Friday, November 6, 2009


Millinium Development Goals

Achieved by this team from October 11 - October 31;

162 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 6 volunteers and 162 Hours of preparation time.

80 Hours of childcare by 3 volunteer

80 Hours of construction at Seams to build the Stage 2 of the Dormitories and we fixed the roof in this team

2 Schools, 2 Children's Home and over 400 students impacted

Sunday, October 11, 2009

So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.
James 2:17

Woke up early to go to church with Stephen. While I didn’t understand what was being said, it was nice to be in His house. I even had communion!
We got back and went through orientation. Goals were set which include: India 101; Widening our Global Circle; Giving to children; and Growing through giving. We also discussed our work while we’re here. I have the privilege to work with the younger kids AND do construction. My cake and eat it too!
At 6:30, we went to dinner and ate as the Indians eat! It was an experience. Unfortunately, Amy was sick and couldn’t make it.
I am definitely looking forward to the days and weeks to come.

Monday, October 12, 2009

We must become the change we wish to see in the world.

On our first full day of volunteering in Chennai Shelly, Amy and I went to Assissi Home, a day care with 35 two to five year olds and 18 orphans. It is run by Catholic nuns: Sister Rose and Sister Virgin. What a morning we had! Thirty five happy faces met us and entertained us for an hour with rhymes, recitations and dances. Then it was our turn, to dance the birthday day, whatever that may be, and the Macarena! We all agreed it was “FUNTASTIC”.

Lou was at St. Joseph School with a kindergarten class and fifty 1st graders, to whom she taught a computer course. Only one child ran away. She found it challenging. Nathan was at SEAMS hauling bricks on his head up rickety stairs. Work was hard but great. Judi was at Grace School with grade three, four and five and found it interesting, but challenging.

After decompressing at the Guest House and eating lunch we headed out again for our afternoon sessions. At Grace School Wendy had two kindergarten classes that were rambunctious and fun, but felt she needed to learn how to teach them. Judi enjoyed her Grade two class and wrote a story with them about a robot named Robert. Amy loved her Grade four and fives and taught them a song using the words of the song to teach phonics. Lou enjoyed her afternoon with Grade twos. Shelley and Nathan slung some more bricks.

Our evening arrival at SEAMS was greeted with the many smiling children. After Stephan delivered gifts to each child we broke into small groups and spent some time getting to know the children.

A jam packed day with some frustrations and many joys. We have started our journey to become the change.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

"Have compassion for all beings rich and poor alike; each has their suffering. Some suffer more too much, others suffer too little." - Buddha

Today was our second full day volunteering here in Chennai. We are definitely starting to get to know what the next few weeks will be like here in this corner of India. I think that if anyone thought this was going to be easy they have quickly changed there minds and realized how even the simplest task can be difficult in these working conditions and in this heat. Life here in Chennai is not easy. Each of us has been sent in our different direction - to classes to teach children of all ages or to work on construction with the local labor at SEAMs. The differences between our lives and the lives of the wonderful people we meet is great.

Today we all went in our different directions as we did yesterday. At SEAM's we helped erect the forming for the pending pour of the concrete roof. The workers were somewhat protective of there work but I think that as the day went by they felt slightly more comfortable allowing us to do something significant. As was the case yesterday though their hospitality was wonderful and they definitely made us feel part of the team. The Chai was great!!

On our first day I think we all felt overwhelmed by the task at hand and that there was very little chance we could do anything to make a difference; however, now after our second day we are all starting to realize that we can actually accomplish something significant while we are here. Whether it be by teaching a better understanding of mathematics, English grammar, teaching songs to the little ones or helping with the construction at SEAMs we now know that the small difference we make may add up to a lot in the lives of the children here. But more significantly we have also realized that it will not only be through our efforts but mostly through the enthusiasm of the people we meet and the children who we are lucky to work with.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

“Great perfection appears defective,
But its usefulness is not diminished.
Great fullness appears empty,
But its usefulness is not impaired
Great straightness seems crooked,
Great cleverness seems clumsy,
Great triumph seems awkward.
Bustling about vanquishes cold,
Standing still vanquishes heat.
Pure and still,
One can put things right everywhere under heaven.”

Today seems to have been a long day for most of us. There is great chaos in our interactions with the children, but I think as we move into dance with the chaos as opposed to struggle against it, our tasks have come to be more successful.
At Assisi, we tried bringing the children altogether to sing songs and move around. Yesterday, when we broke into small groups to teach different lessons, the children were all looking at the other groups, not focused. Today, when we brought them altogether, ironically I found that the lessons were much more effective. They struggled with new songs, but were engaged and with repetition and time I think we will be successful in teaching these new words. Teaching the ABC game was new to the children and they appeared to be confused. However, I think they were still trying to understand. Even if the children don’t get it immediately I find the lesson to be successful, as we are introducing new ideas to their developing minds.
With my 4th and 5th graders I also used a less organized plan today and showed them my pictures from home, practicing conversation with them. At their level, I think having conversation is helpful in tying previous lessons together for practical use. A little chaotic but simple enough to b a learning opportunity.
Lou had a productive day today as well. With a very strict teacher in one of her classes there was more focus from the children. Also, as some students were shy at first, they are beginning to feel more comfortable with the presence of a foreign teacher. As she spends more time with the children she is coming to see that their learning patterns are based more from memorization than from understanding concepts so she is helping them with that.
Judi was having a much better day with her 4th graders. They seem to be more focused and she has been able to feel more effective in teaching the lessons. In being less frustrated with her 1st graders she saw the areas in which, like Lou, the children are memorizing and repeating and in fact need a lot of help with even just basic sentences.
Nathan and Shelly are still working on the roof, spending much of their time pounding steal. They enjoy the humor in not really being able to communicate with the workers, but I think by the end of their time here will come to an understanding of a level of communication beyond just speaking. Even though they cannot communicate well, they are able to be helpful and efficient and they are learning more simple ways of approaching construction.
Wendy was not feeling well today, but hopefully she will be rejuvenated soon! We all attended a dance tonight which was an interesting experience of creative story telling in Indian culture. We also experienced the chaotic efficiency of Indian traffic on our travels. Overall, today was an expression of the beautiful chaotic.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

“Laugh, for laughter’s sake.
For laughter is surely the surest touch of genius in creation.”
Christopher Fry

Another day has closed and we are all exhausted enough to fall quickly into hopefully dreamless sleeps. No major deviations from the schedule today, as Wendy is back in commission after her illness yesterday and we have had no more fall in the fight (although admittedly we have a few walking wounded).

The children, teachers and others continue to amaze – how much they accomplish with so little! And yet it is so different from our ways. Or is it? Children still crave adult attention and approval. Teachers still struggle to ensure everyone gets enough attention, not just the stars or the strugglers.

In addition to our teaching, the construction work goes on apace at SEAMS. Tomorrow they will probably begin raising the roof! How exciting for Nathan and Shelly to have been a part of this.

Finally, tonight we went out to dinner where we could order a variety of food and a number of us took the chance to order chicken or lamb. The Indian food is wonderful, but sometimes you just need a touch of the familiar.

Friday, October 16, 2009

“If you wish to feel compassion, be kind to yourself. If you wish to be compassionate, be kind to others.”
Dalai Lama

Today ends the first week for Team 83 and it is on a sad note. Lou is leaving after a shorter-than-expected tour of duty due to health problems. Our team of six will miss her. As well as being an invaluable contributor to story time around the dinner table, she has served the students at St. Joseph’s well and admirably to say nothing of being an excellent math tutor at SEAMS. Good luck, Lou.
Things were a bit disorganized perhaps due to the Deepavali holiday this weekend. Amy saw improvements with the children she is working with; she feels they are starting to sound out words and understand them better. A highlight for Shelly was when Jasmine came and sat on her knee. Jasmine, an adorable three-year-old was the 5th orphan to arrive at Assisi.
Nathan continues to be super builder and is pleased that the cement is being poured for the roof today. Although he finds the local workers a challenge to communicate with, he enjoys their friendliness and is impressed with what they accomplish with few tools.
Grace School was closed for the upcoming holiday. This was convenient as then I filled in for Lou at St. Joseph’s. I was impressed with the school with its shuttered windows, tidy classrooms and polite, uniformed students. The std.5 session went well. The students wrote an excellent short ‘story’ and all read them aloud. A good time was had by all. I’m sure it helped that the teacher stayed in the classroom.
The Under kindergarten classroom was mayhem. Many, many little squirming bodies, no teacher and I had little control. The teacher showed up and removed some children to practice for a special event and things settled down, a bit. We identified body parts, sounded out letters and sang songs. Finally after an hour and a quarter (things were off schedule for some reason – Deepavali?) a my ride came and I found a teacher nearby to come in. I ran off!
There were no afternoon duties due to Deepavali. Rani and Sheba gave a few of us a cooking lesson – in the aromatic kitchen we learned to make Biryani Chicken. Hope it tastes as good at home.
We all enjoyed our time at SEAMS. Nathan’s two little girls loved reading books and learning about his digital camera. Amy read storis and Shelly feels Vinayagan is understanding English better. Wendy only had her older girls so they exchanged girl talk. My four boys wrote a story and read it allowed, we talked about sounding out words. Amazingly, they still like colouring. There was a touching good-bye ceremony for Lou.
So ends another day filled with challenges intermingled with many poignant, touching moments.


October 17, 2009

“The cause of freedom is not the cause of a race or a sect, a party or a class – it is the cause of humankind, the very birthright of humanity” – Anna Julia Cooper

Happy Diwali!
We set out in classic tourist fashion at 7:30 sharp, India time. The whole crew was present, including Sheeba and Roshan. This would be Roshans first get-away and he was as excited as the rest of us.
Our first stop was in Kanchipuran, at the Sri Kanchi Kamakshi temple. Here were told about Brahma, the creator, vishnu the preserver, and Siva, the destroyer. We also learned that India has 7 holy cities and Kanchipuran is one of them.
What first caught our eyes were the monkeys; Bonnet Mackacks. Nathan later pointd out that this was his favorite part of the excursion. They were all ovr the temple, as if this was their home.
Our second stop was Sri Ekambaranthar, also the tallest structure in Kanchipuran, built in 1509 AD by King Kirishnadevarayer. This temple is known as the temple of the mango tree.
Next we headed over to Sri Kailasanthar which was an open-air temple. While our delicate soles rushed across the brick flooring, we didn’t fail to notice the beautiful colors done by vegetable paint.
The final temple was Sri Varadaraja, where we were permitted to enter. Stephen regaled us with the history of the temple as we stood with rapt attention.
After all the temple visits, we went to a silk shop where we happily handled the softest silk to my memory. We all purchased items for our loved ones including ourselves.
Lunch was at the Regency hotel. Lou was thrilled to eat from a buffet that included fresh fruit and vegetables. I think we all satisfied our hungr with the vast array of foods that were offered.
We went downtown to the ocean where Wendy and Judy felt most at home. It never ceases to amaze me the vast expanse between where we are and home.
Dinner was the perfect ending to the perfect day. Amy said she’s never had a better steak for $5.00!
While I thoroughly enjoyed each moment of this day; the countryside as we drove, the different temples, and the cuisine, I’d have to say that listening to Stephen’s knowledgeable stories was the highlight. What a gift to have had him as our guide. What to gift to have the whole family with us. Thank you, Stephen, for sharing your day and your family with us.

Sunday, October 18

“It is only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth that we begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one that we had” Elizabeth Kubler Ross

Everyone enjoyed the luxury of the Lotus hotel in Pondicherry: the modern style rooms, the palatial bathrooms, room service, TV. Judi and Wendy got up early and went for a lovely walk along the sea wall and enjoyed an excellent cup of coffee. At the group breakfast everyone opted for toast and skipped the Indian food.

After breakfast we visited the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. It was foundd in 1926 by Sri Aurobindo and his disciple, Mother. A silent walk through a lovely garden led us to a flower festooned Samadhi (altar) where many people were praying and meditating. The ashram underwrites many cultural, educational, and social welfare activities in Pondicherry.

We walked down to a bazaar area with many small stands and visited an elephant. If you put a coin on the elephant’s trunk- he’d bless you.

As we walked toward the promenade we admired the wide boulevards, French architecture, bilingual signs and the clean streets. Local police wear red Kepis and belts. The French influence makes it a very different place than Chennai.

Next we traveled to the Auroville community which opened in 1968. It is a settlement spread over 20 kilometers with about 1800 residents representing 38 nationalities. The project was started by Sri Auobindos disciple Mother. It was planned to be a place on earth that could not be claimed by any nation- one where all humanity could live freely in peace. At the physical and spiritual centre is a spherical structure known as Miramandir- looking something lik a cross between a gold golf ball and a space project. It contains a silent inner chamber where people book time to come and meditate.

After a junk food fix we traveled on to Mallapuram. Lunch was at the Hotel Sea breeze with it’s shady gardens and swimming pool. A walk after lunch to the beach gave us our first beautiful view of the ocean with the local fishing boats and the Shore Temple.

The remainder of the afternoon was spent exploring the splendid stone carvings depicting many deities, animals and other semi divine characters. The large relief carving on the face of the huge rock was a marvel to behold. As Stephen led us on trails through the rocks he regaled us with tales of the Butterball, temples, caves and lighthouses. A very memorable afternoon, albeit HOT! Although a few of us “templed out” we will have many wonderful memories of this day.

Naan bread with garlic seems to have become a favorite. Lou became the keeper of the garbage. Roshan enjoyed chasing a goat. We protected Nathan’s neck with frequent applications of sun screen. Judi continues to take great photos, which those of us with dead batteries appreciate. Amy did not exchange her drum for another one today. Shelly is practicing patience when in large crowds.

A wonderful weekend with so many new sights to see and enjoy. Thanks to Stephen for making it possible. We lived our weekend to the fullest.

Monday October 19th, 2009

Quote - Moliere, "Every good act is a charity. A mans true wealth hereafter is the good the he does in this world to his fellows."

Today got off to a good start as usual. It seemed apparent that some of us were tired from the weekends site seeing as we sat at breakfast talking about some of the wonderful sites we had visited. For myself I was eager to find out what Stephen had in store for todays volunteering.

There was no work available for me today at SEAM's so instead I joined Wendy and Shelly for the morning at Assisi. This was a welcome rest from toiling on the roof in what must be close to 100 degree's. It was also nice to see what all of the other members of our group have been doing for the last week. To this point I had not yet seen any of them in action. So it was great to see both Shelly and Wendy interacting so well with the kids in such a testing environment with children wondering every which way, up and down the stairs - and on top of that with the electricity out the heat soared and apparently people can actually melt!. Wendy and Shelly performed admirably and are wonderfully patient and kind and very skilled at keeping the attention of these little ones. The children at Assisi are very lucky to have them. We played and sang and even though these are not necessarily the things I do best - I couldn’t help but enjoy myself and the children’s enthusiasm. Amy had to register at the local police station since she shall be staying here in India far longer than the rest of us, she is very brave for making this such an extended stay. Judi went to St Joseph were she was surprised with the grade 1 children’s ability to write even if not fully understand there comprehension.

One little reminder - Wendy dont forget your coloring pages today!!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

“Never, ever, ever, ever, EVER, EVER, EVER put that you will be volunteering on your Visa application”

Today has been a stressful day for me. I had to be pulled away from the children at Assisi this morning in order to go in to the city to immigration to hopefully complete my registration into India. Of course, we were one document short of doing so and had to turn back around, to then come back tomorrow, again hopefully for the completion of the process.
Despite my stress and frustration, Stephen has been incredibly helpful. His calm has helped me to accept all this as it is. In America, the system is designed differently, so I am not used to the function of the system in India. However, I can see how the people here have come to develop their patience. In the end, I am grateful all of this happening. I know that everything happens for a reason, and this shows me that you can’t always get what you want right when you want it. Often, there will first be a process, and sometimes, a very long, tedious one. And if you’re patient, eventually things will work themselves out.
On the contrary, Wendy, Judi, and Shelly started their day with a lovely trip to the flower market. From the pictures, I could see it was a beautiful experience. They noted that everyone was very kind there, many offering flowers for free for something as simple as a photo.
Grace school was a bit hectic for Wendy and I both. Wendy had expected to do the same lesson for 2 different classes, but instead the 2 classes were joined for the entire hour and a half, so she had to extend her lesson on the spot. My 5th graders were quite rowdy, and a couple students ended up crying during class. However, I think they are starting to memorize the song I am teaching them.
Judy had a mellow afternoon. She interviewed Stephen, and also took a very hot walk to the store.
Nathan and Shelly worked hard at SEAMS and completed the 18” trench for the pipeline today. They were ready for a shower by the end of the day.
When we all went back to SEAMS in the evening, I think everyone was generally successful reading stories, practicing conversation, and practicing sounds. We concluded the evening lesson with singing, BINGO.
At the end of the day, Nathan is off to meet his brother at the airport. The rest of us had lots of fun playing SPOONS. Shelly never failed to take us all down every round….except 1, somehow.


Wednesday, October 21

“The soul should always stand ajar to welcome the ecstatic experience.” Emily Dickenson

We seem to have settled into a routine and other than Amy we headed off to our assigned jobs this morning. Amy is still dealing with immigration officials. She must return once more tomorrow. We are all thinking positive thoughts that all goes well for her.

Judi was pleased that one of her students from a previous day sought her out to ask wheen she was coming back as she was her best teacher. Wendy and Shelley learned that sometimes the wee ones do exactly the opposite of what you ask. Nathan and Shelley wrestled a tree root out of the ground to complete their trench.

After our time at SEAMS Stephen and Stephen took us into the city where we shopped at a silver market and a textile store. The lengthy drive through Chennai was exhausting and very hard on the eyes. Words cannot adequately describe the traffic nightmare- but their does seem to be a defiant hierarchy as noted by Sarah MacDonald in “Holy Cow” Pedestrians are at the bottom and run out of the way of everything. Bicycles make way for cycle rickshaws, which give way to auto rickshaws, which stop for cars, which give way to trucks. Buses stop for only one thing, not the passengers who jump on and off while it’s moving, the holy cow.

No great insights today- just enjoying our team as we geet to know each other better and very appreciative of all Stephen and Sheeba do to make our stay here more comfortable.

Thursday, Oct. 22

“Peace and war begin at home. If we truly want peace in the world, let us begin by loving one another in our own families. If we want to spread joy, we need for every family to have joy.” Mother Theresa

Another busy day as we all headed off to our various duties.
Nathan had an exciting morning as the water pipe at SEAMS was installed. However, he also experienced frustration as there was a leak in the pipe and the local workers would not bother to have it fixed. Nathan, ever the diplomat, managed to cover the leak with some material and he hopes to fix it later. He and Shelly filled in the trench in the afternoon; Shelly said the stomping was easier than the digging! Shelly and Nathan should be proud of the accomplishments at SEAMS during their two weeks of work. They assisted in constructing a roof on the second floor and the new water pipe allows water to be pumped from the well to the storage tank on the roof. Good work!
All went well at Assisi today. Wendy, Amy and Shelly enjoyed the children who all had fun with a variety of activities. Sister showed Amy the roof where there is a solar system as well as a great view.
I had a wonderful time with a Std. 4 class at St. Joseph’s. I was impressed with most of the students’ abilities to write well and read clearly. Then I went to Assisi to take pictures of the wee ones. Some of them showed off a dance – too cute!
First we went to SEAMS. Nathan assisted the older kids, teaching them some computer skills which they are very anxious to learn. Shelly and Vjnayagan continue to connect. Amy and Wendy both had a good time with their children. Amy loves teaching them songs.
Stephen took us out for a special treat. After the other poor Stephen battled through horrendous traffic, we dined at The Royal Palate. We dressed up, the food was fabulous and plentiful with many unusual and delicious choices at the buffet. However, we missed Sheeba and Roshan who are also part of our ‘team’ family.
As I shut down for the day, once again, I feel grateful to be here. Stephen and my team add to the pleasure of spending time with the children.

Friday, Oct. 23

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change
Courage to change the things I can
And wisdom to know the difference.”
Reinhold Niebuhr,

The Serenity Prayer relates to many things in life and certainly it makes sense when it comes to volunteering. We cruise into India for a few weeks to spend time with needy children and many times we ponder if we are making any difference. We can only hope and believe that the work carried out by us and future volunteers will eventually help the children of Chennai.
For Wendy, Nathan and me, this is our last day. We leave on a positive note. Wendy has lead many songs, chanted many ABCs and bent to cuddle many little ones. Nathan, along with Shelly, completed two projects at SEAMS, including, quietly fixing the water pipe leak that he was concerned about yesterday.
I had Std. fives at St. Joseph’s write and read a story, 48 kindergarten students did numbers and songs and the std. one class had a lesson in phonetics.
Shelly, Wendy and Amy survived an especially busy morning with extra children, as the orphanage children had no school today. Then we had a special treat at Assisi as they made all of us an elaborate and delicious lunch. What a surprise that they also had presents for each of us! Stephen tells us they are bedspreads but we all plan to use them as tablecloths.
Wendy and Amy had another “hot” time at Grace School. They both returned happy but exhausted.
At SEAMS, we all spent time visiting and taking pictures. A good-bye celebration was held for thee three of us leaving. The children sang and danced, it was touching as we know the time that must have gone into this. Each child said a personal good-bye to us, shaking our hands. I think we all found this a very poignant time, especially with the ones we each spent time with. I know I will think of my five boys and I pray they each have a happy life. The children presented us with beautiful cards they had all signed.
We each have our highlights from the last two weeks:
Shelly’s was her time with Vinayagam. She realizes, “he wants affection, I love my time with him”
Wendy, who loves working with small children, was surprised that her time with the older group at SEAMS was her highlight. While Nathan enjoyed the whole experience, his highlight was the team building – he loved being part of team 83.
Apart from finally getting a real nights sleep last night and loving meeting so many wonderful children, my favorite moments were with Stephen, Sheeba and Roshan. They are very special people.

Saturday, October 24th

“The more we advance on the Path, the more modest we become and thee more we see that we have done nothing in comparison to what remains to be done” The Mother

Started off today with a good-bye to Nathan. As sad as I was to see him leave, I was also happy for him to be returning to his family.
After breakfast, Wendy, Judy, Amy, and I set off for some sight-seeing. Our first stop was St. Thomas’ Basilica. What a breathtaking church. I could only stand in awe at the mere size and beauty of my surroundings.
Shortly after, we went to the Bay of Bengal. By far, this is the largest beach I’ve ever seen. We all walked down a row of vendors to see the ocean. The water felt divine. I noticed several swimmers; men in shorts and women in full dress. What a contrast.
Final stop was Georgetown…hmmmm…what can I say?
After returning home, I watched half-heartedly as Wendy and Judy packed. I was sad to see them go! As with Nathan, there was also a part of me excited for them as they continued on with new adventures.
Stephen, Sheeba, and Roshan were the next to leave. I was starting to get complex. All kidding aside, it was awfully quiet. Amy and I rattled around this big house, killing mosquitoes and wondering when and if we would eat, which we did at 7:00. We laughed every now and again just to break the silence and remind ourselves that we were not alone.
While our team has dwindled down to two, I find myself missing everyone. Mixed with these emotions is the excitement for the upcoming week and more valuable experiences.

Sunday, October 25th

“The only way to fail in your battle with the hostile forces is not to have true confidence in divine help”

We started today with a wonderful sound of what I could call a, “clumpet”; a combination of a clarinet and trumpet just outside the gate. Rani fixed us our favorite breakfast; noodles with omelet’s and delicious tea, of course.
I napped for the beginning portion of the day while Shelly spent the morning reading yet another book. Stephen, Sheeba, and Roshan returned around noon and joined us for lunch. We had a lovely conversation discussing the higher power and Christian parables. I found the story of the seeds particularly inspiring; depicting that life thrives depending on how you nourish it.
Since Shelly has brought up the importance of blessing our food before we eat, we have decided to take a moment to give thanks before every meal. To me, I agree this is very important as well, for food offers both physical and metaphysical nourishment, and we are lucky to have a wonderful meal at breakfast, lunch, and dinner. In receiving such a blessing, we must offer a blessing to God in return.
Later, Sheeba suggested we go shopping, so we all took a trip into Chennai. When we first arrived at the Gold Shop, as Shelly said, it was like black Friday in the states. It was packed beyond belief so much that we just left. Everyone did some shopping at the textiles store, and for the first time, Shelly did not buy any skirts.
When we returned, Shelly was excited to have her first ride in a rickshaw, though at times, there were a few close calls in the traffic. We made it home safely just in time for dinner, but Roshan was so tired he immediately fell asleep, so dinner was a bit quieter than usual.
After dinner, Stephen showed us the video of the transformation at SEAMS which was just incredible to see the hard work that has been put into this beautiful product. We also saw a couple adorable videos of Roshan as well as an amazing classical Indian dance Stephen managed to record, concluding our computer viewing extravaganza. We saw all of Roshan’s first birthday photos. He is just too cute for words.
I wasn’t expecting such an exciting Sunday, but it turned out to be a lot of fun. We are now approaching our last week here in Chennai, and Shelly and I are excited to start teaching some new songs at Assisi. This will also be a new experience for Shelly as she will be joining me at Grace. I plan to teach a more grammar focused lesson this week, and by the end of the week we will hopefully leave the children with both stronger understanding of English, and a higher faith in the possibilities that lie ahead of them.”

Monday, October 26th

“This is the day to influence someone’s life by demonstrating the magic of love; after all, it is love that makes the world go round” Helen Steiner Rice

Was excited for today to begin. To be busy once more and out of my own head. Assisi went well. As it is Monday, the kids were a bit wound up; left-over energy from the weekend. Amy and I reinforced colors, danced, and sang. We ended with coloring. It’s not so much the idea of coloring that is so entertaining, more so who can collect the most crayons.
It was my first day at Grace School. I cannot imagine why I felt so nervous as it was terrific. The kids are eager to learn. While some are way ahead of the others, I watched as the others took their cue from them. I thoroughly enjoyed these first and second graders.
When the bell rang, Amy asked me to hang around so I could hear her kids sing the song she has been teaching them. What a wonderful gift; all those voices singing about them being able to be what and who THEY want to be. Good job, Amy.
SEAMS was great. Vinayagam and I worked hard. Poor guy. I push him so. I often feel like we are taking one step forward and two steps back. I want so much for him to get it. I also realize it won’t happen in just 3 weeks. I pray for him to have much one-on-one attention and teaching as he seems to thrive on it. As a reward for my slave driving, we played a game of BINGO.
Amy spent her time coloring with the kids. It was a great opportunity to show their creative sides.
As each day passes, my relationship with Stephen, Sheeba, and Roshan grows. I loved playing a game with Stephen coming after Roshan and Roshan hiding in my skirts. I’m trying to figure out a way to fit him in my suitcase.

October 27th

“If at first you don’t succeed, try, try again” –My Mom

Today had its ups and downs. This morning at Assisi, I felt very tired and the children seemed particularly active. We were practicing the colors and Shelly tried a new strategy where, instead of going through all the colors and have the children just guess, she would show them the colors they were guessing. Then she would, for example, show purple, then brown, then purple again, and brown again to help them remember. It seemed to be successful, as the children were starting to remember which colors were which. We also enjoyed some delicious papaya at Assisi, and concluded the day with a fun game of juice banana.
In the afternoon, Shelly practiced making sounds of letters at Grace and even sang the children a song. I am so happy to hear that she is really enjoying teaching there and is glad she decided to come. This week I have started teaching the 3rd graders in addition to 4th and 5th grade. I am working with them on using, “I am” and “a” in full sentences rather than just throwing out words. The 4th and 5th graders start class with the song I am teaching them and they are really starting to memorize all the words. It’s very exciting for me and I hope they continue to sing it after I leave. At the end of the school day, I played duck duck goose with the 3rd graders which they really seem to love.
Stephen’s friend, Jeevan, came to visit also this afternoon. He is a very kind spirited man and we talked much about experiences in other countries and such. He also fixed a problem in a computer that was donated so that now it can be used.
SEAMS this evening also had its ups and downs. I am still helping the children with their reading skills and sounding out words. They all appear to b improving day by day and even Charles is starting to b able to read some of the simpler words. Sanjay struggles to pay attention, yet even still he is getting much better at sounding out the words. Today we practiced “th” words and he’s really beginning to know the sounds. Anish continues to be very engaged and excited daily. His focus shows in his obvious improvement, particularly in the last few days.
Shelly is really struggling with Vinayagam, but continues to work hard with him every day. They are reading the same book to help him learn the words and learn to really sound them out. I think her faith in his ability to figure it out will push him to grow intellectually even if it’s just a little bit at a time.
We concluded the day with a lovely dinner as Roshan joyfully expressed his excitement for food all over himself, the table, and the floor. I look forward to tomorrow, a new day for opportunities among all of these blooming flowers.

October 28th

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house” Matthew 5:14

We have rain! Not a lot, but rain nonetheless. Breakfast was simple, yet filling. Scrambled eggs and noodles.
Amy and I set off for Assisi without the usual entourage. Sheeba hasn’t been sleeping, so it was my hope that she would get some much needed rest. Roshan was his usual active self and Sheeba had to put sleep on the back burner.
Assisi was fun. We did something different with each group of kids. They seem to like the Thumbkin song as it involves lots of motions. Sister Rose gave us each some pomegranate; my new favorite fruit. She also took a liking to my, Friend to Friend, book and asked to keep it for the day.
When we got home we were delighted to see the cutest puppy. Amy and I snapped photo after photo as Stephen 2, treated the puppy to some snacks. Roshan screamed in delight at this latest development.
At Grace school, I concentrated on long and short vowel sounds by adding the letter, “e”; as in, hid and hide. The kids there are so quick. We ended the session by playing word chain. It was fun to watch their little minds at work trying to come up with different animals in the chain.
My said she has been working on forming complete sentences. As the kids tend to leave the words, “the” and “a” out, she reinforced over and over the importance of these two simple words.
SEAMS was organized chaos. Amy introduced water beats and between water fights and laughter, some real music could be heard. Vanayagam was distracted by this and as I am not a monster, we took the night off. It was fun. I spent a lot of time with the girls, Nancy in particular, while Amy enjoyed the rowdiness of the boys. After many photos, wee returned to the quiet of home…until…Roshan had French fries!! We ordered burgers out along with fries. Stehen’s mother was with us and we all laughed at Roshan’s antics. I wish I had a tenth of his energy.
With the long day behind us, we all convened to our rooms listening to the thunder and the rain as monsoon season has finally made its appearance.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Thank you For Allowing Me to Help the Children

Dear Global Family:

I'd like to renew my child sponsorship in India to assist the children of Chennai. Stephan updated me on the progress of the SEAMS dormitory project. I'm thrilled for the children -- that they have a place to sleep...complete with shower and toilets! I trust Stephan as my brother -- implicitly -- to guide our donations. He's wise beyond his years...compassionate for all those he serves. He desires to improve the lives of many, many people. My life is made richer by knowing the children, Stephan and his family. India is where I've left a piece of my heart!
Love, Joelle Imholte

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

New Bunk Beds at Seam's Children's Home

I personally thank all the Global Volunteers on behalf of all the children and staff at Seam's Children's Home for providing Bunk Beds for the children to have a comfortable and safe environment to sleep in.

It has been a welcome addition to their home and all the little children love their new beds. The older ones need to wait another year for the Stage 2 of the Dormitories to be completed to accommodate additional Bunk Beds for them.

This wonderful addition for the children has been possible only by your generous contribution through the Child Sponsorship Fund which helped us meet the basic needs of the children. And i believe your continuous support and help would enable us to carry on this good work to benefit more and more deprived children in our community.

Please find below the photos of the Bunk Beds

Thank you very much

Country Manager
Global Volunteers India Service Program

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Millinium Development Goals

Achieved by this team from July 20 - July 24;

110 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 8 volunteers and 110 Hours of preparation time.

20 Hours
of childcare by 2 volunteer

60 Hours of construction at Seams to build the Stage 2 of the Dormitories

2 Schools, 2 Children's Home and over 400 students impacted

Sunday July 19th- Orientation Day

by: Nicole

This morning I woke up a bit tired and I am guessing my fellow team mats were equally as groggy. The long flights, time zone changes and songs from our neighborhood friends (The Cows) are going to take a little getting used to.

After a wonderful breakfast, we got right down to the orientation. We went over team goals, learned policies and received our work assignments. Along with our resident expert, Alexi, who has been here 3 weeks already I will be working at Assissi. Makese, Priya, Lucy and George will be teaching and Jeremy and Drew will lend a hand with the construction projects at SEAM.

After eating a delicious lunch we were able to take some time to re-energize. I am finding that energy is important to have when there are some many people seeking out your attention.

In the evening we walked over to SEAM and we’re introduced to the kids. There were very welcoming and instantly wanted to shake our hands. After receiving a wonderful solo from one of the boys we mingled a bit. George, Alexi and I played “the wheels on the bus” and Hooky Poky” Jeremy and Drew were a bit hit with the boys.

Lucy and I rode back from SEAM on the auto-rikshaw and the driver dropped us off at the wrong house. “no no I said, this is not our house, we are near the post office” Luckily we weren’t that lost, just on the block over but for a moment Lucy and I were nervous. Later Stephen told us it was the old Global Volunteers house. Know wonder why the driver was looking at us like we were nuts!

Most of the crew went out to dinner. Priya, Lucy and myself stayed back to tuck ourselves into bed early.

We have a busy day tomorrow. I am nervous as well as excited. Here’s to the beginning of an amazing adventure shared with new friends. Go team 80!

Quote – “Be the change you want to see in the world” Gandhi

Monday, July 20th , 2009

By Drew

Today marked the first day of both hard and rewarding work. Jeremy and I carried bricks up the stairs and made piles of them. Eventually we will build a wall using plaster to create a new compound for the students. Priya, Lucy and Makese taught English to the children today. The general consensus was that the morning was difficult but the afternoon brought great progress and innovation. The man working the site with us was a total packhorse. While I carried an average of five bricks a load, he carried at least eight. The pile on the roof has grown substantially and morale within the group is very good. I am honored to be surrounded by such benevolent and altruistic people. Our guide Stephen forms the bedrock of the group. His quick smile and easygoing personality makes everybody’s experience a real treat. George, Alexi and Nicole really felt like they connected with the kids today. In the evening we played with the kids. Asharon and I have developed a special bond. His assertive and helpful personality has been has been extremely refreshing. After our time at the orphanage was done we had dinner. So far I am optimistic that we can replicate the success we had on day one.

Quote - “ No person was ever honored for what he received; honor has been the reward for what he gave.” - Calvin Coolige

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

By Priya

A journal in five parts.

Heat and Dust

I sniffed this morning, inhaling a forgotten memory. There’s an aroma unique to Indian roads – a mixture of heat, dust, petrol fumes, the exhaust of a thousand cars, spices, bougainvillea, jasmine, trash and fresh food. They all jostle for space in this – my enduring olfactory memory of rush hour traffic in India. Throw in visuals of bustling crowds, bright saris, strays and the occasional cow munching someone’s dinner from last night - and you have a perfect recipe for orderly chaos each morning.

Jasmine, flowers and pretty homes

Makese, Lucy and I were headed to St. Joseph’s this morning – Makese to teach UKG and Lucy and I to teach a period each for grades 3, 4, and 5.

Lucy and I had planned to involve the grade 3 students in a spelling bee – a plan that also became a lesson in adaptation. We switched to a game of ‘Around the World’ – testing students on simple math problems. I enjoyed observing Lucy; as a teacher, her ability to engage her students is fascinating to watch. We also drew on a suggestion from Makese and used the game ‘Hang Man’ to test spelling. It worked a treat, especially with grades 4 and 5. We set it up as a challenge – could they beat us (the instructors)? Sadly, they did! :-)

Other vignettes that caught my eye: school girls wearing jasmine flowers in their hair and drawings that were presented to us by children – interestingly, they were almost all of homes. Oddly enough, we were also mobbed for autographs in each class. Eat your heart out, Angelina!

Slipping between languages

I have to laugh at how much Tamil I do remember. I have not spoken the language consistently for almost 17 years and am still pretty fluent. Switching between languages does help with the children; I get a few wide-eyed looks, but it works!

That voice was not meant for Broadway, or was it?

It had to happen sometime –I had to sing. My voice is not what you might call ‘stage quality’. Those less kind might even call me tone deaf. And yet, I had fun at SEAM this evening singing with the older girls. The National Anthems of both India and America never sounded better. Rebecca has a lovely voice – she hits her notes and has pitch perfect delivery. On a personal level, I did enjoy speaking with the girls and talking them about their plans and dreams. I perhaps could not ask for more than “She impacted a life in some small way.”

Other highlights of today:

• Drew and Jeremy at work on the construction site.
• George talking about his choice to come back to India.
• Lexi and Nicole at Assisi, doing the Macarena in addition to teaching.

Quotes of the Day

The Profound:
There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home—John Stuart Mill

The Amusing:

‘Stephen, if I brush my teeth with tap water (instead of bottled), will I die?’ Sadly – this was the contribution of the author of today’s blog…and was uttered earlier today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

By George

The sun rose over Chennai today in a partial eclipse. As I watched from our roof-top terrace, it didn’t matter to me that the clouds obscured the effect, I knew that I was sharing the moment with millions of other early risers across Asia. There won’t be another eclipse of this length until 2114. The paper reported that many Hindu temples would be closed until the moon had safely passed the sun to avoid the bad spirits. I felt nothing but good vibes as Team 80 began its third day of service.

Drew and Jeremy continued to do the heavy lifting at SEAMS. Combined they’ve moved thousands of bricks to the second level. The brick piles are getting smaller as the walls of the dormitories rise higher. We’re all proud of them. Alexi and Nicole once again spent their morning at Assisi. The children clamor for their attention and they give it willingly. Lucy, Priya, and Makese have setteled into a routine at St. Josephs. It has been a challenge developing lessons that engage the classes that number over 45 but they are more than up to the challenge by using their creativity and skill. I had a great time at Grace School as usual. The fifth standard boys were preparing for their Tamil exam. I had them each recite two of their Tamil poems then write them out for me. Of course I didn’t understand them but I would have given them all A’s. In the evening, at SEAMS, we worked with the children in our small groups. Makese is working with a boy who has no English reading skills. It is so heartwarming to watch how intently he listens to her teaching. It is obvious that this one to one instruction is going to make a difference for him.

In the evening, we made a quick run downtown to buy some silk and silver then we headed home for Briani and Vegies, then fell into bed.

Thought for the day: “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is! Anne Frank

Thursday, July 23, 2009

By Lucy

The day began with a new experience for some of us. Alexia, Nicole, Priya and I all went to Assisi Preschool for the morning. The children at this preschool have a lovely, clean environment. The teachers divided the little ones into four groups of about ten children each. The children helped bring plastic chairs and set them in order. The little ones were very good. Alexia and Nicole did lots of songs with motions with their groups.

The morning ended with whole group activities. First, small sheets of colored paper were passed out and also crayons. Then the children colored creatively, mostly lines and circles. When time for this activity was over, th children returned the crayons in a vry orderly manner and turned in their artistic masterpieces to the teacher.

The children especially loved the Macarena which was evidently a great favorite of theirs. Nicole also led the group in a long line—the TRAIN! Everyone laughed and had a great time with this. The children also especially loved a circle game, ‘Banana, banana, -- JUICE, when the child in the circle who was tagged had to get up and chase the tagger around the circle. Some younger children didn’t quite understand and just sat and looked puzzled. One or two just got up and ran for the joy of running. While Nicole and ‘Lexi played this game with joyful abandon, Priya and Lucy took photos.

Then it was time for lunch and the children sat in two facing lines, prayed and ate. The whole morning was well choreographed and it was hard to tell which group had the most fun, the children, the teachers or the volunteers.
Our Kindergarten specialist, Makese, went to St. Joseph’s school as she does daily.

Jeremy and Drew continued their labor at SEAMS and Drew reported that the construction work there seemed to be getting easier. They reported satisfaction in their very important construction work there.

After lunch back at ‘home’ we set out for an early afternoon session at SEAMS. Priya worked with two of the older young ladies, while Lucy worked with Jacob.

Back home again for an afternoon siesta… It was definitely HOTTER today.

From 5:30-6:30 we all returned to our usual afternoon sessions at SEAMS.

A brief stop at home to refresh and/or change clothes then on to the Ambica Empire Hotel, the ‘hotel with a heart’. There we all delighted in the varied buffet fare, and some enjoyed other liquid refreshment. Everyone had a GREAT time! Stephen (#2) and an autorickshaw driver brought us back home uneventfully.

The quote of the day is one of Goldstein’s truisms and suits Global Volunteers well. “Success means only doing what you do well, letting someone else do the rest.”

Monday, July 20, 2009

Millinium Development Goals

Achieved by this team from July 13 - July 17;

37.5 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 2 volunteers and 37.5 Hours of preparation time.

10 Hours
of childcare by 1 volunteer

1 School, 2 Children's Home and over 150 students impacted

Monday, July 13, 2009

Today began with a very early start. At 4am Alexi and I got up to make our flight back to Chennai. In our tired and hungry state, we found a Coffee Bean at the airport. We had toasted bagels with cream cheese. All of a sudden we were surprised to hear that it was the last call for our flight. We thought we had forty five minutes. Fortunately we made it on time. We met Stephen at the airport and headed to the guest house.

Over my second breakfast, we told Sheeba and Stephen about our incredible weekend, which included a spa visit, temples, tanning, and an elephant orphanage. Alexi and I then got ready for the long day ahead of us, returning to our schedule in the first week; she went to Assisi Illam, I went to Grace School.

I arrived in time for the fourth graders. I taught them about vowels and coma use, we ready stories, and played hangman. Then I had the second graders who were full of excitement and energy. Alexi was glad to be back with the little ones at Assisi and they were glad to see her.

We had lunch. Then went to Grace School to teach the third and first graders. We taught the third graders about the equator, hemispheres, longitudinal and latitudinal lines. Then we played a game reviewing material they’ve learned with us. We made it competitive, dividing the class in two. The two teams were The Lime Greens and The Lions. The Lime Greens won by a majority. Then read stories to the first graders.

Later we went to SEAM, where Alexi continued teaching computer basics and I continued working one on one with Pragash. We then had dinner, did the dishes, and went to bed!

Tuesday, June 14, 2009

Today was a very special day! It is Roshan’s first birthday! Lisa and I ate breakfast alone today on account of Sheeba and Stephan taking Roshan to church. Then we both went on our separate ways; I to Assisi Illam and Lisa to Grace School. I worked with the little ones on reading, dancing, singing, and finished with coloring… their favorite. Lisa worked with the fifth, fourth, and second standards on various subjects.
At lunch we were sad to hear that Lisa would be leaving us a day early to go on her next adventure. We will be sad to see her go on Thursday! We also discussed the altered schedule for the special festivities. We both headed to Grace School to work with the third and first standards. Today, the third standard was ready to play “Pop Quiz” the game with questions relating to their recent course of study. The Latin Kings were very excited when they defeated Team Tiger. The first standard was “komali” as usual. They practiced writing their names and we finished with some songs.
During our afternoon break, I printed the card Rajesh had made for Roshan on the computer. Lisa and I also made a trip to the Fancy Store to buy some henna and bindis for our friends. Then we headed back to Assisi Illam with Stephan’s family for a birthday mass with Sister Rose and the gang. After a lovely ceremony, cake, and lots of pictures we were off to SEAM for the evening and dinner. Another ceremony commenced and then dinner of chicken briyani, followed by many more pictures and presents. we continued to have lots of fun playing with the children. And so, thus ends Roshan’s first birthday! A day filled with lots of love, laughter, and happiness. Lisa and I both felt privileged to be a part of it.

Thought for the day: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!”

Thursday, July 16, 2009:

We began our day with dosai and strawberry jam, one of our favorites! Then it was off to our work cites. Lisa spent the morning with the fifth, fourth, and second standard at the Grace School. They had made here cards and notes telling her how much she would be missed. I spent the morning with the children of Assisi Illam. Sister Rose commented that I looked tired and brought me some fresh guava with salt and pepper. Father Cristo stopped by to show me some video footage of traditional Indian dance, and some of the seminars he has attended recently. It was very interesting and we decided that we should all go see a performance together sometime.
After lunch at the guest house we went back to the Grace School for our last afternoon together teaching the third and first standard. They were filled with energy as usual but enjoyed a little bit of fun on Lisa’s last day. We played games, sang songs and colored. After a very tearful goodbye with some more notes of thanks we went back to the guest house. Lisa and I practiced our artistic skills with some henna and ended up washing it off too early. It turned out a bit orange but luckily we have more henna to work with. Then we were off to SEAM for another tearful goodbye. I worked hard to choke back tears as we walked through the gates. Lisa and I were given the royal treatment as each child thanked us personally and then sang us a lovely song. We both were in tears by the end. The children we have worked with over the past 3 weeks are wonderful and we love each and every one of them. It was has truly been a gift to work with them.
We then rushed back to the guest house to send Lisa on her way to the airport, while Sheeba and I had a relaxing night at home. We are all sad to see Lisa go, she has been an asset to our team and I can’t imagine doing this without her. But we are also looking ahead to the new team that will be arriving in the next couple of days.

Thought for the Day: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Millinium Development Goals

Achieved by this team from July 6 - July 10;

37.5 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 2 volunteers and 37.5 Hours of preparation time.

10 Hours of childcare by 1 volunteer

1 School, 2 Children's Home and over 150 students impacted

Monday, July 06, 2009

After a very amusing and entertaining weekend, we entered our second week in India. Breakfast consisted of noodles, hard boiled eggs, and tomato chutney. Unlike last week, Alexi left for Grace School and I left for Assisi Illam. Alexi taught the fifth, fourth, and second graders in the morning. I was with Stephen who helped me with the little ones. We sang songs, colored, and attempted to play duck, duck, goose. Stephen showed the crying toddlers picture dictionaries while the others watched TV.

Before I knew it, it was lunch time. We ate rice, beets, and potatoes, and mangoes, of course! Then we were off to Grace School to teach our usual group of third and first graders. We taught the third graders how a verb changes depending on the number of subjects. In the last few minutes we played hangman with them. With the first grade, we taught them big versus small, shapes, reviewed addition problems, and sang songs.

At SEAMs, Alexi showed the older kids how to work a computer. She showed them Microsoft word and most of them already knew how it functions. I, on the other hand, tried teaching a boy the alphabet and how each letter sounds. Eventually he was able to read simple words such as “cat” and “bat” which was exciting! We then made it back to the guest house for dinner. We had naan, some chutneys, and omelets. Then I went straight to bed, while Alexi stayed up a little longer to play with Roshan.

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere”

Tuesday, July 7, 2009:

The day began with a wonderful breakfast of dosai, peanut chutney and eggs, then it was off to the Grace School and Assisi Illam. At the Grace School I taught the 5th graders about different types of punctuation, and what they mean. I worked with the fourth grade on their reading skills and multiplication tables, teaching them a few tricks to remember the answers. With the second grade we read stories and played games. Lisa spent the morning with the children at Assisi Illam, they spent the morning coloring, singing and reciting Nursery Rhymes. Then it was back to the Guest House for a lunch of beef with curry sauce, fried naan, and cooked beans. We also had our favorite… MANGO!
In the afternoon, we worked with the third and first grades at the Grace School. The third graders learned what an adjective is and finished the lesson with a game of hangman. The first graders enjoyed learning their body parts, singing songs like “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” and playing games like “Duck, Duck, Goose.” Then it was back to the Guest House for a little rest. Lisa and I went to the Internet place for some chocolate. Then Sheeba showed us their wedding album. At SEAM, we worked with some of the older children on computer skills. I taught Rajesh how to play “Hearts” on the computer. Lisa worked with Pragash on his alphabet and made some significant progress.
The day was made complete with a yummy dinner of rice, curry, cabbage and beets. Another day in India!

Thought for the day: “Do everything with love.”

Wednesday July 8, 2009

We began our day with noodles and omlets. Then Alexi and I parted ways. She taught the fifth graders grammar rules, read to the fourth graders and second graders. I was at Assisi Illam reading, singing, and coloring with the crying little ones. I followed Stephen’s advice to save coloring for when they get really restless, which worked!

Alexi and I were on our own for lunch, since Stephen and Sheeba had taken Roshen to the hospital. We ran into them on our way to the new grocery store to get ingredients to make cookie dough. We bought sugar, butter, peanut butter, oatmeal, and chocolate to make peanut butter-chocolate-oatmeal cookie dough! Unfortunately, when Alexi tasted the butter it was completely foul! It smelt like blue cheese… So we used the butter in the fridge. Within minutes, our batter was ready to eat! Yum

We then went to the Grace School. We tried to revise adjectives with the third graders when all of a sudden one of the boys started crying! Alexi and I could not figure out what had happened, so I called in a fifth grader to ask him in Tamil what upset him. After the fifth grader’s interpretation, Alexi managed to decode what had happened. To make a long story short one of the girls had written down his name to tattle on him so that his teacher would hit him! So Alexi and I immediately gave the kids a lesson on why tattle-telling is cruel and wrong.

We taught the first graders the sounds of letters to help them with reading in the future. Alexi did most of the teaching, since I was feeling light headed. The first graders seemed to really enjoy this lesson shouting out the sounds, letters, and words.

We then headed back to the guesthouse. I went to bed and Alexi and Stephen went to SEAMs without me. When they came back we went to dinner at MaryBrown’s and ate fried chicken, chicken burgers, and French fries. Alexi and I were very happy.

“Happiness is not in having or being; it is in doing”

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Millinium Development Goals

Achieved by this team from June 29 - July 3;

37.5 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 2 volunteers and 37.5 Hours of preparation time.

10 Hours of childcare by 1 volunteer

1 School, 2 Children's Home and over 150 students impacted

Monday, June 29, 2009

The day began with the news that Lisa had gotten little sleep. But in good spirits she joined us for breakfast, which consisted of rice with sauce, eggs, and those wonderful bananas. We received our assignments for the day and gathered some materials. I would be going to Assisi Illam to assist the sisters with Daycare for the two through five year olds for the morning. Lisa would be going to Grace School to teach the second, fourth, and fifth graders with English. Then the afternoon would be spent together at Grace School with the Kindergarten and first grade and the third graders. After a short rest we would all be going to SEAM for some time with the children.

The bus ride to the Grace School was short but fascinating seeing the neighborhood pass as we made our way to the school. Upon arrival we were greeted by the Ester, her father and sister in law, all who work and teach at the school. We met all the children we would be working with. They greeted us with lots of smiles and handshaking. Leaving Lisa to teach the older students in the morning, Stephan and I made our way to St. Thomas Hospital to meet the founder of Assisi Illam, a remarkable woman who has made a tremendous contribution to the Porur community. I spent the morning working with Sister Rose, Sister Virgin, Jesi, and Rena and children of Assisi Illam. They were very energetic and enjoyed singing the Itsy Bitsy Spider, the Alphabet Song, the Macarena, Old McDonald, and The Wheels on the Bus. Then back to the bus to pick up Lisa.

Lunch was amazing as always, with the added bonus of fresh mango! After a short rest we were back to Grace School. After some confusion on what grade we would be teaching we had the third grade, and first grade. The students were very well behaved and introduced themselves to us both. We taught both classes together as they were larger classes. The first grade knew all their colors and did very well learning fruits and vegetables. The third grade was a very lively bunch with a shorter attention span. We sang lots of songs and enjoyed our time together.

After our afternoon break we headed off to SEAM Orphanage. Stephan read to the Children a letter from one of the former volunteers to all the children. She had also sent many pictures of the children for them to have. It was truly heartwarming. Later we tested the smaller children on their ABC’s, numbers, colors, and even some body parts. They all did very well. We also read them some stories, which they enjoyed. Then it was back to the house for some potatoes and cauliflower, green beans and naan. A great start on our journey here in Porur.

What a wonderful day!

Thought of the Day:
“What we do for ourselves dies with us, what we do for others remains, and is immortal.”

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

We began our day with an incredible breakfast. We had dosai with a spicy green sauce, scrambled eggs with onions, and bananas. After breakfast, I left for the Grace School and Alexi left for Assisi Illam. At the Grace School, I first taught fifth grade. Stephen had advised me over breakfast to teach them simple grammar, so that’s what I did. I taught them nouns, verbs, and adverbs. After that period, the kids had their fifteen minute break, where they all coveted for high-fives and thumb wrestling. The next periods I read picture books to the fourth grade, since the bell never rang and my other class never came.

Meanwhile, Alexi was at Assisi Illam with the babies and toddlers. She sang songs with them and taught them the dance ‘Macarena’ and colored with them. Unfortunately, when one baby started crying it had a ripple effect and within minutes they were all in tears.

Over lunch Alexi and I discussed what we would do with the third and first graders. For the first grade we decided a simple grammar lesson would be best. For the first graders, who have almost no attention span, we decided to revise numbers and colors and sing songs, such as ‘head, shoulders, knees, and toes’. Once we were in the classroom at Grace School we were only able to cover the difference between nouns and verbs with the third grade. The first graders, knew all of the colors and could count to 20 without any difficulty, so we taught them how to say some shapes in English.

We then went to SEAMs and had an hour with two groups of eight year olds. Alexi and I read picture books to them, which they greatly enjoyed. We had a lovely meal for dinner, and after we went to a food market to get yoghurt. The walk itself was nerve-racking but fortunately we had Stephen to guide us.

“You must be the change you wish to see in the world”- Gandhi

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

We started the morning with vadai, a specialty of Southern India. Then Lisa and I parted ways, Lisa was off to the Grace School and I was headed to Assisi Illam. Jesi was still ill today, so I had all the children to myself. It wasn’t the normal crowd, it was a holiday for the school kids so we had many older students and none of the younger ones that I have had all week but I still had a wonderful time having them read to me and helping them with pronunciation. At the Grace School, Lisa told her morning classes that she would not be with them next week. They all said good bye, and some drew her some fun pictures. Lunch was yummy, as usual and Lisa and I spent most of our lunch break, planning our upcoming trip to Sri Lanka.
After lunch we made our way to Grace School. Time flew by with the 3rd Graders, where we worked on dark and light colors, capital letters, and geography. Our time with the 1st Grade was humorous as always. We practiced addition and subtraction, and dark and light colors. They were very well behaved today, but we had one boy who looked ill. We both went back to the house for a quick nap before heading to SEAM. The kids were excited to see us. Lisa spent the evening working with an older boy on his English, while I played games with the younger ones. We spent the evening racing, playing duck, duck, goose, red light/green light, ring around the rosie and Indian match. Then we finished the day with dinner back at the guest house.

“You are what you continually do.”

Monday, April 27, 2009

Before the Dormitories being contructed

Stage 1 of the Dormitories completed on the ground floor

The academic year is starting in June 2009 and all our hosts are looking forward to the volunteers whose contribution to our local projects has been simply outstanding. The bright smiling faces of the children who long for your love are eager to welcome you, spend time with you, learn from you, play with you or simply be around you. They always ask me when the volunteers are coming, how many of them are coming, how long are they going to stay with us …….. And so on. They are very thrilled and happy if it is a big group since all the children get to work with the volunteers.

With the few laptops we have, we have started teaching basic computer skills to the children and also to our hosts. And these computer classes are turning out to be a big hit among our children who in their past have never touched a computer. And we need to keep this momentum going.

As many of you know we have completed the construction of the dormitories (stage 1) on the ground floor at SEAM children’s home and we will be starting the construction of 3 more rooms on the first floor from this academic year onwards. This is possible only if more volunteers sign up for construction. So that together we can fulfill the dream of the children to have better facilities to live in.

Along with the children looking forward to see you in India again soon.


Saturday, April 11, 2009

Chennai Sangamam

Chennai Sangamam

The only Festival of India that belongs to people of all religions, as well as to the non-believers. The harvest fest of Tamil antiquity - The Pongal re-discovering itself as urban thanksgiving. It's Chennai Sangamam. More than 2000 performers will ignite the spirit of Chennai for seven days with around 4000 performances. All in parks, streets and beaches. Held in the month of January 10-16 every year. Welcome to the longest and biggest Open Festival of India,

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Children of SEAM Tell Their Story

I'm grateful for my connection with the children at an orphanage in Chennai, India. Having volunteered once before with Global Volunteers in the Cook Islands, I was prepared to tell their stories broadly when I returned home. Weeks before my journey to Chennai, Stephen, the country manager and my translator, sent the stories the children had written in their native language, Tamil. As I read their sad stories of how they became orphans or semi- orphans, tears welled up.

Upon arrival in Chennai, my wife Anne and I were greeted by Stephen and the most adorable little girl. She had big eyes and a charming smile. She took my hand and without words said, "Thank you for coming to our country." I experienced the same warm, greeting from the children at the SEAM (South East Asia Mission) orphanage the next evening. They flocked around us and were fascinated by my digital watch - technology is a rare commodity in their community. I showed them a special movie I had made on how to make movies. My experience in the Cook Islands where I had first begun working with children on movie making taught me to be prepared. I felt what better way to teach how to make movies than with a movie itself. (You can watch this on Youtube here).

The movie was a success in teaching them about the basics of filmmaking. Then I brought technology to the nine older children who would actually film the movie. With three cameras divided among the three teams, I was able to instruct them in simple camera operation and get the project going. Their response to the instruction was fantastic. The kids are outstanding, and given their opportunities through Global Volunteers, I could see them soaring beyond their humble surroundings. Please click to view this extraordinary film and become inspired to give of your talents to these deserving and eager children.
- Tom Barker

Monday, February 23, 2009

Millinium Development Goals

Achieved by this team from February 9 - 13;

60 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 5 volunteers and 60 Hours of preparation time.

50 Hours of childcare by 2 volunteers

50 Hours of construction labor at SEAM Children's Home by 2 volunteers

2 Schools, 2 Children's Home and over 500 students impacted

Saturday, 2/7/09 (Ginny Weber)

“The moment you have in your heart this extraordinary thing called love and feel the depth, the delight, the ecstasy of it, you will discover that for you the world is transformed”.- J. Krishnamurti

It’s Saturday but we’re off to our first work day of the third week. Georgie and Linda M. are taking the overnight train to Mysore so we changed our schedule a bit and we’ll have our weekend holiday on Sunday and Monday.

Linda M. and Georgie worked construction today at SEAMS. The dormitory is coming along beautifully and we hope to have it completed on time. Georgie learned some Tamil words from the mason.

Linda W. continued her math teaching at Grace School, determined to get a few math equations in to their sleepy heads. Children here go to school on Saturdays and are a little tired of the whole thing by then.

And Ann and I went back to Assisi to work with the children. Those kids are non-stop and it takes every ounce of energy to keep up with them. They are adorable and Ann and I love being with them. We thought we might escape Sister Rose pushing food on us at lunch time as we were planning going back to the guest house for lunch – but as we left Assisi she insisted that we take 3 boxes of food to share. She makes me laugh and is truly a delight.

After lunch we prepped for our next classes. During our break I walked down to the bangle shop. While there I chatted with the cutest girls coming from St. John’s High School. Kids go to school on Saturday and they all must wear uniforms (not a bad idea for the U.S.). They spoke beautiful English and were lively and vivacious like typical teenage girls. In the afternoon we all went to SEAMS for our one on one teaching with special kids. We ended the day at SEAMS with a wild and rollicking play time with all the kids.

After dinner (another wonderful vegetarian meal prepared by Rani) Georgie and Linda M. headed to the train station for their weekend adventure in Mysore.

Tuesday, 2/10/09 (Georgie)

The journey is difficult, immense…We will travel as far as we can, but we cannot in one lifetime see all that we would like to see or to learn all that we hunger to know. –Loren Eiseley

While we have all traveled a long distance to help the community of Chennai, many, if not each of us, also came here to test and learn about ourselves. Our time in India is coming to an end where we no longer count the days we have been here, but instead, we acknowledge the remaining days of this journey. Now that today is behind us, we have three glorious days left.

Now that we are fully immersed in week 3, our routine is on autopilot where we make only slight adjustments based on the specific needs of those we are helping. Gone is the need to figure out how to adapt to the culture. Linda W. is getting closer to preparing here SEAM students for their upcoming math exam while her Grace School kids fully understand her routine of how each day’s lesson will progress. Linda M. graduated to both lifting cement to the rooftop to also handing it down from the rooftop giving her upper body and lower back quite the workout. Ginny helped Sister Caroline type her first letter on a computer. Ann is able to balance more and more children on her lap while at the same time teaching them their colors, shapes, and how to use a glue stick. I am getting the hang of teaching multiple kids at once how to use a computer even though they don’t fully comprehend English. Linda M. and I finally wore our saris to St. Joseph’s – the novices were so excited.

We ended our evening with a team dinner on the rooftop of our guesthouse. A near full moon peaked over the trees while candles lit our table. The cool breeze seemed to keep those pesky mosquitoes at bay. What a great way to spend one of the last few days here with an amazing group of people. Their support and generosity is something I won’t forget.

Wednesday, 2/11/09 (Linda M.)

Only two days left on our journey. I think we are all trying to find a way to say good-bye to the children we have become attached to.

Ginny spent the day teaching Sister Caroline the computer, and Ann spent her time with the children of Assisi crawling all over her.

Linda W’s boys at SEAM are away until 8 pm studying for their exam so she spent her evening helping the girls prepare.

Georgie and I worked construction at SEAM were the work is progressing smoothly. The building is almost totally cemented over.

Linda W. bought samosas for all the children at SEAM as a treat for our evening visit. They enjoyed them immensely…so did we!

Thursday, 2/12/09 (Ginny Weber)

“The moment the slave resolves that he will no longer be a slave, his fetters fall …. Freedom and slavery are mental states” Mohandas Gandhi

The yoga team (Linda M., Georgie, and Linda W.) started their day on the roof with a downward dog. The sleeping team (Ann and Ginny) did their best to get out of bed. After a nutritious breakfast we went off to our assignments: Georgie and Linda M. back to construction at SEAMS, Linda W. back to teaching math at Grace School, and Ginny and Ann to Assisi to take care of the little ones and teach Sr. Caroline some computer skills.

At noon we all gathered at St. Thomas Hospital to meet Sr. Rexline. Sr. Rexline is one of these incredible human beings who have moved mountains. From a one room clinic she created a large well known hospital, an orthopedic wing, a nursing school, and a convent.
Sr. Rexline is tiny and soft spoken, but when in her presence you feel her intelligence, strength, and determination. She is quite a woman and we were all in awe. She and her nuns fixed us lunch and showered us with gifts – the Indian way of having guests.

In the afternoon we continued with our assignments then all went to SEAMS for our one-on-one training with selected kids. At the end of that the kids gave a rousing and tearful send off to Linda M.

We drove to the Ambica Hotel for a fantastic dinner (I had ice cream of course) then home to the guest house for the next day prep and bed. Another exhausting but fulfilling day.

Friday, 2/13/09 (Ann Cheng)

“Love is something eternal.” Vincent Van Gogh
Today was the last day of our program. Every one seemed sad to leave though looking forward to our journey back home.

We had our lunch at Assisi with Sister Rose. It was enjoyable as usual. We ended our lunch with the babies handing each one of us a gorgeous blanket as a present and the cutest kiss goodbye ever.

The hardest part of the day was saying goodbye to the kids at Seam. They gave each one of us a hand-made thank you card with their names written inside. We were all amazed by their beautiful dances. I am sure their images will stay in our hearts every single day.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Millinium Development Goals

Achieved by this team from February 2 - 6;

82 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 6 volunteers and 82 Hours of preparation time.

20 Hours of childcare by 2 volunteers

50 Hours of construction labor at SEAM Children's Home by 2 volunteers

2 Schools, 2 Children's Home and over 500 students impacted

Monday, 2/2/09 (Ann Cheng)

“Your only duty is to do the best you can.” David Seabury

Today is our first day of the second week. Ginny and I were switched to the construction work while Georgie and Linda were going to Assisi. Linda and Katie were continuing the teaching in St. Joseph School and Grace School.

Today was a hard day for Katie because the teacher in kindergarten was sick, so she had to take over the whole class on her own. Linda had a very fun experience with those little kids in Grace School. To prevent them from copying the math problem, she had two types of sheets. After they found out there were differences between the sheets, they tried to switch it but unsuccessfully. Linda and Georgie had a very good time with those babies in Assisi and they went to St. Joseph school to teach English to the nuns in the afternoon. Ginny and I were falling in love with the construction. With Ginny’s help, they built up two sides of the wall. And I finally mastered the head-loading thing. This simply made the day to be my greatest day ever.

We all went to Seam at 5 p.m. and enjoyed our time with the children there while teaching them English and computer skills. After we came home from Seam, we had our own cooking class taught by Sheeba. We learned how to make Puri, and I bet that is the best Puri we ever had.

Tuesday, 2/3/09 (Linda W.)

“Prayer in action is love. Love in action is service. Mother Teresa”

By Tuesday our “tourist” frame of mind of the weekend had very much been replaced by our “worker” frame of mind. We are back in the thick of teaching, head loading and sand sifting.

The day had great moments. It started off with Sheeba decorating our hair with jasmine and our foreheads with bindis. Thus adorned we set off for work in the little white van. Linda M. and Georgie brought silence to the children of Assissi by introducing them to glue sticks and construction paper. Each child had a sheet of paper. To this paper she could attach a variety of shapes … circle, rectangle, square, triangle, heart. The child had to request by shape and color; so she was learning on many levels. Katie had good responses from her computer students. And today’s construction work was similar to Monday’s. Linda W.’s joy of the day was Pradesh, a first grader. During the past week when asked what 1 + 2 was, he would happily say 5. He would just as happily say that 2 + 3 = 1. Today he got everyone of his written problems correct. The secret … the number line!!!!!

We finished our day with a super dinner at Grand Residence where Ginny had strawberry ice cream for medicinal purposes. Over dinner Ann informed us that the men do wear shorts under their skirts. And Stephen shared lots of anecdotes about Indian culture and life.

So another day of service-learning ends!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009 (Georgie Kovacs)

“There is no royal road to anything. One thing at a time, all things in succession. That which grows fast, whithers rapidly. That which grows slowly, endures.”-Josiah Gilbert Holland

This quote accurately and effectively depicts our world. I believe this is why we are calmly able to handle each day of volunteering. Today started off with a few changes as Ginny’s cold was too much to handle construction. While she rested and took medicine, Ann continued off to the construction site with Linda M. in tow. They were greeted by arguing construction workers which Stephan, our calm, even-toned leader dealt with.

The remainder of us went on with our usual schedule. Linda W. headed off to Grace School and had a “one step forward, two steps back” kind of day with the kids. It is both her patience and persistence that we admire as she handles the ups and downs.

I had a quiet ride to Assisi where I helped Sister Rose and Sister Caroline on the computer. Since they know little English and virtually never interacted with a computer, I had to use extreme patience to make sure they got the most out of it. They are wonderful to work with as they see the outcome of the learning process and show great appreciation for my assistance. Just as my one-on-one lesson with Sister Carolin came to an end, she had to rush downstairs because one of the little boy’s finger was slammed into the gate resulting in a visit to the hospital for stitches and a splint.

Katie’s voice is coming back thanks to the many cups of ginger tea made by Sheeba and Rani. Thus, she is better able to speak over the 50 kids in her morning classes. I am sure that her new salwar kamis helps her feel refreshed, too!

Linda M. and I are doing well with the novices at St. Joseph’s. They bought us a small package of bindi. Given that they are given 300 Rs (~6 USD) per month as “play money,” this was quite the generous gesture.
The highlight of the day was having dinner with Stephen’s family. We were each handed a large plate of briyani rice, chicken, fish, potatoes, veggies, two kinds of Indian bread, and for dessert – bananas. Ann was the only one who was able to fit a second helping of rice into her tummy – and she is the smallest one of us all!

Stephen’s family is wonderful. His parents are kind, always smiling, and love their grandchildren. They spoke enough English that we were able to communicate with ease. I know I can speak for us all when I say how much we appreciated their generosity and delicious cooking!

Thursday, 2/05/09 (Katie Ohotto)

“Thoughts lead on to purposes; purposes go forth in actions; actions form habits; habits decide character; and character fixes our destiny.” –Tryon Edwards

By day thirteen all was down to habit starting with 7:30am yoga on the rooftop. “Take five breathing” was now a familiar resting posture although our teacher threw us off with a wheel pose at the end of class. Breakfast and morning assignments were habit as well with the exception of the newborn kitten that Ann took from a child at the SEAMS’s construction site. Animalitarian efforts were aborted when the kitten couldn’t take milk on her own and had to bee returned to SEAMS by Barnabus. Lunch was habit with the exception of the cake and cookies from Kumar’s Sweet Shop that Stephen brought home for a surprise. Even the work assignment van reports were becoming a bit habit. In Linda’s words, “There were some good things that happened today.” Perhaps after two weeks we were becoming a bit accustomed to the culture? Or perhaps not as Katie was shocked to receive the kind letters of gratitude from the computer students at Grace School since during the education process they didn’t appear interested in maintaining the positive and calm disposition of the teacher. In the end, they were truly sweethearts. In the same fashion, the SEAMS children said goodbye to Katie, and they were truly sweethearts too.

Stephen treated the whole team to a last full team supper at the Green Park Hotel’s Tulip Restaurant. The buffet was the best yet- it was a very special treat. Katie’s the first to depart and wishes everyone a safe and pleasant final journey.

Friday Feb 6th ( Linda McCamic)

The most important thing in life is not the triumph but the struggle. The essential thing is not to have conquered but to have fought well!

It’s Friday and the end of our second full week volunteering.
Katie left today for her next adventure in India, 2 weeks in Goa at a yoga retreat. She seemed excited to be going and we will miss her but I am sure her students will miss her more.

Ginny and Ann were back at SEAMS on the construction crew where work is progressing nicely. They were quite happy to find out that the kitten they found the day before is still alive and well.

Linda W. is slowly taking a few steps forward at Grace School.
Georgie made some progress teaching Sr. Caroline the computer and I made progress with Vinayagam at SEAMS to read English. He read a 4 page book by himself today and was as proud as could be but no as proud as I was of him.

So all and all even though it sometimes is frustrating because it seems that progress is slow in coming, it is coming! We are beginning to see the fruits of our labor if it is in the completion of a wall, the understanding of a math equation, the recognition of a word or just a smile on a child’s face at the end of the day we have accomplished something and made our time here worthwhile!