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PL771

20th January 2019

Hey everyone, this is Clifton here, for reasons that will soon become obvious in a few paragraphs, we have brought in the help of our good friend Frank Barta to write this weeks PL. Before I hand over the reigns I just wanted to say once again a huge thank you to everyone who helped make our Christmas Campaign a success. We have now become permanent affiliates with Global Giving which means we can offer full tax-deductible receipting (to US citizens) as well as secure Paypal, bank, and credit card donations through their website.

If you are a sponsor of one of our children you can now set up your sponsorship payments through Global Giving's website using the button marked with a red arrow in the picture above.
Please note: If you have already set up sponsorship or monthly payments through one of our other partners (ie HADA in Australia or BILD in the USA) you do not need to change anything, they will continue to work.
All of these donations are non-project specific, the goal of $90,000 that is mentioned there is an estimate of the costs expected each year here on the mission to care for our children, maintain our property/assets and continue to grow and expand our facilities.
View Global Giving's Website
This week Eugene and I have been busy working on a little side project of ours called Dtour. As neither of us receive a salary from the mission we have long searched for a way to support ourselves personally and perhaps do something good for the mission along the way. We think we have found the solution in Dtour.
Dtour India
Basically Dtour is a company through which we are running guided motorcycle tours, the difference being that our clients purchase brand new bikes as a part of the tour package which are then donated to the mission to be resold. We have our first ride, with 9 bikes, starting early this week. I've been in and out of Delhi arranging bikes, apparel, stickers, booklets and more... it's been quite hectic. I'm now on my way back to Delhi to pickup our clients. Please do keep us in prayer, especially for safety on the roads.

So with that said, let me hand the power of the PL over to Frank. He's an old friend and he along with his wife Rosey are regular visitors here on the mission.

Blessings on you,

Clifton.
Thanks Clifton – see how I go reflecting on the recent happenings on the Farm; Rosey and I have spent the last couple of weeks here so hopefully a visitor’s perspective adds a little to the narrative!

After last week’s party-fest, this week has returned to a more normal rhythm, with the children heading back to school after their Christmas break and – for the older students – moving straight in to study for their important Board exams (the Indian school year finishes in late March).  From a visitor’s perspective, then, the “action” has been routine but never dull.  Mid-winter days have been marked by very cool nights, but almost no fog and bright, warm days.  The deep, deep chill that normally marks this time of year has been strangely absent.
Beautiful sunrises are also a regular thing this time of year.
After 2 months on the Farm everyone said goodbye to Lokki, Rick’s nephew from Adelaide.  Lokki made an enormous impression on the kids who gave him long and heartfelt farewells.  A few even braved the 4 am wake up to see him leave on the drive to Delhi. Clifton went along to both accompany him and get some work done for Dtour.

To a visitor from a city in a western country, even the most mundane activities of daily life are suddenly fascinating.  The kids’ daily soccer game is intensely competitive and the fact of it being played on a dry, dusty field is irrelevant (the field is an improvement project in progress and will eventually be far more soccer-friendly.  All comers are invited and any shortage of numbers simply means the game is played with one goal and a shared goalie.
Raju takes on Amos in a game of "dust ball".

The task of feeding everyone here on the mission is never ending and carried out with unique sets of equipment and processes.  Rice, wheat, and vegetables are the fundamental ingredients to a range of delicious and nutritious meals produced by a small team of staff and (on roster basis) the older girls.  They work with basic but hugely functional equipment ranging from giant pans over open fires to gas burners amazingly powered by methane gas from the Farm’s own cows.  Forever peeling, chopping, frying, flavouring and stirring, the team never fails to deliver.  It’s lovely to see the calm business of the kitchen, especially with the morning light showcasing the vegetables!

Lunch preparation underway.
Peggy helps to prepare the lunch vegetables.

Another never-ending activity (at least for the girls) is the production of friendship bracelets.  Hand woven from cotton thread, these tokens of affection range from basic to highly intricate in design and can take hours of persistent effort to complete.  They are exchanged between brothers, sisters and special friends on India’s annual “friendship day” but in a lovely expression of affection are often given to visitors when it’s time for them to head home from the Farm.  They are worn with pride and with love.

Sheetal makes a friendship band for someone she cares about.
Never far from front-of-stage is the farm activity itself.  At this time of the year the fields are bursting with the yellow flowers of the annual mustard (canola) crop.  After harvesting and drying, the crop is threshed for its seeds which are then crushed for their valuable mustard seed oil.  A typical crop will yield millions of seeds and provide enough oil for all the Farm’s needs for a full year.
The mustard crop in full flower.
The harvested mustard drying on the kulla -not quite as impressive!
Our wheat crop also continues to grow well.

A current source of delight across the Farm is a variety of puppies.  Last week’s letter featured Dylan’s birthday gift – the adorable “Princess”.  However, more canine fun has come from a Farm dog called Fifi who has recently given birth to five bouncing puppies.  They are not yet fully mobile, but the big boys have loved helping to rear them, and younger children often seek them out for a cuddle, a play, or – as demonstrated by Raymond – to act as a human mattress.

Raymond the human dog mat.
We are not sure who is more comfortable here, Raymond or the pups.
In among these happenings are the special projects, both large and small.  The major building project of staff housing continues; the productive and satisfying sounds of a back hoe could be heard for two days filling and compacting soil into the newly laid foundations in preparation for concrete flooring.  This done, temporary scaffolding allowed the extension of concrete columns so they reach ever skyward, and framing commenced in preparation for the first floor concrete slab.  Time targets are notoriously difficult to meet on even the best managed building site, but the combination of fine weather and strong intent is giving this project its best chance of trying to beat this year’s monsoon.
Clifton and the contractors going over the plans.
The columns reaching for the sky.
We tied Clifton's camera to a passing bird to get this shot.
The new bike shed at the school also received it's roof this week.
Sunny marking where he has to drill through to hold down the new roof.

At the other end of the scale, the big boys have thrown themselves into renovating the entrance to their hostel.  What is currently a dusty (or muddy) nothingness will be transformed into solid paving flanked by an inviting garden.  First stage was excavating for the garden edging wall, and moving stones across the property ready for the construction work.  A party atmosphere developed during the work, with music, singing, silliness and puppy cuddling easing the burden of heavy manual labour.

The front of the Big Boys Hostel, about to be transformed.
The foundations for the garden edging have been dug.
Kevin takes a load of rubble away from the new garden.

The most unusual project nearing take-off is Clifton and Eugene’s Dtour initiative (thanks for explaining it above, Clifton).  The “business end” of the first tour is well upon them as the first clients head to India, final arrangements are made, and – as a minor side issue – delivery is taken of the fleet of Royal Enfield Himalayan off-road bikes.  It’s been exciting for the kids to see a bunch of brand new, top line motor bikes arrive (the tour sets out from the Farm); especially given how renowned this Indian motor bike manufacturer is across the country.  The 8 day itinerary will take the group into some of the more remote and gloriously beautiful mountain areas of Uttarakhand.  Good luck to Clifton, Eugene and all the riders!!

Sunny, Eugene, Clifton and Rick start to kit out the bikes.
Sunny fitted the leg guards to each of the bikes.
Clifton and Rick fitted the phone holders and USB chargers.
Rick carefully uses the angle grinder to shorten a nut.
It’s always touching and exciting for the Farm to receive any form of support for the children, but even more so when it comes from complete strangers.  Such a happy event came out of the blue this week with a personal delivery of box after box of brand new shoes and clothes.  Mr Ram Singh (a local who now works in Melbourne, Australia) and his brother-in-law Mr Ranjeet Singh had heard of the Mission and simply decided they would like to help.  They sourced the clothing in Delhi, acquired it, but unsure of who we were (or rather how trustworthy we were) decided to hand out the goods in person.  After just a few moments on the farm their concerns were put to rest and they gladly handed over the clothing to be distributed at our leisure to the children.  An incredible gesture from two strangers with kind souls and big hearts.
Eugene and Rick gladly receive the wonderful gifts from Ranjeet and Ram.
As a short term visitor to the Farm I should probably touch on the various activities the current volunteers have been providing.  Not everything is tangible and not everything is newsworthy, but hopefully the volunteer programme adds real value to the Farm.  Common work this week has simply including washing up for the multitudes (allowing the children to head straight to school), various maintenance jobs, cooking, organizing storage areas, holding tutorial sessions for school work, and – more importantly than anything else – giving the kids the time, attention, encouragement that is so necessary for any child.  Of course there are special activities and treats too!  Long term visitors Sara and Jeff Hayes (and their three children) catered for a special breakfast last Sunday with everyone receiving scrambled eggs, pancakes and fruit salad.  A heroic effort massively appreciated by the whole Farm. However, Clifton was away in Delhi and no one else thought to take any photos so you will have to take my word on it.

Gourmet breakfasts are the rarest of treats, but even a box of apples brings smiles to faces and encourages healthy eating.
Ruhani mid-gobble on her apple.

On the theme of healthy living, Jeff has been working on a physical fitness programme – running laps of the play area with all comers, and explaining the finer points of common exercises such as push-ups.

Jeff carries his daughter as he jogs around the playground with his fitness team.
"The Science of Pushups" available at a Blockbuster near you.

With each volunteer playing to their strengths, a little project I’ve been working on is to record the more enthusiastic singers exercising their vocal chords on their favourite songs.  Happily, quality recording technology is now light and portable meaning a temporary studio can be set up anywhere.  So far we’ve used the old kindergarten, the office, the Learning and Resource Centre, and even the outside on the seat of the electric tuk-tuk!

Catherine and Roma prepare to record a song they co-wrote.
Who knew recording music was so much fun!
Charity sings "Ode to the Rickshaw" an old crowd favorite.

Apologies for perhaps having written way too much – but hopefully this has given a difference glimpse of life at the Farm.  Along with all the visitors, Rosey and I try not to take this opportunity for granted, and genuinely love trying to make the lives of these awesome kids just that little bit better.  It’s a cliché, but we certainly come away the richer for it.  Thank you so much to Rick, Clifton, Priscilla and the entire team not just for providing volunteer opportunities, but for including us all in the great big Farm family.

Blessings on you,

Frank.

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Copyright © 2019 The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission
 
The Good Shepherd Agricultural Mission is a registered non-profit and society in Uttarakhand, India that undertakes the care of around 75 orphan and destitute children. The Mission works to be as self-supporting as possible through income generated internally by it's farm and school. For more information see our website.

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