Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from July 11- June 17;
125 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 9 volunteers and 125 Hours of preparation time
30 Hours of childcare by 3 volunteer
60 Hours of labor towards the construction of Stage 2 of the Dormitories at Seams
2 Schools, 2 Children's Home and over 300 students impacted
When we go to the theater together, my mom makes fun of my weak applause. No matter how enthusiastic I am about a performance, I tend to respond in golf claps. I don't know why, lazy hands, perhaps. But today, at our first visit to SEAM (Southeastern Asia Missionary), a children's home where we'll be working, as thirty some children serenaded us with a welcome song; I found my applause was loud and prevalent. It wasn't purposeful; it just came out of me. Why are they
singing for us? What did I do? I bought some weather-appropriate attire, got a visa, took two really long plane trips and showed up. Big deal. But the joy these kids feel for something so small, for my purple nail polish or for having the chance to sing Hokey Pokey with a beloved return volunteer, is amazing. I know we're here to help them with their English and teach them, but I already feel I've learned something in return.
Team #92 Volunteering Day 1
7:20 my eyes slowly peel open and I scramble to get ready for 7:30 yoga on the terrace. Once there I greet Donyale, Jen, and our yoga instructor. We breathe and stretch, breathe and stretch and invite in a calm spirit to approach a busy and exciting first day.
A half hour passes and we then join the others for our morning meeting. We're all excited finally to begin what we came here for: to serve, to experience, to teach, to grow, and to connect. We review the schedule and its changes, Jen reads her journal, Stephen wishes us a great day and escorts us by van to our various destinations: George, Alex, Nate, and Ashley at Grace School; Amanda and Alexa leave for St. Joseph's, and Donyale, Jen and myself set our for Asisi Ilam with Sheba to introduce us and get us settled in.
We exit the van and enter the gate where we see the faces of these precious lives we flew all this way to meet. We're introduced to Sister Rose and Sister Matilda and we sit Indian style on the floor as we \learn more about the kids of this day care/ orphanage. Finally we get to meet our groups. We read books, sing songs, and we teach each other. We teach them English. They teach us the importance of time, the depth and purity of simple unadorned love.
Time ticks and we trek on back to the guest house for lunch. The groups slowly stream in. We eat lunch and back to our respective assignments. This time I enter Grace school. I was reunited with friends that I had made last summer.
On the ride home from Grace I thought about the things I'd read about volunteering in India. One statement that stood out was that India is not for the faint of heart. I can see how this can be true, but I'd like to say that India is for anyone with a heart. The warmth, acceptance, and excitement of the people and children we work with stirs the heart to sing. The first time I volunteered here they were just amazingly beautiful people. This second time they feel like my family. I felt as though I was coming home when I first spotted Sheba and Stephen, at the airport on this trip. And again when I met up with George the next day, and when I saw all the familiar faces I bonded with last year.
We finished up our evening with SEAMS. You can read all the journals of the other volunteers. SEAMS speaks for itself. If ever you want to see what you're purpose in the lives of others can be, please come. Come to India.
For me, this trip has exemplified the main reason I want to be a teacher... to make a difference. For the students here in India, simply learning English gives them an upper-hand and a chance at a better livelihood. Being part of this learning experience has proven to be an honor and pleasure, even in just the two days we have been going to our assigned schools. Seeing the student's genuine and smiling faces as we walk in the classroom reassures us that we are not only appreciated but also welcomed. These students have a refreshing passion and desire for learning and, thankfully, could care less if you can't carry a tune. It's clear that in the coming weeks we will not only build strong connections to these students but also to our teammates, we will grow and learn as individuals, we will serve those who need it the most, and we will experience once in a lifetime opportunities. I look forward to the coming days and the long lasting memories that I will continue to make as we continue on with this extraordinary experience.
Thought for the day:
"I don't care how poor a man is, if he has a family he is rich," Dan Wilcox and Thad Mumford from M*A*S*H
When we think of family we most often think about those to whom we are related. However, being in India has made me realize (perhaps more than I have ever realized before) that defining the word family is not so easy to do. Family includes the people with whom you share a special bond or connection. They are the people who are there for you, support you, include you, and look out for you. Family can be anyone.
Some might look at the kids in the orphanages where we work here and say that they have no family. But that's not true. They have a family--their family is everyone at the home with them and the kind, caring and selfless adults who take care of them.
This broader view of the concept of family became particularly evident when we were invited to be a part of Stephen and Sheeba's son's birthday celebrations at Assisi Illam and Seam's Children's home. Upon observing both places it became evident that they saw Stephen, Sheeba, and Roshan as family. It was very touching to be a part of such a celebration. Seam's had even decorated for his birthday complete with balloons, streamers and other colorful ornaments. Songs were song, prayers were said, and cake was cut, all in honor of Roshan and the long and happy life ahead of him. It was a lot of fun and it made me (and I'm sure all of us) feel special to have been included in Stephen and Sheeba's family.
Not only do we grow as people upon this adventure and experience but our family grows as well, as now, for at least these three weeks, we 9 volunteers are family, helping, supporting, including and looking out for each other and the students we are teaching.
Thought for the day: “Your attitude determines your altitude.”
Today was the fifth official day of our program and it finally feels like the team has become comfortable and at home in India. Some of us have been here once, some multiple times and for the majority this is our first encounter with India and the vastly different Indian culture, yet theses five days have been an adjustment period for all.
Each experience has transformed from new and uncertain to new and joyously fun. When we first arrived Stephen told us to go with the flow, well for my mildly control freak side I thought this may be difficult and was shocked today when I realized it only took me five days to transform into a happier person.
I saw this carefree attitude in the children we are here to help the most today. They always have such a positive attitude about life that has become simply contagious to all of the members of the team. It is clear I have gained so much more than I will give here, from new found friends to a newfound perspective on life; I became sure today that choosing India was the best decision I’ve ever made.
Message of the Day: "The saying is 'a picture is worth a 1000 words', but a
special moment will last a lifetime."
Today was our last work day of the first week. The day started off with the usual delicious Indian breakfast and today’s agendas. Between Alex and I (andvDonyale in the afternoon), our agenda is to help with construction at SEAMS.
Every morning we are greeted by few of the children at SEAMS. These children arevvery excited to see us, as they always want Alex and I to pick them up and twirl them around like we do when we visit in the evening. Unfortunately, this is not our objective for the morning. Our objective currently is to lay a sand-base onthe roof of the children’s home so later cement can be poured on top to keeprain from being absorbed into the roof.
Our construction host, a slender, averaged height Indian man, does not speak any English. Although there is a language barrier between us, we know what needs to be done. He points to one area where we start and points in the other direction to where he wants the sand to be placed. As we work, the children play and sometimes give us a hand with our task. At the end of work, the children and our construction host would disembark us with a wave and a smile. This makes us feel great, for that we know we are helping the children live in a better place.
The evening visit at SEAMS was a play day, which was to have fun with the kidsand interact with them in games. Although we were not teaching, they were still learning. And I love how they are always excited to see us every evening. I knowit makes the team feel welcomed, and we are glad we can put a smile on every one of their faces. These next couple will be a lasting memory for them and us.
Better than a thousand hollow words, is one word that brings peace.
Well, it’s Sunday, 10:30 p.m. and team 92 is safely back in the guesthouse. Makese, Jen, and Donyale have returned from their weekend on the houseboat in Kerela. Nate, Alexa, Alex, Amanda, Ashley, and I are back from our trip down the coast to Pondicherry, Kanchipurim, and Mamalapurm. We’re all rested, refreshed and ready to begin our second week of service tomorrow. There will be some changes in our routine because Alexa and Amanda will be starting their work At St. Joseph’s, teaching English to a group of young women who plan to become nuns. Past volunteers have reported that this is a fun and rewarding assignment and theyâ€™re looking forward to it.
Reflecting back on our first week, we’ve each face the challenge that is adjusting to life in India. Even though this is my forth trip to India with Global, I’ve experienced my own culture shock. Almost everything about my experience here is different from my life in L.A. Different sounds and smells, the language, the heat, mosquitoes, dust, rain, and cows are all part of my life here in India. My adjustment involves embracing these differences that I have come to love and enjoy. I am so happy to be back here with Stephen and his family and his support staff. I am so grateful to be working with Ester and Elizabeth, the teachers at Grace School, And I am blessed to experience the joy of teaching the wonderful children at Grace and SEAM’s. I look forward to the weeks ahead with the anticipation that new experiences will deepen my understanding and my love of India. I am looking forward to more laughs and good times with team 92.
Friday, July 9, 2010
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 impactedTuesday, June 29th
“Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.” -Plato
Today, we went on with our usual routines-- Jeff and Joey went to construction in the morning, while Andy joined Cathy at St. Josephs to take on the dreaded kindergardeners. Jeremy joined Bridget and I at Assisi Illam to play with the 3 year olds and attempt to teach them English. Although some are doing physical labor and some are playing or teaching children, both are equally exhausting. The kids somehow drain our energy just as quickly as working in the hot sun! After coming home for a great lunch, we headed back out- with Andy joining Jeff for construction and Cathie going to work with the future nuns. Joey, Jeremy, Bridget, and I went to Grace School to help teach English to the different classes. Bridget and I bought lots of henna at a local store, as prices in the US are around $7 a tube compared to only 10 rupees here! One of the teachers at Grace School kindly offered to henna our hands, and I was the first to get mine done! We headed over to Seams to play with the children for an hour, and then finished off our evening with a lovely dinner at Stephens house. It was great getting to meet Stephen's whole family and enjoying a delicious meal with them. This was the perfect way to end a great day!
"To help all created things, that is the measure of all our responsibility; to be helped by all, that is the measure of our hope" -Gerald Vann
After more than a week we are starting to ge the hang of things. In the morning my mom and dad went to St. Joseph's School to teach kinder gardeners and first standard. Jeremy, Joey, and i went to Seam's to do construction, and Bridget and Zoe went to Assisi Illam. At seam's we had to carry sand from the roof down to the first floor after the week before we carried it up to the roof. After lunch we all went to different places for a shortened time because we went to the government emporium to shop for gifts. Cathie went back to St. Joseph's to work with the future nuns on English speaking and writing skills, my Dad and I went to construction to help with cementing the walls, Bridget, Zoe and Joey went to Grace School.
Since it was Jeremy's last day, we went to Seam's in the evening so the children could say good bye to him. They made hime a beautiful card and sang him a song. We then went to a restaurant to have the last dinner with the team of 7. Jeremy was a great member of the team and he will be missed. We all came back to the guest house and played Spades.
"I would rather be able to appreciate things I can not have than to have things I am not able to appreciate"Elbert Hubbard
It is Thursday of week two (7/1) and we are already missing Jeremy's energy and enthusiasm. Bridget and Zoe went to Assisi Illam to work with the preschoolers and Andy and I went back to St. Joseph to work with 5th and 2nd standard. We all noticed the "natives are getting restless". In 5 standard, Andy and I played math Bingo and had the students write descriptions of pictures. It was nice to see the students clap for each other when I told them they had done a good job on their writing.
We were surprised to find that Rani made us a lunch with beef! She included the delicious cabbage and tomoto rice which we all enjoyed a lot.
For the afternoon sessions, Andy, Bridget and Zoe headed to Grace School, while I went to St. Joseph's. The young women in the convent were very interested in a story we read about The Statue of Liberty (and a discussion about the 4th of July), as well as a lesson on common English phrases. It would be fun to hear these proper young ladies say "Hey! What's up?" the next time I come in.
We took our evening trip to SEAMS where the students were busy studying. With books and gadgets in tow, we shared as much English as we could while enjoying the company of these happy, energetic children. I am grateful for all of the teenagers on our team who are happy to lift, swing an flip the kids to their hearts content. As dusk came, the mosquitos swarmed, and I was glad to retreat to the guest house for a quiet night.