Under One Sky…

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Today is Sunday and we leave Mandrem and Elsewhere to go south in Goa to stay at Casa Susagad, the guest house of Carole and Norman who are supporters of Helping Elsewhere too, Carole designs and makes a lot of the jewelery we sell. We are sad to leave our friends here but we have been counting up and it is just 14 weeks until we return.

We have had the most amazing time – maybe not a holiday in the traditional sense of the word, but what a fantastic experience. We have been welcomed into two Goan family homes, and the hospitality shown to us there really does confirm that the Goans are one of the most hospitable hosts you can imagine. The title of this post comes from the closing sentences directed to us by one of the teachers at the football match – he wished to pass on thanks to everyone who had helped and said although our homes are separated by thousands of miles we all slept under one sky.

We have also met some interesting fellow travelers who have ‘got’ the Indian experience and I hope that we may meet them again soon under the umbrella of Helping Elsewhere.

See you all soon… the Goan office is now officially closed for a few months!


It’s Saturday – so it’s Soccer!

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So the grand tournament day has arrived! 10 o’clock saw us arriving at an already stiflingly hot beaten clay football pitch cut into the hillside. Four local school teams (two from our Rosary School) were to play three short games each in a league system (so three points for a win, one for a draw). St Joseph from Pernem were the favourites, and indeed they did win the mini-league. But not before the tiny characters from Rosary B had actually beaten their older and bigger opponents 2-0 in a very exciting match played in the full glare of the midday sun!

The showpiece match was between the two top teams – which meant a repeat ‘grudge match’ between St Joseph and Rosary B. The stronger and older team got their revenge 1-0 in a disciplined and tight team performance, but they did not have it easy!

It all ended three hours later with a succession of prizes (and a short speech from Helen!). Man of the Match was a terrier like diminutive forward (anyone remember Dennis Wise?) who had played his heart out against much taller boys. Horley Town got a great name check and a huge round of applause for their trophy!

All in all, a great morning with great skills and commitment on display, played in the best sporting spirit. And more than that, we got a chance to see the donated claret and blue strip worn proudly by Rosary A who came a very close third!The best bit for us though, was the sight of three usually very shy and reserved schoolgirls grabbing the PA microphone to chant “Rosary, Rosary, Rosary!!!” to the smiles of their teachers and Father Dominic. Of course we then had to explain the very English term of WAGS (Wives And GirlfriendS) to our hosts.And now the thanks… the tournament was excellently organised by Our Lady of Rosary School PTA, and they had also commissioned a local artisan to produce an exquisite turtle from coconut shell as a gift to us, and it was a pleasure to have the local craftsman Sonu K Setgaonkar himself present it to us in front of a cheering crowd. Thank you!


The Donation is made…

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Yesterday was Friday and all the pupils from Our Lady of Rosary School crossed the road from their classrooms at midday to attend the thanksgiving mass (in English rather than Konkani which perplexed some of the kids!) in Mandrem church that was very kindly held in our honour. We had also asked Juze Calisto and his lovely wife to be present as Juze was one of the founder members of the school and wanted him to be part of this occasion. During the service we passed over all the donations that we had collected over the past months which amounted to  185,800 rupees which is just over £2500 pounds. So thank you to everyone who has helped with this and Mandrem sends it’s thanks and best wishes too.

The work that will be done with the money will change lives, so now we have set ourselves the target to fund five more teachers at 3000 rupees per month, to continue to fund the twenty disadvantaged children in the village, more books for Alice’s Library and to start funding for a music department (some money will come from the government but this will not fund both an Indian music teacher and a Western one too). Many of the children are musical and wish to learn both styles.


Happy Feast Day…

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It would appear we have arrived in the middle of the festival season – the Hindu festival of Divali has just passed, then the national Childrens Day last Friday and now Sunday 16th November is the ‘Festival of Our Lady of Rosary’ who is the patron saint of the church in Mandrem. Our village is ringing with cries of “Happy Feast Day!”.

We were invited to attend the celebration mass followed by lunch with senior churchmen and the Father and Sisters from Mandrem and the surrounding parishes. As we would very rarely venture into a Catholic church in the UK, it was a real honour to be invited into the heart of this community in Mandrem and we were made to feel very welcome and now we have many more friends here.

We arrived at just before 10am when mass was about to start and took our seats in the front row. The mass was celebrated in Konkani, the local language, with the exception of a couple of blessings which were said in English for our benefit. Two hours of beautiful music and spectacle with the statue of Our Lady draped in marigolds being processed around the church and through the congregation – many of whom have to sit outside under canopies and listen to the service through a PA System.

We didn’t recognise many of our friends as the women looked like colourful butterflies in their saris and many of the men who we only see in shorts and tee shirts or their staff uniform were wearing dark suits complete with diamonte decoration!

The reason this post is a little late in being posted is that we have just returned from a trip to a mountainside Jungle hideaway – very worthwhile but not for the faint hearted (of which I must say I think I am now one). But this is only after a metre long Trinket Snake (a small python) decided to slither across our balcony shortly followed by a rather rare gliding snake, which launched itself from the verandah roof and landed about 3 feet away from Colin and just stayed put, staring! I didn’t know snakes couId fly! I have to say that I did turn into the quivering girlie at this point and my nerves have still not quite recovered. But taking that aside, this is the most amazing place, with views back across the two states of Maharastra and Goa to the coast 55kms away. Our room faces west so the sunsets are amazing and we can see any amount of birds and butterflies and chipmunks and monkeys chattering outside the window. We have to trek to breakfast and dinner down a rough track hewn out of ancient volcanic boulders, and to gain access to our room you must climb down a 40 degree slope through trees and more rocks. Interesting when you come back from dinner by torch light! But the infinity swimming pool has to be in the most beautiful spot in the world!

Anyway now we are back at Elsewhere… where our hectic life begins again.


Alice in Wonderland comes to Mandrem…

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Today is Children’s Day in India – all lessons are canceled and the children can ditch their uniforms and come to school in their favourite clothes.

We went this morning to join in with the celebrations. When we arrived we were greeted by Father Dominic and Jacinta and then led out to the playground at the rear of the school where first of all prayers take place.

The ceremony starts with the lighting of the lamp where both Colin and I, Gina, Father and the head boy and girl each lit a flame. Then thanks are given, and the picture of Nehru who started the custom was garlanded with flowers.

After prayers we went up to the front and presented the inaugural books, two copies of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, to ‘Alice’s Library’ along with the pocket watch (running two days late!) which features in Alice. Then after all the serious stuff the fun started!

We introduced Mandrem to the idea of ‘A Mad Hatter’s Tea Party’ but in true Indian style we had to improvise. Vinod from Elsewhere had arranged cake for everyone baked at the local bakery – 12kgs of cake! Cold drinks instead of tea, the serving of the feast was overseen by Salou, also of Elsewhere.

Then onto the entertainment. On Children’s Day the teachers entertain the kids with song and dance and Father Dominic led a very enthusiastic Goan version of Row, Row, Row Your Boat complete with actions.

The whole proceedings were photographed using one of their new digital cameras by the new IT Teacher who then proudly showed off his work using the computers that were bought using the donations that were given last April.

Last but not least, many of the kids summoned the courage to come and shake hands with us – all in all a fantastic experience.


Working Hard…

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Just in case anybody thought our stay in Goa was an excuse for self-indulgent pleasure, I thought that you would like to see how hard we work.

Firstly this is Helen immersed at her desk in our temporary office space… albeit with air conditioning and a reasonable view.

When the pressure gets too much, Helen is at least able to take a little time out and engage in a little ‘Blue Sky Thinking’.

Further posts soon,



We are here…

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Well we have arrived via the Maldives and Sri Lanka… we are now back ‘home’! And what a welcome we had, Juze and most of the Calisto family were there, Gina and some of the lads from Elsewhere and of course Salou. After an evening of rest we went to the school this morning at 9am. Father and Jacinta, the headmistress, were there and as always we had a heartfelt welcome.

We visited the children and class 5 and 6 were having an English lesson and using the Oxford Reading Tree Books. So we saw your donations at work. Also during the break we saw the children playing Carrom and we visited the science lab where the microscope holds pride of place. There is a room designated as a library which is a little empty at present but that will change very soon!

Now life gets busy, on the 14th November, this Friday, which is Children’s Day here, an idea started by Goa’s first Prime Minister, we will hold another Alice’s Tea Party, Gina is arranging cakes and drinks for everyone – at the last count it was 375!

On Sunday 16th November it is the Festival of our Lady at the local Church. Father has invited us to Mass and to the lunch afterwards. He is also going to annouce the total money which has been raised and donated by ‘Helping Elsewhere’ and on the following Friday 21st November the church, school and village are going to celebrate a special mass to say thank you to us and in turn all of you for the money raised. We are aware that it is a great honour to be welcomed into such a private and important event!

The closing events for this trip will be the football tournament held on the 22nd November. I think I will then need another holiday to rest and get over the social whirl that we have created here!

The boys playing carrom

The nursery class during their break


The Universal Language of Football…

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Team Photo

Whilst I am sure most of you know that India is a great cricketing nation, football does have a universal appeal. When we traveled out last April we took with us a team strip donated by Horley Town Football Club B team. Well, on the 22nd November we will watch the school team at Mandrem play in a tournament of under 14’s organised by our school. We will present a trophy to the winning team and Horley Town have donated The Man of the Match Trophy.


Today we stood on the side lines and cheered on the kids as they beat Nutfield 6-1 with Ben the captain scoring a hat trick and being awarded Man Of The Match.

Last but not least, we would also like to say a big thank you to Surrey Soccer who have donated footballs for us to take out to Mandrem. They also supplied and engraved the trophy that Horley Town have donated.

As you hopefully are expecting, we will be shortly taking pictures of the Indian tournament and will be posting them soon, together with the presentation of the trophies!