For several months now, I have been working with Compassion International to arrange a visit to the child that I have been sponsoring for the past few years. It is my hope that while working with the orphanages in India, I will be able to divert myself to the little town of Vijayawada to see the child I have sponsored. Today, with a little pushing, I was finally able to receive my itinerary.
The processes to see my child was actually quite involved, and in my opinion, a little disorganized. To lay it all out as I remember, I first called Compassion to inform them of the visit request. I was told that I would need to provide them with at least 3 months notice, which I did. At which point I was given yet another phone number to a voice mail message system, and I was instructed to leave my contact information there so that they could return my call again.
Once my call was returned, I was then instructed by both email and by phone to go to three different websites to pay application fees and to do background tests. Once I submitted all my information, I was then instructed to go to some more websites and fill out some more information. My applications were submitted, and summarily forgotten about after being told that they would get a hold of me later once they pass the information along to the Child Development Center in India.
Time passed and I received no response at all. Further inquiries were made to the voice mail and email addresses (about one week before my initial departure) that I now had received a reply to, stating they would get back with me once they have contacted the center in India once… again…
This went around and around a few times with many delays until recently, where I was then instructed to log on to yet another website and to view the suggest itinerary as well as pay additional administration fees and agree to pay even more fees for when I arrive on-site.
I still have not been informed of a contact name or location, but have been assured that I would be picked up at my hotel at a certain time and location. Of course, nobody seemed to notice yet that I hadn’t supplied them with the name and/nor address of any hotel just yet, but at least I was able to get an itinerary and cost layout for when I finally arrive.
With all the administration fees, application fees, background check, and even more administration fees, I believe I have paid approximately $200 or so for my visit so far; and now according to my itinerary, I will have an additional $143.58 to pay for meals and administration for when I arrive, and this also does not include any costs and fees associated with spending time with my Compassion child.
I still also need to arrange for train travel to reach my child in Vijayawada, to which I am having great difficulties doing primarily because the governmental website for the purchase of train travel tickets requires that I provide a cell phone number in order to register with their website, and that cell phone number is required to be a number listed in India.
I cannot find a travel agent that can get the train tickets for me so now I am trying to get things done through several friends I met online through Skype that live in India. The problem is however, that since I have yet to receive my Itinerary for my work with Homes of Hope, I am unsure of the start location of my train trip, though I have ‘some’ reference that it may be in Hyderabad (which actually isn’t very far from Vijayawada).
I can honestly say that I have having a wonderful time in trying to wiggle through all this administration and red tape and wonder much about how things could be so much worse once I have arrived in India, as I have heard that the administration of the Indian Government is second-to-none in professional red-tape and political delay.
Below is the child I will be visiting in India, I believe this picture was taken near her home, perhaps even a back yard. She has grown through the years into a lady now and is currently 18 years of age. Her birthday is November 13th. It is my understanding that Compassion will continue to sponsor the child until the early 20’s.
My suggested Itinerary has been laid out below:
|04-Jul-2014 09:00:00||Hotel/Common place||Host to pick up sponsor|
|04-Jul-2014 10:00:00||Project||Reach project, welcome by child and project staff|
|04-Jul-2014 10:30:00||Project||Project tour, child’s file, Q&A|
|04-Jul-2014 11:00:00||Child’s house||Child’s house visit|
|04-Jul-2014 12:00:00||Project||Fellowship lunch with child, parent, host|
|04-Jul-2014 13:00:00||VMC DIsney Land||Travel to nearby Disney Land|
|04-Jul-2014 18:00:00||Project||Bid farewell|
|04-Jul-2014 19:00:00||Hotel/common place||Host to drop sponsor back at the hotel|
Believe it or not, there really does appear to be a Disneyland park in the small town of Vijayawada. This park might actually be the reason why I had to pay such higher-than-usual rates when looking for a hotel. In larger towns, I was able to find hotels for as little as $40, for a 4-star rated hotel, and as little as $10 for less than that. Some of my research even found hotel rooms (with a curtain for a door, not kidding) for as little as $3 / day, but without air conditioning nor a personal bathroom (probably no TV nor WiFi either). In Vijayawada however, I was not able to find anything online for less than $30 / day, and that was with hotels with very bad ratings.
Below, I was able to find pictures of several Hostels in Vijayawada that I ended up deciding to NOT go to. It is my understanding that the Hostels of this area are primarily used by temporary seasonal workers.