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Half yearly paper - May to October 2004

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The Sisters loved the children in their care. The O.M. Quarterly Paper of October1927 describes the little boys' Orphanage at Behala at that time: a scene not very different from St. Nicholas 's today, where Sister Fiorence’s ‘little birds’ live a happy and well-cared-for life. The final plea for help is still valid.

To lovers of little children the most interesting part of the Sister’s work at Behala is our family of little boys. Look into the compound any morning about 8 a.m. (in the cold weather a little later) and you will see a little procession of about 15-20 small boys, aged roughly between two and seven. There they go skipping and toddling across the grass towards the clear water of the tank, their little brown bodies shining in the sun, rejoicing in the freedom of immunity of clothes for a few minutes before the daily bath. It is generally a joyful operation, but in the cold weather there are a few audible lamentations at having to descend into the cold water.

There are only three boys now who are about eight years old, but there are a good many others too who do regular lessons every day. Besides the usual things, such as reading, etc. some of them are learning to use their fingers cleverly: the can plait little mats, and they use the soft plastic mud, of which we have so much, for moulding fruits and other objects.

For all services in church there is a great competition as to who may go. Only three seniors may attend the whole of the Holy Eucharist, but several more of the 'middle-aged' go for the first part. Last January, when the mornings were very cold, and the box from England full of good things had but recently arrived, most of our small family went to church looking much like Tweedledum and Tweedledee, for they were wrapped in gorgeous knitted quilts, made of brilliant-coloured wools, each square differing from the other, and all knitted into one. The quilts were kept in place by large safety-pins.

Mother Gwendolen (1924: Superior 1948-56) tends the little boys

Mother Gwendolen (1924: Superior 1948-56) tends the little boys

Sunday is a day of treats. Listening to a gramophone is one; but the greatest of all is to be allowed to walk down the high road a little way, and count the motors as they rush past, and then to go to the little railway station of a branch-line which is closeby, and watch the 10.15 train come in. It is only a single line, and at that time a train arrives from each direction. The passengers are highly amused at seeing the excited, eager little crowd who stand watching them - wel1 under control, which is so unlike their own little boys.

After this excitement they are content to go quickly home to their midday meal of curry and rice. It is a brave Sister who conducts the tour, generally without help; the elder boys help to marshal the smaller ones, and so far she has always returned with the right number.

Such are some of our babes. They have all had a sad beginning, and have no other home than Behala. Among the tiny babes we have now who are not yet a year old, one was rescued from drowning, and another was found deserted in a railway carriage. The latter is a most charming smiling babe, and has many admirers. Please remember these little ones, especially all of you who have children of your own. Our babies will never know the love of father or mother, nor the joys of home life. Ask for wisdom and guidance for those who have the care of them, both Sisters and the women whose work for them is mainly a labour of love.

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