Self-employed Penicuik painter travels to India to revamp orphanage

Kenny McAlpine is travelling to India to revamp an orphanage. Picture: Greg Macvean
Kenny McAlpine is travelling to India to revamp an orphanage. Picture: Greg Macvean
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As a self-employed painter and decorator, Kenny McAlpine knows he has to go where the work takes him.

But while it’s Drylaw today, his next job is taking him a little bit further from his Penicuik home.

The children of Snehalaya orphanage, Gwallior. Picture: contributed

The children of Snehalaya orphanage, Gwallior. Picture: contributed

Kenny will be making the 4400-mile journey deep into the heart of India to the isolated Snehalaya Orphanage, where he put his skills to good use last January, spending over a month painting the ground floor of the building.

But now, as the 47-year-old prepares to return this coming January, he’s aiming to bring more than a lick of paint with him, aiming to raise £2000 to help pay for basic amenities including boilers to provide hot water, bedding and regular meals for the 70 children cared for in the home.

Through his involvement with friends working on the Linkylea Festival in East Lothian, which sponsors Snehalaya, Kenny made his initial decision to go out and lend a hand and says the people volunteering their time at the orphanage rubbed off on him.

“I’ve travelled a lot, especially in India over the last ten years and I felt it was about time I gave something back,” he said.

“When I saw the condition the building was in, I thought this is perfect, so I got the contact details for the charity in India that runs the orphanage and basically told them I was going to come over and paint it.

“It’s very much in a rural setting, Gwalior, the nearest city, is ten miles away and you’re surrounded by fields.

“The houses around the orphanage are all the farmer’s homes, but they’re basically stone sheds with mud floors and it’s not uncommon for their cattle to be in and out the buildings.”

Getting to Snehalaya is no easy feat, requiring a six-hour train to Gwalior from Dehli and a two-hour rickshaw ride over “prehistoric” roads to reach the orphanage. However, despite the arduous living conditions – where its been known to reach below zero in the winter and over 50 degrees in the summer – what struck Kenny was the lack of complaints by locals.

“There’s no heat in the winter, nothing to cool you down in the summer and it’s basically in the middle of nowhere, so there isn’t much in the way of entertainment,” he recalled.

“The building itself is falling apart and even basic amenities that we take for granted, like hot water and electricity, just don’t exist.

“But not one person in five weeks there said anything negative, they just got on with surviving any way they could – I think that comes from having nothing.”

The home cares for abused, disabled and orphaned children, many of whom have heartbreaking stories to tell.

“There are a few kids there born with a disability who were literally abandoned at the side of the road,” Kenny said.

“When people ask why I go, that’s what I tell them, I think if I can use my skills to give some of these kids a decent chance at life, then why shouldn’t I go and do it.”

Donations can be made online at www.justgiving.com/crowdfunding/kenny-mcalpine

newsen@edinburghnews.com