Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from June 21 - June 25;
65 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 7 volunteers and 65 Hours of preparation time.

20 Hours of childcare by 2 volunteer

100 Hours of labor towards the construction of Stage 2 of the Dormitories at Seams
2 Schools, 2 Children's Home and over 400 students impacted

Sunday, 20th June

Today was the actual first day with the complete team. All of us had the chance to get first impressions of the team members, meet each other and get to know a little about our lives. We sat all together in the dining room with Stephen, our wonderful host, and commenced orienteering which is the first phase of the program: we get to know the sites we are going to work on, the place we will live in and the rules we will have to respect.

We then had lunch followed by the second phase which is fixing the team goals and characteristics!

After that we all had a few hours to ourselves before going to meet all of those wonderful, enthusiastic, energetic, funny and loving kids which live at Seams children home. I am happy to say that this teem has a majority of young volunteers, which fitted in immediately with the children playing games and simply having fun.

The impression I got of this team is that we all have different backgrounds, cultures and ways of being but one thing we do have in common, this experience! I am 100 percent sure that we will all have a blast and get on fine together so its all for the best!!


Monday, 21st June

"Little things done over and over again add up to making a differenceToday was our first day of real volunteer work. We began our day with a yoga lesson on the terrace of our guest house. About 6 of the 10 in our group participated. After the yoga fun and group breakfast a group of us went to a local orphanage called Assisi Illam that functions as a day care during the morning while the kids who live there are at school. We played with about thirty 3 year olds who spoke no English. Some of our other team members went to teach children English and do construction on Seams children’s home. Then we came back for lunch,  Afterwards we split up again, some visiting a nearby private school to teach English and grammar to 4th and 5th graders, and others working more with construction. One of our volunteers even practiced English with young girls hoping to become nuns. After this, we had some rest time until we went to visit Seams orphanage to play with the kids which we'll do every evening. Though exhausting, it is apparent that our simple presence means the world to these children, which makes it 100% worth it in the end.

in a big way." -Byron Pulsifer


Tuesday, 22nd June

"If children have the ability to ignore all odds and percentages, then maybe we can learn from them. When you think about it, what other choice is there but to hope? We have two options, medically and emotionally: give up, or Fight Like Hell." -Lance Armstrong

It's the end of day 3 (our 2nd full day of working) and I'm writing my journal entry while sitting in bed under the mosquito net. The light in our room just went out, but it should come back on soon. Until then, the light from my iPod will have to do.

It's been another long and exhausting day. The ladies worked with the kids in the schools. Cathie spent the day at St. Joseph's School where one of the teachers was a "no-show", so they put all 62 kindergardeners in one room and wished her luck! Bridget and Zoe were honing their teaching skills at Grace School and Assisi Illam. The 4 guys spent the day at the construction site at SEAMs. While it was 95 degrees outside again, it felt hotter today since the sun was shining bright. I drank 4 liters of water (one gallon), but I'm convinced I sweat 2 gallons out. We spent the day hauling sand again using the traditional Indian methods. We sifted it first through a screen and then put about 20 pounds worth in a large metal bowl, then carried them on our head our around to the side of the building, up the stairs and into the soon to be dorm rooms. By the way, these were the same rooms we took sand out of yesterday and hauled it up to the roof (did I mention it was 95 degrees, sunny, calm, with high humidity?!?) We all feel like we are now 2" shorter than when we started and we're noticing that our heads are becoming flat on top. To make matters worse, we had 3 random Indian men pull up chairs and watch us work while they sat in the shade (likely making fun of us).

I know if you're reading this from afar you must be asking: "Why in the world would anyone pay for an experience like this?". I would simply answer by saying, "I wouldn't trade places with anyone else on the planet today". Every time I felt like I was going to collapse, I would look up and see one of the children smiling at me. These are kids who literally have nothing. They sleep on the floors in the hallways. Some have parents, most do not. I'll bet most of us couldn't stand to hear the challenges they have faced in their short lives, but you would never know it while spending time with them. They are always smiling, laughing, and playing with each other. They are respectful and always look out for each other. I'll bet they have fewer wants than children who have everything. For us, several weeks of hard labor or impossible teaching conditions is a small price to pay to improve the lives of these wonderful children.


Wednesday, 23rd June

A German proverb: "He, who teaches children, learns more than they do."

Our third workday began early as we decided to forgo our 7:30 yoga for a 7:00 trip to the flower, fruit and vegetable market. After seeing the amazing array of beautiful flowers and unusual and plentiful fruits and vegetables, we returned in time for our breakfast and morning meeting. Today was a school holiday for the children, so our work assignments for some were a bit different. Andy decided to take a break from construction to join Zoe and Bridget at Assisi Illam to play with the children. I joined the construction team with Jeff, Joey and Jeremy. I wanted to see if they were really carrying loads of sand on their heads. We did do our share of sifting and carrying sand, but jobs were more varied today. We moved bricks and got to try our hand at slapping cement on the brick walls of the roof. Our mentor made it look easy, but after several tries with most of the cement landing on the ground, I decided that I was creating more work and decided to be the gopher instead. Joey actually got the hang of it and managed to cover one wall with cement.

We had a delicious chicken curry lunch back at the guest house, then headed out for our afternoon assignments. I went to my normal afternoon session at St. Josephs to work with the young ladies who are studying to become nuns. I used a deck of cards to play a game to get them conversing in English which they really enjoyed. They are so kind and always try to feed me before I leave, but unfortunately I have to scoot out as Stephen is waiting on me so that he can round up the rest of the group. The construction workers, joined by Zoe, continued at SEAMS with sand sifting and carrying as well as cementing the roof while everyone else was able to work with and play with the children. We returned for our early evening session at SEAMS, all of us dragging a bit, to find the children with even more energy and enthusiasm than normal. We were armed with more balls, books, stickers, and cameras, which kept the children busy and happy. Stephen taught us a game to play with the children which involved a lot of running and tackling - perfect for the kids, exhausting for us! The kids love our cameras and frequently ask to take ONE picture, then run off and snap as many pictures as they can. All in all a good time was had by all.

We headed out to a restaurant where we enjoyed a delicious dinner. Some of us were able to watch some World Cup action on TVs. while others watched Joey fall asleep at the table.


Thursday, 24th June

“The value of man resides in what he gives and not in what he is capable of receiving” -Albert Einstein

In the morning I slept in through breakfast. After breakfast I went to Assisi Illam and played with the kids. They are always so energetic and happy to see us. After Assisi Illam we had lunch and went to Seam's for 3 hours. At Seam's some of us helped build the new dorms while other helped the kids with some of their school work. After helping the kids we played Kabadi, Cricket, and Coco. While we were playing kabadi, Jeremy said that the losing team should have to do 10 push-ups which everyone thought was a good idea because everyone thought that their team was going to win. My team ended up winning and the other team had to do 10 push-ups. After Seam's we went to the textile, gold, and silver markets. There we bought inexpensive jewelry, textiles, and other items. We got home from the markets at around 9 in the evening and had dinner.

Friday, 25th June

We can do no great things, only small things with great love. ~Mother Teresa
Today was the last day of our first week of working. In the morning Cathie and I went to Assisi Illam and worked with the orphans that were off of school . We brought tons of coloring supplies and they absolutley loved it, almost as much as they love to be picked up and spun around. Zoe and the boys worked on construction at SEAMS and in the past week have made progress and friends with the local workers. After lunch the whole team joined forces and we took all of the children at Assisi Illam to a park and childrens zoo and then to the beach. We took our regular car and a "bus" which was more of a van and stuffed about twice as many people as could comfortably fit into each. The children loved to see the animals and dragged us from one animal to the next until we reached the playground. We left the park and headed to the beach, as soon as the beach was in sight the children began screaming with excitment. Everyone only went in thr water about ankle deep but some how every kid managed to become soaked head to toe, and we hadn't done much better.Right as we were all about to head back to the cars wiht most of the kids in fresh dry outfits it began pouring rain. We all rain to the cars but we stil became even more soaked and sandy than before. We headed home the bus just as crowded as ever in rush hour traffic and in the pouring rain all soaked and sandy. The bus driver played music videos and the kids danced and sang and kept entertained. By the end of the ride half of the kids had fell asleep on our laps. Overall it was a great day. It was nice to see how happy the kids were about going on the outing and to spend more time with them than normal. Our first week was successful and the challenges seem easier each day. I can already tell we will miss each kid and its only our first week.
Saturday, 26th June
"He does not live in vain; who employs his wealth, his thought, and his speech to advance the good of others." -Hindu Proverb
After a long and fulfilling week of work (and play) we earned our first free day. We started with breakfast at 7 am and left the guest house around 8:00 on our way to Pondicherry. We were all very excited when we discovered the bus had good a/c and reclining seats! The trip was fairly typical with lots of crazy traffic and horn beeping. We arrived in Kanchipuram to visit 4 Hindu temples. We got a nice surprise in the first temple when we saw 3 elephants being painted with decorations. When we went to take pictures the trainer invited us in to sit on one of the elephants. What a fun experience. The temples were very interesting and we all learned a lot about the Hindu beliefs.  After a tasty lunch we hopped back on the bus and rode to Pondicherry. After checking into our hotel we took a nice walk down the beach and had a wonderful dinner (or in the case of "Bottomless", 3 dinners!). Then it was back to the hotel to watch the US vs Ghana in the World Cup.

I've noticed that after a week in India I've grown accustomed to so many of the sites that shocked me when I first arrived. I came here with the goal of learning more about the Indian culture. I am happy to report that not only do I feel I've accomplished that goal but, thanks to Stephen, I now better understand and appreciate the Indian culture and way of life far better than I imagined I could.