We have good and bad news. The good news is that in a short period of time we’ve already managed to distribute 800 food packages! This is fantastic news and we wouldn’t have been able to do this without your support! The food packages have been distributed to everybody that is involved in our projects and of course to the families and persons where our children are (unfortunately) currently still staying. In addition we have distributed packages to people in 13 surrounding villages. The need was high and the people are very grateful to the support we have given them. From the fact that 4 different tv news programmes (!) have broadcasted our action shows; that it’s very special that help is being provided to those in need by people from the community itself. Also an article on our action will most probably be published in the Times of India shortly.
Still contacting the involved families and children on a regular basis
The bad news is that the Indian government has announced on the 31st of May 2020 that the lockdown measures will be extended. In certain areas of India certain measures will be somewhat released. But unfortunately for lots of poor people in the Pondicherry area this still means they will not be able to work and don’t have any income. The schools will most likely be closed until at least the 1st of July. For our projects this news means that we still cannot open up and at the moment there is also not any perspective on when we will be able to open up again. To us this raises concerns on the welfare of all the children which normally can enjoy a safe and carefree place with us. The children have to miss this place for a long time already now. To make sure we don’t lose track of them, but more importantly to ensure they are aware that we haven’t forgotten about them, our staff is still contacting the involved families and children on a regular basis.
As soon as we know more about when we can reopen the projects again we will let you know. In the meantime we have decided to continue with the distribution of the food packages, because the need is still very high. All support remains very welcome. For an amount of already EUR 12,- we can distribute a food package to 1 family which provides them with sufficient food for at least 2 weeks. A contribution can be made to the following account: NL73INGB0004865196 Isai Ma(i)yam)
What does corona mean for Isai Ma(i)yam?
As of mid of March we needed to shut or projects down completely. The childrens’ homes needed to be closed and we needed to place all children with family or elsewhere. The daycare for our handicapped children is also closed. We’ve managed to place most children with families, but for a few it was impossible. They are still with us and the local government keeps telling us it’s not allowed, but we don’t have an alternative for them. These children are being checked by local government on their medical health. So far they have notmade any further extreme interventions. Our staff tries to keep in touch with the children who are now with their families or placed somewhere else. This to ensure we don’t lose track of them.
The government lockdown measures have been extended until at least 17th of May and we will need to see whether we can open up after that and how. We imagine we need to take extra safety measures, but at the moment that is still unclear. Once we know more about the next steps and what this means for Isai Ma(i)yam we will update you accordingly.
At the moment we continue to pay our staff as much as possible. The government provides some support also with food packages for local people. However not everybody receives that and lots of people we know in the surrounding villages don’t get any salary anymore. Therefore we are looking whether we can support the local people with food packages.This week we started with compiling food packages for the families of our children, including the handicapped children. In addition we know of various other families in the surrounding villages who really need some support and therefore we would like to provide them with food packages as well. Our staff can prepare them and distribute them. This way our staff can contribute to the community as well in these difficult times. One food package for one family will cost INR 1.000,- which is equal to more or less EUR 12,-.
We are aware these are difficult times for many people, but if you would like to support the above mentioned initiative, you can already do that by donating an amount of EUR 12,- for 1 food package (more is of course always welcome as well) by transferring this amount to account no: NL73INGB0004865196 tav Stichting Isai Ma(i)yam
Two clowns came to the children’s home and to the Ananda Day Care in May 2014. The clowns come from the Global Clowning Foundation, these clowns especially visit developing countries. They love to bring happiness and lightness to the places where it is needed most, like in slums, hospitals, and projects like Isai Ma(i)yam. With their merriness they hope the children can forget their problems, pain and sorrow for a little while and can just laugh a lot. It was really a big success, the children loved it!
In the summer of 2012 we organized a two-week summer camp for the children from Auroville’s neighboring villages. About 100 children came daily. We taught them music and dancing and ended by organizing a performance in which they could show their talents. We also took the children on a day trip to Pogoland where they could swim and play bingo. Here you can watch a film we made:
Rosaline de Vetten: ‘Every time those happy faces make me warm inside’
“Beginning of September 2012 – the time had finally arrived. Just having finished my college at 19 years I stepped into the airplane to Pondicherry. Ready to have a fantastic time as volunteer in the Isai Ma(i)yam children’s home. And those were really three fantastic months! Through people I became familiar with this foundation and I will honestly admit: India was not on the top of my list of enjoying my three months off. But after a couple of phone calls, to India too, it quickly became pretty clear to me: I wanted to go there. The enthusiasm of the team and the children in India, no doubt convinced me directly. From that moment on the ball started rolling very quickly.
When I arrived, I was received by everyone with open arms. That immediately felt good. It is a totally different life and different culture, but that too was part of my new experience. After getting accustomed for nearly a week I didn’t want anything else and, by the way, I still don’t. The children’s happy faces, the hospitality of the Indian people and especially the variety of work that Isai Ma(i)yam offered me, is something I miss very much now that I am back home. Every day was different. Sometimes very quiet, sometimes very busy, but never boring. There was always enough work to be done. Whether it was with a group of fantastic children and supervisors at the Handicap School (Ananda Day Care), at the office, or with the children from the children’s home, I was never bored. Time really flew.
Every day from early morning till the evening you are intensely busy with the children. It was only quiet when they were at school, but then I would mostly be with the handicapped children. Playing games, making drawings, learning English, playing with blocks, always keeping myself busy with them. And each and every time those happy faces made me really warm inside. The gratitude in their eyes for every little bit of personal attention they received… that was my reward. It is really fantastic that Isai Ma(i)yam offers this day care for the children, you really can’t imagine them being at home the whole day because they can’t go to a regular school. The children really flourish and they are so happy to be there every day.
The children from the children’s home also enjoy themselves. Especially when they are in the Gaya House and the Art School near Auroville in the weekends. Just being a child, playing around, having dancing and music lessons, and especially enjoying each other. This is what the children want and especially what the children need. During my short stay in India I have learned a lot, about a totally different culture, about people’s gratitude, about the fantastic opportunities Isai Ma(i)yam offers the children, and lots of other things which will always be a part of me. I am tremendously happy and grateful that I have been able to experience this. Yes, I will absolutely return some time to this foundation that does tremendously good work for children and youngsters!”
In 2010 we started building the Gaya House with the financial help of our founder Ivar Jenten. Except for some sanitary modifications the house is finished. Since last summer our children stay at the Gaya House every weekend. This residence is across from the Gayatri Art House where the children are taught dancing and music. The Gaya House has twelve rooms. Our children prefer sleeping with many together in one room, so we can give shelter to plenty.
We have also arranged a playroom. It is good for the development of the children to have a separate room with games, toys… and drawing stuff. We made a blackboard on a wall with blackboard paint. The children visibly enjoy this. We will be making a wall painting with a typical Indian motive together with the children. On the other walls we put a big mirror so the children can practice their dancing steps. In India it isn’t common to have a playroom, because the emphasis is on studying and not playing. But we notice that the children appreciate it. Children from neighboring poor villages (who also go to music classes) come here to play as well.
At the moment forty children are staying with us. In the last quarter of 2011 we admitted seven new children: three sisters and three brothers from two separate families and one boy from another family. These children also have had troubled lives at a young age. But all is well now. They hardly have any trouble integrating into the group. They really enjoy themselves and are doing well at school.
Several young adults who were given shelter by us, teach music and dance to village children. Usha and Nandini passed for their study of the violin at the Music College. Three times a week they teach singing to the children (from eight to twelve years) of the Isai Ambalam School, a local village school that was founded by Ivar Jenten in 1982. The village school is near Alankupam, the village where our children stay in the weekend. Sathya teaches dancing at the village school. Usah and Nandini also teach playing the violin to our children and to the children from the village. We have already collected eighteen violins. Most of them have been donated by people after a request made on a local Dutch radio network. The other violins were purchased on a Dutch site, like eBay.
Recently a beautiful male and female singer joined our music band. The band is frequently being asked to play at (temple) festivals and marriages. On 28 and 29 January the music band gave two wonderful performances at a festival in Chitambaram, three hours drive from Pondicherry. On average the band gives a performance in the region four times a month.
Twenty musical talents
The band consists of twenty musical talents from Alankupam and surroundings, including a few who have stayed at Isa Ma(i)yam. Soon we will be having a keyboard with a whole arsenal of sounds that are used in Tamil music. The music band earns 10.000 rupees for each performance. That equals 150 euro. The musicians all receive a part and the remainder is used to pay transport costs and sound crew.
Until the beginning of 2011 Isai Ma(i)yam received a group of handicapped children for day care a few days a week. Because the organization (who had taken them on) had sold the school they were going to, the children didn’t come any more. Therefore, we dedicated ourselves to founding our own shelter for the disabled in Koot Road: Ananda Day Care. There seem to be many more handicapped children who stay at home under terrible circumstances and hardly come outside. We have searched for these children in the villages. Now we offer good day care to fourteen handicapped children and youngsters five days a week.
Our building is located in Koot Road, a village near Alankupam
We have made special modifications to the building to be able to receive these children. So we made a wheelchair ramp and there is a resting room. One of our volunteers made a beach painting on the walls of the resting room. A hammock is hanging between two palm trees which were drawn.
Former ‘shelter child’ teaches
Punitha, a young woman who stayed with us as a child and has now finished the Music College, was an intern and worked with handicapped children in Pondicherry during her education. Together with teaching at our Art School, she would love to teach music to our new group of handicapped children. We are very happy about this and the children too. They really thrive since they came here. They also love the drive by car to us! In the morning they play music with us. In the afternoon we offer several activities, like claying, drawing and weaving. We also teach Tamil – and for the children who are up to it, English lessons.
The young adults Sri-Devi and John Bosco (once given shelter by Isai Ma(i)yam) will be assisting Punitha with the shelter and lessons, also assisted by two Indian volunteers who have a lot of experience with handicapped children and the Dutch students who are doing their internship with us.
Massage and physiotherapy
Near our school for the handicapped is a community hospital that is willing to give these children massage and physiotherapy for 25 rupees per person per month (only 40 eurocents!). With pleasure some handicapped children have already been using this facility for five months.