For Ellen, Katie, and me, this was our last teaching day, and it seemed to go very quickly. At St. Joseph’s Ellen and I had the lower kindergarten again, which has often seemed a difficult assignment, but today we seemed to sail through it, singing every song we knew and then some. It was sad to say good-by, especially to Mrs. Mercy, who has obviously enjoyed our visits and worked beside us, teaching us songs and learning songs from us.
At Grace I finally had the fifth grade. For the last several days they haven’t been allowed to work with me due to some infraction. I showed them pictures of my family and my home, and they wrote a love note to me all over the blackboard. Then it was on to SEAMS for more good-bys, and the children sang and danced for us. A number of them turned out to be very talented. Four girls danced with lighted candles cupped in their hands, and a boy and a girl sang lovely solos. Next was a delightful restaurant meal, another good-by, I guess, to Stephen, Sheeba, Roshan, and Jeff and Katrine, who will be continuing on without us.
I feel I am just beginning to know these children, and now I am leaving them. I wonder what they think of the way these foreigners come and go through their lives. I hope my small time with them has helped them in some way to make their lives better, to make them more able to fulfill their dreams.
“If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in
bed with a mosquito.” Betty Reese
After a usual schedule (Jeff and Katrine at Assisi Illam, Katie at Grace School and Assisi Illam, and Winnie and I at St. Joseph’s and Grace), all but Katrine went to SEAM’s and then afterward to Stephen’s parents’ home for a sumptuous dinner. Katrine was still a bit under the weather, so stayed at the Guest House to rest. Stephen’s parents (Mr. and Mrs. Chinnappan) live in a Christian community, with many relatives close by, so we had the opportunity to see several homes, into which we were welcomed graciously. Stephen, our driver and his wife and little boy, Robinson, live next door, Sheeba’s sister lives behind them. We met an aunt and cousins and saw Rani’s home, as well. The dinner was beautifully cooked, with several chicken dishes, fish, and all other lovely kinds of food, including a favorite, rice pudding, Mr.and Mrs. Chinnappan showed us perfect hospitality. Sister Matilda and the five youngest Assisi children were also invited, so Roshan had them, as well as Robinson to play with,. Much of the time Stephan and Sheba live in the parents’ home when they are not caring for a Global Volunteers team. It was a lovely evening.
Quote of the day: “Never doubt that a small group of committed people can
change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.
(paraphrased) Margaret Mead
Today we were invited to join the Assisi children and nuns for a visit to Dr. Rexaline's farm. We all piled into a yellow school bus at approximately 9.30 am. The children were very excited. Sister Rose and sister Metilda started off the trip with a prayer and then the children took over with lots of screams of excitement as we saw trains, passed the airport and just generally as we drove along. It took us about 1 1/2 hours to reach a pilgrim site called Acharabakkam, south west of Chennai. There we attended a mass. The pilgrim site is where many miracles have happened in the name of Mother Mary. The music during mass was lovely. The mass and cermon was in Tamil and ended just after midday. There is a shrine on top of a hill which we could have climbed up to but it was far too hot.
So we all piled into the bus again after having inspected some cages with different kinds of birds. A short ride later we reached Dr. Rexaline's farm. At the moment the farm consist of a retreat centre for the nuns but also for lay people if they so wish and a dispensary. We met with the sister who is in charge of the centre in her office. Then they served us a wonderful lunch. The children had a pick nick lunch which they had brought with them from Assisi.
Dr. Rexaline also has other plans for the site. Now they grow peanuts which they sell.
At about 3 pm we again took possession of the bus for the return trip to Chennai. Most of the children promptly had a nap on the bus. As we neared Chennai it soon became apparent that we were going to pay a visit to the beach in Chennai. We spent about 1 1/2 hours on the beach and it was dark as we all piled into the bus again for the return trip to Assisi.
We reached the house well after 8 o'clock after a very long and rewarding day.
"We cannot live only for ourselves. A thousand fibres connect us with our fellow men" Herman Melville.
Our day began with yet another of Rani’s wonderful breakfasts. As much as we enjoyed it, we also knew we needed to save room for the relatively early noon lunch we would be having with the sisters at St. Thomas Hospital. Because of the early lunch, we also knew we would have less time to spend with our kids this morning. Katrine was glad to finally have Jeff back at Assisi Illam today. The kids were pretty wild yesterday and two volunteers, plus a normal staff level at the school helped things go much more smoothly.
By 12:30, everyone had gathered at St. Thomas’ for lunch. The section of the hospital facility where the sisters live is very serene with a shaded courtyard. Even though sister Rexline couldn’t eat with us today, due to another meeting, she and other sisters, including mother superior, served us a larger meal that included fish, rice, fried potatoes, cabbage, a crispy snack, papaya, and much more. They even fixed Katrine a special omelet to accommodate her vegetarian diet. After lunch, the sisters presented each of us with a beautiful scarf, apparently in appreciation of the work we are doing. It was all very humbling, especially for this writer, bearing in mind these are people who have devoted their entire lives to serving others.
Lunch was followed by Katrine, Katie, Ellen, and Winnie taking an afternoon excursion to the Government Emporium market, where one can purchase local handmade art. Finally feeling better after days dealing with the “crud,” Jeff chose to return to the guest house with Stephen to take it easy.
Our visit to SEAMS found work finally resuming on the under-the-bed boxes. Tonight’s task was to plane the sides of the box in order to prepare it for the lid and hardware, which will come next week.
Stephen led us in a 10-day assessment of our GV experience at dinner. We all reported growing confidence in abilities, increasing success in our tasks, and continuing enjoyment of the children. In reviewing our team goals, we agreed we are certainly “learning about India,” making strides in “teaching English,” indeed “connecting with Indians,” constantly “sharing of ourselves.” We also feel we are meeting the standards we set for being a successful team. During our discussion, Stephen complimented us by saying we are a wonderful team to work with and we all agreed we couldn’t do it without his effective leadership.
“Be the change that you want to see in the world.”
We started the second week back at our daily assignments: St Joseph’s School, Grace School and Assisi Illam. The common theme among the projects is the need for flexibility in our volunteer work. You never know which class you will be teaching, if the day care teacher will arrive, if the kids will have their pencils, or if the power will be on.
The entire team spent the early evening at SEAM Children’s Home. What seemed like an overwhelming amount of people and names to learn last week now seems much more under control. I’m amazing by the discipline of these children. After they get home from school, they change out of their uniforms and start with the chores: washing dishes, cleaning their room, sweeping the dirt ground. Next they spend two hours studying and doing their homework. It’s also nice to see how well the kids take care of each other. Ellen noted that one of the older boys came by her group and complimented the young children on how well they were going on with their coloring.
We were invited to Assisi Illam for a dance recital. The kids swarmed to great us when we arrived. They were dressed up in what seems to be traditional Indian dance costumes complete with lipstick, blush, red markings on their hands, and jasmine in their hair. They did a few Indian dances and then switched to some American ones. The kids invited us to dance with them. I had a great time dancing with Sister Rose. Sister Rose prepared a wonderful meal and the rest of the evening was spent visiting and playing with the children.
“The best way to find yourself is to loose yourself in the service of others.”