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By Mercedes (Intermediate 1E, 2007-08)

I'm going to write about a holiday which changed my life. In the year 1998 my friends Celia and Esther went to India and invited me to go with them. They were going to adopt their second daughter, Meda. They had adopted their first daughter two years before.

We went to the Orissa State, it is on the east coast of India below Calcutta. The Capital of Orissa is Bhubaneswar. The orphanage was in Bhubaneswar, and we met with Meda there. After that we continued our trip to Udayagiri, in the mountain. This place is a tribal zone where villages are very small and have few inhabitants. There I learned about the deep India. people live in poverty, they don’t have the bare necessities of live, they can’t even find something to eat every day.

In this trip we had been thinking of setting up an NGO to get money to help those people. One year later we created Amigos de SMSS (Friends of Subhadra Mahatab Seva Sadan). Since we started working, we have been developing some projects. At the moment we have a hostel housing about 300 children, more girls than boys but also women who are widows or whose husbands abandoned them. The children’s expenses are all covered, including education, and now we are also trying to prepare them to get a job. Women look after these children, they cook for them, do their laundry, etc. We have got a big building which is a  primary school and now we are going to begin the construction of another building for secondary school. We also have 50 small schools in 50 tiny villages, and a Health Centre with two doctors, one of them is an ayurveda doctor and the other is a conventional GP. The ayurveda doctor works  with plants, uses plants to treat illnesses. We are lucky because there are Spanish people who volunteer in  this Health Centre as dentists, nurses, cholera researchers, you see this is a place of endemic cholera.

Today our  projects are:
point A residence for girls so they can go to high school -- at the moment, the girls have to walk four kilometres from their houses to high school. We fundraised in Spain and have just got enough money to begin this building.
point A residence for the doctors and nurses, near the health centre.
point A mango tree plantation. In this area there isn’t any fruit, and we think this is important for people’s health.
point A microcredit program in tribal areas.

Our main problem is to fundraise for the maintenance of children and  to pay doctors, teachers, nurses, etc. their monthly salary, so we need to set up fundraising campaigns, so we are selling clothes, diaries, etc.

If you want to learn more about Friends of SMSS or buy some of our products, you can visit our website at external link or send an email to: Mercedes [ AT ], or amigos.smss [ AT ]

Any assistance or ideas are welcome!

Orissa, India