Yatra with Keith
By Maxwell Pereira
Saldanha is a friend who dropped in on me when I was IGP Pondicherry.
He was visiting, to probe possibilities for cooperation and learning
from the Aurobindo Ashram experiences, in respect of crafts that
could be introduced at his own ashram in Kerala at Vilappilsala
near Trivandrum, for orphans and street children. My mother, who
was then alive, was pleased to bless him for singing to her in
his rich baritone.
has called his crusading NGO, the Nav Yatra. Every year-end he
sends his annual newsletter to friends and well-wishers up-dating
all on his work. In this year's he says "…..and there's
news that's good and news that's not so good. The bad news first:
By the end of this letter I'm going to be asking you for your
help for our work here in India".
with other news on his ashram, he states, "Its called by
different names - Nav Yatra Forest, The Garden, BGs Farm (Baby
Giant - BG - is what the children in the village call me!). Someone
called it a Sanctuary. Not a tree can be cut, not even a leaf
or a flower plucked in Nav Yatra. Nothing can be killed or harmed
be selfish of me not to share his endeavour with the world, and
hence reproduce extracts from his newsletter: "On this small
hillside in South India, we've planted thousands of trees and
indeed a forest has returned - complete with wild cats, civets,
wild rabbits, birds, fish, monkeys and foxes. We've even got four
dogs, all rescued from the street - Chu Chi, Choola, Chickoo and
Chutney. Two of them have only 3 legs. "Hell," I figured,
"we're working with street children and disabled people amongst
others - why not disabled street dogs!" To see these dogs
limping about quite nicely, getting around the hillside without
any support or fuss really brings one happiness and hope".
into this natural setting are the buildings. Ecological in their
design and construction. Woven into the hillside terraces. Incorporating
alternative energy and rainwater harvesting in aesthetically designed
ponds filled with fish".
there are the children who come to Nav Yatra - poor children,
orphans, disabled children, street children. Aged 2 to 15. Over
80 in all - a number that will soon double as we extend our programs
to other areas. Their stories are heart wrenching. Several abandoned
by their fathers. Many whose fathers have taken to alcohol or
some illicit activity. Others from families where the parents
work as 'coolies' (day labourers) not knowing if they have work
the next day. Two brothers abandoned by their father know that
their mother has taken to prostitution to fend for the family.
They live mostly in one or two-room shacks, the men & boys
often sleeping outside. Ramshackle buildings for classrooms too.
Children packed to the rafters. A 9-year old street child from
North India found in Trivandrum began to cry as he sang a song.
For the first time he felt the warmth and the affection that the
other children in the room offered him - most of whom he was meeting
for the first time. Children cast aside by society supporting
whatever we did for these children, we had to offer joy. A glimpse
of a childhood they hadn't known. Restore in them the self worth
and dignity denied to them by society. Hold out hope to them.
does this like dance, music, art, theatre and sports. And so we
brought in dancers and musicians and artists. Not ordinary teachers
- but other youth themselves studying these arts. So children
teaching children. They call each other 'sister' and 'brother'
chemistry is wonderful to observe. And the hillside reverberates
with life. A dance class here. An art session there. A drama rehearsal
in one of the little outdoor theatres. Cricket, soccer, kabbadi
and 'dog and the bone' in the playground. Some helping in the
kitchen with the cooking of the food they will all eat together.
Others playing Snakes & Ladders, cards, Scrabble and other
word games - learning English in the meantime".
had the bright idea to teach magic. And so we brought in a young
magician - Jiji. He's worked wonders with the children. They get
asked to demonstrate their magic in other places. Poor children
bringing joy and wonder to others".
music, art, drama, games, sports - these are simply means to an
end. The real end is to help these children to know themselves
and the world around, to express themselves freely, to grow in
self confidence and to realise their potentials - not in isolation
but together with each other. To be loving and caring, self reliant
but sharing, understanding and compassionate and responsible".
a journey. We'll walk with the children. We'll observe them. We've
planned residential workshops, trainings and camps for them. We'll
support and nurture those who show the desire and the passion
to reach their possibilities - in whichever field this is displayed".
children. They bring you simplicity and spontaneity and wonder
and dreaming. In their way of being, the true nature of God is
indeed revealed. Our other programs in handmade paper and paper
art & craft, terracotta, organic farming, herbal gardening
and nutrition continue".
sincere gratitude to those who have supported us in the past year.
A happy Christmas and a New Year filled with peace, hope and love
for all. I also send some images of Nav Yatra. Good wishes, Keith"
can reach Keith Sadanha at Nav Yatra, Vilappilsala, Trivandrum,
Kerala-695 573( india) or through email@example.com
words: 30.11.2004: Copy Right © Maxwell Pereira: 3725 Sec-23,
Gurgaon-122002. You can interact with the author at http://
www.maxwellperira.com and firstname.lastname@example.org
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