Volunteer in India – Team Journal Jan. 4, 2011

Millinium Development Goals Achieved by this team from December 26 to January 1

130 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 5 volunteers and 130 Hours of preparation time

36 Hours of Childcare by 2 volunteer. over 35 students impacted

2 Children’s Homes, 1 School and over 140 students impacted
Friday, December 31st, 2010

“Every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end”
 1st century Roman Philosopher; Seneca

As we close out 2010 it is a time of refection of the past 12 months and anticipation of the next. 2011 is sure to be a prosperous and generous year and I can’t think of anywhere else I’d like to welcome it than right here with Team 96.

Our day started as it has for the past 2 weeks, breakfast, discussions of previous day’s events and packing and preparing for our upcoming locations. Jon, once again, lugged his 40lb bag of computers to SEAMS to enlighten the kids on the importance of the internet, but was greeted with some of SEAMS youngest kids. “OK” he thought, “back to basic typing class.” As he showed the new students proper hand placement and technique he dazzled them at his ability to type without looking. Settling down for the hour long session he noticed young Ajith continually turning around and flashing Jon his Bollywood smile for several seconds at a time. Jon finally got up to see if he had a question but was pleased to see that Ajith was typing as he turned to look at Jon showing off his newly acquired skill of not looking as he went through his typing exercises. Pride undoubtedly welled up in Jon’s heart as he realised what he was teaching was actually working!

The girls and I were off to Assisi to work with the children. As we prepared for our day we attempted to be creative in our schedule with them as to not seem redundant day after day. I mean, how many times can you sing “The Wheels on the Bus” and do the “Hokey Pokey” before you get bored? Apparently a lot!!! These children are so grateful that we are there spending time with them that the only response we receive is “ONE MORE TIME!!!” We performed our ritual nursery rhythms and sang our favourite songs and then continued on with puzzles, games and chalk drawings.

The afternoon was spent doing several different activities. Maria prepared for our upcoming hygiene seminar with the SEAMS children, Jon spent the afternoon reading and Shelly and I took advantage of the wonderful offerings of the local artisans at the Government Emporium.

We reconvened and prepared for our evening’s adventure at SEAMS…hygiene!!! We are not only trying to instil in these children the importance of conversational English, writing and computer skills but real life instructions for their success in the future. Maria meticulously put together an informative and entertaining presentation on the importance of personal daily hygiene. Shelly and Jon animatedly acted out how to brush your teeth and wash your face while I took the children out for a review of what they learned and a word find of related terms. It still amazes me at the willingness these children have to learn a new skill like read a new word or write a new letter. The smiles on their faces at their accomplishments will resonate with all of us for a long time to come.
We all retreated back to the guest house to get ready for our New Year’s Eve dinner. The spent the evening being greeted by handshakes and “Happy New Year’s” and several request for pictures with other patrons of the restaurant.

Again Team 96 went to bed content and completely satisfied with our time we spent with not only the children, but all of the warm hearted people of India. HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The future depends on what we do in the present.– Mahatma Gandhi

Another incredible day! We started out with the usual scrumptious breakfast, dosa covered in coconut chutney; simply delicious. Asha and Shelly were off to Assisi’s playing games, singing and dancing. Maria and Kathy joined me at SEAMS, where I continued computer training. After three calm, productive and structured hours of training in the pastor’s quiet office, I finished up and joined the others. Chaos ensued. I was asked to help in the process of washing the kid’s beds and mattresses of room 5. Apparently all of the other rooms were completed at this point, so I assumed this would be a simple task: a few barks of delegation to the kids, and we should be done; nice and easy. WRONG! After dousing the beds in as much soap and water as the kids could find, Maria shouted from below, “Make sure they don’t use soap or much water at all!” I suddenly missed teaching Excel. “Thanks Maria, great timing!” I replied. Ok, off to find something to wipe all of this water and soap off. But first I need to explain to the kids that we were not supposed to use soap, and now we need to wipe it all off. Just then, a girl appeared offering an old blouse to Kathy for drying; problem solved.

I now understand how much patience the other volunteers have, as they deal with larger groups of younger kids than I am used to. So much so, that I am quite thankful that I am merely a computer geek.

During our walk home with Maria and Kathy, we encountered glass scattered in the road. My natural response was, “Maria, glass, no!” “Glass, no!” I shouted. It became suddenly clear to me that I am not used to conversational English, but had adhered to the SEAMS standard of simple direct statements, usually made to those with limited English skills.

In the evening we all returned to SEAMS for our respective training. Again, I was off to the makeshift computer lab, Maria was dousing the kid’s heads with shampoo, while Shelly, Asha and Kathy had their groups of kids that they thoroughly enjoy. The younger boys in my class have now advanced to creating charts in Excel with two sets of values: their age and the number of years at SEAMS. They were quite impressed with their own ability to make colorful and meaningful charts, filled with information.

At the end of the evening the kids honored Kathy with song and dance. She has contributed immensely to these kids, as we could all tell. She will be missed not only by the children, but also by her team, number 96. As we continue through this journey, Asha and I both realize that our days are numbered as well. We have only one hope: that we helped enrich the lives of these wonderful children.


Wednesday, December 29th 2010

Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember. ~Seneca

Today has been a great day! Breakfast as usual with those yummy rice cakes (I would like to call them puffs but you’d get the wrong idea) and my favorite so far tomato chutney. I just wish they would make more so I wouldn’t feel bad about wanting to eat it all.

Our usual day with the children of Assisi Illam started off calmly to progress into some laughing, crying, screaming and just plain fun. We read to the children to start, put together puzzles, I taught some more children Go Fish. Little Sylvia is such a doll and so smart it is such a joy to work with, after having played cards yesterday she could see I was struggling to explain to the others the rules of the game so she explained in tamil for me. Hearing her little scream of joy after every pair she gets brightens my heart and reminds me of why I am here: to bring joy and laughter to the children. Maria sat with the older children and unlike the girls at Seam’s they were very interested in studying their work and getting it done

I went downstairs to see what Asha was up too and she had her hands full playing jump the snake with the skipping rope. If they weren’t whipping it around they were trying to choke each other with it. I then learned a new use for frisbee’s as Augustine sat inside it and I pushed him around in it, unfortunately the bigger kids couldn’t fit. It makes me feel good that the children enjoyed my song so much since George comes up to me everyday more than once and asks for music. When I stated sing some Jazz he then requested I sing the song I sang for Christmas again and started to hum along. It’s so wonderful how the children soak everything up and really appreciate it. Having had enough I am sure Asha wanted to get the chaotic children under control and I flatly said to her that it was unlikely. So we attempted to put the kids into a circle and play ring around the rosie. It didn’t work, control with these kids is an illusion as within minutes they were running around screaming and playing again.

I don’t exactly know how to describe the emporium except that I was in shopping bliss I thought I would explode from excitement. I have to say when I was told I only had an hour to shop I was pretty upset when we got there Maria was like “we have an hour and a half”. I was thinking to myself ‘what can I do in an hour and half, that is simply not enough time for me’. Everywhere I looked there are things I want to buy, presents I want to get and too much stuff to take home with me and its all at a reasonable price. Painting, jewelry, handmade crafts, sculptures, sari’s, carpets it just goes on and on. Too be honest I didn’t even make it to the back of the store and I had to push myself hard to get where I was. I ended up only getting some more cotton shirts, a skirt, a pashmina scarf for my boyfriend and two pieces of jewelry. I was being good! I have to go back to that store but next time I need a whole day and not just an hour and a half. Maria bought some jewelry for her wedding and some cloths, I am not sure what Kathy bought but John disappointing bought nothing in that amazing store.

Then after we got back with ten minutes to kill, I wrote a bit down in my journal and quickly got things ready for my girls at Seams. When we got there all the kids showed us their beautiful masks that Kathy had spent the morning with them doing. The only thing I remember John mentioning about the day is going downstairs to the 37 children Kathy was overseeing and being terrified at the wonderful chaos making masks created. Colorful with stickers and feathers on them I took a picture while they proudly showed them off.
Today was an amazing day I have to say again and very emotionally satisfying fulfilling because before we started working, Sneha one of the girls that got mad at me on a previous day and was the one girl who gave me the cold shoulder came over and apologized before we started our lesson. Happy and surprised I still wonder if Stephen had said anything to them regardless it was nice. I instantly forgave her cause in my mind there was nothing to forgive these misunderstandings happen. They brought out the words the song I wrote for them and started to show me what they learned. With just a few corrections they are ready to become the next Spice Girls

After we started to do our lesson they were once again up and about but this time they brought something over to me and made clear that they were thankful for everything and gave me a couple gifts: A pair of earrings and a very pretty necklace. I almost started to cry. These girls have almost nothing except a trunk full of belongings and here they are giving me what little they have, it makes me want to cry now as I write this. I feel so special and grateful to be appreciated. So we finished our lesson and played some card games. My second group of girls found out about the gifts I was given and they also gave me a plastic dog and flower, which they in turn handed to me and looked at me longingly telling me how much they jokingly told me they loved me. I bashfully accepted, fluttered my eyelashes and giggled which got a great laugh out of them. The rest of the day went off without a hitch and I said my usual farewell in tamil “nalika bakalam”(see you tomorrow) and was on my way to a wonderful dinner at Stephen’s home.

It was quite a special surprise and a wonderful feast we were treated too by Stephen and his family who invited us into his home. Their accommodations were simple but his mother had made a delicious feast for us and it was well received by all of us. Kathy being the sweet woman she is felt terrible for not finishing her plate and Asha being sick did a fairly good job at hers but I think John and Maria made up for it with their healthy appetites. John eating two servings of rice and five pieces of bread and Maria with two servings of rice and six pieces of bread! It was a good thing Maria remembered not to tighten the underskirt on her sari this time.

His mother is a wonderfully welcoming woman with a big bright beautiful smile and his father quite stately man. They thoroughly enjoyed it when I used the little tamil I know for them laughing every time I used it. We were taken over to his brother’s house and then our cooks Rani’s house since they were both right next door. I was taken aback when I saw they small child sleeping on a hard tile floor with just a thin matt under her. Although these are the experiences that I came for that will change me and the way I look at the world. I am sure I will be eternally grateful to Stephen for having shared it with us. I have decided to stay longer as I would rather spend my time with them the travelling around being a tourist since I know my time and effort here are appreciated and needed. Thank-you Stephen.
“Every day I wake up and every day I sleep, I hope everyday for the rest of my life these memories stay with me.


Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Quote: Each time a man stands up for an ideal or acts to improve the lot of others or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope and crossing each other from a million different centers of energy and daring, those ripples build a current that can sweep down the mightiest walls of opression and resistance.

Robert F. Kennedy

Team 96 while only here for a short while, commits themselves each day to trying to improve the lives of the wonderful children at SEAMS and Assisi orphanages. While we go about preparing for each days activities, we never forget that beyond the alarming numbers of those in the world who are in need, there are individuals with personalities and intricate lives that each day great us with their hearts, minds, smiles and embraces. Some of us who are returning volunteers from previous Global teams are witnessing how the children are thriving, be it a new child settling into life in an orphanage or the teenagers who are completing the 12 standard or attending technical college. We’d like to think that in some small way we have been a part of their lives. But in a big way, much credit goes to Stephen, the Team Coordinator in India, whose relentless love and commitment to these children enables us to come and offer some hope.

John worked with the older kids on computers and immersed them for the first time in discovering the Internet, Google maps, email and how their exploration on the web can expand their knowledge of the world and their place in it. Maria and Shelly were at Assisi playing Go Fish, singing popular songs such as I’m a Little Teapot and the favorite, Wheels on the Bus Go Round. Even though Maria taught the kids the ‘swing dance’ some were more interested in Shelly’s retainer.
I continued to work at SEAMS with the children, helping them with words, spelling,reading,coloring and puzzles. All the kids love to play Word Bingo. Ten children ranging in all age groups challenged themselves to play multiple bingo cards. I am always amazed at them but never surprised at home much I learn from them.

Kathy D.

Sunday, 27th December 2010

The theme for today was rocks. Rocks, rocks, and more rocks. Jon and Asha started the day off early by taking a walk down the calm and peaceful beach which just last night was bustling with people and loud with music, cheering, and dance. We had a mixed breakfast of Indian delights and westernized omelets and then headed out for our next adventure. Our first task was to learn about and question the curiosities of the Auroville commune. We first visited the shrine of the founder of Auroville, which was a beautiful garden in the middle of Pondicherry, before going to the main location of the commune. Our driver acted like a 14 year-old girl by changing his mind three times whether to join us or not in our visit. He finally decided to join us but then got disappointed when he discovered that we are not allowed in the golden golf-ball/ Epcot center/ giant toy suction ball to view the crystal ball inside. Asha and I teased Shelly about joining the commune but Shelly made it quite clear that she wasn’t about to give up her treasured vintage clothes to join a bunch of hippies in a quest to free humanity of all sin and evil. All of us quivered inside at the thought of worshiping a divine mother while drinking the Kool-Aid juice and being cut off from the whole world as we perform our cult practices. However, we all marveled at the Banyan tree and then thanked Shelly for not climbing up into it.

The traditional Indian meal of Thali was served and admired by all of us. I of course still had to order ice cream with my coffee and force everyone to share it with me. If there’s one thing Italians will do to fix a germaphobe, it’s to force meal sharing upon them. Not to mention what we would do if you visited our house, but let’s just say you wouldn’t survive. We also had an adorable waiter who offered to refill any of our smaller dishes that we preferred, and he joyfully smiled at us through our entire meal, thus receiving a well-deserved tip. We then set course for the rock carvings.

The famous rock carvings of Mamallapuram cannot be described in words. You must see the beauty and hear the stories of each unfinished temple for yourself. In the mean time, I will discuss the events that took place in the vicinity of the rock carvings. You would think I would leave Shelly for last, but I’m sitting here struggling to figure out how to summarize her behavior, and it’s impossible. Every time we turned around, someone said “where’s Shelly?” Just as Stephen described how he looked away for not even a nano-second and a monkey jumped into his car, grabbed a plastic bag, and jumped back out again on one of the safari trips, it seemed as if we would turn our heads not even 15 degrees and Shelly would disappear. At the one carving location, we found her inside the bottom of an old bathing area in which NO visitor was allowed, and she jumped 2 feet in the air and screamed so loud that everyone turned to look at her because she had seen a frog jump out of the water. Two more times Shelly was seen taking pictures and skipping about on grassy areas that were completely fenced off from the carvings. No fence, rope, or Hindu guardians were going to keep Shelly from going where she wanted to go. We tried to give her the critical task of moving Krishna’s butterball, but Shelly was more interested in the goats and monkeys. We were fortunate enough to have many larger, more touristy-looking groups that day so barely any toy, food, or random-object sellers bugged us along our route. Asha came across a fortune teller with his cute parrot and she couldn’t resist. She immediately became the center of attention and was surrounded by 10 Indians, all curious about her future. She was given a very prosperous prediction, and she was told to buy more property and a new car, much to Jon’s disapproval. We had an amazing finish on the top of the lighthouse after being asked several times for our picture to be taken with random strangers.

Before shopping, Asha, and Shelly enjoyed the sweet taste of fresh coconut milk, cut open by a street vendor, and then torn apart more to enjoy the soft coconut. I found the turtle necklace that I was hoping to find, reminding me of my brother and bringing me closer to him. Jon found a snake statue for his brother. During the drive home, we laughed about funny websites and videos making fun of odd people, but deep down we know that we are all odd in our own special way. Overall, even though Auroville was definitely not the community for us, we all agreed that the concept and theory behind the community was deep, powerful, and true to its meaning, which brings me to my quote by John Lennon – “Imagine all the people, living life in peace … Imagine all the people, sharing all the world.”


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