Monday, February 23, 2009

Visitors and New Friends

Maggie and Brian have returned to the US and are already being missed here at Project Why. I came to work alone this morning as my parents are elsewhere and everyone asked where all the visitors were. At the Women's Centre especially they will be remembered fondly by all the teachers and children. Meher especially misses the interaction, as she enjoyed meeting them and inviting all of us to her house where she proudly showed us her toys and invited us to drink tea with her. Her parents and neighbors were extremely welcoming and even went to the trouble of buying Coca-Cola for us (which is very expensive, but supposedly the right thing to serve to foreigners!)
My father and mother (who are doctors themselves) explained the different surgeries to Meher's family and to many of the Women's Centre staff as everyone will need to work together to support and look after her during the three month process.

Preparing for Surgery

Last week we went to Dr. Khazanchi's office to discuss the necessary preparations for surgery. We were a big group including Meher and her father, both of my parents, Maggie, Brian and me. Meher was a bit overwhelmed by the new place and sat quietly on my lap as the doctor explained the entire procedure to us. The first procedure will be reconstruction work on both of her hands, her scalp, and her forehead. It will involve two operations over a period of approximately three months. The first operation will take place in early March as soon as Dr. Khazanchi can make all the arrangements. Her left hand (the one that was more damaged in the fire) will be reconstructed first so she can begin occupational therapy and learn how to use it as soon as possible. She will also be fitted with a balloon that will be slowly expanded to create more healthy scalp tissue so the damaged area can be removed and replaced. Her father was very enthusiastic about the entire procedure as it will make a world of difference for his daughter.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Upcoming Plans

Yesterday, I went to the Women's Centre for my usual Monday English class there. As soon as I arrived Meher came running to greet me and dragged me by the hand to her house to say hello to her mother. She also brought me a toffee and told her mother to make tea for me, although I had to stop her as I needed to go and teach my class. I told her mother that on Friday, my parents and two other visitors from America (Maggie and Brian Gruber) were coming to meet everyone and on Saturday we would all go together to meet with the plastic surgeon and arrange the first surgery. Meher's mother was excited to hear about the visitors and is eager to begin treatment as it will be a long process.
Maggie, Brian, and my parents (my mother, Kiran Frey, has been heading the fund-raising efforts in the U.S.) will be arriving in Delhi on Thursday evening. Brian is going to be filming everything as he wants to document the entire process. I told Meher that she was going to be in a movie and she was very excited, so we decided we would practice her English and just being in front of a camera and make a mini-movie with my digital camera. As soon as I started filming, to everyone's surprise, she suddenly became very shy and quiet. However, she is still as charming as ever and very cute to watch.

Chess Tournament Fund-Raiser

On Saturday, February 7th, fund-raisers working with the Barrington, IL Community Schools and Chess GM Yury Shulman organized a chess tournament at Roslyn Elementary School to raise money for Meher. The tournament was a huge success, and we are immensely grateful to all the volunteers and community members who helped and contributed.
Special thanks go to GM Shulman who is the current U.S. Chess Champion, yet still finds the time to support many philanthropy projects, Dr. Kiran Frey who initiated this entire process and motivated everyone to become involved, Mr. Brian Gruber who travel to India and spend many hours preparing a documentary film about this project, Barrington teacher Mrs. Maggie Gruber who will travel to India to meet Meher and help Project Why raise standards of education for children who live in abject poverty, and to Dr. and Mrs. Redfield who traveled from the University of Chicago to personally congratulate the enthusiastic chess students for engaging in such an unique project and make a contribution for Meher. We also need to thank local Barrington businesses: Aleyra Medispa, Bertacchi Builders, Checkmate Chess Supplies and Wool Street Grill, Hough Street School Chess Club, and so many families and children who contributed food and hours of service to make this possible.