Better lives ahead
Children saved from begging, living rough
Queenstown charity founder Sue van Schreven felt ‘‘ more famous than One Direction’’ on her visit to India.
Perhaps she should be. Her latest ‘‘hit’’ fades theirs into insignificance.
The Orphans Aid International founder and Lake Hayes mother of two is now building a school for desperate refugee children in Bhutan.
She’s also just visited the Orphans Aid projects in the Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) area where food, medicine and basic schooling is provided.
‘‘A fight erupts over a biscuit when we arrive there and there’s all this screaming. The kids are sitting in a tin shed all wanting to touch me. They know I’m feeding them. I felt more famous than One Direction,’’ van Schreven said.
Many of the children Orphans Aid rescues in India have been trafficked into slavery or prostitution and are living on the streets.
‘‘When the girls get to around 13, they’re either taken by traffickers or raped at night on the streets, used by the local men at night, because they don’t belong to anybody,’’ she said.
Several years ago, Orphans Aid founded a little school in Jaigaon, near the Bhutanese border. It also now funds a local doctor to care for the families.
Last year the Bhutanese Buddhist community gave 388sqm of land to Orphans Aid to be set aside for the 200 children and about 700 adults between India and Bhutan, who have no real citizenship or rights.
The land is in a high earthquake risk zone in an area hit by torrential downpours and monsoons, so van Schreven said the initial building plans had to be revisited to ensure the school site was stable.
The first stage of the $52,000, 250sqm school building project should be completed later this year.
‘‘Initially it will cater for 50 to 60 children and one of our key workers in Calcutta is training up the teachers.
‘‘Originally we thought we could do it for $7000 but that would have been sub-standard, a tin shed. In the extreme heat over there that would be like placing the children in a frying pan or sauna to learn,’’ van Schreven said.
The children will also be fed at school and given medical care.
A playground will be built on more land on a hill top.
Orphans Aid’s Christmas appeal raised the initial funding but van Schreven said there would be ongoing costs and any donations would appreciated.
‘‘It helps break the cycle of poverty. These parents are just so grateful for even an antibiotic or Panmol prescription. It’s really life-changing for their community.’’
hugely ◗ Orphans Aid, now a worldwide charity clothing, feeding and protecting thousands of abandoned children in Romania, Russia and India, celebrates its 10th anniversary in July. Volunteer leaders from across Central Otago and the Queenstown Lakes District are invited to a networking session being held tomorrow.
Co-ordinated by Volunteering Central the session is being held after requests for more opportunities to network by people recruiting, supporting and managing volunteers. The session is 12.30 till 1.30pm. Further details at volunteering firstname.lastname@example.org
The future: Orphans Aid chief executive Sue van Schreven with Bhutanese children on the site of the new school.
Better life: Sue van Schreven visits a hospital for abandoned children, who now receive a daily meal and basic school lessons. Until late last year their only food came from begging and local rubbish bins.
Homed: Sue van Schreven with Minat, 13, and Taj Priyesh, 6 or 7, outside the home Orphans Aid provides for them and other children rescued from living on the streets.