The night we arrived at Bethel House, after our perilous jeep journey (definitely not the worst mode of transportation I experienced in India), all of the boys were waiting to greet us but we didn’t get to meet the girls from Bethany Home until the next day. The girls are currently living in a rented building in the same village as the boys, about a ten minute walk away from Bethel House. They’re all very excited to be moving into the new Bethany Home which is currently being built around the corner from Bethel House. When the new home is ready Stepping Stones will be able to take in more than twice the number of girls that they have now and both Bethel House and Bethany Home will be able to give homes to forty children each.
On the morning of our second day in India, after a delicious breakfast which was probably a chickpea curry, we finally got to meet the girls as they come round to Bethel House every morning before heading off to school with the boys. The brief meetings with the girls before school were lovely but short so, at first, it was difficult to get to know them as well as the boys. As Bethany Home is much smaller than Bethel House it wasn’t very convenient for us to go and spend time with the girls over there but, over the next couple of weeks, once they were on their school holidays, we did get to spend a lot more time getting to know them. Within the first few days in India we did take the ten minute walk through the beautiful little village to go and visit the girls in their current home so we could see what it was like and spend a little bit more time with them. The beautiful little village is made up of narrow streets lined with brightly coloured houses, beautiful flowers and exotic trees. When we arrived at Bethany Home, the girls welcomed us with a traditional Santali dance and those of us who hadn’t visited their home before were each given a guided tour by our own personal little tour guides.
All of the children have sponsors back in England and Lucy and I had the pleasure of giving the girls all of the letters and cards from their sponsors back home. They were all so excited to receive their mail and once they’ve all looked at their own letters they all go and read each others’. The boys all do the same thing with their letters and show them around to all of the other boys. It’s lovely that they get so much pleasure out of a little letter, card or photograph from their sponsor and I loved reading a few of their letters with them.
Indian people are very friendly and hospitable, even the poorest families will want to invite you into their home and offer you food or a drink. On the way back from the girls home we met a woman who has know Rich and Tracey (our team leaders) for many years and she invited us into her home. When you gather in an Indian home it is normal to be invited into the bedroom and everyone sits on the bed. This was obviously a little bit of a challenge since there were twelve of us in our group but plastic garden chairs are always plentiful in an Indian home. It’s custom to be offered snacks and Cha but on this occasion we didn’t have anything to eat or drink as it was just before lunch time. However, we had plenty of opportunities over the following couple of weeks to visit more homes and to be offered lots of food and a lifetime’s supply of Cha!
Every afternoon the boys like to play football or cricket outside but, since it was so hot outside, I preferred to join in with the less active entertainment like board and card games. Top Trumps, Pickup Sticks and a game that I’m going to call The Flower Eating Caterpillars Game were particular favourites with the boys. The girls liked to play group games like The Farmer’s in His Den, Wink Murder and they liked to do the Hokey Cokey, A LOT! Some of the children speak English amazingly well but most of the younger ones understand very little. I loved the fact that games were a way around the language barrier because once the kids understand the game you can play it without needing to talk much but spending time playing games with them is also a good way to help them learn English.
Since we were staying at the boys’ home, we had a lot more time to spend playing games with the boys. It will be really nice for the boys and girls to be able to spend more time with each other once the new girls’ home is built just around the corner. The girls are really excited to move into their new home so they’ll be able to see the boys more (some of the boys and girls are siblings) and spend more time with English teams when they come to visit each year.