Volunteer in India – Team Journal July 29, 2009

Millinium Development Goals

Achieved by this team from July 20 – July 24;

110 Hours of class room instruction in conversational English and computer skills by 8 volunteers and 110 Hours of preparation time.

20 Hours
of childcare by 2 volunteer

60 Hours of construction at Seams to build the Stage 2 of the Dormitories

2 Schools, 2 Children’s Home and over 400 students impacted

Sunday July 19th- Orientation Day

by: Nicole

This morning I woke up a bit tired and I am guessing my fellow team mats were equally as groggy. The long flights, time zone changes and songs from our neighborhood friends (The Cows) are going to take a little getting used to.

After a wonderful breakfast, we got right down to the orientation. We went over team goals, learned policies and received our work assignments. Along with our resident expert, Alexi, who has been here 3 weeks already I will be working at Assissi. Makese, Priya, Lucy and George will be teaching and Jeremy and Drew will lend a hand with the construction projects at SEAM.

After eating a delicious lunch we were able to take some time to re-energize. I am finding that energy is important to have when there are some many people seeking out your attention.

In the evening we walked over to SEAM and we’re introduced to the kids. There were very welcoming and instantly wanted to shake our hands. After receiving a wonderful solo from one of the boys we mingled a bit. George, Alexi and I played “the wheels on the bus” and Hooky Poky” Jeremy and Drew were a bit hit with the boys.

Lucy and I rode back from SEAM on the auto-rikshaw and the driver dropped us off at the wrong house. “no no I said, this is not our house, we are near the post office” Luckily we weren’t that lost, just on the block over but for a moment Lucy and I were nervous. Later Stephen told us it was the old Global Volunteers house. Know wonder why the driver was looking at us like we were nuts!

Most of the crew went out to dinner. Priya, Lucy and myself stayed back to tuck ourselves into bed early.

We have a busy day tomorrow. I am nervous as well as excited. Here’s to the beginning of an amazing adventure shared with new friends. Go team 80!

Quote – “Be the change you want to see in the world” Gandhi

Monday, July 20th , 2009

By Drew

Today marked the first day of both hard and rewarding work. Jeremy and I carried bricks up the stairs and made piles of them. Eventually we will build a wall using plaster to create a new compound for the students. Priya, Lucy and Makese taught English to the children today. The general consensus was that the morning was difficult but the afternoon brought great progress and innovation. The man working the site with us was a total packhorse. While I carried an average of five bricks a load, he carried at least eight. The pile on the roof has grown substantially and morale within the group is very good. I am honored to be surrounded by such benevolent and altruistic people. Our guide Stephen forms the bedrock of the group. His quick smile and easygoing personality makes everybody’s experience a real treat. George, Alexi and Nicole really felt like they connected with the kids today. In the evening we played with the kids. Asharon and I have developed a special bond. His assertive and helpful personality has been has been extremely refreshing. After our time at the orphanage was done we had dinner. So far I am optimistic that we can replicate the success we had on day one.

Quote – “ No person was ever honored for what he received; honor has been the reward for what he gave.” – Calvin Coolige

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

By Priya

A journal in five parts.

Heat and Dust

I sniffed this morning, inhaling a forgotten memory. There’s an aroma unique to Indian roads – a mixture of heat, dust, petrol fumes, the exhaust of a thousand cars, spices, bougainvillea, jasmine, trash and fresh food. They all jostle for space in this – my enduring olfactory memory of rush hour traffic in India. Throw in visuals of bustling crowds, bright saris, strays and the occasional cow munching someone’s dinner from last night – and you have a perfect recipe for orderly chaos each morning.

Jasmine, flowers and pretty homes

Makese, Lucy and I were headed to St. Joseph’s this morning – Makese to teach UKG and Lucy and I to teach a period each for grades 3, 4, and 5.

Lucy and I had planned to involve the grade 3 students in a spelling bee – a plan that also became a lesson in adaptation. We switched to a game of ‘Around the World’ – testing students on simple math problems. I enjoyed observing Lucy; as a teacher, her ability to engage her students is fascinating to watch. We also drew on a suggestion from Makese and used the game ‘Hang Man’ to test spelling. It worked a treat, especially with grades 4 and 5. We set it up as a challenge – could they beat us (the instructors)? Sadly, they did! 🙂

Other vignettes that caught my eye: school girls wearing jasmine flowers in their hair and drawings that were presented to us by children – interestingly, they were almost all of homes. Oddly enough, we were also mobbed for autographs in each class. Eat your heart out, Angelina!

Slipping between languages

I have to laugh at how much Tamil I do remember. I have not spoken the language consistently for almost 17 years and am still pretty fluent. Switching between languages does help with the children; I get a few wide-eyed looks, but it works!

That voice was not meant for Broadway, or was it?

It had to happen sometime –I had to sing. My voice is not what you might call ‘stage quality’. Those less kind might even call me tone deaf. And yet, I had fun at SEAM this evening singing with the older girls. The National Anthems of both India and America never sounded better. Rebecca has a lovely voice – she hits her notes and has pitch perfect delivery. On a personal level, I did enjoy speaking with the girls and talking them about their plans and dreams. I perhaps could not ask for more than “She impacted a life in some small way.”

Other highlights of today:

• Drew and Jeremy at work on the construction site.
• George talking about his choice to come back to India.
• Lexi and Nicole at Assisi, doing the Macarena in addition to teaching.

Quotes of the Day

The Profound:
There are many truths of which the full meaning cannot be realized until personal experience has brought it home—John Stuart Mill

The Amusing:

‘Stephen, if I brush my teeth with tap water (instead of bottled), will I die?’ Sadly – this was the contribution of the author of today’s blog…and was uttered earlier today.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

By George

The sun rose over Chennai today in a partial eclipse. As I watched from our roof-top terrace, it didn’t matter to me that the clouds obscured the effect, I knew that I was sharing the moment with millions of other early risers across Asia. There won’t be another eclipse of this length until 2114. The paper reported that many Hindu temples would be closed until the moon had safely passed the sun to avoid the bad spirits. I felt nothing but good vibes as Team 80 began its third day of service.

Drew and Jeremy continued to do the heavy lifting at SEAMS. Combined they’ve moved thousands of bricks to the second level. The brick piles are getting smaller as the walls of the dormitories rise higher. We’re all proud of them. Alexi and Nicole once again spent their morning at Assisi. The children clamor for their attention and they give it willingly. Lucy, Priya, and Makese have setteled into a routine at St. Josephs. It has been a challenge developing lessons that engage the classes that number over 45 but they are more than up to the challenge by using their creativity and skill. I had a great time at Grace School as usual. The fifth standard boys were preparing for their Tamil exam. I had them each recite two of their Tamil poems then write them out for me. Of course I didn’t understand them but I would have given them all A’s. In the evening, at SEAMS, we worked with the children in our small groups. Makese is working with a boy who has no English reading skills. It is so heartwarming to watch how intently he listens to her teaching. It is obvious that this one to one instruction is going to make a difference for him.

In the evening, we made a quick run downtown to buy some silk and silver then we headed home for Briani and Vegies, then fell into bed.

Thought for the day: “Everyone has inside of him a piece of good news. The good news is that you don’t know how great you can be! How much you can love! What you can accomplish! And what your potential is! Anne Frank

Thursday, July 23, 2009

By Lucy

The day began with a new experience for some of us. Alexia, Nicole, Priya and I all went to Assisi Preschool for the morning. The children at this preschool have a lovely, clean environment. The teachers divided the little ones into four groups of about ten children each. The children helped bring plastic chairs and set them in order. The little ones were very good. Alexia and Nicole did lots of songs with motions with their groups.

The morning ended with whole group activities. First, small sheets of colored paper were passed out and also crayons. Then the children colored creatively, mostly lines and circles. When time for this activity was over, th children returned the crayons in a vry orderly manner and turned in their artistic masterpieces to the teacher.

The children especially loved the Macarena which was evidently a great favorite of theirs. Nicole also led the group in a long line—the TRAIN! Everyone laughed and had a great time with this. The children also especially loved a circle game, ‘Banana, banana, — JUICE, when the child in the circle who was tagged had to get up and chase the tagger around the circle. Some younger children didn’t quite understand and just sat and looked puzzled. One or two just got up and ran for the joy of running. While Nicole and ‘Lexi played this game with joyful abandon, Priya and Lucy took photos.

Then it was time for lunch and the children sat in two facing lines, prayed and ate. The whole morning was well choreographed and it was hard to tell which group had the most fun, the children, the teachers or the volunteers.
Our Kindergarten specialist, Makese, went to St. Joseph’s school as she does daily.

Jeremy and Drew continued their labor at SEAMS and Drew reported that the construction work there seemed to be getting easier. They reported satisfaction in their very important construction work there.

After lunch back at ‘home’ we set out for an early afternoon session at SEAMS. Priya worked with two of the older young ladies, while Lucy worked with Jacob.

Back home again for an afternoon siesta… It was definitely HOTTER today.

From 5:30-6:30 we all returned to our usual afternoon sessions at SEAMS.

A brief stop at home to refresh and/or change clothes then on to the Ambica Empire Hotel, the ‘hotel with a heart’. There we all delighted in the varied buffet fare, and some enjoyed other liquid refreshment. Everyone had a GREAT time! Stephen (#2) and an autorickshaw driver brought us back home uneventfully.

The quote of the day is one of Goldstein’s truisms and suits Global Volunteers well. “Success means only doing what you do well, letting someone else do the rest.”

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