Losing everything except for bare Life in the Himalayan Flood – Our School Children – 22 May 15

Today I will introduce you to another family who has recently admitted their children in our school. The girls are called Rameshwari and Karishma and are 10 and 5 years old.

The family has three more members: the girls’ parents and their elder brother who is 16 years old and is currently learning in the 10th class of a cheap private school. Rameshwari was going to the same school until now but the parents decided to try getting a place for the girls in our school. They will now save the school fees and of course money for school uniform, books and each exam. It will help them, as they really need the money for some of the basic things in life!

The family does not own much. They had to start from zero again two years ago when the big flood in Northern India destroyed their house and field in the state Uttarakhand. They had been living in the Himalayan mountains their whole life long. While they were on a visit to relatives, they heard news that in their area, there had been a flood. They tried phoning friends and neighbours – nobody answered their phone. Their whole village had been washed away by the high water of the Ganges and nearly all of their friends had died in the flood!

Once, they returned just to see how the situation was in their old home but there was nothing to even start a new existence with! So they moved from one relative to another, from one friend or acquaintance to another, occasionally working and practically living from hand to mouth. About a year ago, they thus reached Vrindavan, a place where many people come when they are looking for work.

That’s how in the past two years, Rameshwari’s father has done a lot of different kinds of work and has finally found a place as security guard in a plastic bag factory just outside Vrindavan. He gets about 60 US-Dollars a month, a bit more if he works extra hours. His wife helps with the income, too: she knows a shopkeeper who sometimes gives her pictures of Hindu gods which she then decorates with colourful stones before she hands them back to the shopkeeper. For each picture she gets in between 3 to 5 rupees. To earn one Dollar, she would thus have to make about 15 to 20 such pictures!

In all their bad luck however, they also had a piece of good luck: they met someone who was in charge of submitting applications for free flats by the government! There were about 800 flats to be allotted and after providing their papers, they were one of the chosen families! That’s how they now live in a flat with bathroom and toilet, a small balcony and two rooms, one of which has a kitchenette. As they have very few belongings, the flat still looks empty – but it is theirs!

When we asked Rameshwari about their old home, she told us that she still remembered everything. She had friends there, too, and said she missed them sometimes. You cannot help but get sad for a little girl that has already experienced such loss!

We are quite certain however that she will find lots of new friends in our school when in July the classes start again and both Rameshwari and her sister Karishma will learn in our pre-school class!

You can support children like these girls! Sponsor a child or the food for a day for the children of our school!

Six Adults and two Children in two Rooms in a Flood Zone – Our School Children – 30 Aug 13

After having seen our now regular Friday’s report on our children, with a video of the children’s homes, one of our child sponsors sent us an email, asking whether we could take such a video in her sponsored child’s home, too. She would like to get to know more about the boy, his living situation and also ‘meet’ his family. We are anyway planning on introducing all these children to you, one by one, and so were happy to visit Murari!

Murari is 13 years old and has been at our school for the past five years, starting in the pre-school class and having now reached the 3rd grade. He lives with his parents and his two elder brothers, who are 26 and 24 years old. He was thus the baby of the family for a long time – until last year, when his eldest brother’s wife gave birth to a baby boy, Murari’s little nephew. The birth of the boy was shortly after another happy event in the family – the wedding of the second brother, whose wife also moved in with the family, just as it is normal in India. This means there are now six adults, Murari and a baby living in the house which consists of two rooms, a toilet and that bit of open space where we could sit and talk.

During our talk with Murari’s father we learned that he had been a carpenter but due to his age and a road accident which he said affected his mental state, too, he cannot do the hard work with wood anymore and has thus taken some random jobs that he could find. That may not bring a lot of money but his two elder sons are working as labourers, too, so the family can cope, even if it is not abundance that they are living in.

They are making efforts to save some money in order to build a room on top of their roof so that the eldest son and his wife could have a room for themselves. Another benefit would be that they could all move up there during monsoon time, should the river rise again and flow into the area which is prone to flooding.

In fact, Murari’s house is not far from Sanju’s home whom I already introduced to you, too. In 2010, when the big flood had hit Vrindavan, Murari’s house, too, had been flooded and Murari had come to the Ashram to live with us until the water retreated. The rest of the family had camped on the roof, unwilling to leave their little amount of belongings out of fear of thieves.

While the water is always a problem, Murari loves the area he lives in. ‘My school friends all live around here!’, he explains. The parents are glad that they can send Murari to our school, taking a bit of the financial burden off their shoulders. They have the hopes that Murari will get a well-earning job later on, as he already knows more English than the rest of his family. His teachers agree – Murari is a good student, fast in the mind and, if he manages to get his concentration off his friends and on his work, he can pick up, combine and understand the lessons quickly.

If you would also like to support the education of a child like Murari, you can do so by sponsoring a child or the food for a day for the children of our school!

When a Monsoon Rain means great Danger – Our School Children – 16 Aug 13

Today I want to introduce you to a boy who has been at our school for three years: Sanju. Sanju is twelve years old and has been living in Vrindavan for the past ten years of his life. He doesn’t remember any other home and he like the area where they are living in because he has friends around. There is just one thing that he does not like about it: seeing his parents worry every year when the monsoon arrives with one question – ‘Will our home be able to withstand the water in this year?’

Sanju’s father is a rickshaw driver. He has always done this kind of day-by-day work, moving from one city to another. In his hometown he has a house – but there is no work, nothing to eat or live from! His wife is from Kolkata, West Bengal, but has a sister in Vrindavan and that’s how they chose Vrindavan as the next town to move to with the two-year-old Sanju and his one-month-old sister. Another boy followed and they decided to stay in Vrindavan, if financially possible. They bought a small house and were happy that they had their own place. Until the next monsoon came and the water was not only dripping in from the roof but also flowing in from the door!

This is the family’s situation every year. They have to place buckets and pots at different spots of the house to catch the rainwater and not let it flood their two small rooms. Once the water starts flowing down the street however, there is no possibility to avoid wading through the water within the house. The whole area is prone to flooding, having been built too close to the banks of the river Yamuna.

During the latest big flood in 2010, the family were facing a catastrophe: their home was flooded until just below the roof. When the water was on the rise, the flow was so strong that the walls of the house could not bear it. They cracked and the house looked like it was on the verge of falling apart. In that year, we did a lot of charity work in that area of Vrindavan. We set up medical camps, made a food camp where we cooked for the people of the area and even went out on boats to distribute food to those people who were cut off from the rest of the town by the water. Sanju and his mother showed us their home back then – it looked as though it would soon be washed away. You can see that scene of 2010 in the video below.

Sanju’s mother had to move to her relatives with her two younger children and Sanju came to stay with us, at the Ashram, along with some other children of the area so that he could go to school. His father however, just like many other men of the area, slept on the roof in order to save their few belongings from being stolen.

Somehow the walls didn’t give in to the water. The water levels sank and the family was happy that their home was still where it had been – cracked and wet, but it was there. There was no money to do repairing work. No money to fix the walls. What will happen the next time when the river floods? What will happen if some day a storm is too strong for the weakened walls? They know that they are living in danger, that the walls could crash down on them any day but they have no choice. The money that they earn is just enough to feed and clothe the children and themselves.

At least they don’t have to worry about their children’s schooling. Sanju already is at our school and they promised that they would send the younger children next year as well. In this way, the children will have a warm meal every day and learn something to make the future of their family brighter!

Forever Young with a Young Attitude – 14 Oct 10

Today is my birthday. With the flood in Vrindavan the school children did not have much time to prepare a program but they wanted to show something and this is how they spontaneously danced for two songs. The dance teachers could not stop themselves and joined in. It was really nice and fun, just spontaneous and informal.

As I told you before, we also distributed medicine today to those children for whom the ultrasound gave results. Their parents had come and we explained them all how to take their medicine and when they have to go to the doctor again to check if it helped already.

So we distributed medicine and it was really a nice celebration in this way.

So I am another year older and a friend sent me birthday wishes asking ‘How do you feel, one year older? I am sure you don’t feel old!’ I had to laugh about this mail. Of course my friend knows my attitude, my ideas and my feeling and that’s why he already knows that I do not really give much importance to age and numbers. I really feel that it does not matter at all.

It all depends on your attitude and feeling. If you feel young, why would you not be young, too? If you think that at a certain age your life is nearly over, you are already old and will soon get diseases, then you behave in this way and your body will soon start making you feel this pain of the age you imagine. If you don’t think of your age as something that has a certain bad effect, then it doesn’t matter how old you are!

Today I talked with my grandmother who must be ninety soon. Nobody really knows how old she is. She now daily walks up to the gate of the Ashram and back and she is getting fitter and faster each day. If you exercise, if you stay active, if you laugh and dance, then you will stay young.
 

Ultrasound Reveals Stomach Tuberculosis of Children – 11 Oct 10

The water of the Yamuna has now retreated so much that people could start moving back into their homes. I want to again thank everybody who donated and helped us support those in need. Life is slowly getting back to normal now. Those however, who have been infected with an illness or fever during the time of the flood, still have to suffer and it takes a long time for some diseases to really cure.

We had a meeting with doctor Ashish and his wife who did the last medical checkup and they told us the results of the ultrasound examination. It revealed that 25 of the children whom he examined had stomach tuberculosis. Another 10 have infections of the urinary tract and 5 children have kidney stones.

Of course, now that the reports are there we will help these children with their treatment, which for some of them will take up to 9 months.

We decided to start their treatment on the 14th October, my birthday. It has become a kind of tradition that each year school children perform dances and we all have a big celebration. This year we will celebrate by distributing medicine and explaining to the parents how and when it should be taken. I already started getting birthday wishes one week before and would like to ask you to include our sick children into your good wishes, too. If you are planning to send me a birthday present, I would be most happy if you could donate for the treatment of our children. If they get better and if they can overcome their diseases, I will be much happier than any birthday gift can make me.

Thank you in advance for your support for these children and their health!

Pictures of the ultrasound of the children

""

Distributing Bread to Flood Victims by Boat – 30 Sep 10

I have told you yesterday already that we went to distribute bread packages to the flood victims again. When our team arrived at the college where we had distributed the last time, the government officials there asked them to please distribute the bread in the flooded area. The government now takes care of those who temporarily live in the schools and colleges. They get the basics, food, water and medical supplies there. There are however still a many people who remained in their houses, not wanting to leave their possessions behind.

So our team turned around with the bread and went closer to the river, carried the bags down to a boat that then took them through the streets where now water is flowing. The boatman knew where there were still people and he maneuvered the boat around trees and by houses. They could see on the trees and walls of houses that the water has gone down for about a meter. The trees are dirty until the point where the water has been, a clear line with the leaves above green and clean and below brown and dirty. It makes you realize again how dirty the water actually is but still some people swim and dive in it.

They reached areas that can now only be reached by boat and when people saw them coming, they ran towards the boat, as far as they could come. The team got off whenever it was possible and if it was not, they threw the packages of bread to the houses into the hands of those who depend on this kind of distributions now. If you have a look on the pictures and if you watch the video, you will get a good impression of how necessary bread was and how difficult it was to get it to them.

However we are now confident that the water will continue to leave the areas. Of course, all the houses which have been standing in water for so long are now dangerous to live in and it will still take a long time until they will be really dry. We will try to keep on helping as much as possible.

Today the doctor will come again and will make checkups and examinations for the children of our school to find out whether any of them suffer from tuberculosis. I will write in detail about this tomorrow.

""

Commonwealth Games Inauguration – Prince Charles or President Patil? – 29 Sep 10

The Commonwealth Games 2010 are planned to start in Delhi on the 3rd October, in only three days, and will go until the 14th October. I already told you about India’s preparation problems and how difficult it seems to be to organize these games in all this corruption. Many top sports people will not participate but the ‘CWG 2010’ will take place in Delhi.

There was another question that the organizers had to solve: who should do the inauguration of the games at the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium in Delhi? The Indian government wanted the Indian President, Mrs. Pratibha Patil Singh, to do the inauguration and officially start the Commonwealth Games. Tradition is however that a member of the British Royal Family travels to the hosting country in order to do the inauguration and read a message of the Queen for the success of the sports event. Britain thus of course wanted to keep this tradition and wanted Prince Charles for the inauguration.

There was a big discussion about who should do the inauguration and finally they have now reached a conclusion. They will do a compromise and do a joint inauguration with Prince Charles and President Patil together. He will read the Queen’s message and together they will declare the beginning of the games.

I still want to ask why? India is a democratic country and the whole world is going towards democracy. All these former colonies, Britain’s slave countries, are now democracies but they still keep the tradition of playing these games with traditions that symbolize the rule of the royal family! Even in Britain, a constitutional monarchy, the parliament has more actual power than the royal family.

India decided to be a democracy, free from Britain’s rule. They fought for it for hundreds of years! Why does the Indian government have to compromise? I think they should be proud of the freedom that so many freedom fighters have achieved! So many people have sacrificed their lives, thousands were tortured, defamed and killed. Many lives have been lost in the fight for this democracy. If these freedom fighters could see this decision today, they would be crying. They have fought so that we, our generation, those who are now sitting in parliament, can now live and enjoy freedom in our own country. Where is the respect for their fight for equality and their success to free this country?

Why does India’s President have to stand there with a member of the Royal Family? I think, if the governments of all participating countries sent their well-wishing messages and read them out at the inauguration, it would be fine and Prince Charles could be one of them. Of course all sports people would be happy to receive the Queen’s wishes but not as a person superior to all of them in order to remind the representatives of all these countries that they once were colonies with the royal family ruling over everybody.

Anyway, in the end it is all drama, the whole setup of these games. Again I would say, there has been so much money spent on this which could have been spent for those who really need it. Today again, we will go out to distribute food to the flood victims. We have ordered bread to distribute in the schools and at other places to support people and give them something that lasts for a while and fills their stomachs. They don’t care much about the big sports event in Delhi. They care about what they have in their hands, mouths and bellies and we care about them and want them to have full bellies. I will write you tomorrow in detail about today’s distribution but there is already good news: the water levels have gone down about three feet!

Yamuna Flood in Vrindavan is Getting Worse – 27 Sep 10

The situation of the flood in Vrindavan is getting worse and worse. As I told you, the water has entered the inner city and the Parikrama Marg, the pilgrimage way around the city has been impossible to walk for about a month now, since the water has flooded the streets. Hundreds of houses are in the water. In 150 temples, all rituals and worshipping had to be stopped as it is not anymore possible to access the altars. The schools of Vrindavan are closed on government orders.

Many parts of the town do not have electricity anymore and phone connections have not been working for a while. The whole city’s water supply is interrupted as the water pump is under water now. At the Ashram, too, we have not had water supplied for the last 4 days and needed to arrange tankers of water for us and our neighbours.

We are lucky to live a few meters higher so that the water could not reach up to us. It is now 400 meters away from us and we are happy to still have electricity and internet so that I can update and report about changes of the situation in my diary.

We will of course keep up the help. On Thursday we have plans to have another medical camp at the Ashram. In the last medical check-up, the doctor noticed that some of the children of our school may have tuberculosis and suggested to make thorough ultrasound examinations. After Thursday we will know for sure and can start the treatment for those who need it.

It does not seem right to continuously ask you for donations and I think everybody agrees that the Yamuna water has flooded Vrindavan for long enough now but that is nature and it has its own laws. It is the end of September which is usually the end of monsoon time. Now the water levels are still rising but we keep up the hope and our fingers crossed that it will stop soon. For now however people still need your support and your contribution is very welcome!

A lot of thanks again to everybody who has donated until now. I would like you to see what all your support until now has brought and that is why we keep our flood page updated regularly.

We are committed to give the flood victims our support. We want to ask you to keep compassion for them, think of them and send your wishes and prayers. Please spread the news to everybody who has not heard about it yet and would like to know about the flood in Vrindavan. Maybe some more of your friends and family would like to contribute.

""

Celebration of 1000 Articles with 1000 Flood Victims – 25 Sep 10

Today I am writing the 1000th edition of my personal online diary. These 1000 articles are spread on 90 different topics and inspired by travelling, my healing and counseling work, incidents of daily life and also newspaper articles, TV news and internet resources. A big thank you to all readers who bring sense to writing at all, to friends who support me always, to email-writers who ask me to write about certain topics and to people who write their comments – a feature that we started only recently. Having started writing on the 1st January 2008, we feel great about having written each day without a gap and knowing that we have filled many pages that people enjoy reading. Please keep on writing comments, feedback, your experience and further questions.

We thought we should somehow celebrate this day and decided to celebrate together with the flood victims by distributing 1000 food packages. If you have been following the diary entries of the last days you know that the water is still rising in Vrindavan and that people urgently need support.

We thought that we wanted to distribute something nutritious that gives them lots of energy but also something that they do not have to eat right away. We wanted them to have something that they could keep for the next day, too, if they had food for today already. They are never sure what they will get the next day so we were thinking to give them something that they can keep for those times that nobody distributes food there.
We had ordered freshly roasted nuts, peas, different lentils, and multigrain flakes and pops. After mixing everything together we had exactly what we wanted: a nourishing mixture that doesn’t get bad quickly. Additionally we distributed coconut sweets that they could enjoy right away.

We went to distribute in three places and the first of them was one of my old schools where those people whose homes are flooded have found shelter. Seeing the school after so many years brought nice memories back. It is also nice that the building now gives shelter to hundreds of families whose houses have been flooded. Seeing the situation of these people confirmed me once again in my belief that everybody has to stand together and help those who are in need. We need to support them as much as possible. It was a wonderful way to celebrate and although it was also exhausting to distribute in the heat, we were happy to see everybody’s happy faces.

Here are pictures of today’s celebration

""

Are your neighbours and colleagues your friends? – 25 Sep 10

Today I would like to write again about friends and the question whom you call your friends.

Are your neighbours and colleagues your friends?

Now you may ask why I have put neighbours and colleagues in one category of people. It is actually simple: you meet your neighbours and colleagues nearly daily. You have to be in touch with them. Your neighbours live just next door, sometimes even in the same building. On the way in and out you meet. Your colleagues work next door, sometimes even in the same office. There are days when you get in touch more closely with them and days when you do not even see them. For both groups it is up to you how you want to make your relationship.

Of all the people living close to you or working with you, there are usually some whom you like and some whom you cannot really connect with. Being neighbours or colleagues is surely not a guarantee for being friends. It is wonderful if you can make a friendship with them just in the same way as it can be horrible when you do not get along. We all know the stories of neighbours annoying each other intentionally by playing loud music or mowing the lawn when others want to sleep or by fighting about whose turn it is to clean the staircase or the driveway. We also all have heard about nasty colleagues who tell the boss about private phone calls from the company phone and competitions about who is going to be promoted.

As the situation is, you have to meet and have to work or live with each other. With some people you may just have a friendly or neutral relationship but being friends with your neighbours or colleagues can indeed make many things easier. When shops are closed you can borrow salt, flour or sugar from your neighbours and you can ask your colleagues to change shifts with you when you urgently need a day off for a certain occasion. Most of all, if your neighbours and colleagues are your friends, you spend more time of your day surrounded by people whom you love. This alone makes a big change in the quality of living!

Yesterday evening we got to know that the water of the Yamuna has entered the market of Vrindavan and thus the area where I grew up. In the morning Yashendu went to take some more pictures and make another film clip to show you the situation. After that he went down the other side and found that if you walk the road towards the Yamuna, the water is now about 400 meter away from the Ashram. We are not worried as the Ashrams still lies quite a bit higher but we were still surprised to see how far the water has come.

See for yourself in the video below or in updated pictures of the flood.

""