A while ago, here at SevaChildren Norway, we received a request to accept interns at our projects in India. Read what the girls thought about both the stay and

SevaChildren Norway

India is a country of great contrasts, and the culture is so different from the western culture, that it is almost impossible to imagine. We ourselves were prepared for a culture shock (we thought so at least), and we got it. The traffic, the smell, all the people, the noise, everything is so different from everything else we have ever experienced! For the first 48 hours we lived in a kind of state of emergency, pondering why in the deepest we had gone to this place and how we should be able to survive here for the next few months.

We have now been working for two weeks at the Ashanilaya Orphanage, located in the city of Bengaluru, the capital of the southern state of Karnataka. Ashanilaya was founded in 2001, and today it is home to 11 girls aged 4-19.

We found this orphanage through SevaChildren's website, and got in touch with the leader of India John Fernandes. On our first day at Ashanilaya, we heard about how it all started with a little girl named Asha. "Asha" means hope, and "Ashanilaya" can be translated as "Home of Hope". The name illustrates the ideology of the or-phanage very well; the employees are very committed and they are concerned that the children should be able to envision a better future, go to school and feel loved and wanted. At the same time, we heard about the children's experiences before they arrived at the orphanage; they come from extremely poor backgrounds, most are orphaned or have only one parent and some of them have experienced being sold.

Ashanilaya is an orphanage that depends on donations and sponsors who can sup-port the children, as they do not receive any support from public authorities in In-dia. For several years, Sevachildren has contributed financially by making dona-tions to specific programs or with remote adoption schemes. Our impression is that Ashanilaya is an orphanage in good condition, with a great outdoor area with a playground for the children, nice rooms and healthy and nutritious meals. The girls here are very polite, and have duties that they do after school, they have homework rooms with desks, and bicycles.

The weekend after our first week of work, we went with the oldest children to camp in a village called Ashagram. Here is another orphanage for boys.

The children at Ashanilaya orphanage, Ashagram orphanage and in the village smile, shout "Acca!", Give hugs and are happy. They play with stones on the ground, dance and sing. They have a roof over their heads, people who care about them, food and are allowed to go to school. This is much more than very many oth-er children in India have. We still think it is important to point out that these chil-dren deserve so much more. At Ashagram orphanage, the children had half a scooter to play with. This half scooter and a small green ball without air were the only toys we saw during this weekend. On Saturday night we visited the village near the orphanage. Suddenly we see a little boy running across the road. The boy brought the other part of the scooter with him. When we tried to take a picture of the boy, he looked terrified and ran on the road. Maybe the half scooter was the on-ly toy he had too.

The children in the villages live in houses made of clay. This is dangerous because when it rains, families actually risk the houses collapsing. The air inside the hous-es is dense, it is dark and the floor is like the ground outside. The children we met in the village we visited are children waiting for sponsors.

An important goal for Ashanilaya orphanage is that children should be able to im-agine a better future for themselves. This is probably difficult, because several of these children only have the staff at the orphanage, and no family. They also have no money, and their social position as girls in Indian society probably makes it very difficult to actually have a better future.

As students, girls and future social workers from Western culture, it is difficult to accept that this is the everyday life of so many in India. They have something, but it's not enough. We have spent many days with the oldest girls at Ashanilaya or-phanage, who are 11-19 years old. Unlike most girls in our culture, these girls are not looking forward to getting older and more independent. A girl in India is not in-dependent. The uncertainty about the future of these girls is probably what has made the most impression. What can be done about this and how? Oppression of women is part of the Indian culture, we have felt it ourselves and we have noticed that the girls at Ashanilaya orphanage are affected by it.

You can help support orphanages and give girls in India a better future by visiting:

Ashanilaya Orphanage for girls