My recent visit to Ali and our children was extremely happy and relaxed. The weather was perfect – hot during the day, cool at night. Everyone was waiting for me to arrive and throw the first trowel of cement into the first six foot hole for the first steel pillar for the new tailoring building.
That was the easy part. This new building was to be sited on the larger of our two ponds, filled in with sand last year. The eight outer pillars presented no problems – up in no time. Ali knew the internal pillars would need deeper holes, being over the middle of the pond. But nobody expected the water to come in so resolutely. Holes were dug, water was pumped out and carried out in buckets, sides of the holes were shored up with specially constructed walls – I have never seen men, boys and girls work so hard. Eventually it was decided to remove all the sand from the middle of the site, carrying it on heads to the lower pond which had been drained. This was happening on my last morning and I had a depressing vision of leaving everyone with this mammoth task, coming back to London and asking Ali daily on the phone if they had managed to hit terra firma. Then we looked at the dry land between the proposed site and the existing old buildings, decided to measure it and found it was exactly wide enough to use one row of pillars and move the building across. This has many advantages – fewer foundations, and we might even dispense with an internal staircase, since access to the first floor rooms for married staff can be from the roof of the adjacent old building. In addition, the infilled land will make a wonderful extra vegetable garden.
Because we had so much building work, there was no time for our traditional picnic – disappointing for the children but a reprieve for the last of the ducks which had been destined for our main course! We did have one full day out, but with only a handful of the children representing each disability. This was what Ali calls his awareness programme, when we visit a school or college in the hope of educating them in the hope that fewer will give birth to children with disability. Ali speaks for well over an hour and never loses the audience’s full attention. This time we visited a high school in the south of the island, and hope to spread the word to parents of other disabled children in the region. I was delighted, in any case, to welcome three new boys in as many days while I was there, and several other children look as if they will join us. We often need an older sibling or parent to stay until they are settled in, which we are more than happy to fund.
We now have an excellent playground for the children in front of the hostel, and it was a joy to watch all the children, young and old, play games of every kind after the last lessons of the day. Together with the work they are doing on the foundations, they are getting plenty of exercise!
The children also thoroughly enjoy Valumia, where all the vegetables have flourished since the floods of last October. Our land at Valumia is a magical, beautiful and peaceful place especially now that the boundary resembles a building site! We also love visiting Supari Bagan, our new plot of land a ten minute walk from the boundary where, in due course, we will build our wood and metal workshops.
It was a joy to see Ali, the staff and all the children so well and so happy! I have come back full of faith in our project, only sad that it will be more than eight months until I return.
Thank you all once again for your support,