Our Trip to India and our visit of the Deenabandhu Home for Girls in Machilipatnam

After the much to early death of our daughter we created in her name the Evelin Christiane  Countess Bethusy-Huc Foundation (Evelin Christiane Gräfin von Bethusy-Huc Stiftung) under the auspices of the Kindernothilfe Foundation to let our daughter’s commitment live on.  Since Evelin had sought to improve especially the lives of girls in India and Africa, we decided to support two foster girls and the Deenabandhu Home for Girls in India.

Since now, after the first ‘Evelin’s Remembrance Day’ in February 2012, through Evelin’s Foundation and with the help of the Home leadership, the second ‘Evelin’s Remembrance Day’ became feasible in February 2013, we wanted to celebrate that day with our foster children and we wanted to get to know all children and their caretakers.  The Home management agreed to our idea so that we planned our trip for the second half of February.

Visit of the Don Bosco Home for Street Children
We visited first a home for street children, all boys, in Secunderabad-Hyderabad, which is being supported by the Kindernothilfe Foundation and managed by the Don Bosco Foundation.

We received a warm welcome, with songs, garlands and presents, by the director of the home as well as by representatives of the Churches’ Council for Child and Youth Care from Bangalore, the caretakers and the boys.

A few boys play an instrument, so we were received with enthusiastic brass band music.  And they can dance! Impressive!  They are normal boys, nice, bright and curious, all they need is a good home, loving care and education.

At the train stations employees were hired for youth welfare work, who register every street child with the responsible Committee for Youth Welfare, which then turns over the girls and boys to various organizations just like this one, the Kindernothilfe. Those children, who can and want to return to their families, are being directly integrated back with them.

The boys who want to stay receive all-around care, with psychological advice, a home, education and training. In the Home they can learn various trades.  In the technical training center for boys there are currently nine different training paths, for example, to become an electrician, auto mechanic, refrigeration and air-conditioning mechanic, printer/bookbinder or to learn desktop publishing, for a total of 240 youngsters. The courses last from three months to two years and are being taught by well trained teachers. The teachers receive continuing education regularly.

The boys receive not only an education, they are also cared for and accompanied afterwards by a special job placement center until they have found a job or they have become self-employed.

The director of the Home took a lot of his time to show us not only the Home himself, but also the city and nearby sites.

Visit of the Deenabandhu Home for Girls

From Hyderabad we flew to the east coast to Vijayawada, already awaited by the principals of the Home, Mrs. Mani and her husband Mr. Martin, and our foster children, Apoorva and Anitha.  The joy was great to finally getting to know each other, and we spent a long evening together, since all of us had a lot to tell.  Our foster children and we hugged again and again and we took a long walk on this warm evening across one of the bridges over the wide Krishna river.

The next day we drove to Machilipatnam to the Home for Girls where we were welcomed indescribably heartily: The smaller children, all dressed in white, danced and sang beautifully and gracefully for us on the path to the Home, that was decorated with flower arrangements created by the children.  We received garlands, each girl gave us a self-made present and the greetings did not want to end. Each girl wanted to give us her hand, wanted to be hugged and tell us her name. The children had crafted a model of the Home out of styrofoam.  Along the house grew little bushes which were trimmed so that they read, “Hearty welcome to Mrs. Eva and Mr. Horst Herrmann, parents of Evelin Christiane.” Several printed posters were hung in the house in memory of Evelin and her warm nature.

We spent four wonderful days with the girls. Mrs. Mani and Mr. Martin manage the Home not only efficiently and well, they are especially there for the children, with unconditional love and care. The children have their duties to fulfill. So they learn to accept responsibility. But in their free time they play and in the evenings in the daily cultural hour they learn to sing and dance, they read aloud, perform skids and thus discover their talents.

In the morning and evening there are computer lessons given for six children each session in the “Evelin Christiane Memorial Computer Center”, which was set up with funds from the Foundation. The girls proudly showed us what they can already accomplish on the computer.

We also talked to the teachers of the girls and have to admire their engagement, because the classes are big.  We were also introduced to the mothers of our foster girls and met them with mutual understanding and trust.

‘Evelin’s Remembrance Day’ we spent with the children in the amusement park Haai Land and, inspite of the heat, we watched the children at all their activities. They had so much fun, especially in the water and at the raindance, and they wanted us to watch them everywhere.  Before they could romp about, they were talking with the same dedication about Evelin as a person and were showing off in a quiz between two groups what they knew about Evelin and how they wanted to emulate her ideals.  This was very touching for us, as well as the little role-playing of scenes out of Evelin’s life.  Then each child drew a picture and later wrote a letter for us.

You can read more under ‘Evelin’s Remembrance Day 2013.’

We could admire the sewing work that was proudly shown to us by the prospective seamstresses. We also met former foster children and are happy that they are well.  In the meantime a few of them work as nurses. One student will start her MBA this year, two others are finishing their studies in math and computer science, four girls will graduate from the polytech this year. All are setting an example for the younger girls in the Home, who told us that they wanted to become a nurse or teacher, even information technology arouses interest in the girls.  

In addition, we visited a Home for boys in Machilipatnam; another home for street children, a home for mentally challenged children and another home for girls in Vijayawada. A home for HIV infected children in Vijayawada is being built at this time.

Kindernothilfe has more than 390 projects in India.  The need is huge, not only in India, and the work and help of the Kindernothilfe are urgently needed. Every donation is targeted for specific projects, including the ‘help to self-help’ projects or the project ‘Support and Education for Dalit Girls’ (daughters of temple prostitutes, widows, etc. of the Dalit caste). Poverty is great, especially in families living in rural areas and belonging to the caste of the Dalits, the “untouchables”.

Besides representatives of the Churches’ Council for Child and Youth Care we also met the Bishop of the South-Indian Church and his wife, who are all untiringly engaged for social improvement. We were also able to attend a Sunday service at the St. Andrew’s Church and to address a few words of thanks to the children, the home principals and the congregation. We are very happy to be part of this community and to be able to contribute to these projects.  We are convinced that this effort helps and the funds from Evelin’s Foundation are being used according to her spirit.

We will never forget Mrs. Mani and Mr. Martin’s hospitality. They had everything well organized, wanted to give us an understanding of the country and tried to show us, in spite of all their work, as much as possible of the area.  We saw a kalamkari (natural colors) fabric printshop, a batik fabric printshop and other small businesses, as well as churches, temples and small forts from the 19th century and, of course, the harbor, since fishing is one of the most important economic sectors.

The staff of the Home is also working there with joy and tried to anticipate our wishes.
We were given many gifts, like beautifully printed scarves and blankets, and even a sari, which Mrs. Mani chose for me very fittingly. Interesting were also the many different sweets, of which we chose several for all children in the Home. Of course, Mani and we were also shopping with Apoorva and Anitha, to treat them with something they liked.

Before our parting, another merry cultural evening was arranged with songs, beautiful Indian dances, sketches and readings. A small fashion show, called ‘fancy-dress program’, was also presented and then were prizes distributed, since the school year ends at the end of April. The main prize, an all-around prize, a memento with Evelin’s photo, was again presented this year to a  thoughtful, bright and helpful girl, who had started computer studies and often advises the younger girls on the computer.  She wrote us a letter thanking us for the computer center which is very helpful with her studies. Since Telugu is the biggest Dravidian language and after Hindi and Bengali India’s language with the third-most speakers and since the girls learn English only with the start of school, their progress on the computer and their joy in learning must be admired.  We also got to know the girls better because many asked questions about Evelin’s and our lives and we talked with them for a long time into the warm night.

As a farewell one of the older students drew a traditional henna-tattoo on our left hand, which slowly faded after our return to Munich. The many photos, crafts, drawings and letters will always remind us of the love, warmth and friendship extended to us. A poster with drawings and signatures of most children was in the meantime framed and hung up in our home as a keepsake from the children. The warmhearted experiences have kept us suspended on a cloud for a long time and we will forever remain ‘Mom and Dad’ of all the children.

Later we received photos of the celebrations on Palm Sunday and on Easter.  Mrs. Mani and Mr. Martin sent us even photos of the work the girls can perform in the meantime on the computer.

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