Global Volunteers’ Philosophy of Service guides team members on the principles of responsible volunteering. This alumni volunteer shares a practical example of how this works on site in Chennai, India and elsewhere around the world.
By Fran, India Volunteer.
At Assisi Illam, the daycare center in Chennai where we’re serving, we’ve just finished singing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star” with all of the accompanying actions. I sit in a chair as the children gather around to touch me, to be touched by me, and to handle the colorful beads about my neck. A child holds one of the beads or I point to a bead and say its color and in unison these precious ones call back the color. They’re experiencing love and learning English, an invaluable tool in Chennai, India where the first language for these children is Tamil. English is the language that will open the doors to opportunities. Experiencing love and sincere regard will give them the assurance to take advantage of opportunities. My heart is full, and Global Volunteers has provided the venue and philosophy for that to happen.
“The freshness and variety can only be a bonus for these precious little ones.”
The time I can spend with children around the world is possible because I enter their lives in two or three week windows. My life does not permit a commitment of one month or a year, and yet here I am making lives better for these children, weeks at a time. And the children have the advantage of so many volunteers touching their lives, volunteers that would not be there if a longer commitment were required. The freshness and variety can only be a bonus for these precious little ones.
Ipad in hand, I entered Christ-King School. My fifth standard students are learning about chameleons and developing English language skills. Our team leader Stephen and I met with the Dr. Ebenezer earlier. We had met years before since this was my third Global Volunteer experience at the school. I asked what they would like me to do with the children this time. Each time I am here, this amazing and caring man offers suggestions. That is what I so appreciate about Global Volunteers and their responsible volunteering approach and unique philosophy of service. I’m not here to reform a school to fit my ideas; I’m here to facilitate and teach so I might help meet the needs the professionals outline.
So, we learned about chameleons; the children were awed by the brilliant photos I could share with them on my IPad. I read a story with colorful paintings about a chameleon, a story with a message. Then, the next day, the children and I wrote a story in English. Of course, they chose to write about a little boy who saw a chameleon. With paper I brought to the classroom, the children copied our joint effort so they had their own story books about the boy and the chameleon. They were excited; their teacher took notes as we did various activities and, once again, my heart was filled. I did what Dr. Ebenezer suggested; the children were engaged and learning. We sang, we learned English words, we became friends.
“This has been so with each of my Global Volunteers experiences around the world… The philosophy of going where we are asked, doing what the local people know is needed, and making the world a better place is a philosophy that I share. The gift of personal friendships and a sense of purpose are simply wonderful extras.”
The thought of spending my golden years simply traveling and seeing sights did not alleviate the angst of redefining who I am in my retirement years. But seeing more of the world while performing a service does. I am now a Global Volunteer and I can make a difference; I can change the world. When I leave the bonds of this earth, my times in other lands will not be photos and videos that mean nothing to my friends and family. Rather, I will have touched the lives in such a positive way and that will live after me.
A great part of that is the care that Global Volunteers takes in selecting local leaders for the countries where we volunteer. The local leaders, whether they be Dorota in Poland, James and Debbie in the Cook Islands, or Stephen Raj and Sheeba in India, are the key. For it is under their guidance and expertise, I saw the needs and learned how to be a part of meeting those needs. This is responsible volunteering. It is through Stephen and Sheeba that I felt the heartbeat of Chennai and became a part of the family. I saw India not as a collection of tourist attractions, but rather I saw beyond the beautiful sights. I truly lived in the India far beyond the India of tour guides. I saw, taught and loved the children in Christ-King School; I held the little children with love and helped them enjoy song and colors and words at Assisi Illam day care. But more than that I saw the compassion and understanding that Stephen and Sheeba demonstrate in their lives. They’re friends and role models.
The Global Volunteer experiences helped to define who I could and can be. The photos, videos and memories are all so wonderful, but the local leaders assure that my life in service has meaning. Global Volunteers can change the world.