Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Friday, October 27, 2012

I've seen and met angels wearing the disguise of ordinary people living ordinary lives. ~Tracy Chapman

The last day has come to an end. Only cried twice today which is actually better than I thought. I Exchanged e-mails with Sister Matilda at the end of my Shift in the Early Intervention Department and then had the honor of meeting one of Chennai's best pediatricians. He was very welcoming and was very pleased with the Global Volunteers work with them.

Stephen, my driver was confused when I started to cry on the way home. It was so hard to leave those children and Sister Matilda knowing that there are so many children that she wants to help but does not have the funds for. It only drives me to get a plan together as soon as I return to the states!

In the afternoon I was invited to Steven Raja's (my host) mothers home for lunch where I met his mother and father, sister in law, and neice. The food and the company were wonderful and although English was not their first language, we were able to communicate easily and Stephen was always close to help when we got stuck.

I was so excited when after lunch, Sheeba brought me out back to see her collection of parakeets. (and I am not kidding when I say collection) I did not stop to count but it was close to atleast 17 or so. I felt like I was in a tropical paradise sitting under the red bannana tree and watching the birds... it was really, really cool.

We returned back to the neighborhood where I was able to pick up a few little cookie treats for the children at SEAMS, and have a quick cola before heading to the Mission.

What a difference from the first day that I did visit, where I had to walk across the couryard and into the hall to see the children. Now they wait on the stairs and run to us when we come in the front gate. It truely fills your heart when they charge you yelling "Sister, Sister"... (actually "Sista Sista") Only this day they were dressed in their best party clothes. The boys were ready, but the girls lagged putting the finishing touches to their braids by adding bows and pinning their scarves to their shoulders.

Our special send off was started with Sheeba adding fresh flowers to my hair and taking pictures with the all the boys and girls, each one trying to get as close as possible to me all trying to take my hand or stroke my arm. It was really amazing, and left me wishing that I could have one more day with these little ones. We danced and sang and shared oranges and cookies and played a rousing game of Simon Says.. I made sure that I was out pretty quickly so that I could sit the the little ones and watch the kids enjoy themselves.

Good bye is not acceptable in Tamil... they will only say "see you later", which is pretty much my philosphy too! Good bye is too final, and I do hope to see these children again one day. They are all so very special and I will hold them and my my memories with them in my heart forever! When it was time to go, I had 31 little ones following me to the gate asking over and over " sisah, you come back next year?" please sistah, you come back next year???" Try not to cry when you hear that... I dare you... it's impossible! I know that the money we raise for them will go to good use, and I look forward to helping their future become a little more easy. Stephen Raja and Sheeba do so much for these children, I cant allow them to do it on their own...

A treat tonight! Stephen and Sheeba took me to a beautiful Indian resturant this evening as my farewell. The food was yummy and I have finally gotten used to eating with my hands! (I am pretty efficient at it if I do say so!) Although I do enjoy the American custom of eating with utensils it was fun to try!

Upon our return home Sheeba made coffee and we sat for a bit looking at my childrens photo's on the computer, and I showed her pictures of my home and some of my dear friends. Sheeba and I have become great friends, and I am certain we will keep touch when I get home!

I have an hour left..... So so very sad to leave India, I have another family here in India whom I care for and I feel as though I will be leaving a bit of my heart here. Stephen and Sheeba were so amazing at making me feel welcome and comfortable. They truly love the work they do and the country in which they live. Stephen and Sheeba are wonderful teachers of their country and the cultury. I will miss them Dearly! I am already planning my next trip here. This experience has changed me for the better and working so closely with the caring people of India will make me work to be a better person my entire lifetime. I love you India and my new family... I will see you soon!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012
The best way to find yourself, is to lose yourself in the service of others. ~Mohandas Gandhi

Legos….. Take Two!

Today was started after breakfast as Stephen Drove me to the hospital to work in the special needs department with Sister Matilda. Sadly it was a festival day so I was only able to work with two little ones. One child with CP and the other is still clinically undiagnosed by the Doctors. Unfortunately what this child suffered from, so does his older sister. There I also metal amazing woman who was one of the developers in the project. I thought she was one of the Doctors who worked in the hospital until she told me she was actually an enginier with no background as a physician in medicine at all. She helped start the program and before she knew it she was also a volunteer! She was amazing, friendly and very insightful with a drive to learn all she could about special needs children so that she was more equipped to help. She showed me around the facility and made me familiar with the supplies that they had to work with. I really look forward to working with her again tomorrow, where we will share ideas on how we utilize different resources that we have in the US to supplement what she is doing now.

After the hospital I arrived home to lunch which was followed by a bit of shopping for my families souvenirs at a wonderful bazar that worked with artisans that ensured no child labor. I found really wonderful treasures to return home with.

Our drive home from the city back to the suburbs was and always is quite the adventure. The hundreds of people, the hundreds of motorshaws and motorbikes, (which were usually carrying up to 4 or 5 people) along with, I am pretty sure, every car in India. I think there is some sort of agreement with the motorist here also that you Must honk your horn every time you see a human being…. as you hear an almost constant honk in the city! I was relieved to get back to the guest house and the quiet!

We arrived home and began preparing for SEAMS where Stephen and Sheeba carried box after box of books for the library to the car and bags of medical supplies for the new supply closet.

We arrived at SEAMS and the older boys immediately began finishing the new shelves while the younger boys sorted through books and flashcards while Sheeba and I sorted school supplies and medicines. I have never seen young boys work so hard, what was funnier was watching them try to stay on track as they wanted to flip through the colorful books more than anything. It was not easy keeping them on task!

After the work was done we were able to go back down stairs to the main hall where the rest of the children worked on their legos again. Only since it was day two with the legos, the creativity was flowing and instead of just fish, we were seeing lego houses, robots and something Im pretty sure was an artist creation! They played for hours with just a handful of the famous plastic toys!

Sheeba then handed out corn on the cob which was a giant treat to the children. I watched in amazement as they picked kernel by kernel making sure not to drop one. (some even managed to eat half of the husk)

We ended our day saying goodbye to the children before our short journey home through the winding streets that were still full of people due to the festival. Another successful day in Chennai… I can hardly believe my time here is almost over. It will be sad to say good bye. The positive is that I will see my own children when I do. Peace

Peace & Love!



Monday, October 22, 2012
There are many in the world who are dying for a piece of bread, but there are many more dying for a little love. ~Mother Teresa

First Official Day!

Today was my first official day in Chennai, India. I arrived on Saturday and had two days to get my bearings and reconfigure my sleep.

We started our day with yet another wonderful breakfast with Stephen and Sheeba. I was worried that I would not acclimate to Indian food, and actually hoped to return home a few pounds lighter. That will not be the case! The food prepared for us is wonderful! I clear my plate and often go back for seconds at each meal. Sheeba and Stephen are amazing hosts. They treat me like family and go above and beyond to make me feel welcome, safe and at home.

The weather finally cleared today after my first two days of rain. The sun was a welcome addition as we headed to Assisi Illam, a Day Care center that also takes care of orphans and semi orphans. This center is run by the nuns of the order of Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph. There we met Sister Rose and Sister Metilda, the two amazing women who are in charge of this facility. They care for approximately 25 children in the day care and 30 children in the orphanage.

The children were very excited to see us arrive and quickly greeted us with smiles and warm welcome. It is amazing what the Sisters have done for these children nurturing them with love and the appropriate amount of discipline that they have are growing to be wonderful kids! I loved every minute of being their and spending time with the sisters and the children. The giggles were endless and the both Sister Rose and Sister Metilda were full fun both with a great sense of humor! We brought along lego fish which the children took great care to assemble and show us with great pride when they were complete. Stephen gave me the grand tour of their beautiful facility before we played games and then headed for home.

After yet another fabulous Indian lunch I headed up to my room to prepare for our visit to SEAMS Children's Home. At SEAMS, Paster Arul Pragasam and his wife Pricila care for 39 orphaned, semi- orphaned and poor children ages 5 to 18. There we built new shelves for the library so that the children could store their books safely. As a few of the older boys helped assemble the shelves the younger children were also elated by the lego fish that we brought along with us. Although some did struggle with the task, it was great to see the children who did finish work to help the others . Sheeba brought along pomegranate that the children relished every bit of in complete silence. It filled my heart to see them so happy.

Weather permitting, we will start at the hospital in the morning. Today we were planning on going, but due to the mud from all of the rain, many of the facilities declared it a holiday. (in New England we would refer to it as a snow day… only with mud) I look forward to tomorrow and what new adventures I will have.


Monday, October 29, 2012

Team 118 - Oct. 6-20, 2012  

Time is a priceless gift

Arrived in Chennai in the evening—Stephen (Raja)  was there to meet me at the airport along with his brother (the “real Stephen”), who will be the  driver as needed.   It was a bit of a drive to the house from the airport.  Once there, it didn’t take long to settle into my upstairs room.   I met Sheeba, Stephen’s wife and their son, Roshan, who is 4-years old.  They stay on the lower level of the home where the team meeting area is also located when on site.   The remaining evening was just a brief time of greeting with a light meal already for me.   I am a team of 1. 

            The next day was Sunday and later in the AM, we met to discuss the various  projects; have a little Tamil language lesson;  go over Global Volunteer rules; goals for my 2 weeks and general housekeeping information.  The cook is Rani and the caretaker/watchman  is Barnabus. 

We sorted through my donations and as I had been in India for some pre-project travel, I also did some laundry.  Later in the afternoon, we went to SEAMS, which is one of the project sites.  The children were very polite, enthusiastic.  They enjoyed showing me around and also introduced themselves and sang a song for me.  Sunday evening, we walked to a local restaurant for our supper.


Monday. Oct 8, 2012

The ripples of a pebble travel far

My first full day as a volunteer.  Rani’s breakfast as usual was filling.  Assisi Illam, was the destination of the AM to help at a day-care for 2-4 year old children in the neighborhood.  The kids are quite active and most were very happy to interact/see visitors.  There were a few that held back.   Singing, playing, and a snack time followed by toilet time were the activities of the AM.  So much energy the children have and so much curiosity. 

After lunch, Stephen drove me to Grace School.   My charges for the week are 4th and 5th graders---45 minutes with each group.   One quickly realizes that the skill level is quite variable even in a group of 3-4 children, so there is an added challenge of helping those with lower skills while not boring the ones with higher reading/math skills.   Enthusiasm is not a problem.

There is prep/break time between each project, and it does come in handy for re-energizing and focusing.  My later afternoon was spent back at SEAMS---30 minute sessions with 2 students each session.  Again, there is a challenge to keep each learning at his/her level---but much easier than when managing 3-6 at once.

Meals continue to be quite filling and tasty—usually rice and then some chutney and vegetable; meat for the main meals;  fruit always available.  Fry breads of various types are also served regularly.  The spices aren’t too strong but definitely give you a taste of Indian cuisine. 

The “shower” at the end of this first full day was welcome with the day’s heat—only cold water available.   The bed has mosquito netting over it, and so far I’ve not noticed many/much in the way of mosquitos.   The fan and air conditioning in the room when occupied is also welcome with the heat. 


Wednesday. Oct 10, 2012

“To the world you may be one person, but to one person you may be the world”—author unknown

The mid-point of my first week  I’m starting to get into a routine.  The children have plenty of enthusiasm and energy along with smiles.   My time at Assisi Illam with the younger children—singing, playing, reading and helping with toileting/hygiene.    Lunch and break before going to Grace to work with the 4th and 5th grades on math and reading/writing skills; break and then time at SEAMS again working with various ages in groups of 2 on reading/math skills.   

I’m finding my way to the local grocery store at times to get a bit of chocolate or some Diet Coke.  It is just around the corner basically, so it is not a far walk.   During the cooler parts of the day, I will occasionally go to the roof to enjoy the breezes and change of scenery.    I am getting more comfortable with lesson planning and “back-up” planning as well.

There is no going hungry here with Rani’s cooking.   Roshan is full of energy and loves Thomas the Train and Tom & Jerry shows, so I will join him in watching those at times in the evening.   There are power outages at different times throughout  the city, so my class time is such that I arrive as power returns for some sites and I generally am not “home” during the outage at the guest house.


Friday, Oct 12, 2012

Smiles are communicative in any language

My first full week has come to a close.   I’m finding the children’s enthusiasm and smiles quite energizing as I continue to hone my “teaching” skills .    Learning the names of some of the children has been somewhat successful---with so many, it is a challenge. 

Rice or noodles are a diet staple; meat is generally chicken---although we’ve had some fish and beef.  All the meals have been quite tasty.   Thursday night, we went to the big shopping area in Chennai---I bought some fabric and this afternoon, Sheeba and I went to the lady’s tailor for measuring and fitting---my outfit will be ready early next week.

Each evening there is time to discuss the day---thoughts, concerns, problems; also discussion of the upcoming activities.     I also try to spend a little time emailing back home.


Weekend, Oct 13/14, 2012

“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you”

Saturday, Stephen drove me to Kanchipuram for visiting of 4 of the temples there.  Unlike the car used during the week, this one had air conditioning.   Driving is such an adventure here----how any one avoids accidents is mind-boggling at times.  Seeing livestock on city streets is becoming less novel; hearing horns beeping is nearly constant.    Stephen does an excellent job getting one from point “A” to “B”.      The other big thing to do at Kanchipuram is silk shopping, but I had done enough of that on my pre-project travels, so we returned to “home” early afternoon.   

It was a quiet Saturday of reading, writing, cross-stitching and just relaxing; also a little  walk.   Sheeba, Roshan and Stephen were out for the evening to a birthday party---I had the option to go but decided a quiet evening “at home” was in order.   Rani made sure I had food available for supper when I was ready.

Sunday was a tour of Chennai sites---Thomas the apostle sites, the museum and a drive by the beach.   As last Sunday, we had our evening meal at the restaurant not far from the house—Anjappar.   And then it was time to prepare for the coming week of “work”.


Monday, Oct 15, 2012

Behind every cloud is a rainbow

The start of another week---a hearty breakfast by Rani of hard boiled egg, chutney and I was ready to face the day.  Today, I spent the morning at St. Thomas Hospital helping Sister Metilda and the other staff working with children with a variety of chronic conditions—autism and cerebral palsy were the main ones I saw this day and what  I would generally call developmental delays of various forms/degrees.    I was asked to work with 2 different children during the morning---first was a 5 year old boy with cerebral palsy; then I had a 5-month old child with cerebral palsy.    The family members were involved in the sessions as well.

After lunch, Sheeba and I went for a short walk in the neighborhood---in search of fresh chicken as I wanted a picture of the places that sold such.   Well, it was a new moon, so very few people eat chicken on this day, so the shop was closed.  We stopped at the grocery store instead.   Sheebe also showed me some of the various coins that are used in India as well.  The afternoon at Grace, I had the 1st (2 students) and 3rd (3 students) during my sessions.   The later afternoon session was at SEAMS as usual.  The children seemed a bit more squirrely today, but we still managed to get a little learning done.

At supper, we had poori (a fried in oil bread) with the chicken  curry and vegetables.  Later this week, I will have a cooking lesson for some of the Indian foods.   Ready or not, I have a feeling this second week will go fast.


Wednesday, Oct 17, 2012

Never underestimate the power of touch

Midweek of my last week in India---and the day was a bit different from most.  I started out getting up early, so that Stephen could drive me to the wholesale flower/vegetable/fruit market to take in the sights/sounds/scents.  It was quite busy and rather interesting—very colorful with the all the stands with products arranged for sale.    Before I had gone to the market, I’d thrown clothes in the laundry and planned to hang them when home, but the rain showers came---so they were hung in my room.

With the rains, some of the children didn’t come for their therapy time at the hospital, so there were fewer children—little Teje (5 months) was there, so I worked with him until he needed a nap—then I led some stretching for the adults.    The third and first graders at Grace continue to be enthusiastic and interested but their energy can sometimes be a challenge to control.

I didn’t go to SEAMS today---had the opportunity to go into Chennai to see some traditional dance—Bharathanatayam.  I even wore the clothes to town that the tailor had finished for me.  The costumes, dance and music were all quite interesting—it started a little later than advertised,  and so we started home about 7:45PM.  The traffic and rain made it a very long, slow drive home---9:30 PM when arrived home.   Sheeba and Stephen had waited supper for me. 

A very full day but interesting---rain definitely changes the activity/pace of life here.  Tomorrow I will have the chance for cooking  with Sheeba and Rani during the day.    Depending on the rains, classes may or may not occur at schools, as they call holiday when rains are bad. 


Friday, Oct 19, 2012

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

My last full day at Chennai working with the children.  There has been a lot of rain the last couple of days which has altered schedules and the children available to work with.   The hospital children did not have any sessions yesterday AM due to the rain, so I had cooking lesson  with Rani and Sheeba.   There were fewer students at Grace as well; spent more time at SEAMS in the evening working with the children there.   

Today the rains continue.  I was surprised when most of the children were at St. Thomas Hospital for therapy.  I split my time between the little baby Teje and the older child Harish.  When it was time to say good-by, Sister Matilda and other staff gave me hugs and wished me well.   Before coming home, we also stopped at Assisi Illam so that I could say good-bye to the children and staff/adults there and Sister Rose. 

There were children missing at Grace School again today due to the weather, so I had some blended classes but seemed to keep all busy with tasks.    Again there were good-byes to say as the day ended.   At SEAMS, after doing some lessons with a couple of the boys, all the children presented a little “program” for me—singing and some dancing; each came up to say their thanks and good-byes and I was presented with a lovely card they had all signed.   Good-byes are never easy, even when you’ve only met/known people for a short time.  

Supper was served in traditional style on banana leaves----and I even ate traditional style with my fingers.     So many memories/experiences these last couple of weeks!!   One can only hope/pray that the seeds started/nurtured will continue to flourish and grow.  


Monday, October 8, 2012


Friday, October 5, 2012

“A child is like a paper on which every passerby leaves a mark.”

Thought for the day at St Thomas Hospital Chennai

So this is it, our two weeks have come to an end it is our last day.. Mary and I start with another great breakfast. We are off to Assisi to meet with Sister Rose. We express our gratitude to her for letting us work with the children. The children are so well cared for and loved at that special haven. Sister Rose shows a 10 minute short film starring one of the orphans. It is very well done and moving particularly knowing the story of the girl who starred in the film.

After Assisi, we go up the mount to the Shrine of St Thomas to see the spot where St Thomas was killed. We can see the sprawl of Chennai from the hilltop.

Back to the guest house for lunch and the gathering of our thoughts as we prepare to pack, Mary has a little more shopping to do so I tag along. Final touches are given by the tailor to exquisite outfits made from the saris Mary bought in Kanchipurum. In the afternoon, we are a little lost without our routine. No more lessons to plan, no more books to gather. We always have great conversations about life in India as we sit around the dining room table. Sheeba gives us so much insight about family life. Stephen adds a few comments here and there.

Time to go to Seams for the last time; it is bitter sweet knowing it is our last evening. Children are aware it is our last night but are very upbeat. Simon sez is played, a riotous game of telephone, balloons are passed out. Then it is the children’s time to entertain with songs and dance. We give out stickers and candy. And then it is time to leave.

These two weeks have been rich and eye opening. The love and willingness of the children have been way beyond anything we could have imagined. The wealth of these programs lies in the profound integrity of those that serve these children. Stephen and Sheeba have created an atmosphere of inclusion and responsibility. To them, I am forever grateful. It is hard leaving the children however knowing that Stephen and Sheeba provide a continuity of presence keeps the children from feelings of abandonment. They know Global Volunteer is a constant in their lives. I am grateful to have been a small part of a larger whole.




Thursday, October 4, 2012

Thought for the day: God gives everyone certain attributes, characteristics, talents and then He says: “If you use what you have, I’ll increase it, but if you don’t use it, you’ll lose it.” Use it or lose it, it’s a law. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones (Simple Truths)

Well, our next to the last day is here. What a quick two weeks. We start another day and look forward to what it holds for us. I begin the day with my walking, and by walking so much I have even made a path of where I walk. My walking gets me going in the morning, but it also gives me the opportunity to see the beauty in the sky, hear the sounds of life waking up, and get my exercise, too. The temperature is cool this early in the morning. When I finish walking, II always look forward to and take my bucket shower. I always feel so refreshed after the shower.

Breakfast is again magnificent. Rani continues to outdo herself with each meal. A little after nine, Dr. Sister Rexline picks us up to take us to the sites she has been working on to take care of families, children, and hospitalized individuals. We initially went to the Old Age Home or resting place for the elderly, we saw construction being done for the Day Care for the Children. She showed us the beautiful chapel she designed herself. It was amazing!! The stained glass windows depicted the 12 Stations of the Cross and were beautiful. Dr. Sister Rexline had designed several of the buildings she is having built. After seeing the chapel, we went to the St. Joseph Convent where we saw men printing x-ray film holders, then saw several of the machines that were used at other times. We also saw many women sewing various parts of pants to be sent to the company purchasing the pants. The process started with the parts and pieces, then went to the completion phase, and then the packaging. At St. Thomas Hospital, we had a delicious meal provided by the Sisters. After lunch we had a tour of the St. Thomas Nursing School.

We returned back to our house about 230 totally amazed at what Dr. Sister Rexline is doing and will be doing for many people in the community. She is an outstanding and compassionate Sister.

After our return, Sheeba and I went to the tailor’s place to have some alterations completed on some outfits the tailor had made for me.

We then rested in our rooms until Stephen returned with a new printer. Thankfully, he had a man set up the printer for him. About 530 we left Stephen and went to SEEMs. Initially, we had the children wash their hands, but the message evidently came out to wash the face and feet, too. Michelle and I worked individually with 3 students. I worked on math and Michelle worked on English. One child I had needed help in knowing his numbers and his letters, so I crossed over with what Michelle was doing. We essentially do what is needed with the specific child. Stephen came later once his printer was hooked up.

At the end of our time at SEEMs, we went to the shop across from SEEMs. I did not find what I was looking for, but I still managed to buy some jewelry. We returned to the house about 740 and had another great meal prepared by Rani. The meals make us want to eat and eat, but we try to restrain ourselves. Sometimes it works and sometimes it does not. Barnabus went to the tailor to get my clothes that I had altered.

We have finished our dinner, and Michelle, Stephen, Sheeba, and Roshen are playing with the printer. It seems like Christmas came early this year. Stephen is happy with the printer and we are happy for him.

It is nearing too close to the saying of goodbyes, but with each good we see sadness at having to leave. We have made friendships and have worked together quite effectively. The children we have worked with have stolen our hearts and we would love to take them with us when we leave. I always like to say “so long”not “goodbye” when I part with friends. “Goodbye” means that we probably will not stay in contact nor see each other again. “So long” means we leave the door open. So to my special friends, I will say “so long”, not “goodbye”. That leaves it open for me to continue my friendships.

Signing off for the last time; peace to you all and God bless the work we have done.


Wednesday, October 3, 2012

“It’s kind of nice to do the impossible.” - Walt Disney

Today we met someone who does the impossible, Sister Rexline of St Thomas Hospital. A tiny little woman in an immaculate white habit; through doing one project at a time, she has built an entire hospital around herself. She was a friend of Mother Theresa whom she consulted many times by phone.

She started with a small dispensary; from there she created a full service hospital. There are four operating rooms, a full dialysis unit, pediatric wing, physiotherapy, neurology, gynecology and much more, she even planted a garden. They say sometimes she can work for twenty four hours at a time. She began a children’s home for orphans as well as a day care center for poor parents who need to work. She has forty acres outside of town where she plans to do organic gardening and a woman’s collective. Sister Rexline also has to be the main source of revenue for the hospital through her relationships with benefactors. And when you ask her how she did it, she says through the help of God. She also says she enjoys her work. Mary and I were exhausted within an hour just walking around and looking at Sister’s handiwork. Her hospital is neat and clean and she watches every detail, reminding staff to turn out lights. Her electrical bill is enormous.

It is too late to go to Assisi, so we head back to the Guest house to freshen up before we go to lunch at Stephen’s parents. All of sudden we realize we won’t see the children at Assisi again, the next day they are going back to school and the day care children are gone on holiday. So there it is, we felt totally immersed in our routine and then it is over.

Off to lunch at Stephen’s parents’ house. Stephen’s mother and father are very welcoming, showing us the house and their backyard with a cage full of parakeets. We sit down to another beautiful meal of chicken briyani, fried chicken, carrots and peas and raita. We sat at the table and saw photo albums of travels and children and heard funny family stories. Mary and I were treated as special members of the family. We felt very included. Next we walk over to Rani’s house who lives across the lane. It was so good to see her with her daughter. Then off to Stephen’s brother’s house, Stephen, who lives next door to the parents. A wonderful afternoon spent in great company, how do you express thank you?

Back to the house for a little rest, instead Mary, Sheeba and I sat around the dining room table eating pomegranate and discussing the children we have met.

Time to set off for Seams our mission to wash all the girl’s hair and then blow dry it so it is not wet when they go for their studies. It is good to just spend time with the girls in their dormitories and show them how important we think they are.

It has been a long day with much to take in. We return home and decide happily to order pizza. Tomorrow Roshan is back in school and we only have two more days to soak in our incredible experience of Chennai. Must go to bed, Sister Rexline is picking us up tomorrow to zoom us around to some more of her projects. Thank you my dear friends for a wonderful day.



Tuesday, October 02, 2012

Thought for the day: I’ve never met a person, I don’t care what his condition, in whom I could not see possibilities – Preston Bradley (Simple Truths)

Another day on our terrific adventure. Today was harder to get up and get moving, but getting up and getting going is what we did. My walk started early as I listened to the morning noises. I could hear the crows cawing, the horns beeping, bells ringing, and see the beautiful sky in shades of pink and blue. If I listen I can hear sounds of a city being awakened. I think we get into our worlds and forget to hear and smell the roses. After my walk and taking the “bucket” shower, I was refreshed and ready for the day. We had another delicious breakfast from Rani. And we would still like to clone her to take her home.

After breakfast, I needed to get some medicine, so Stephen walked me to the medico for the medicine. When we returned, we left for Assisi. Michelle worked with the children doing hand washing. After the handwashing, we each worked individually with the children. Some of the children were into the lessons and some had a harder time of it. At break time, everyone enjoyed guava fruit. We then began working with other children, leaving about 1230.

Upon our return from Assisi, we were introduced to Stephen’s father. Such a distinguishing looking man. We then had lunch with spinach and vegetable combinations. Everybody seemed to need some downtime, so all of us went to our rooms until 230. At that point, Rani was teaching us how to cook some of our favorite dishes. She did such a good job and even made it look easy. We look forward to preparing our own meals when we return home. We all then returned to our rooms to lie down.

A little after 5, we left for SEEMs and were again greeted by the children. The first thing we did was have the children wash their hands. The children continue to touch us on the hand or arm or hug us.

Michelle and I worked individually with each of the female students. The students liked to show off what they could do and responded well to the praise we gave them. We left to return to the house after 7. To our surprise, the table was set with banana leaves for our dinner. We were served by Sheeba and Stephen and ate off of the leaves. Michelle and I tried to eat with our hands, and Michelle was skilled by the time the meal was over, but I flunked “eating with my hands 101”. I had more on my lap and the floor than what was supposed to go inside. Therefore, I reverted to the fork. It was such a lovely meal and we saw Rani prepare the meal during our cooking class. At this point life is good. We will retire early to get rested for tomorrow. We cannot believe how the week and a half have flown. Only three days and we will return to our homes in the states. We will value each of the days left, and when we leave, we hope to at least have made some difference in some of the children’s’ lives.

Until next time, peace to all.



Monday, October 1, 2012

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other” - Mother Theresa
After a great weekend, Mary and I start our week a little saddened knowing this is our last week. Off to Assisi, it is a holiday for the school children so the day care children are gone this week. Only the core group of children who live permanently are present. Sister Rose has returned from her retreat and we get to meet her. She is a strong presence and the children are very aware that she is there. We met with our children for a little longer time periods and got some basics accomplished. I worked with John pointing out the differences between small b and d. At some point, he lost his confidence and began to shut down. I think he thought I was telling him he was wrong and he withdrew. It is so important that these children keep up their confidence. I will try again tomorrow as gently as possible.

Back to the house for another great lunch; Mary asked Sheeba to escort her to the tailor to make some outfits and dresses. I tagged along. We walked around the corner so I could return some clothes. Of course, we bought some more clothes.

5 o’clock and we went to Seams our mission for the evening was to demonstrate proper hand washing and brushing of teeth. First we had to clip nails and we had only had one nail clipper for twenty six children. It was back breaking but the children were very patient and we got it done. We had two excellent models for brushing teeth as we counted for two minutes. The rest of the children followed, they said the toothpaste was too spicy. Next came serious hand, face and leg washing. After they were finished they lined up in their classroom and Mary and I inspected hands and the children loved it. We handed out sweet limes (orange like fruit) for their fruit treats. But of course no one has any nails left to peel the fruit. Stephen, Sheeba, Mary and I peeled fruit and the children ate happily in silence. It was a good night!

Mary, Sheeba and I went for a little more shopping across the street. This time we had no money and had to ask Stephen to spot us a few thousand rupees. We went back to the house for one of my favorite dinner’s tamarind rice, curry stew and raita.

It feels like we are becoming very close sort of like family. It is a blessing to be here in India with Global Volunteers.



Sunday, September 30, 2012 (Day eight)

Thought for the day: What lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us – Ralph Waldo Emerson

Well, we are through the first week of our adventure in Chennai. Time is passing very quickly and we are looking forward to spending our last week with “our” children. Over Sunday of our week end, we welcomed another day. The sky was overcast, but it is still a beautiful day. I arose about 515 to get ready to walk and see if Michelle want to join me, but Michelle wanted to get some much needed sleep, so I took off on my walk. I walked to the boardwalk and was pleased to see so many Indian people walking just like me. There were quite a few and ranged in age from young to middle age to older individuals. I was quite pleased to see them take an interest in this exercise. Also, several were performing yoga or sitting listening to the water. As I looked out over the harbor, I saw fairly small boats that I did not see the night before. I also saw several of the buildings that I did not see clearly the night before: The French Consulate, a government building, and a police building. Before I left the beach area, the sun was trying to come out from behind the clouds. It made the sky look very pretty.

I finished my walk and met Stephen and Michelle for an American breakfast, our first one since we arrived. It was like we were missing something and it was very noticeable – the Indian food.

We then began our adventure for the day. Our first stop is Sri Aurobendo Ashram in Pondicherry, India. Our next stop was Auroville which was a commune in older times. After these two stops, we went to an Indian restaurant, and had a wonderful selection of delicious food to add to rice. Very tasty.

We then did our last stop in Mahabalipuram where we walked with the Indian ancestors of Vishna, Mahishasura Mardhina. We observed wonderful carvings, and the most improbable, a rock called the “butterball which sat on the side of a slant without rolling down.”

It rained periodically throughout the day, but overall it was another great day that we learned more about our Indian friends. We returned to our house about 430 or 5 and met Stephen’s mother, a very delightful lady. Michelle and I have had a great weekend, especially with the guidance of Stephen. He is a wealth of information and ended up giving information to another group who hooked up with us.

Stephen, his brother, again drove us safely from one place to another. How he makes us safe when driving is a constant wonder. However he does it, he sure does a great job with driving.

We had another terrific day and great meals, especially lunch, and dinner after we returned to our house. We are weary from the weekend, but a pleasant one it was. We are looking forward to working with the children tomorrow and continue our adventure in Chennai.

I am signing off until next time. Peace to you all.



Saturday September 29, 2012

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry and narrow-mindedness.” - Mark Twain

Off we go on our adventure, Stephen accompanies us and Stephen drives. Sadly, we say goodbye to Sheeba and we meet Stephen’s mother who has arrived to stay with Sheeba. We are in a smaller car than our usual but it has air conditioning and we are grateful. Stephen and Sheeba are always thinking about our comfort.

First stop a memorial for Rajiv Gandhi. It is a beautiful green grassy area that marks the exact spot where he was assassinated. A suicide bomber from the Tamil Tigers, who were fighting for rights in Sri Lanka, killed him.

Then we drove to Kanchipurum to see the temples built from the 8th to the 16th centuries.  Prior to these temples they had experimented with sandstone, found they did not hold up so they decided to use granite for their temples. The carvings are detailed, intricate and unbelievable for the time and technology, not to mention the artistic creativity. Stephen enthralls us with the mythology of Shiva and Parvati their two sons Ganesh and Murugan. He makes the carvings come alive. We walk through the compound, all the while Stephen teaches us about the Myths and the practical use of the construction. He points out beautiful parrots that have made their homes in the buildings.

Next Lunch, our fearless leader orders for us. After Lunch, we want to go to a silk shop where we are shown beautiful silk saris, silk table coverings and silk pillow cases. The sales people are very patient, show us fabric after fabric.  We make our selections and back to the car, Stephen the driver says he has waited for many shoppers but this may have been the longest wait.  Mary and I are determined shoppers.

We continue on our drive to Pondicherry. We check in to a very comfortable hotel. We walk towards the Bay of Bengal through the Old French Quarter. Beautiful houses and brick paved streets, reminds me of New Orleans.  Dinner at a Vietnamese restaurant. I notice more Westerners here than anywhere else we have been. Stephen explains many people are here studying Yoga at the Sri Aurobindo Ashram. Mary and I are tired as we head back to the hotel. We have had a full day of sights and sounds, stories and humor. We are very grateful to the two Stephen’s.

Thank you.



Friday, September 28, 2012 (Day 6)

Thought for the day: Sometimes our candle goes out, but is blown into flames by an encounter with another human being (Albert Schweitzer – Simple Truths)

The day started out early for me as I went for my walk on the terrace. There was a nice breeze, but no sun this morning. When I returned to my room, I took my “bucket shower” which I look forward to. It seems so refreshing to me. We meet for breakfast for a wonderful meal by Rani. She has a way with eggs, rice cakes, and chutney. At breakfast we discussed the birthday party we attended at SEEMs the night before. Those children who have parents receive a cake for sharing with all of the children, and parents and other relatives/friends attend the function. We discussed some of the cast system and those children being poor not having anyone to bring cake to share with others. Many of the children seemed so sad at this function.

After breakfast we traveled under Stephen’s (Stephen’s brother) wonderful hands as we skirted traffic on the way to Assisi. We never seem to be in danger when Stephen is driving. We have all our faith in Stephen and appreciate his driving.

After we get to Assisi, the children again come to us and pull on our hands or put their arms around us, eagerly awaiting another chance to be with us individually and to learn for the day. We work with several children either with English or with Mathematics. As we get really to leave, we are offered fresh cucumber which is delicious. We see Sister Matilda before we leave and it is always a treat to be with her. She and the children are so appreciative of what little we do.

As we return to our house for lunch, we see several Brahma cows, some even with calves. We still see dogs on the street even to the point where Stephen has to drive around them. We do have some muddy roads from the rain yesterday, but Stephen does a wonderful job going over the roads.

Today seems muggier than yesterday and is still hot, but bearable with fans and air conditioning. When the air is moving, it really seems less hot.

After another delicious meal from Rani, Michelle and I worked on organizing out materials for the children and plan what we were going to do on Friday. We got so organized that we couldn’t find what we were looking for and left some papers. Soon we will both be very organized, probably the last couple of days we are here and we will keep trying to get it better.

After we worked on our plans for this evening and Monday, I did some wash and Michelle rested. We met for coffee before we went to SEEMs, along with a type of nut cookie. We arrived a little after 5 at SEEMs and lined the students up so that we could give the boys pencils and the girls’ barrettes and clips for their hair. We then went to the library where we could work with the children. We continue to get a variety of children at different age levels, but that is what keeps us stimulated to do as well as we can. Occasionally, we still have trouble getting children out of the library who want to be there when we are working with specific children. The children seem to want attention so much.

As we returned to our house, we saw traffic as heavy as ever, but we still relied on Stephan for his wonderful skills at driving. We had a great dinner and wonderful rice pudding. Rani does such a nice job that Michelle and I want to clone her and take her back with us. She is really a delight to both of us.

In our discussions, we learned about the Indian customs regarding marriage, and what the dots meant on the forehead of the women, whether they were for beauty or marriage or to keep the evil eye off.

We have shared much today not only with the children, but also with each other. It has been a learning experience not only for Michelle and I, but hopefully for the children we serve. We have had a wonderful day and week. We look forward to the weekend, but also to next week.

Signing off until next time. Peace to all.



Thursday September 27, 2012

“Children have more need of models than of critics.” - Joseph Jobert

The strong rain of the night before left the air a little cooler but the humidity was very dense. One of or favorite breakfasts of hard boiled eggs, dosas and chutney was served. Off to Assisi Ilam and our core children were waiting for us; many of the older children had gone home for the holiday. The children were pleased to see us and we got down to work with our one on ones. Mary and I went over the work of the day before and continued to stress comprehension. Mary presents a variety of math problems and uses English to instruct. I have the children do their reading and then ask them to explain what they are reading. I also use flashcards for word identification and spelling. Phonics remains the challenge. Some of the children seemed quite rambunctious, my last student was George and we wound up playing a mean game of memory. Stephen played a game of Simon Says to help disperse some of the pent up energy.

Back to the house for lunch; Sheeba offered to take Mary and I shopping at a clothing shop about 3 blocks from the house. By the time I reached the store, that had excellent air conditioning, I was pretty moist from perspiration. By the time I tried on ten Chudidar’s, a traditional Indian long top, I was soaking wet. It is very difficult to try on clothes when wet. The shop girl was very helpful but she seemed a little concerned about my condition. We had a good time and always enjoy a walk around our neighborhood.

A little rest and off to Seams to work in the extremely comfortable library room. At the end of our sessions, we were rushed down to the main classroom to see a birthday celebration for a two year old girl who lived in the neighborhood. She had a beautiful cake which a piece was given to everyone. The Seams children sat on the floor and banana leaves were passed out and Briyani was served. The contrast between the wealthy family and the children of Seams cannot be missed. From my Western perspective, it made me a little uncomfortable. Especially getting to know the children this week and seeing their potential.

Back to the house and dinner, Stephen explained the tradition of Kolkum, the chalk like drawings in front of many homes. The designs are created by women using crushed chalk or granite. They take about 15 minutes. It is a practice that helps the mother of the house focus her mind and relax her body;so she can provide for all the needs of her household. Because, “If Momma ain’t happy nobody’s happy!”

Another great day full of smiles and hugs.


Wednesday, September 26, 2012 (Day four)

Thought for the day: Wealth is not measured by just what we have, but rather what we have for which we would not take money – Anonymous (Simple Truths)

Well, our third day has begun and we are eager to face what is to come today. Michelle and I hope that with each day that we can work with the children on an individual basis identifying their specific needs. Each has strengths and areas of needed improvement that we can assist with.

We started the day with another delicious meal that Rani prepared for us. We talked some about our plans for the day and how we could work more effectively with the children. We again began with the children at Assisi. They are so eager to see us and want to touch us or hold our hands or even take our bags for us. They are eager to learn and want to be with us during the 20 minutes we have them. Michelle and I are again using a variety of techniques and are still assessing where the children are in their levels of learning. We again assist with feeding for those who cannot feed themselves well. We are still amazed at how Sister Matilda works with the children. The staff and children seem so appreciative of what we are there to do. It blesses our hearts to do what little we can to make things better for the children.

We return to our house for our lunch and again another delicious meal by Rani. The lady must have a whole host of recipes that she prepares for us.

It is good to take some time to spend at a government store that handles Indian merchandise. Both Michelle and I did some shopping for ourselves and our families and friends after lunch. We both enjoyed getting out for a little while.

On the return trip we were bombarded by a strong storm that came through the area, even lightning and thunder. It rained quite heavily and we did feel sorry for the motorcyclists. It did cool things off considerably. Stephen told us when there were huge thunder sounds that it meant that the storm would pass shortly, and that seemed to be true.

We then returned to SEAMs for our work with the children there. We were still getting touches and shaking of hands. Names are still a problem at times, but it seems to get better each time we work with the children. They are extremely eager here as are the ones from the morning group. Before we started with our teaching, we shared papaya with the children. They ate it very quickly and seemed to enjoy it. We are still assessing what the students can do, but we are giving more individualized time. Two new tables and 8 chairs were donated to the library. We are awaiting the chairs for the tables which will be received shortly. The library looks so good with the tables and it is easier to work with the children.

We then return home again for our evening meal. Stephen (Stephen’s brother) is amazing the way he adjusts to traffic when he is driving. It doesn’t seem as scary now as when we first confronted the traffic.

Life is good right now and we feel we are blessed to be able to help these children. God is good.

Signing off until next time. Peace to you all.


Tuesday September 25, 2012

“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment to improve the world” - Ann Frank

Morning breakfast was again superb; hard boiled eggs, a rice like pancake and chutney. Mary read her blog of the day before and we had a chuckle, it was good to laugh at our own frailties. Roshan, Stephen and Sheeba’s four year old son had not been feeling well so it was decided they would go to the doctor and meet us at Assisi along with Sister Matilda.

This is our second day working with the children of Assisi Ilam and Seams children’s home. Mary and I are beginning to establish relationships with our students. We even know some names! Assisi children are as welcoming as the day before and we get right to work with our one on ones. Both Mary and I are still assessing each student’s level of competence. The children are willing and enthusiastic about learning. After lessons, lunch is being prepared. Mary and I help serve two of the smallest children. Mary had quite a handful with two year old Vijay, who would take a bite and then happily careen around the room. With the help of the grownups, he would be guided back to his seat take another bite and then he was off again. Meanwhile, my sweet Vandhana, would take a bite; then stretch, take the cap off the water bottle, look around the room, play with her dress, all the time forgetting to chew. Everyone else had finished, cleaned up and ready for nap while Vandhana was still enjoying her meal.

Back to the house for lunch and it is time to rest. 5pm we leave for Seams. Upon arrival, we do not receive our usual welcome. We find the children engrossed in studying for their next day exams. We begin our one on one’s, many of the children read quite well so I started to work on comprehension. Our time flies by and then it is back to the house for dinner waiting for us: tamarind rice, beets and plantains. I felt quite tired so Stephen tables his discussion for another time.

Mary and I have both expressed how we feel very well taken care by the Global Volunteer Staff. In some ways, for me, this experience feels like a luxury. To be able to participate, in a small way, in these children’s lives and to be given back such a rich experience.

Thank you,



Monday, September 24, 2012, Day Two.

Quote for the Day: Do what you can, with what you have, where you are (Simple Truths – Theodore Roosevelt)

We are looking forward to our adventure of working with the children at Assisi Illam, a Day Care Center that takes care of orphans and semi-orphans, and is run by nuns of the order of Franciscan Sisters of St. Joseph (Sister Rose and Sister Matilda) and South East Asia Mission (SEAM’s Children’s Home) taking care of orphaned, semi-orphaned, and poor children ages 5-18 (Pastor Arul Pragasam and his wife) Pricila). I got up and walked on the terrace for over an hour, then Michelle and I went to breakfast with Stephen, Sheeba, and Roshan. We had a wonderful Indian meal that Rani prepared for us, as has been the case the last couple of days. It was over breakfast that Michelle found out that I had a shower and bathroom in my room and she didn’t. I guess that is what happens when you get to the house at 430-5 in the morning. First come; first serve, so I was served with a bathroom and shower of my own because I was there first. Michelle could not understand why I talked about “my” shower and not ours. I guess that will be a hard one for me to live down.

At Assisi, Stephen introduced us to Sister Matilda, and we were quite impressed with her style of working with the children. Stephen then selected three children each for Michelle and I to work with. They varied in age and we used reading, writing, and other methods to determine the level at which to start with our individual sessions. After completing our work with the individual children, Michelle and I returned downstairs to mix with the other children. We were given fresh cucumbers that were quite tasty. Then we feed one child each who needed assistance. Sister Matilda had returned from her work at the hospital and demonstrated caring for the children. After the meal of rice and beet juice, the smaller children were required to lie on mats and take a nap. We left the children to return to our house and our meal, another delicious Indian meal prepared by Rani.

As we were going from one place to the other we were again faced with the unworldly traffic and being in competition with motorcycles, motor scooters, small cars and trucks. I’m sure Michelle and I felt that we were just skimming by some of these vehicles or they were skimming by us. Whew!! We did make it safely from one place to another, but it was with the good driving skills of Stephen, Stephen’s brother.

After lunch, Michelle and I did our wash. Power failures occurred, but they seemed to occur to save on the power. In between times, both of us tried to put our feet up before the next part of our adventure.

Around 5 pm we went by car, except for Stephen, who went by motorcycle, to SEAM’s, and again were assigned to individual students by Stephen. We were amazed how advanced some students were and how some of the younger ones needed more help. We assessed the level of the students we had to prepare for the next day. We found many of the students needed and wanted our attention and we tried to give to them what we could. The time went by quickly, but it was an enjoyable experience. We initially had a little trouble corralling some of the older boys and getting them back out the door from where we were working.

We left SEAM’s when we were through working with the children. We were thrown back into the frenzy of the traffic, but each time we returned with no after effects. Stephen (Stephen’s brother) managed to drive without any problems. I guess you toot your horn and hope for the best.

At the end of the day, we returned to our house. We had another delicious meal prepared by Rani. All said and done, we felt we had a very good first day. We were rewarded by the children’s responses to us and their eagerness, and we hope that we made some kind of impression on the young minds we worked with today. It is a great feeling to be able to give to others what we have taken as normal in our lives, but which means so much by the little things that we did today. We look forward to another adventure tomorrow.

Signing off from our first working day, Peace to all.



Sunday, September 23, 2012

“My stability came out of trying to give not out of demanding I receive.” - Bill Wilson

First day was really half day, Mary arrived early that morning. We met at the guest house, Stephen, Mary and I began our get to know each other over a very tasty lunch of rice, lentil stew and light fried bread.

Power is out at 1pm so we took the time to rest. At 5:30 we headed off to meet the children at SEAMS Children’s home. I have never received such a joyful welcome. The children came up said hello and their names in their best English. I thought, Oh My, how am I going to remember all these names! Stephen had the children sit in their classroom, each child came up said their name, age and one what standard they were in school. There was singing and dancing. We got to see their dormitories and I was impressed how clean and organized they kept their rooms. Saturday was laundry day so clothes were hung up on the top terrace.

I kept thinking about the volunteers that came before us and the good work they must have done if the children were so welcoming.

Back to the guest house for another very good meal.

Sunday morning, breakfast and then Orientation with Stephen, which was very helpful. Stephen gave us an in depth talk on goals, Global Volunteers mission and his participation with the program. This gave us a good sense of being “servant learners”. We are here to serve the community and learn how we might help.

Again power out at 1pm time to rest. In the evening, we walked with Stephen and Sheeba to dinner at a restaurant close by. Crossing the main road was an act of faith but we were well guided by our leaders.