopeful that the government does not force IDS to take on more children to take the place of those that have gone to college.  The school is not set to accommodate that many children but last year when Amanath left they brought in four additional children.  This puts so much pressure on Behera – as they do not all have sponsors.  Right now, there are forty four children under our sponsorship, ten more supported by an organization in Canada; that leaves sixteen children without sponsors. As always, Behera stretches the dollar as far as he can to provide care and sustenance to all of them.

Now that the kitchen is complete, children are enjoying eating in a clean separate place, not to mention it freed up two rooms in the main building.

Odisha 8-20-20166

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

We are planning to have another reception/auction event later this year.  Our first one last year was very successful with many people came forward to sponsor several children.  Details about the event will be coming shortly.

Warmly,

Shaila

Shared Blessings Friend Raiser – Help Hand in India

Welcome to the Odisha News Page! Visit often to see how the ministry is progressing.

SHARED BLESSINGS’ ODISHA PROJECT – With food, wine and silent auction – Sept 20 flyer.pdf


October 2015:

Our fundraiser on September 20th was a huge success.  The evening brought together old and new friends of Shared Blessings to enjoy good food, company and silent auction. There were many wonderful items from India and local artists available in the auction. Lots of friendly bidding competition ensued, resulting in raising funds for Ashok’s treatment as well as some money left over for the education fund.  Anna Weihman, Cathy Ewing and Sharon Hanson were instrumental in organizing the event and bringing in lots of supporters.  In addition, we also have new sponsors for two children in Odisha.  The evening left all of us so energized that we are already talking about doing this again next year!

It is not too early or late to think about Christmas.  We would like to send money for new clothes, shoes and other things they might need.   They also usually have a nice meal on Christmas. This year the Christmas meal will be to honour the memory of Rob Bohning.  Rob was a founding member of Shared Blessings; while he did not travel to India like he did to Uganda, the Bohnings supported our work in Odisha including sponsoring a child.  If you wish to support our Christmas project, please send an amount of your choice and indicate that it is for Christmas in Odisha.

As you know, I will be traveling to India in December and visiting our children in January.  If you wish to send a letter, photo or a VERY small gift item to your child, please send it to our office in Modesto.

In addition to traveling to Dasmantpur, we will also go to Bhuvaneshwar where Amanath and Fakir are studying.  Behera writes that both boys are doing well in their respective colleges, and are happy to be there. 

Behera writes that the children are all doing well – other than some minor ailments.  During this reporting period, he says all of them were seen by the local doctor for a complete physical.

The children recently celebrated Indian Independence day,  Raksha Bandhan (a day celebrating siblings,) and Teachers’ Day.  Eminent leaders in the area attended these events and spoke to the children about the day’s significance.  As usual, monthly meeting with parents and guardians continue to be held.

Children's health check up

Children’s health check up

Rakhi 1

Exchanging sweets, celebrating sibling relationships

Visiting dignitaries

High Court Judge discussing safety and rights

 

Independence Day 2015

Independence Day 2015

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

September 2015:

A report on the work in Odisha by Shaila Rao

JOIN US IN SACRAMENTO!   SEPTEMBER 20

First on the news is our upcoming fundraiser on Sunday, September 20 in Sacramento.  The fun evening with food and silent auction is being held to raise funds for expenses for medical treatment, and for education funds to meet the growing need for higher education.  Lots of wonderful items will be available for the auction.  We are hoping to load the image of these on our website so people can bid on them – even if they can’t come to the event.  But if you are in Northern California, we would love to see you.  The event is from 4 pm to 6 pm at Kobasics Hall, 5324 Riverside Blvd. in Sacrament0.  Call Shaila at (916) 442-2112 or email at sohailarao@sharedblessingsicm.org for more information.

News from Odisha:

As usual, the children visited their families during the summer vacation. This was the great opportunity for the children to spend time with their families.  Now that school has reopened, the children have returned to their normal schedules.  All were excited to receive new books and other school supplies.

The news that Amanath and Fakir got admitted to higher education institutes has been excitedly welcomed by the children and staff at AGPV.  This is especially Inspirational to the eight students who are gearing up to taking their final exams next March.  This batch of students will have our first girls ready to go to college.  This is such a thrill for all of us!  Behera tells us that both Amanath and Fakir are settling in nicely in Bhuvaneshwar at their respective colleges. They are a little homesick, and are already talking about going home for vacation to visit family and friends at AGPV.  Amanath is especially interested in learning English – so books have been bought to help him.  He will be ready to have a conversation with me soon, I hope.

Ashok Bhatra continues to go through the chemo therapy twice a month.  He travels to Bhuvaneshwar by train and returns home after spending two to three days at the clinic.  He is such a trouper, Behera says; he goes through this in a very positive manner.

Now that they are back at school the children have returned to tending the kitchen garden.  They proudly collected various vegetables like bitter guard, greens, radish, pumpkin, eggplant, chillies, and beans.  Of course growing their own vegetables is a great incentive to eating healthy meals.

Behera reports that monthly meetings with parents and guardians are held during the last week of each month.  At these meetings educational status of the all children and issues related to school and children are discussed. Looking at Amanath and Fakir’s success, the families are more motivated to encourage their ward to study with more interest and seriousness as great future is waiting ahead for them. Ms Bimala, senior teacher,  shared  the progress of   children along with the lesson plan prepared   with the parents.

During this reporting period, Behera informs us that the District Child Protection Officer, Ms. Rajasri Das visited school.  The purpose of her visit was to audit the documentation and make sure that the school is run as mandated.  She was pleased with the accountability as well as how well the children are doing.

Fifteen students of AGPV participated in voluntary sanitation program and cleaned Dasamantpur medical premises.  The children take pride in participating in these voluntary activities as it provides them with an opportunity to give back to their community.

It is not too early to think of Christmas.  If you wish for your child to receive a Christmas gift let me know.  We usually arrange for them to get new clothes, shoes and some sweets.  This Christmas, we are arranging the children to have a special meal to honor the memory of Rob Bohning.  While Rob did not travel to India, his family has supported a child there for many years.

I am planning  to travel to Odisha in January of 2016.  In addition to spending time at the school, I am also looking forward to visiting Amanath and Fakir in Bhuvaneshwar.   Photos and reports will be sent upon my return.

Shaila Rao

IA Director

Family Connections Christian Adoptions

1120 Tully Road

Modesto, CA 95350

Email: shailarao@fcadoptions.org

Tel: (916) 442-2112 / (209) 524-8844


 

Odisha Update May 2015.pdf

— Our First High School Graduates at AGPV School in Odisha, India! —

Amnath

Amnath

Fakir

Fakir

May 15, 2015 – We are very proud to present our first high school graduates at our AGPV school in Odisha, India!  Amanath and Fakir come from small hamlets where education is inaccessible to children.  They had to walk a long ways to get to the local school – where the teacher was absent more often than not.  Back in 2007, the elders of the villages pleaded to build a residential school where the children could stay and learn.  Out of that visit a dream of building our school developed.  Now, the seventy + children residing at AGPV are making that dream a reality.

Amanath and Fakir are looking forward to furthering their education.  We wish them all the best.