We had our first meeting with an orphanage today. The purpose of today’s meeting was to establish a connection with the administration and to prepare for a more in depth meeting with the director(s) in order to begin our research. The success of making first contact with an orphanage was tempered by some administrative problems, which we will solve before our next meeting on Thursday.
We went into the ashram (which is a refuge for both children and the elderly, not truly an orphanage) at 3:00 this afternoon. Unfortunately, the director was not able to meet with us for long today, which was disappointing. However, we were able to determine some facts about the orphanage, most important of which is the number of orphans and staff members currently at the ashram.
The ashram has 23 employees and 17 orphans, broken up as follows:
Under 1 year: 1
Under 5 years: 1
Under 10 years: 3
Under 15 years: 5
Under 18 years: 5
Under 20 years: 2
While the main purpose of our visit was to make an initial connection, we were hoping to begin to fill out our question sheet and take some pictures. Unfortunately, this was not possible. Apparently, the ashram is not really an NGO, but is a Hindu organization that receives funding from the government, and is overseen by the Ministry of Social Security. As a result, the director did not let us interview staff members or take photographs because of the legal implications, and instead wanted us to get official approval from the Ministry. This was disappointing, because the staff seemed really caring and eager to talk to us.
Luckily, administrative problems like this won’t be much of a problem next time. We have spoken several times with the Ministry of Social Security, which is very supportive of our project and wants to see us succeed. The official support of the Ministry will be enough to let us conduct our research anywhere and hopefully establish a strong relationship between our organization and the orphanages in Mauritius. We have a confirmed meeting at 10:00 on Thursday with Mr. Soobratty, the Permanent Secretary to Minister Bappoo (both of whom we have talked to personally) from whom we will ask for an official introduction. After that we will go directly to our next orphanage in Port Louis.