Team Journal by Fran for Friday, 29th July 2016.

Today is my last day of volunteering at Assisi Illam. I had not anticipated the depth of feelings I have developed for the children and kind women there. I experienced both joy and sadness, the joy of being with the little children and the sadness of knowing that this part of my time in India is over. The beautiful little children are so dear and those who care for them are so dedicated. But realizing that this is my last day and having noticed the tension caused the actions of their present government causes deep, deep sadness. When I volunteered two years and three years ago, I felt SEAMS offered a safe haven for children, but ever changing rules and restrictions led to its closing. The governments changing rules and restrictions seem aimed at places like SEAMS and Assisi Illam. While I volunteered here at Assisi, priests joined Sister Rose, Stephen and Sheeba in discussions that I can only perceive as serious discussions in their attempts to keep this wonderful project viable and working. Yet, I felt blessed to spend my hours with these little children and when I was coaxed by the caretaker of these little ones to” Get your pad, get your pad, ” I read for our last time “Brown Bear, Brown Bear. . .” I can only feel joy.

On our way back from Assisi we stopped for petrol. A sign by the pumps made me smile (in fact I had to take a photo). “No job is so important or no service is so urgent that we cannot take time to perform our work safely.” I smiled because the words seem ingenuous since so many Indian lives seem to be at risk: the barefoot construction workers that stand on top of the very wall they are knocking down, the riders of motor bikes with passengers slipping in and out of the stream of traffic, the pedestrians walking along side the cars, buses, bikes, and trucks or crossing streets with oncoming traffic approaching. Before we had reached the petrol station, I had observed women mixing sand and mortar for a brick laying project and was amazed as one of the women casually and skillfully stacked as many as fifteen or so bricks on her head to walk through rubble to the site of the wall.

We, however, made it safely back to the Global Volunteer Guest House in time for lunch and my afternoon rest before the late afternoon and evening activities began. Maheswari arrived a few minutes before her scheduled time so we talked about her interview. I learned that she was not successful. Apparently a multiple choice and true/false exam gave her some problems. This beautiful young lady was enthusiastic to continue practicing her English skills so we had a wonderful hour together. Then Nishanth arrived to practice more grammar, vocabulary, and spoken English lessons. He is such a gem. We make certain he understands the concepts of each idea before we move on and he takes the notes of our time with him to review. What motivation! As we were finishing up, the teacher, Esther, arrived with a burst of energy. We practiced and talked about word choices. She so wants to not speak like an Indian who has studied the language, but rather like a native born English speaking person. Sheeba joined us at times; it was great fun for me and our session lasted well past 7:30. Actually we bid farewell closer to 8 p.m.

Stephen and Sheeba had a delightful surprise for me. They hosted the dinner in their home. What a treat. Again we enjoyed good food and good conversation. There were six of us at dinner, Stephen’s mother, Stephen, Sheeba, Roshan, Augustin, and Nishanth.  After dinner I walked back to the guest house where I spend my nights. The final message from Sheeba brought additional happiness to my evening; she told me that I would be able to receive cooking lessons again this year.

And now to bed for tomorrow, I will travel to Kanchipuram so I can purchase one sari for me and more beautiful, exquisite silk scarves for my friends and family back in the States.

Message for the day: If God give you strength and courage, don’t use it to intimidate people or overpower them, rather use your gift to help others find their own way to strength.” ― Anthony Liccione

Visit Global Volunteers’ Volunteer in India website page to learn more about service opportunities in Chennai. Or,  chat online with one of our Volunteer Coordinators. We’re ready to assist you with project descriptions, travel questions, registration guidance and other program details.

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