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A visit to the SOS Children’s Village, Bhuj, Gujarat, India.

In January, I was visiting Gujarat, and specifically, Kutch, with a group of 7 textile enthusiasts led by Carole Douglas. Carole had been instrumental in organising an exhibition of work done by local artisans reflecting their experiences in the devastating earthquake of 2001. This body of work had been on display in Australia and Mumbai, and we were travelling to visit the artisans and see them at work. We had a very full and exhausting itinerary, travelling many miles to distant villages on dusty, unmade roads. So, when we were scheduled to visit an orphanage on the outskirts of Bhuj after a particularly taxing day, I was undecided about going. Why not have a leisurely shower, sort out my luggage, catch up on washing and even take a nap?

What an experience I would have missed, the most inspiring event of the whole tour. The orphanage turned out to be an SOS Village, set up after the 2001 earthquake, providing loving care and security for 140 children. There were 14 houses, each accommodating 10 children, with a ‘mother’ in charge. Each house was individually decorated and equipped, with a small garden in front, overlooking a large central lawn. There was a delightful kindergarten, decorated in bright cheerful colours and very well provided with modern educational materials.

After a conducted tour of the houses, we all, staff and children alike, gathered on the lawn to be entertained by various groups of dancers, all in traditional costumes, doing traditional dances. The absolute highlight was a solo dance performed by a slight 12 year old girl to the music of ‘I love my India’; she had such animation and expertise, it was quite magical.

The evening finished with refreshments provided by the Staff, and we went back to the hotel humbled and thrilled by the whole set-up and I feel extremely privileged to be able to make an annual donation and so contribute to the wonderful work in Bhuj.

Elizabeth Matthews.

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