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.