India Team 134 Journal Excerpts – Day 3

DSC00122Monday, December 23, 2013

We opened the morning with a breakfast of rice and eggs, hot coffee and tea. Then, Ginni reviewed the previous day’s activities with the team, and reiterated the goals that we had established as a team.

Next, Stephen went through the agenda for the day. Ginni and I were to go to the Assisi Illam home for children, while John was to remain at the guest house to meet with Rajesh from the S.E.A.M.S. children’s home and prepare him for a job interview he was having Friday with a major corporation in India. Rajesh is a 20 year old college student who has been living at S.E.A.M.S. since he was 14. He is now beginning his journey into adult life. The Assisi Illam home is named after St. Francis de Assisi, an Italian Catholic Friar and preacher, and the founder of the men’s Order of Friars Minor (or Franciscans – the oldest and most prominent group of followers of the teachings of St. Francis de Assisi), and the Women’s Order or St. Clare (or the Poor Clare’s – an order of contemplative nuns).

Stephen’s brother drove us (me, Ginnni, Stephen, his wife Sheeba, and his 5 year old son Roshan) to Assisi Illam. I sat in the front seat, and so was able to see the variety of ways people choose to commute in the city – mostly motorcycles, but there were cars, bicycles (with two wheels and sometimes three), carts pulled by bulls, etc.) The streets got more and more narrow as we got closer to the children’s home. Driving to the children’s home made me feel “immersed” in India’s culture – it was very exciting.

At the home, we met the children and the nuns who oversee the facility – Sister Rose and Sister Mathilda. The girls were in colorful, sequined, traditional dresses, and some of the boys, in nice button downs, were preparing to visit friends and send Christmas greetings to patients at a nearby hospital.

Two of the little girls showed us the henna they had painted on their arms, which was very elaborate and beautiful (and done by them). The girls took us on a tour of the facilities: the home had several bedrooms, a chapel for worship, and on the top floor of the four-story building there was a terrace that overlooked beautiful mountain-scape scenery. The children were growing fruit (eggplant) and flowers on the terrace. Seeing the beds all lined up in a row reminded me of one of my favorite childhood stories, Madeline, about a young girl (like many of the girls we met yesterday) who lives in a home run by Catholic nuns, and has many adventures along the way.

We came back downstairs and were formally introduced to the sisters. We told them about our background and they explained theirs. Some of the children left to do their Christmas greeting rounds, and the remaining children stayed behind. Ginni and I broke into small groups of 2 children a-piece, and began reading with them. We both noticed that each child had his / her own personality and reading skill-sets. I started with two children, and then one of mine was moved to read with Ginni. The child who remained with me, Mulkia, had excellent reading skills and reveled in absorbing the knowledge his books had to offer. He read to me from a children’s dictionary, and we almost got to the “P’s” before we were pulled to do other activities. Imagine reading an entire dictionary. Ginni also read to one of the younger girls in the facility, and brought out her hand puppets to help bring her stories to life.

Next, after reading with the children, we played a game whereby the children stood in a circle and tossed the ball around. If a person didn’t catch the ball when it was tossed to them, they had to sit out. We started with about six of us. Then, the game got down to two people—Mulkia and me. He tossed me the ball, it was a little short, so I dropped it—which meant Mulkia won. We played again with a few more of the children, and one of the girls won.

We left the children’s home with promises to return the next day, and returned to the guest house to have lunch, and plan for the afternoon’s activities. John debriefed us on his morning with Rajesh. He is helping him prepare for job interviews. Initially, Rajesh was slightly bashful to speak in front of the group of us about what he’d learned, but as time went on he spoke more freely. I think he’s getting excellent advice from John, and a great opportunity to get prepared for the Corporate world.

The afternoon was even more exciting than the morning. We all went to S.E.A.M.S. to hand out prizes to those judged to have the best drawings from the previous day’s drawing contest and to those who exhibited the best behavior over the last several months. Although the judging was difficult, and initially some of the children were tied for first, second and third place – Stephen used points assigned for the children’s behavior and other criteria to decide on eventual winner. The first, second and third place winners in each of three separate age categories each got a wrapped present. The presents were handed out by Roshan, Stephen’s son, who was decked out in a cute Santa Claus outfit, sans white beard.

Before we handed out gifts, we decorated the room with balloons and Christmas garland made from tinsel, and put lights on the Christmas tree. The children also held a singing contest between the girls and the boys, and some of the boys danced for us. It was quite a show. We handed out cake to the children, and then the children were dismissed to do their chores and prepare to go home for a couple of days for Winter Break. But not before a balloon popping contest ensued. I was trying to keep a straight face, so as not to encourage too much rowdy behavior, but had to turn away so that no one would see me chuckling.

We then returned to the guest house for dinner, and to debrief. All in all, it was a good day.


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