A personal note from our founder Shalini Gupta-Patel
Our recent campaign at Red Dot Jewels focuses on gifts you can buy your mothers, whom for most of us is the single most important female figure in our life. This Mother’s Day let’s think about those who might be missing a maternal figure in their lives for whatever reason. This was highlighted to me on a recent trip to Goa where we arranged to visit a shelter-home that helps orphaned and street children.
It is often easy to get carried away with the celebrations and ensuring we buy the perfect gift, but our visit to the children’s home had a profound effect on me and it was the children at the home we visited that highlighted how simple gestures can have the most impact.
Prior to our trip, my husband decided that he wanted to include a charitable element to the holiday and after some research, he decided upon El Shaadai Charitable Trust and got in touch. The charity was in need of sports equipment for the school they run and after corresponding with the sports teacher Flobert, we were sent a list of essentials for the sports kit and sports attire they needed. In addition to that, we decided to sponsor a ‘special lunch’ for all 347 children 13 staff. The lunch was the highlight of the children’s day and consisted of chicken curry, rice and vanilla ice cream!
What struck our group more than anything was the sheer joy of the children we came across during our visit to the Kathleen House, one of seven run by the charity. They were unbothered by their basic surroundings and appeared happy to be there. My perception, like so many, was that it was going to be a dire facility, dirty, with no natural light, where the children would be room bound. The experience was quite the opposite, and we spent most of the time in their back garden playing games, answering questions and socialising. We were surprised at the level of English with which most of the children spoke. It was more than just conversational and is being taught in school.
This particular shelter housed 33 children, with a maximum capacity of 50. There are 7 such shelters all over Goa. Usha Di, the head of the home greeted us warmly and gave our group of 25 free reigns to see their facilities and interact with the children. The children interacted with such ease in and whilst we may have had a nervousness about us, the children had no reservation in engaging with us at all. They seemed confident and ready to answer any questions we had.
The home itself was exceptionally clean and had a real positive atmosphere. We arrived to most of the children taking part in a colouring activity with full gusto and they were more than happy to share their work with us. There were additional rooms for sleeping, dining and bathing, all of which seemed tidy, organised and far from the neglect we expected.
The youngest child was 12 months old and was left at the shelter at 5 months old. We got to meet the football team of shaved-headed boys whom had a certain swagger about them and couldn’t wait to tell us about their football skills. The girls in the home took to the younger children of our group so well and wanted to play with them in their playground.
El Shaddai Charitable Trust is an ISO certiﬁed NGO (non-government organisation) in Goa, with several projects in the areas of education, child protection, women empowerment and advocacy for the rights of children, especially the marginalised and those from the streets and orphans in Goa.
As part of their work, they run formal and non-formal schools across Goa, and outreach programmes in slum schools. There is a focus on adult literacy (especially for women) and remedial coaching for dropouts and delinquent children.
Their outreach is also designed to empower women in areas of reproductive health, family planning, the dangers of child marriage and the rights of the girl child. They work with families in slums and underprivileged communities in Goa to create awareness and bring about change in the lives of the families. Their work also includes vocational training for youth and women in these communities to enable them to gain financial stability and through that empower them.
Being a mother myself, it would have been easy to judge and see these children as victims. Whilst their circumstances are far from ideal, they are confident, happy children, which is a testament to the great work the charity’s staff are doing in empowering and preparing the children under their care to be independent and have the fulfilled life they deserve.
To donate and learn more about the charity and the great work they do, visit www.childrescue.net/