After many years as Facebook friends, I finally meet face to face with Stephen Raj and his wife Sheeba, our Global In-Country hosts in Porur on the outskirts of Chennai! …. a delightful couple with a sweetheart of a chatterbox son, eight year old Rochon. They instantly charm us right from that very first handshake, that so naturally and effortlessly shifts into a warm hug. They are friendly, loving, giving people. They have added Augustine, a ten year old boy who was once a student at Assisi Illam into their fold. A very bright sweet child I would adopt in a heartbeat if I could :)!!! Giving back to the dissadvantaged, the marginalized in Indian culture (and really …. they exist in every society, every culture!!) …. working at this job is as natural as breathing to this couple. Inspiration from people such as Stephen and Sheeba, is why I in turn choose to do what I do here in India, reaching out a helping hand in some small capacity :)!! I place much faith in small steps … I am not looking to move mountains and have long since come to truly understand and appreciate the value of Global’s objectives and goals of bridging peace and goodwill through volunteer postings around the world. I am an itinerate nomad, a travelling global student and adding volunteering has been a most natural, appropriate and welcome addition to my travels. Connecting with a heart wide open, sharing just a small part of ourselves, helps open the doors to understanding, friendship and eventually love and peace …. yes, highly idealistic goals from a long ago hippy generation and era but every bit as relevant today. What I have come to know well in all these years, is that we are all one. Our circumstances and cultures may differ but our need for happiness, love, acceptance remain the same.
When I tenderly hold the tiny hand of an orphaned baby in a Romanian hospital, or take the time to talk and share a sandwich with a homeless person on the streets of my hometown Calgary, or share and laugh my way through a silly children’s song with adult students in Cuba, help out the barefoot students with spelling lists in Rarotonga, or discover a heart connection with the soulful eyes of an Indian child in Porur, I know that my tiny ripples of interaction matter.
The rest of the team arrive at various times over the weekend, tired from long commutes. We are a team of nine and bond within days as seems to be the case more often than not on Global postings. Linda, once upon a time a litigation lawyer, switched careers and is now happily teaching at a high needs elementary school in Florida, Tracey a medical doctor and her teenage daughter Meghan, Caoimhe (Gaelic name pronounced Kiva) and her partner Thomas both college students from Long Island, Evette and her son Jonah from Delaware, Neha from California has an Indian background, will be visiting relatives in Mumbai after our post. Within days, we are into the swing of tutoring high school, elementary and adult students, in addition to basic childcare with children as young as two at Assisi Illam … the pictures tell the story … the nuns, teachers and students are all so warm, welcoming and enthusiastic that we all effortlessly fall into a rhythm, making the learning as much fun as we can, incorporating song and dance, games and drawings :). Evette, Jonah and I were invited to join in a grade eight yoga class … the teacher takes to us and when the students are dismissed, continues to teach us various meditation techniques! Our team is spread out amongst a middle school and daycare/elementary school run by the kind Sisters at Assisi Illam for orphaned children or some whose parents simply cannot afford to put them in school or childcare. Linda stays behind at our homestay guesthouse to tutor two young adults, once students at Assisi Illam. We all agree that education is the key to rising out of a poverty cycle and help out as best we can, where we can. Our days start with Rani fueling us with her delicious breakfasts of noodles, sambars, eggs, dosa, iddli, chutneys and various fruits … oh yes, mangoes definitely :). … still in season until the end of June … horray!! Sharing some photos of our time together .
Barnabas, our cheerful ‘go to’ guy, prepping banana tree leaves for a feast organized by Sheeba and Stephen one afternoon. We eat only using our right hands, Indian style … the leaf is our plate ….
The charming grade 8 ladies at PRS Middle School …
Rohitkumar, my 8 year old evening student … took a bit of effort but I finally got him joking and laughing with me 🙂
Evette doing her thing … singing her signature song …. ‘Sew’ … kids love it!
Sweet cheerful math and science teacher Bhavana ..
Stephen and Sheeba, our most awesome team leaders and hosts …
Linda with her students ….