When you’re volunteering overseas it’s the opposite of pleasure travel. I eat the food given to me, sit on freezing concrete and pace my time according to a schedule.
Since I’m working at a home for children, everything centers around them.
Wake up call is 5:30 or 6:00 am
Yeah, fantastically early. Even in my previous life I never woke at 5:30 except for a bathroom break or nightmare jolt. Prakash makes the kids do calisthenics to get the blood going before school. It’s actually fairly refreshing.
After we’ve been sweating to the oldies, they get their ration of toothpaste.
7:30 am is morning prayer and follows the essential Gandhi philosophy:
Be compassionate to all living beings
Live a simple life
Treat all people equally
Be kind to each other
Respect others rights to be different
Do your best in everything that you do
My favorite part is when they all sing:
“Live a life of true… and happiness you will find… Gandhi, Gandhi, Gandhiji, Gandhijiiiii!!!”
School Drop Off
After a breakie of chapatti and lentils, I usually take the Marathi primary kids to school at 10ish. It’s a close 10 minute jaunt to the Savarsai village.
I’m constantly amazed how the kids can walk on sharp rocks and uneven paved roads with their tiny bare feet!
Once in a while I’ll help out in the kitchen chopping vegetables or deep frying a flat bread called poori.
English and Homework
Sometimes you have to be proactive at volunteering, so I invented a spelling game for the kids. I wrote out basic English words on bits of paper and scrambled the order in a hat. Each child picks a word, has to pronounce the word outloud and spell it on a slate. I’m a popular Auntie, well known for handing out prizes. The ones that generate buzz are pencils and erasers. I’ll even give them paper to draw after a few games are played.
I’ve tutored some kids learning English, which is odd since I’m the wobbly one on the subject. I’ve turned out to be a patient and decent teacher. At least that’s what kids tell me.
After the kids return from school, night prayer is at 6 pm and then we do yoga. I contort along with them, but yoga on concrete is rough compared to the oak floors of Vancouver.
Songs and Story Time
I’ve been known to belt a tune without karaoke and the fanning fires of alcohol, so I put my tone deafness to good use. I’ve taught them Ring Around the Rosie, Frère Jacques, among others. The kids also love a good yarn. Since my 3 months is nearly over, I’ve run out of fairy tales, resorting to making up my own. I usually include animals, some conflict and resolution, and a moral lesson at the end like, don’t be greedy, be thankful for the food on your plate, or always be generous with your friends.
By 10 pm the kids are knackered, and so am I. It’s off to bed until we wake to do it all over again!
If you included volunteering in your travels, what were some of your duties?