Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from October 18 to - october 22
 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. over 65 students impacted

Monday October 18, 2010 – Day 6

“If you can drive in Chennai, you can drive anywhere!” – Sheeba

Today began our final week in Chennai. We reviewed our team goals and feel comfortable with the progress we have made so far. One of our team goals was to travel with purpose. I know that Laura and I are making a positive difference in the lives of these children, the same way that all of the previous volunteers have. Sheeba shared with us today the importance of learning English for these children. Students who are fluent in English upon graduation can easily find good jobs while students who only speak Tamil have a difficult time finding work. I am excited to know that my time here has been spent helping these children on their journey to become fluent in English.

Our second goal was to experience the culture of South India. We have definitely been experiencing the local culture during our stay here! This past weekend’s trip gave us a great opportunity to see more of South India as we traveled to Kanchipuram, Pondicherry, and Mahabalipuram. Tonight after SEAMs we got to experience Diwali shopping madness in Chennai at a popular market. The traffic was insane and the crowd was massive! Laura commented to Stephen that this market area made Times Square seem empty 

Our final goal was to meet and connect with the students and teachers. I feel that we are making good progress in this area. The teachers at Grace School have really taken to Laura and like to have lots of conversations with her between classes. The children are amazing! It is so great to see how their faces light up when we arrive to teach them.

I’m looking forward to a great second week!


Tuesday, October 19, 2010 – Day 7

“ All the world is an oyster” unknown

Megan was feeling a bit under the weather today so she sat out the morning visit @ Assisi Illam. I went off to Grace School and worked with the children as usual – today the first graders and I did rhyming words – Second grade we did some more difficult rhyming words and then they each came to the front of the class to come up with their own. The 3rd graders love to do math so we started with some Spiderman math flash cards – then identified all the visiable traits of Spiderman – each child wrote them on the board (including – he has a red mask, red boots etc). Fourth grade read aloud – Green Eggs and Ham (one of my all time favorites) and the 5th grade class each took turns reading a book called Grandpa and Me. Later at SEAMS Megan and I both worked with the boys at different age levels on various English studies. After SEAMS we were treated to an Indian movie – Robot. What another awesome experience – loud – colorful and with traditional Bollywood song and dance numbers! Even the popcorn was a lot of fun with chili pepper spice! Each day a new experience – they continue to keep on coming – what will today bring?


Wednesday, October 20, 2010 – Day 8

Time flies when you are having fun!

Wow, I cannot believe Wednesday is over already! This second week is going by so fast. It rained last night and now the humidity is out of control! It is even hotter today (if that is even possible). Before going to Assisi, Stephen and Sheeba took me on a quick visit to St. Thomas Mount. The view of Chennai from this hill was amazing! At Assisi we worked on alphabets and puzzles. Laura took the elephant puppet to Grace School for the little ones and said they liked it, although it scared them at first. The electricity went out several times at the school, making the heat even worse. Poor Laura got over heated, but was smart and stayed in her room to cool down in the A/C during the afternoon. I went alone to Grace School after lunch and found the kids to be very sad that Laura was not feeling well. They all really love her teaching them, which I made sure to share with her. In 4th grade we worked on reading and forming sentences with two sight cards at a time. The children did very well with this exercise and I was glad to see it made them use their imagination more. In 5th grade we learned about dinosaurs and colored dinosaur pictures for a bit, then moved on to practice vocabulary.

SEAMs was fun as usual. Laura worked with the older boys and I had my original group of 4th graders. I know we should not have favorites, but I must say that I really like this group of boys. We played snap card in teams, competing to see who could get the most matches. These boys love competition! Unfortunately for my team, I am not good at snap card, so we did not win very often.

After SEAMs we had the pleasure of visiting Stephen’s parents at their house for dinner. His mother and sister-in-law made a delicious meal for us. They served us so much food! Poor Laura was given a plate heaping with briyani! She ate like a champ but eventually had to give up  We were worried that it would be rude if we did not finish our meals. Luckily, Stephen and Sheeba assured us that it was fine to leave food on our plates. While we were in the neighborhood we had the pleasure of meeting Real Stephen’s wife, son, and mother-in-law. They live next door to their parents, so we visited their home as well. Rani lives across the street, so we visited her also. It was so nice to meet everyone’s family and to see their homes!

Only two days left before the end of the program! I’m already dreading saying good bye to the kids.


Thursday, October 21, 2010 – Day 9

“You make a living by what you do – you make a life by what you give” unknown.

Today started as most other mornings – with a hearty breakfast and off to our school assignments – I to Grace School and Megan to Assisi Ilam. The first second and third graders were very good today as we worked on various reading and writing activities. As each grade began to do some writing I started taking pictures of them – each grade turned into little models - posing – smiling and saying – me – me – photo! Even the teachers posed and smiled for their photos! Ive been happy to stay out of photos the last week in particular as Im not looking my best self (and I know what I look like). Megan mentioned her day care group had a difficult time focusing today. Maybe it’s the heat? (laughing). In the evening we visited the children at Assissi Illam instead of SEAMS. They were a great deal of fun – sang songs with Megan and loved the sequin crowns and butterfly wings I brought from home. And as always all the balls were a great big hit. I was treated to a Mendhi design on my left hand as a parting gift from one of the teachers! Well tomorrow is our last day – it will be difficult to say good bye to everyone (oh – except for those darn mosquitos)!


Friday October 22, 2010 – Day 10

“Don’t cry because it is over. Smile because it happened.” Dr. Seuss

It is hard to believe that today is the last day. These past two weeks have flown by! It was hard to say goodbye to the children at Assisi today. We played games, sang songs, and danced! I took videos on my camera of Mario and Vinodinni singing their favorite song “Johnny, Johnny.” I tried to not think about the fact that it was the last time I would be with them. Laura had a good last day with the younger students at Grace School. They had fun posing for pictures for Laura but were sad to see her go.

Grace School went well for me in the afternoon. In 5th grade we read a story about a pumpkin competition and drew pictures. We ended the session by taking photos and videos. Each student wanted to do a solo dance for me to record. It was so funny watching the kids dance, each one was even more silly than the last. 4th grade was fun as well. We took pictures/video, practiced vocabulary, and finished off the class with “Hang Man.”

Saying my goodbyes to the children at SEAMs was very difficult. They are all so very sweet and special! During our time together we played ball with the boys, danced with the girls, and just spent time with the children. We then all gathered in the main hall for songs and dancing. The children all sang a group song, and then some of the girls came forward to do a song and dance. The 4th grade boys did a free-style dance for us at the end, which was very enjoyable. They took me by the hand and pulled me out of my chair to dance with them. I had such a great time! And then came the hard part. All of the children came up to Laura and I one by one to say thank you for spending time with them. I tried to hold back the tears but a few escaped. Some of the boys hugged me and wiped the tears from my face with their little hands, telling me not to be sad. While I was very sad to say goodbye to the children, I am so very grateful for the amazing experience I got to have with them.

Coming to India to work with the children has been so rewarding. The culture is so fascinating here, the people are so kind, and the children are so much fun to spend time with. To those of you reading this who are contemplating coming to India, I say pack your bags and get over here! You are sure to have a wonderful and memorable time!


Thursday, October 21, 2010

Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from October 11 to - october 15

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. over 65 students impacted

 Children's Home's and over 65 students impacted.
 Sunday ,October 10, 2010 ,
 Day - 1 “Be the change you wish to see in the world.”- Gandhi

We had a great first day, started out with orientation after breakfast. Stephen walked us through the program, letting us know what to expect and what is expected from us. He explained the history of Global Volunteers in Chennai and why it is so important for volunteers to be here. During orientation Laura and I created our team goals for the trip: 1) travel with purpose to make a difference; 2) be open to the culture of south India, and 3) meet/connect with the students and teachers. We also listed what we felt were characteristics of an effective team:

• Flexibility

• Patience

• Open mindedness

• Open communication

• Understanding

• Supporting each other

• Having fun

• Punctuality (Stephen added this one )

We also found out what our assignment would be. I will be working with toddlers at Assisi Illam in the mornings, 4th and 5th grade students at Grace School in the afternoons, and all the children at SEAM in the evenings. Laura will be working with all grades at Grace School during the day, followed by SEAMs in the evenings.

After orientation was over we had some free time before lunch. I used this time to re-read the teaching handbook. Honestly, I am a little nervous about my first day of teaching. This is something I have never done before and I had no idea where to start in regards to lesson planning. Lucky for me, we have a seasoned volunteer with us this weekend. Dustin, from Team 93, is here until tomorrow. He was kind enough to give me some pointers and ideas, and also shared with me and Laura some of the activities he found were successful with the kids. I feel much better now about tomorrow (although I still do not have my lessons planned ).

We went as a team to SEAMs at 5:30 to meet the children. SEAMs is a quick walk from the guest house, which is nice because it gave us a chance to see more of Lakshmi Nagar, the neighborhood surrounding the guest house. We were greeted at SEAMs by the host and all of the children. The children sang a special song for us and came up to me and Laura one at a time for introductions. After that we had some quality play time with the kids. They are all so adorable and friendly! I am looking forward to spending lots of time with them over the next two weeks.


Monday, October 11, 2010

Day 2
“Excuse me sister – but how are old are you?” 5th Grade Student – Grace School

Questions, Questions – how different it is to experience a place/culture that actually wants to know about us. People really do care who are family members are – our current marital status and real hair color. But everyone is inquisitive – even the local people who stare as we walk along the crowded road – I wonder what they are thinking about us? Back at home its very easy to feel invisible – here we are really seen.

Today started with me heading off to Grace school and Megan to Assisi Illam. I felt pretty confident that I could handle whatever came my way having done similar work last year . Keeping the younger kids quiet is a challenge no matter where you are. I loaded the backback up with books – crayons – paper and flash cards. The goal is to get the kids speaking – reading and writing English – the way you do depends on the day – the kids – your energy level and patience. First grade – second grade – third grade – all went quickly and smoothly – having brought stickers – I knew things would be ok. Megan shared with us that her first morning wasn’t as easy – remembering those nursery rhymes, songs and dances didn’t come back to her as quickly as she had hoped but admitted she would be better prepared tomorrow. After lunch we went back to Grace School to work with the 4th and 5th Graders – more introductions – more stories and new methods of keeping the kids engaged seemed a bit easier. In my last class – we added up all the kids ages – family members and pets living in the house. The kids loved this exercise – afterall the class was 76 years old – with 99 inhabitants living in their homes! I have to admit that I was also excited about this exercise because It wasn’t planned. Once back at the guest house Megan and I admitted to needing some good ole American caffine and sugar to sustain us for the rest of the day – so off we went to buy the “forbidden fruits” of pepsi and chocolate. After dinner SEAMS was once again a joy as you walk in and are so happily greeted by what seems to be some of the happiest kids I know – who would have ever guessed that that were living in an orphanage. Studying math and reading for an hour with fun activities was admitted by Megan and myself. What a joy these kids are to work with despite the heat – humidity and mosquito bites. Early night – we’re both tired!


Tuesday, October 12, 2010

 Day 3

To the world you may just be someone, but to someone you may be the world.

It was great to see how excited the children were to see us again at daycare and school! Things went better this morning at Assisi Illam, thanks to YouTube. I watched some videos of nursery rhymes after breakfast to help me remember the words and hand motions. To all of you future volunteers reading this blog, YouTube will be your best friend if you need help with nursery rhymes! Today at Assisi we learned about animals. Laura brought the cutest elephant puppet, which she let me borrow for the toddlers. They loved it! We also played the children’s favorite game: Juice Banana. It is like our “Duck, Duck, Goose” game but instead of saying “duck” and “goose” the children say “Juice Banana” as they tap each head. The kids think this game is hilarious.

Laura and I were greeted at Grace School by two girls who had written a note for us. The note was very sweet, telling us how the girls liked us so much. They also wrote that Laura has pretty hair and clothes (which she does ). I had a good lesson with the 5th graders, we worked on adjectives and sentence structure. The 4th grade kids were rowdy today compared to yesterday, but we still had a good time learning. Laura shared with me that she had a good time with the children also, but agreed that they were a bit rowdy today.

At SEAMs we had our same groups as yesterday, which made the kids happy. Laura had great success with a game she used yesterday with her group of 5th graders. I tried this same game with my 4th graders but found that they were not quite advanced enough for it yet. Instead we spent the evening doing math (their favorite thing to learn) and playing “Snap Card.” I am still not exactly sure what “Snap Card” is but it seemed a lot like the old game “Memory” that I played as a kid. Each time they picked a card, they would read the word on it by spelling it/sounding it out. Many of the words were new to them, so it was a good exercise

Over all it was a good day today. I am looking forward to see what tomorrow brings.


Wednesday – October 13, 2010

Day 4

“This is the first time Im doing anything like this and I’m worried that I’m not doing enough for the kids” Megan

Today started as the others this week – a hearty breakfast followed by our morning trips to Grace School and Issi Allam. The first graders were much more attentive today as one of the teachers reminded them that they are to keep quiet so mam could teach them. The second graders read a book called Five Scarey Monsters – sang a song about them and then drew a picture of their favorite one. The 3rd grade class did addition and subtraction problems all the way across the blackboard. Ive discovered the kids love to read in front of the class – answer questions – write on the blackboard and choose their own crayon color!

Megan shared that the day care children were back to their high energy state and she was challenged to keep them focused. But she will continue to reinvent and watch more YouTube videos for nursery rhymes.

We had a wonder traditional Indian lunch served on a banana leaf today complete with a local sweet called Ladu. The food continues to be wonderful.

Back to SEAMS late this afternoon – today I worked with the 4/5th grade girls instead of the boys. We read a book together on Ghandi and then they asked me to sing and dance. – I told them Id be happy to watch them (sorry to say I haven’t danced in public in years). Megan also had a great time teaching the basics to some younger boys and being impressed at how smart some of the kids are! Stephen reminded us that each volunteer is critical to the success of the childrens growth and development in English so we should ever think our contributions are small.


Thursday, October 14, 2010

Day 5

“Did you put gel on your face?” – Ashley, 5th Grade at Grace School

To describe South India as hot would be a major understatement! I feel like I have been sweating non-stop from the moment I stepped off the plane. It amazes me how no one here seems to sweat though, except for me . A student today asked if I had put gel on my face, because it was so shiny. When I explained that my face was shiny because of the heat, he just bobbled his head at me.

Today was much better at Assisi due to the children being well behaved. We spent the morning writing the alphabet on the black board, reading books, and (of course) playing Juice Banana. I was called out as “Juice!” today and ran around the circle chasing little Vinodinni as she giggled. These kids are so cute and special. While I find them to be a challenge, I am grateful for every moment I get to spend with them.

Good day at Grace School with the children. In 5th grade we read about Helen Keller, did math, and played Chalk Board Chain. The kids really enjoyed this game and tried to come up with the most difficult words they could, to out-do the other students. We played the same game in 4th grade, but here the students were competing to see how many words they could come up with before settling on one to write on the board. In 4th grade we also read a story and did classmate interviews. In this exercise a student would come to the front of the class to be interviewed by the other students. Each student would take turns asking a question of the student being interviewed. This exercise was helpful because it pushed the kids to form questions/sentences in ways they do not usually do. By the end of the exercise the children were laughing, trying to come up with random and silly questions. Some of them had much broader vocabularies than I expected!

SEAMs was fun as always! I worked with the younger boys and girls again on their alphabets while Laura worked with the older girls. She brought princess crowns for the girls to play with, which they loved! Laura took some great pictures of the girls dressed up like princesses.

It is hard to believe that tomorrow is Friday already! Time here is going so fast!


Friday, October 15, 2010 – Day 5

“ Love is shown in actions not words”.

Its Friday already – the week went quickly. Settled into the routine now and finding the children a joy. Discovered that Ive forgotten so many math equations and have to double check the answers before telling the kids if they are correct or not. Never met kids before who asked to do math! Its back to English and reading on Monday. Tonite we took all the balls to SEAMS – the kids were so happy and enthusiastic! A little too much so as we also saw several of them crying after getting hit in the face or head with a swift kick from a hard soccer ball or two. But it was great and they really enjoyed the break from studying. Off to Pondicherry this weekend for some sightseeing – Megan and I are both looking forward to it.


Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from   October 05 to - october 08.

48 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 2 volunteers and 49 Hours of preparation time

2 Children's Home's and over 65 students impacted.
Tuesday, October 05, 2010

“As we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.” (Nelson Mandela)

Today we met the children at Grace School. All the students were eager to see us and we split up with Dustin working with forms 4 and 5 and Bill taking on forms 2 and 3. We met first with two of the teachers but did not get any guidance on what we should pursue. Accordingly, we did it on the fly (as seems to be the mantra here) although we had both been somewhat prepared for forms 4 and 5. The first day is difficult as we do not know what work has been covered or have any idea of the level of performance of any of the children. The two sessions went quickly and we had a brief break over lunch before heading back to SEAMS. Dustin worked with younger children on their English and Bill met with Shanthi, Surganyat, Kalibain and Rogesh. He worked on reading and reading comprehension. Neither was particularly successful as the noise level made hearing difficult. As noted earlier, the older children know the words and read just works, with no expression or understanding. Bill then jumped to Scrabble and the game progressed slowly with some assistance now and then. Rogesh understands the game but the other players seemed baffled. The game attracted a small vocal crowd and Bill can only hope that all tiles were recovered.


October 6, 2010

“Writing is good, thinking is better. Cleverness is good, patience is better. “

Hermann Hesse

Bill and I woke up early so we can have our regular Yoga session but apparently our Yoga instructor doesn’t work when it rains outside. So we were on our own…

With everything running a little late this morning we rushed through breakfast so we can make it on time to Grace School. We pretty much had the same schedule as yesterday. Bill will work with 1st, 2nd, and 3rd graders and I will work with 5th, 4th, and 2nd graders. Well today the entire 3rd grade class didn’t show up so we switched it up a little. I started with the 5th grade class. We practiced reading out loud and creating sentences. When time was up Bill and I got a quick break where we sat with Principal Esther and Teacher Selvi. They wanted to practice their English just as much as the children. They were very interested and Bill and my backgrounds. They asked many questions and we got to learn a lot about each other. After our break I taught the 4th graders. We practiced reading and writing and when time was up I finished the day with the higher kindergarten kids. We did all our ABCs, numbers, shapes, and colors. They weren’t part of the original schedule but they were a pleasure to work with. The Bell rang and it was time for lunch.

Bill, Stephan, Sheeba, and I all sat around the kitchen table and enjoyed a wonderful meal along with good conversation. There is always a new topic and something to learn about India from Stephan.

Back to SEAMs in the evening. We are coming down to our last few days. So I just stayed the course. I had Stephan split up the children and I worked with about 3 different groups on their English before time was up. Bill looked like he had a good game of scrabble going on the other side of the room.

We only have two more days left.


Thursday, October 7, 2010

“The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children all our lives.” (Albert Einstein)

Our tour of service is coming to an end and we have already started reflecting on the experience. We did what we could with such a small team and can only hope we had a positive effect on the children we had the pleasure and privilege to work with. Working at Grace School is challenging and exhausting but the children are eager learners, delighted to see us each morning and enjoying a break from the rigorous discipline that I sense pervades when the “substitute” shows up! I worked with forms 1, 2 and 3 today. Yesterday form 3 was not in attendance because of a “malady” or just because they were “absent”—take your pick. Dustin worked with forms 4 and 5 and then was introduced to the kindergarten, which tested his skills as an organizer and presenter. At the break we enjoyed another conversation with the teachers with them asking all the questions and the two of us giving all the answers. They looked at pictures Dustin brought and asked us to bring cameras tomorrow.

At SEAMS, Dustin worked with flash cards and at the chalkboard with the younger girls, which they enjoyed immensely. I took over the laptop and tried to get Shanthi, Kaliban and Rogesh to create a story. I wanted them to use their imagination and prodded them with opening sentences and ideas but they stuck to the basics of their life, school and study. I realize this type of exercise is outside of their curriculum but hoped against hope that they would seize the opportunity to let their minds wander far from SEAMS and the environment at home. The exercise was a bust. Hari bowed out without trying, as is his way; Kaliban got frustrated; Shanthi picked up her accounting book; and Rogesh stuck with me but managed only a few times to get away from the world as he knows it.

For dinner we went to the Grand Residence and enjoyed dining on the roof-top terrace. We also had a good laugh when they forgot to bring Stephen’s order of fish that came as chicken and failed to get dessert because they simply did not get around to dessert today!!!


"Everything happens for a reason."

Kendrick Cloud

October 8th, 2010
Well here it is my final journal entry for team #93.

Bill and I woke up and headed out to Grace School for our final day. Not knowing what to expect like most days, I packed the bag full of just about every teaching supply available.. I taught all 3 classes like a pro (well the best I could) and even let each class finish with coloring. At the end we sat with Esther and Selvi. Said our goodbyes and were able to take some photos. Unlike the kids at SEAM, the Grace kids were more interested in lunch then pictures.
So that was it! Bill and I completed all 3 weeks teaching English I’m an official Global Volunteer! There was only thing left to do is say goodbye to the SEAM kids. So in the evening we headed over to SEAM. They have done this many times but it was all new to me. I really don’t like goodbyes and really enjoyed the last 3 weeks at SEAM.

The kids had a going away celebration ready for us. They sang a few songs and even did a few dances. Bill got up and sang "This land is your land" and even put his own twist to it. We bought some cookies handed them out and spent the rest of the night just saying our goodbyes. Words cant describe the way this made me feel. I hope the kids learned just as much from me as I learned from them.

This was an amazing program and coming into this I did not know what to expect. It was probably better that way because we needed to be flexible and patient. That and a few other things to be the successful team we were. I have so many memories. Cows in the street, horns beeping, controlled traffic chaos, smiling faces, the heat and humidity, the list goes on. I met a young girl in the streets the 2nd day we were here and she was just so nice and welcoming, it turned out that she was one of my 4th grade students. I didn’t realize it until tonight when Bill and I shared some photos. And I will never forget my final day with Sophie at Assisi Home. It probably was day 14. She forced her way up to the second floor where I was teaching computers to the older kids and forced me to read flash cards. Well I shouldn’t say force cause I don’t think I could say noJ

I just wanted to thank all the children, their hosts, the local team, Bill, Global Volunteers, and all my friends and family back home.


Official Global Volunteer - India

"Goodbyes are not forever.

Goodbyes are not the end.

They simply mean I'll miss you

Until we meet again!"


Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from September 27th - October 2nd.

48 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 2 volunteers and 49 Hours of preparation time

2 Children's Home's and over 65 students impacted

September 27, 2010

"Experience is what causes a person to make new mistakes instead of old ones."

~Author Unknown

After a wonderful weekend in the temple town of Mamallapuram and night in Pondicherry it was time to get back to the children.

Well we had an extra guest last night. When we came home there was a raven flying around the 2nd floor. Instead of dealing with it, we let him spend the night on the chandelier and would let Stephan take care of it in the morning. Which he did.
Bill and I started our day with a Yoga session with Selva. I was tired from the weekend and I’m still trying to get over this sinus infection but I managed to get through it. We had a wonderful breakfast with Stephan, Sheeba and Roshan and then prepped for Assisi. Today we were meeting the kids that live at Assisi. This week they are on holiday break from school so that’s why we are meeting them for the first time.

You never know what to plan for until you have met the kids. I was on computers and Bill was on conversational English. Bill pulled out a map of Maine and the kids were just fascinated. The computer seemed to be distracting for the group because we only had one to work with and we were all in the same room. I managed to work with 5 different kids at all levels. Anywhere from “this is how you power on” to basic typing skills. This group was not as advanced as the SEAM’s group but my morning flew by.

Lunch brought me something different, bitter gourd. Well the name speaks for itself and I didn’t like it. Stephan said it was good for my health so I finished what was on my plate. Yuck. I did enjoyed the vegetable curry and cabbage!

Back to SEAM’s, this is our second week and we already seem like a couple of regulars. I got started quickly on computers and Bill with English. I was feeling like I’ve been neglecting the younger kids while I work with the older boys. So I asked Stephan to have a few of the younger children sit on the floor behind me and I would work on flash cards. It worked well at first but I think I added too much on my plate. After a while I just switched back and focused on the computers until time was up.

On the way out, the kids always run up say goodbye give handshakes or high fives, but one girl wanted to dance. So she stood on my feet as I danced around the room.

Monday mornings are a lot easier when you have smiley faces to wake up to. But every day here brings its new challenges, especially when I knew I would struggle with the teaching part of this program. We will continue to brain storm on ways to break through but will keep moving forward…


September 28, 2010

“A great deal of talent is lost to the world for the want of a little courage.” (Sydney Smith)

A new day and another adventure in service. At Assissi, I worked with the three girls I met yesterday and one boy. It was a bad combination in two respects: the boy is way behind the girls in development and the taunting and teasing that must go on between them was brought to the lesson. I struggled mightily but found it hard going. Nevertheless, it is difficult to try to hold back the brightest girl who is so eager to show her stuff. Patience is a virtue not yet in abundance. Dustin asked them over to the laptop and all but one refused!! Dustin ended his session and then played with the smaller children.

After lunch, Stephen the driver took us to the Government store to shop. Dustin did his best to bolster the Indian economy and I made a modest contribution. Then it was off to SEAMS for a rousing afternoon with that rambunctious group. Bill had the older kids going with word selection contests and Dustin slipped away from the laptops to engage the boys in “Hangman.” Rather than try to figure out the letters, the boys wanted to guess the words. Santhi was not feeling well and I had only Suganya who had to compete with the boys for space at the chalkboard. I think she felt pushed aside and I will speak to her tomorrow. Unfortunately, my sense is that this is normal male/female relationship in India, starting at a very young age.

For dinner, Stephen took us to the roof top dining area at the Grand Residence, where we supped on excellent Indian food with a view of Chennai. Tomorrow we are at the mid-point but we continue to try to develop a method to reach the children, particularly the older children. The rote system of learning has produced great minds and talent in India, but it is distressing to find that the children do not think and analyze and are at a loss to do much more than respond to yes and no questions and only occasionally do we see some attempt to work out an answer without reference to something already given to them.


September 29th, 2010

“Try not to become a man of success, but rather try to become a man of value.”
Albert Einstein

Well we made it half way through the program. We’ve come a long way in such a short time and I will try to soak as much as I can before its time to go.

Yoga started us off just right and like clockwork Rani had our breakfast ready after we finished. Then it was off to Assisi, I continued my routine with basic computers and Bill with English. Bill always has something new up his sleeve and whether it works or not he manages to get the children’s attention. Today he tried to make them create sentences. He first made them identify Subjects, Verbs, and Objects. It seemed like a good project and some of the kids eventually picked it up. I stayed the course with basic typing skills. The kids at Assisi have limited computer knowledge so we stick to the basics. It’s amusing to watch them because just before they stroke a key they look over to me so I can give them the approval. The morning moved along quickly and we were out of there before I had anytime for a quick game of “juice banana” or a nursery rhyme.

Back at the guest house Bill, Stephan, and I enjoyed a great conversation over lunch. Stephan is just full of information. He will take us from current events all the way back to 300 BC. It could be about - why the price of cashews are so expensive, why a woman may wear a toe ring or just about anything. It’s nice to just kick back and chat.

At SEAM's we decided to change things up a little because we have been with these kids every day since we got here. So we played a few of their Indian games. Bill and I joined for the first round of KOKO. Great game but exhausting. Next we sat back and watched the boys play KABABI. This game is a little rough so we sat out. We finished with dodge ball and in the 2nd round I was one of the final 2 left standing. Not for long, Hari caught me off guard and I was out.

Just when you think there is nothing more to do, Bill and I skipped dinner and headed out to the other side of town to catch a local traditional dance at The Music Academy. This dance is usually preformed at temple ceremonies and takes 6 years to master. The 2 girls who were twins put on quite a performance. They danced for 1 1/2 hours nonstop. I wish I could show you but we weren’t allowed to take pictures. It wasn't just the dance but their facial expressions, hands, eyes, just everything was amazing! Great way to get to the half way point…


September 30, 2010

“People take different roads seeking fulfillment and happiness. Just because they’re not on your road doesn’t mean they’ve gotten lost.” (Dalai Lama)

Stephen let us go it alone at Assissi this morning. The children were just as eager to see us took turns at the computer and working on English with Bill. The older girls had other assignments and we missed their presence. We are finding great differences in reading skills. One boy in particular is able to say words from the flash cards but when he tries to read them, he cannot. On the other hand there is a little six year old girl that works well at the laptop and is able to read simply sentences. The children are fascinated with books and pictures, which I used to introduce words without worrying about the story. For example, the story of the Statute of Liberty kept their attention for quite a few minutes. Since age is not the reason for the differences, I assume there are other problems of significance of which I am unaware.

At SEAMS, Dustin took the older boys and worked on reading but Charlotte’s Web could not hold their interest. He then started on word lists and hangman. Bill worked with Suganya, Santhi and Rogest on difficult words from a story he planned to read with them. It was a rousing session. Just like the younger children, however, there was often a failure to recognize the words when they were in the sentences being read. We then had the two groups compete on word lists, which turned into a spelling lesson. The letter combination that had them stumped was “ea” as in reason and release. They simply left out the silent “a” even when coached! Once again, however, the boys’ highly competitive nature turned the girls away.

The undeniable highlight of the day was dinner with Stephen and his family. We had a beautiful meal; a smorgasbord of Indian delights prepared by Sheeba and Stephen’s mother and overseen by his father. Stephen’s mother is a beautiful woman with a most warm and happy smile. We felt welcome and were warmed by the experience. We stopped in to visit with brother Stephen and his wife and child and also with Roni, who greeting us with a delightful smile. We are fortunate indeed to have the opportunity to visit with this most hospitable family.


October 1, 2010

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment. “


Yoga started us off just right and we had another wonderful breakfast. What a great way to start the day.

At Assisi there were a few more kids than usual. I started Sylvia on typing and then moved on to David, Asha, and finally V.Sandhiya. I’ve been working with Sylvia all week and at first she was very slow and unfamiliar with the computer. By the end of her lesson today, she was moving pretty quickly with her typing and she is only 6. With only about a half hour left, we found out that we aren’t going to be spending Saturday with the Assisi kids and today was our last day. So I packed up the computer so I could spend some time with all the children before we were off. We all headed downstairs and said our goodbyes. Time flew by the last 2 weeks at the Assisi Home. Bill and I were planning on having one more day but the children will be going away for a picnic tomorrow. They will all be missed.

After lunch we headed back to SEAM’s. I only had one computer to work with today so Hari, Kabilan and I reviewed Microsoft Excel. I showed them how to create basic spreadsheet and charts. When I was running out of things to show them we started creating a resume for Hari. We didn’t have power today so the laptop battery was dying so we will have to finish tomorrow. Bill continues to work with Suganya & Santi with their English. Time was up and we headed back to the quest house.