The scene was set by our Chairman, Bill Quine when he opened the meeting by reminding us of the important work done by so many Manx people, worldwide, for the needy. He pointed out that one of the co-founders of Oxfam was Manx as was a co-founder of War on Want. As a much-travelled people, this compassion is understandable. Pam had recently returned from V.S.O. in Tajikstan.
Pam opened by pointing out the fabrics from the region. She was wearing a sample dress and had her own male model to show what a young man would be wearing. There were more than hints of Cossack about this.
Pam showed us a teapot explaining that the brew was drunk by sucking it through a large sugar crystal. This is part of the travel experience. The tea ceremony is an important social event, as it can be, here.
Just in case you’re not too certain where Tajikistan is, look at the N.E. border of Afghanistan and there it sits, a mountainous region with China on its eastern boundary. This probably sets the scene in your mind
Pam had long been interested in VSO and was accepted and sent to this remote region to work in an institution for children with mental and emotional problems. She found that staff was warm and welcoming outside but cold to children inside. They were obsessed by cleanliness and orderliness. So much so that there were no toys, children just sat on the floor or, in the case of some handicapped ones, roped to their beds so that there were red wheals cut into their skin. Blind children were kept in bed and no one talked to them.
Food was spooned into children so that they would not make a mess feeding themselves. Apparently, this was not some deliberate act but an inherited culture. Needless to say, she worked to change this but it had to be done with care, as there is always a risk of VSO being asked to leave.
Pam was assisted by a young translator. He went far beyond this role, helping with the children. Between them, they got children untied and started to improve stimulation and human contact. Another guardian angel was Eddie Lowey, administrator of the Cockfield Trust. This paid for mobiles over beds and pushchairs so that the children could be taken outside. The photographs she took of smiling faces experiencing fresh air and sunshine for the first time were so moving.
Before too long, Pam had them playing with toys and even organised sports that all could delight in, even if being pushed in a wheel chair. Eddie’s money also paid for a playground and, additionally, a university place in England for her translator. Do arrange to hear Pam and give thanks for warm hearts as hers and Eddie’s. Naturally, we made a collection for the children. Donations may be sent to her – address in phonebook.
Next meeting – 7.30pm Wednesday 2nd November in Centenary Centre. Phil Gawne MHK is to be unleashed.