Thursday, 19 March 2015

The sweetness of Southern India circuit (Day 8 morning) - Volontariat association, Puducherry - The 18th of February 2015

As the sun rose I took to the upper floor of the Hotel, which I had been told provided some good views over the city, and attempted to  take some picutres, though crows had taken over the open balcony ... their presence a limitation ...


Photos taken outside the paper factory

We were supposed to visit a traditional paper factory, which wasn't yet open by the time we reached its amin gate, so as I had brought quite a few pens, pencils, notebooks and other school material I wanted Sagar to hand out to any school or organization of his choice he opted to take us to the Association "Volontariat".  I believed we would simply deliver the material and continue our city tour (despite the fact that I had to sign the book of donations) but we were kindly invited by one of its Head directors (Shanti) to visit the premises.

Although the visit was not included in the programme we all felt it could eventually be a very interesting and meaningful one, particularly because it would allow us to see (from within) what it is like to care for the basic needs of the poorest, especially women and children and try to empower them in their overall development (these being the main principles of the organization set up by an eighty year old Belgian lady, Madeleine de Blic, who set foot in India when she was barely thirty and has not left since, having dedicated all her life to those in need).
Following a brief introduction as to the aid provided, schooling programmes, workshops and other activities the Association runs, we were taken into the open kitchen area, some of the old ladies' lodgings and the Medical assistance quarter. Nobody had (obviously) been warned about our visit but we were welcome everywhere we were taken to within the premises.



Children's refectory

Kitchen and cooks catering for both residents and non-residents children and the elderly.

Black and white photo to be seen in the entrance lounge (left). Children waiting for an appointment at the dentist's (right).

I was particularly moved by the fact that everyone seems to work  (doing whatever is possible) for the common good of the Association. Little details (like the decorated photos of the boarding residents hanging on their bedroom walls) caught my attention and I couldn't help wondering to which extent a "detail" can make a difference.

Old ladies peeling off garlic cloves.

Single and double rooms for the elderly.

Under the direction of Shanti we made it into the narrow back streets so as to visit the kindergarten and primary school the children staying at the Organisation attend. On its way several houses caught my attention, whether it was because of the religious decorative motifs or their metal work fences.

Prior to having walked into some of the classes we were shown onto the "reflexion" patio where even the small children gather every morning to ponder on life and life's beautiful and less beautiful moments ... where words may be just secondary. Fairly close by we could see a tree said to have been planted the day the building was inaugurated and whose presence is a remainder of the efforts put into the organisation.

The kindergarten children (most resident though there is a minor group of non-resident children as well) were adorable and curious. There were two who took a liking to me and would put themselves in front of the camera every time they saw me make a movement with it (one being rather serious for his age).

The primary group children together with their teacher  put up a typical performance for us (I would say a nursery rhyme sung and mimed) that not only conveyed the children's enthusiasm but also the tradition oriented type of schooling approach, which I found to be particularly important.

Having found out that some of the handicraft produced in the Association was sold both abroad and in a little shop located within the premises we didn't hesitate and checked in to see it. Some of the paper handicraft works were beautiful and most of us ended up buying some. I bought some hand printed cards, book-markers,  and a set of papier maché earrings (One of the sets of earrings and the paper hanging decoration seen in the picture underneath were bought later in the morning at the traditional paper factory shop). 



Shanti and I shared some confidences as she was showing me around and we soon realised that if we had been born and raised in the same area or lived in the same country we would have most certainly been good friends.


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