Sunday, January 29, 2012

Volunteer India

At Prayrona 2: I like this better than "Jeannie"!
 I just returned from a Humanitarian Travel Abroad trip to India and, once again, besides being overwhelmed by the warm welcome we received from the children and teachers, I was humbled by the people I met who follow their hearts to make a difference in the lives of others.

As in previous years, our main activities in Kolkata were organized by the amazing Rosalie Giffionello of Empower the Children. Rosalie is a retired teacher from New Jersey who now applies her skills educating disadvantaged children in India. We also added a side trip to a village on the outskirts of Santiniketan to visit an innovative literacy program.

With Empower the Children we organized a photo shoot in the bustee where the children were given digital cameras and sent off to photograph their world!

Water buffalo shed in Dakshindat slum

 We also completed paper mache masks with teenage students at one of Prayrona's vocational schools. One of our volunteers, Danny, brought toys made by his father, a Portuguese immigrant to America. These board and competition games can be made of everyday things found around the house - they were a big hit among the children at all of the schools we visited.

We left the hustle and bustle of Kolkata by train and spent the night in Santiniketan where we visited Nobel Laureate Rabindranath Tagore's Visva Bharati University and spent the afternoon playing board games and cricket with village children at Suchana school.
Kira and Piusardo make a mask

Suchana was founded by Kirsty Milward and her husband Rahul Bose. Their center is dedicated to helping the children of Santal and Kora families - poor rural, tribal peoples who farm in the area - gain reading skills, enabling them to perform better in school. To get the children interested in reading, the tribal children told folktales to the teachers who then made books of the stories illustrated by the students themselves. The idea is to first get the children excited about reading in their native tongue before teaching them Bangla, the language used in public schools.

Finally, we met Mr. Tim Grandage at a birthday party for Mrs. Violet Smith of the Fairlawn Hotel where we were staying for the week. (Mrs. Smith celebrated her 91st year!) A former HSBC bank manager, Mr. Grandage started his charity, Future Hope, to help street children receive an education, medical care and, well, 'hope,' providing housing, clothing and healthy dose of rugby and cricket. Grandage now has hundreds of kids in his care with many graduates now working or in school abroad.

Makes me wonder, "What did I do today to make this world just a little bit better?"

To read about our activities on this trip in more detail, visit the January blog posts of David, one of our volunteers:

Road trip to Shantiniketan
An Afternoon with the Family

Find our volunteer Willson!

Who will reach the bag with candy first?

Volunteers Danny and Ehris make a game with children from Prayrona 2

A village walk at dusk

HTA volunteers pose for a photo with a local family

Suchana's 'mobile library,' a bicycle rickshaw

1 comment:

  1. Very true Joseph, and the rewards for volunteering last forever.