Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Monday October 31, 2011

“There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle, you can live as if everything is a miracle.” Albert Einstein”

Week two begins.   Raining again as Shankha headed off to the Grace School this morning.  He really enjoys his time there with the students as well as helping the teachers with their English.

Sherie and I went to Assisi.  Soon after we arrived we went with one of the sisters to St. Thomas Hospital to meet with Sr. Rexline, the medical director and head of Assisi and many social programs for women and children in the area.  She is a tiny, very energetic woman who has built a very impressive program over the past thirty five years. She lives in a single room at the hospital and is on call for the patients day and night.  We met with two of the doctors and toured the pediatric ward.  There were a couple of children who were just going home after suffering fire cracker burns over the Devali holiday. 

In the afternoon Sheri and I continued our classes with the first through fourth graders at Grace School.  The children are quite receptive and their skills are quite good.  Today I had them make as many small words from large words and they were pleased to get nearly twenty.  They had to spell and pronounce the word with the class. 

Tonight at SEAMS we met with students we had not worked with during the first week. They just love to look at the books and sit quietly on the bunks while we are working with an individual student.  The day went quickly.

The monsoon rains and drainage problem have caused the road outside the guesthouse to collapse in a number of spots with deep holes.  Steven now meets us at the corner but the way is made a bit drier with dried palm branches to ease the way.


Friday - October 28, 2011

“The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and convenience, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”  Martin Luther King Jr.

The cyclone missed us, the holiday is over and we are back to our regular schedule. 

Eileen and I went to Assisi facility in the morning and interacted with the day care children for an hour and then we helped with ironing, mending and folding clothes, which had piled up because of the rain.

Shankha spent the morning at Grace school where he truly enjoys teaching 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade. He also spent some time conversing with the teachers.

After lunch, Eileen and I went to the Grace school.  I felt more prepared this time but the thirteen 1st graders are a challenge.  My four 2nd  grade girls are eager to learn and a real joy.

We picked up the energetic, smiling,  Roshan, Stephen and Sheeba’s son, at his kindergarten.  This private school with spacious grounds, is K-12th grade with approximately 1000 students and more on a waiting list.

We later, continued our daily work at the Seam Home.


Thursday – October 27, 2011

“The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer somebody else” – Mark Twain

We were getting ready to do our usual routine in the morning but Stephen informed us that the school classes had been called off in Chenai due to a Cyclone that was heading this way. We were disappointed but we had to change our plans and I went to Assisi Orphanage with other volunteers as the home children would be there and need help. The rains have been fairly regular so the roads are still a bit difficult but our driver Stephen has been doing well to get us wherever we want to go. There were many children at the orphanage. We worked one on one with a child to help their English comprehension. Later we got them busy doing some coloring which they like a lot and then played some games with them.

After lunch we went shopping downtown at the Government owned Cottage Industries store. It was a good place to get Indian products of good quality.

The last activity was our usual stop at the Seam Orphanage where we teach individually students English reading and spelling. As mentioned earlier these kids really need attention to improve their reading skills. We tried our best to have them pronounce words correctly and read simple sentences without coaching.


Wednesday - October 26, 2011

“I have found the paradox that if I love until it hurts then there is no hurt, only more love. “ Mother Teresa

Deepavali, Chennai 2011

Well the firecrackers started before four in the morning to make the most celebrated Indian holiday. Neither monsoon rains, deeply muddied roads or endless exploding fireworks in the path of the Tata could keep us from our assignments for Global today.

At Assisi there were no daycare children as they were home with their families. However the center was teeming with excitement as we arrived to nearly all of the children who reside there setting off fireworks in the street and courtyard.  Even the small ones were setting off sparklers with their own smoldering lighters.  Truly a scene we would not see in America. Once the explosions were over and without any obvious injuries we worked with the school age children with reading, English pronunciation and songs.  They were very enthusiastic.  Some of the children are from homeless families and some are survivors of the past Tsunami several years back.  The work of the center is truly a humbling experience.

At SEAMS this afternoon, each child had a separate new outfit and were very pleased to show us.  No two shirts or dresses the same.  Everyone was special.  We continued to help them with their reading skills which are really very elementary.  Using basic flash cards and very easy reading books and lots of praise for small accomplishments seems to be the way to go.  The children greet us as soon as we arrive and are really eager to work with someone just to themselves. The ride back to the guest house was harrowing with  live fireworks being set off right  in front of the car but as usual Stephen our driver was determined to get us through so we could have dinner and prepare the next day’s lessons.


Tuesday - October 25, 2011

“The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service of others” Mahatma Ghandhi

‘It’s raining-it’s pouring’ Today we woke up to a downpour but because of our efficient driver, Stephen (Stephen/Raja brother) we were able to go to the Assisi facility.   We were better prepared with more books and crayons for coloring but to our surprise there were only three children attending the day care.  Because of the Dewahli holiday on the 26th, many families had other plans.  It actually turned out nicely in that we could give special attention to Karthick, Rickshan and Sherin and get to know them better.  Sherin we decided was a very good manager, as she directed Eileen to color her fish picture with specific colors.

We had some free time in the afternoon since the Grace School was closed for the holiday.

In the late afternoon we went to the Seam Home, to work individually with the children.  We felt we were better prepared since we had some of the same children and we had brought materials which met their level. The children were very excited for tomorrows holiday when they can wear their new clothes bought for them from the community.


Monday – October 24, 2011

“Life is like a bicycle, to keep your balance you must keep moving”

After a delicious breakfast we went on our separate ways to our respective work.

I went to the Grace school which is a primary school from KG to 5th grade. It is a small school with about 60 students. I met the Principal and the teachers and toured the classes where I was greeted in unison with a loud remark-Good morning. I was assigned the grades 3, 4 and 5. I taught English using their textbook to the 3rd grade first. We practiced reading in simple sentences and asked each student to spell out words. I also questioned them about words that they read and asked them to use these in sentences. It was a joy to teach these bright kids. Next I had the 4th grade kids. There were only 4 students today. Again it was English lessons and I used their textbook to go over some pages that they already had studied. It was fun to see students trying to answer out of turn and trying to help the one on the spot.

After a 15 min break I went to teach arithmetic to 5th grade class. There were six students and one was supposedly absent. They had no textbook so we practiced simple additions, subtractions, multiplications and divisions. Some of them were quite adept at these exercises and would answer me even though it was not their turn, so eager and wanting applause. They did listen to my requests and were well mannered. It was a fun morning. I also spent some time with teachers as they wanted to speak better English. We exchanged our life histories and our family details. Not surprisingly their ultimate goal was to be a good teacher,

Sheri and Eileen visited in the morning the Assisi Illam which is a daycare facility. They were dealing with 2-4 yr old kids. They liked the experience a lot as the children were lovable but Sheri described it as a “challenging” task. They read books to them and sang songs to them. In future coloring of books may be a regular task for them.

Raja suggested that we should have 4 or 5 half hour activities for these kids to keep them busy, such as book reading, songs, physical activities like playing ball, etc., coloring books and maybe practice alphabets on the wall blackboard. He also suggested that we should take breaks once in a while.

In the afternoon (after lunch) Sheri and Eileen went to the Grace School. Eileen was involved with the 3,4 and 5th grades and Sheri handled the 1st  and 2nd grades. Eileen found them to be quite competent in math; she read passages from their text books and played a language game with them. In Sheri’s first grade class the teacher was also present which was a bit unsettling to her as often when she asked questions, the teacher would let the class know the answer and the class chimed the answer in unison. She also had songs in the class whose words she wrote on the board. Her 2nd grade class had only 3 students so she could manage them well. They were quite bright and did communicate more.

Later we all visited The Seam Children’s Home which is a home for poor and orphaned children. We had been there the evening before and seen their enthusiasm toward us. We each had a child to go over individually some practice in English reading. It was clear that these children did not have the competence to read simple words from lessons that they already had gone over. They need lot more practice in reading. They are understaffed at this place so the help that Global Volunteers provide can be of great help in remedying their English.

It was a rewarding and memorable day for all of us.


Sunday - October 23, 2011

Orientation Day

"If we are to come together in peace, we must come to know each other better." Lyndon Johnson

Our team of three, Sheri, Shankha and myself under the kind and very informative Stephan had our day of orientation beginning with breakfast. Stephen introduced us to the projects that the volunteers currently participate including the SEAMS Children’s Home, Assisi Illam and the Grace School.

Stephan helped us to formulate team goals for the week to focus on helping the children learn better English skills as well as gaining a better understanding of the Tamil culture of South India. We reviewed the schedule for the week which will involve working at three community projects with children from age two to twenty.  We know that we serve as the guests of the host. 

We took a walk through town this afternoon and met a number of families who were out with their children as it was not a workday.  The children were quite eager to have their photos taken.  We practiced a few of the Tamil greetings Stephen shared with us in the morning. 

This evening we walked to the SEAMS home and met the lively cheerful residents who were very eager to serenade us with local songs as well as to show off their dorm rooms.  We promised to return nightly for more stories, conversation and games. 

Stephen was ever so patient with our endless questions as we tried to absorb as much of the information of this new, busy bustling culture.  After only twenty four hours it seems that this time will just fly by.


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