It’s 5.30am on a Saturday morning as I write this. The house is mostly dark – my laptop monitor the only illumination. The kettle has just boiled. Coffee would be good.
I am pleased that today has arrived. I have, in a way, been looking forward to it for a couple of months, without knowing exactly when it would come – today, Christmas, next year or five years hence. I am making a small repayment on a huge debt of hospitality I incurred while in India. One of the extraordinary individuals I met on my travels is here in New Zealand and, fortunately for me, has a few hours to spare to visit me on my little island.
Following a week of catastrophe in Delhi (itself a story for another day), I set off for Kalimpong – a place located about 3 hours east of Darjeeling in the north east of India. It was a long day getting there and the drive from Bagdogra airport was possibly the most hair-raising one I experienced while away. This is saying something. The problem was the roads: they were much better than other places I had been. This permitted a speed which is only advisable if one is adhering to basic road rules (such as driving on the left) and honouring one’s survival instinct (such as not overtaking at speed on blind corners). Anyway, 3 hours later, I arrived at my destination somewhat wide-eyed and thanking any divinity listening who had a hand in my safe arrival – and I felt certain there was at *least* one.
Over the course of my holiday, I had spent time volunteering at SECMOL in Ladakh, learning about human trafficking with Guria in Varanasi and now I had arrived here – the Decima Glenn Home in Kalimpong. Home to around 130 children rescued from child labour, it was built by Owen Glenn in 2006 along with an HIV/AIDS clinic located on the same piece of land. The Cluny Sisters run both of these operations with support from the Glenn Family Foundation and others. They care for AIDS sufferers and exploited children, bringing light and hope to the lives of people desperately in need of both. More on this another time.
In addition to the Home and clinic, 5 years ago, Mr Glenn established the Model Villages Programme (MVP), which is working progressively through villages in the area. The MVP works in partnership with villages and requires villagers’ energy, support and participation for every initiative. The initial focus is on water, basic sanitation and education. I was to spend the next few days walking the hills, visiting the villages and seeing some of their initiatives first-hand.