Friday, 23 November 2007

Happy Diwali

During the month of November Indians everywhere celebrated Diwali. Here in Australia we went along with the local Tamil community to a Diwali concert, where Sabila performed with Abinaya Dance Academy in two dances. After the performances we all enjoyed some fabulous food.

In India our family also joined in celebrations with their neighbours. Jagan has let us know that Sunama, Babu and the children enjoyed celebrating Diwali with others in their village. Jagan took some sweets and firecrackers for the children, and Vidya sent them some new clothes she had sent from us. Vidya plans on visiting the family in December so we look forward to receiving some more news and updated photos.

Thursday, 18 October 2007

Settling in to village life.

The four older children, Fareeda, Anwar, Zarina and Jaan Basha, have started attending classes at the local village school. Jagan's grandmother is giving the children extra tuition in the afternoons when school is over.

Babu's health continues to be a major concern for all of us. Since he moved to the village he has had to be hospitalised twice, once due to asthma concerns and the other time for several days in an effort to stabilise his high blood pressure. Unfortunately it appears these health issues will continue to cause him problems, so future hospitalisations are highly likely. Although the hospital treatment is free, unfortunately we need to pay for a full-time carer to remain with him as there are not enough nurses to care for the patients. If you do not supply a carer then the patient is not admitted.

Vidya intends driving out to visit the family soon, to see how everyone is.

In the meantime we are continuing to look at fundraising options. Barry's work mates were very generous and after some raffles they donated about $1500 to our Indian family. My colleagues at Marymead Child & Family Centre are now looking at helping us hold a trivia night early next year. Also a major Australian magazine is interested in covering the children's story, and we hope that will generate support for Sunama, Babu and the children.

Saturday, 18 August 2007

The family have moved

Sunama with Fareeda and baby Zeenath at their front door. Jagan is to the left.
With the assistance of family and friends we have been able to move Sunama, Babu and their five children out of the slum area they lived in and into a village near Chennai. They have settled in to this little house, which we are renting for the family. Although it only has one bedroom, it does have running water and is a vast improvement over their previous accommodation. The children have a large safe play area as well.

On Monday 20th August Fareeda, Anwar and Zarina are due to start attending the village school. Vidya's employee Jagan has been given the job of looking after the family. He has arranged for the children to receive extra tuition, to make up for their lost years of education.

Babu is now able to pull himself up into a standing position. He is determined not to be an invalid, and has requested a walking frame so he can try to move. Vidya also tells me his speech is becoming more coherent, so he can now often make himself understood.

Vidya passed on the message that Babu and Sunama are happy with the move, and are very grateful for all the support they have received.

Saturday, 28 July 2007

Our thoughts are in India

It is impossible to tell our story in a few lines. For that reason I have written a book, and will post details when it is published.

But for the sake of an introduction to our story, here goes...

My youngest son and daughter were taken from their first mother Sunama by their father Imam, and sold. When the director of our children’s orphanage was arrested we decided to search to confirm that our children had been legally and willingly relinquished for adoption. Instead, eight years after adopting them we found they had been trafficked.

After losing her older two children Sunama married a man called Babu and had five more children. In March I travelled with my 13 year old son and 12 year old daughter. We lived with the family for four days before returning to Australia. We adored the parents and their five gorgeous children, who welcomed us as part of their family.

Since that time we’ve remained in very close contact through my friend Vidya, who lives in Chennai. We have helped the family so that their lives would be easier. The three older children had been living at a mosque because the parents didn’t have sufficient means to feed them. They have been home with the family since our visit.

Also the four oldest have now started school. Babu was set up with a small business selling plastic goods and Sunama was grinding flour in her home for neighbours. This didn’t bring in sufficient income but it helped, and we made sure any shortfall was covered.

Things were looking promising and the family was happy with the improvements in their lives. I still felt much needed to be done. Their home is a small windowless room measuring 3 metres by 5 metres, hopelessly inadequate for a family of seven. They have no plumbing, so no toilet and water must be fetched from a well and carried to the house. But their housing situation was put down for consideration at a later date while we dealt with more immediate concerns.

Last week we received tragic news. Babu had a severe stroke. He was hospitalised and on oxygen and nasal gastric feeding. He is totally paralysed and cannot speak or swallow. All he is capable of doing is crying. Sunama was distraught but felt some comfort knowing my friend remained in close contact and we promised we would make sure the family did not become destitute.

I thought that was as bad as things could get but then the hospital forced Sunama to take Babu home, only five days after this stroke. She is in a single small room, the size of my daughter’s bedroom, caring for a completely dependent and seriously ill man and five small children.

The situation is so far from the hopeful future we thought we were securing for this family.

Our comfort in all this is that we made contact with the family when we did. Sunama has said this is her only source of strength.

I am also grateful my children and I had the opportunity to meet and get to know Babu. He was a gentle, generous man who impressed me from the start with his compassion. In the first contact we made, via email and a short video shot by my friend Vidya, we saw Babu cry alongside Sunama when she was given photos of our children. He has welcomed them as his own and filled the void left by their own brutal Indian father.

For the past week I find my thoughts are constantly with our family in India.

Our family photo is provided courtesy of Notebook magazine and photographer Sam McAdam.