Friday, February 1, 2013

Sunday – January 13th, 2013

Do not take lightly small good deeds,
Believing they can hardly help,
For small drops of water one by one
In time can fill a giant pot

After breakfast we had our orientation
We learned about our fellow teammates:
where they lived; about their families, and
about previous work experiences

Next we found out where we would be working:
Assisi Illam, Seam, and Grace Nursery and
Primary School. Because of the Harvest Festival,
our schedule for the first three days will be different.
Four will paint at Grace School and three will work
with the children at Assisi Ilam

Our goals were determined:
1. To serve children
2. To teach English
3. To develop cultural sensitivity
4. To meet and work with like minded people
5. To be with Stephen

Characteristics of an effective work team included:
to listen, to cooperate, to respect, among others

The Philosophy of Global Volunteers were reviewed well
and the 12 essential services were discussed. We had a
short language session. After lunch we had free time.
Some people went shopping. Others sat around the table and talked,
a few caught up on their sleep.

At five we went to the SEAM Children's Home. We met the younger
children, the older children were at camp.Then the children sang songs
to us. Later, each child chose a volunteer to look at their books with them.
Lastly, they took us to roof see their garden which they are taking care of

The day ended with dinner at a wonderful restaurant. The food was
delicious, but I can not remember the names of the dishes. There were
all sorts of combinations of fruits, vegetables, and spices in addition
to meat dishes. The most exciting part of the excursion was crossing the
the highway. Christina and I were very surprised when we got to the other




Monday - January 14, 2013


“Children are not things to be molded, but are people to be unfolded”   Jesse Lair


Our first day “on the job” is also an important holiday in Tamil Nadu:  Pongal;  a celebration of the harvest, or Thanksgiving.  Therefore schools are closed.


       After breakfast, Pat, Christine, and UnaMarie went to Assisi. The children at Assisi were found to be very lively…wild even between activities.  But stories were successfully read by the volunteers and children; flashcards were employed and finally the coloring pages came out and were very popular.


Pepper, Jeannie, Peabody & Kristina went to Grace to repaint desks and benches while the children were on holiday.  Preparing the furniture (scraping, sanding) turned out to be pretty strenuous work.  It was a relief to finally pick up the paint brushes and start painting.  3 desks were completely painted blue.  Several volunteers also exhibited unusual blue striping!


After lunch a lively discussion with Stephen ensued, covering such topics as foreign adoption and political corruption.


At 5, the team arrived at SEAMS for alphabet and numbers work.  The wide range of abilities and attention spans challenged everyone’s teaching skills.


Dinner was delicious, but unusually quiet as the team was worn out after their first full day.



Wednesday - January 16th, 2013


“Dogs wear coats.”


Over lunch Pepper asked Stephen about his earliest impressions of America and he talked about how big everything is and how cold St. Paul, Minnesota is in December. When he mentioned having stopped over in a subsequent trip for a few days in New York, she asked what he thought about that. With his beautiful smile and engaging laugh, he replied, “Dogs wear coats.” Of course we all joined him in his warm-hearted appreciation of how different everything - except basic human kindness - can seem between our two countries.


The painters took off for a last day of scraping, sanding and painting the steel desks and benches at Grace School. During the night, six of each of those that had been finished had moved into the classroom where they will be a delight to the students who return to school tomorrow after the three day Pongal school holiday.  By day’s end, all the remaining desks and benches were done – thanks in no small part to the hard work and valuable directions of our patient foreman, Barnabas.


At lunch, the crew that had spent the morning at SEAMS Childrens Center reported on the high point of their morning. Three generations of a local family – grandmother, parents, aunty, and the three year old daughter came to the center to share the daughter’s birthday cake with the children at SEAMS.


After lunch we had a special treat: a trip to the Pongala festivities at Marina Beach. On the third and final day of Pongala, families gather at the beach where rides and games and food vendors set up for the occasion. Many families approached us to introduce themselves and have their children practice English by talking with us. Everyone was dressed in holiday finery and we were enchanted by all the beauty and joy around us. And the ride there afforded us a wonderful opportunity to see more of the city. A tremendous amount of the acreage is wooded – the sites of many universities and memorials – including a large and meaningful one honoring Gandhi. Stephen explained that this part of town had begun as a forest in which these institutions were later built. 

An early dinner as delicious as we have come to expect and now a quiet and early night.




Thursday – January 17th, 2013


In Girl Scouts we have a song “Make new friends, but keep the old”, and that is surely true for Global Volunteers.   This is the 3rd time I’ve come with an old friend and found a group of wonderful, helpful new friends.


The usual crew of early birds was going by 5:30.   After coffee I tried to wash my own clothes and realized that dirt is sticking in them and after the 3rd unsuccessful rinse, realized that I should let someone else take care of something, so I have given in to needing help.


After our lovely morning prayer song, we had a satisfying breakfast with eggs and fruit.  Christina and Peabody left first to paint pink walls, and they actually were the last ones back.  Hard working duo!   Jean and Pepper left for new assignments at Grace School where they had classes to themselves.   Luckily there were small classes since all of the children hadn’t return yet from the holiday.  


Pat, Christine and I left for Assisi where we had the little ones for the first time.   When we arrived they were having snacks all sitting so nicely on the floor.  Two were experiencing their first time ever and the little boy was quietly sobbing while the girl was shrieking.  They didn’t want to be comforted, but I sat close to the boy while he struggled to put on his shoes he had hidden away from the others under a rug.  They only had to stay 2 hours for the first day.  We then took small groups to read stories and let them hold books.   Afterwards we did a lot of songs and action games together.  Some seemed to know some of them and especially all wanted to be caught in London Bridges falling down.   We changed to singing longer, so they didn’t know when they would fall. 


The last thing we did was to help some of the little ones eat their lunch.   They so willingly took the beet colored rice off our fingers.  What darling sweet children!   If we only spoke Tamil!  A few started to lie down on their mats without a fuss before we left.   The teacher said they might sleep for 2 hours.


After lunch, Stephen drove Stephen, Roshan, Christine and I to the train station to get our tickets to Coonoor.  Luckily we had our wonderful Stephen along to help with forms and get us through the crowded station.   A great good fortune was the senior price made our ticket much less than we had thought.   Leaving the station we thought we lost Christine and I panicked, but Stephen panicked worse when he realized she was taking pictures.   That is no longer allowed in stations since a Pakistani  American used photos to plan the attack in Mumbai.   The return traffic was the worse we have seen.  I don’t know how drivers can negotiate it every day.


Back at the guest house we set out to SEEMS with our lessons for the day.  At 6:20 the shoppers left Pat and I on our own with 2 lovely teen-aged girls who read to us, talked about camp, and enjoyed our art project. The held our hands negotiating the dark stairs down from the room.  Barnabas came with a bicycle and a tuck tuck to bring us home to no lights.  He said they had gone out again after they came on,  and fixed us up with candles and battery lights.   We got our flashlights and had candle light dinner.   When the lights came back on Barnabas came back to check on us. We went over our songs for tomorrow and went to bed early.


 Una Marie


Friday – January 18th, 2013


If you reject the food, ignore the customs, fear the religion and avoid the people you might better stay at home.  – James Michner


Awoke early to the sounds of conversation…Sheeba’s father arrived for a three day visit from far southern India where Sheeba grew up and he still lives.   Like families all over the world early mornings begin with conversation around a cup of coffee or tea.  Sheeba’s father brought fruit from the home place to share with the volunteers…jack fruit, red and green bananas.  The rest of the house is sleeping in this AM after a long day of painting, teaching and shopping at the Gold and Textile store.  Whether you bought or just drank in the incredible array of choices, the ride to and from provided a thrill and a few “Oh my God” moments.  The crush of humanity that is an evening drive in Chennai continues to amaze me.  We left for our assignments this morning, teachers and painters to Grace School and teachers to Assisi.  We all returned for lunch very tired in our own ways.  Special thoughts go out to the painters who are continuing to brighten up the space for the children and staff at Grace School.  The afternoon found us all once again shopping, this time at “The Cottage”, a government of India undertaking to support the cottage industries and local craftspeople.  We did our best to boost the Indian economy.  We then returned to Seams and to our nightly teaching.  The children continue to challenge and enchant us.  Home for dinner, conversation and early to bed as we have an early wakeup call for breakfast before our journey to Pondicherry.  Don’t forget your passports!  




 Monday – January 21st 2013


Today, we went back to work after a wonderful trip to the temples at Kanchipuram and puducherry to walk along the beach. The next day we visited the ashram, Auroville and the rock carvings at Mamallapuram. They were amazing


Today, at the guest house we had no electricity. Pepper and Jean each taught three grades at the Grace school. They encouraged conversational English, taught numbers, and sang songs. At one point they sang Bingo to calm the students down. Meanwhile, Peabody and Kristina prepared windows for painting and finished all the blue of the front gate. They noticed that when the children came to eat in the courtyard, a congress of crows followed to clean up after them. At Assisi Christine, Una, and I played games, sang songs, and told stories to the children. At lunch some of the children needed to be fed.


Christine and Jean missed lunch to have a massage, a deep message. In the end it was very relaxing and both would go back again.


At lunch the rest of us discussed politics with Stephen, which was very helpful in understanding Indian government


At Seams, this evening, Kristina taught the children how to wash hands. They put a substance on the children’s hands which glowed under a special light and them wash their hands. If they came back and there was a glow on their hands, they had to go back again until their hands were clean. The rest of us taught English and Math as usual.


A different world cannot be created by indifferent people.




Tuesday – January 22nd, 2013

Many of the team members left the guesthouse at 6:30 AM to go to the morning market which included a flower market and a fruit and vegetable market. They returned with a beautiful cauliflower, a watermelon and two bunches of flowers. One bunch of flowers was for Sheeba and the other was for Stephen's mother. We will bring the flowers to her when we go to her house for lunch tomorrow.

After another delicious breakfast, the team went to the usual assignments: Uma, Kristine and Pat to Assisi, Peabody and Christina to Grace to continue the never ending painting, and Pepper and Jeanne to Grace to teach. The gate at Grace with its bright blue background and gold colored design looks fabulous after all of Peabody's hard work.

The highlight of the afternoon was a cooking class taught by Sheeba. She taught us how to make idli dough, chappatis, cauliflower, cauliflower masala, and peanut chutney. The real excitement was provided when the chutney processor caught fire during grinding. It was quickly extinguished and no major harm occurred.

After the usual afternoon downtime the team went to Seam to work with the children there. They are a very highly energized, lively group and it is a challenge to hold their attention for any length of time. Back to the guesthouse for early dinner, conversation about the day's activity and plans for tomorrow.

And so ended another day of challenge and satisfaction knowing that whatever we contribute it is meaningful to those receiving our contribution. It is sometimes difficult for those of us of a western background to slow down and accept the fact that our contributions are not measured by our expectations but by the satisfaction of the ones receiving.

Small actions with intent will transform things





Wednesday – January 23rd, 2013 


Kind words are short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.  - Mother Theresa


Morning found us all at our usual assignments.  The Assissi-ites played games, sang songs and fed children.  The same little boy who cried yesterday continued to be inconsolable.  Grace School saw Pepper and Jeannie feeling more confident with their students.  The painters finished some projects, but there is always more to paint.


We all had the wonderful opportunity to have lunch at Stephen’s parents house.  We met both his parents as well as his brother Stephen’s wife and 2 year old daughter Monica.  The family was so gracious.  And the lunch was a true feast.  Vadas were a new treat for most of us.


Back at the house, we prepared for Seams, rested, then did our one-on-one tutoring.  Everyone seems to have found their footing amongst these delightful kids.


After another tasty meal, politics was again the subject of conversation.  Evaluation forms were distributed and everyone retired after a full and satisfying day.




Friday - January 25th, 2013


Our last day here as a team was also a school holiday at Grace School. So Pepper and Jeanne, who have been teaching there, split up: Jeanne joined the usual painting crew and Pepper went to Assisi Ilam with the three usual teachers there.


Painting is a never-ending process, but more progress was made. Una and Christine said their farewells to the children at Assisi. Pat will be staying om for another week.


Afternoon was spent in preparations for leaving tonight and tomorrow. At 4:45, as uaual, we all went to SEAMS, where we played soccer with the boys for anhour. Then the children sang and danced and wished us all farewell.


We are sad to leave these delightful children and glad that a new team will pick up where we have left off. And after them another and another and another will join this stream of care for these delightful kids.