Saturday, August 26, 2006

Our stint with Association for India’s Development (AID)

STATUATORY WARNING: Before u begin reading this blog let me tell u that it is a huge blog and might not interest most of u…so if u don’t want to know about what we did at AID please do not read further…I basically wrote this blog because akila and hema persuaded me to and it can get quite boring!!

I have wanted to pen down my experiences with AID India but never really found the time...OK!! Let me not bluff. I had plenty of time but no inclination to write about it till now...

Well let me begin at the beginning!!

The first day of my hols I called up AID Chennai’s office and got the number of a volunteer called prabha...i called her and spoke to her...she told me in brief about the activities undertaken by AID-India. She patiently answered all my (somewhat silly) questions. When I expressed my interest to be a volunteer she gave me the number of another lady called Chandra who was in charge of volunteers...

I called Chandra and she was equally helpful and polite and asked me to come and meet her around 11 pm...Next I called my friend Akila (who also wanted to join AID) and told her about this and together the two of us went to the AID office where we met Chandra and she briefed us about what AID is and asked us what kind of work we would like to do

--> Field work
--> Desk work

We told her that we preferred to do field work and she said our primary job would be to teach Tamil to children from rural areas and slums. Initially I was a little apprehensive because my knowledge of Tamil is....well the less said the better...I m not exactly thiruvaluvar when it comes to Tamil if u know what I mean..

But Chandra assured me that all we had to do was teach the kids the basics of Tamil. I thought I could manage that so the next day she asked us to come so that we could be trained on how to use the reading and balwaadi kit

The balwaadi is basically a place where we have kids in the age group 1-4...really small kids and our task was to teach them the basic colors, shapes, animals and teach them rhymes. The kit basically has a lot of other stuff too but I don’t feel like going into detail
Well we came the next day and a volunteer called gomathi explained to us how we must use the reading kit and the day after that we started teaching. Before going into that I would like to mention that the most touching thing about these volunteers is that they have devoted their entire lives to the cause of AID. They get a monthly salary of almost everyone’s monthly salary is equal to these peoples annual salary. But still these people after having done engineering, medicine, banking and such respectable courses have devoted their whole lives to a cause. It is really assuring to know that such people still exist in the world...

Well I m deferring from the topic. The next day we went to the balwaadi where we spent an hour with really small kids from really poor and rural backgrounds. They were underfed malnourished and naturally lacked basic cleanliness and hygiene. We started off by singing songs, playing with those kids, showing them the different shapes sizes colors animal’s vegetable fruits etc...

That’s me telling the kids a story(most of them seem to be looking at the camera but I assure u I m a good story teller. After all I write exams conducted by anna univ ;);)!!)

The best thing about these kids is their ever cheerfulness... i mean I cant even begin to imagine the kind of dreary lives these kids lead...I was sure that most of their fathers were drunkards and the kind of filthy language and profanity that these kids used didn’t leave much to imagination about the kind of language used at their homes. But they were all so cheerful and happy as if they possessed all happiness and didn’t want anything from life
We have a lot to learn from them. I mean we are never satisfied about anytihing...we always want something bigger and better...its not wrong to be ambitious but not at the cost of happiness. These kids have nothing and yet they are so happy. And us? Let me take my example...I begged my parents to get me a cell phone and now that I have got it I want a better model...if I get a better model I will want one with a camera or better features. It just goes on...
There is no end to our desires.. But these kids are a perfect example of "we have one life. Let’s make the best out of it"

Next after finishing the balwaadi we went to the nearby corporation school where we had to teach fifth std kids the basic Tamil alphabet (for ppl who know me QUIT laughing. I know Tamil quite well now!!)...I was quite shocked when I heard that fifth std kids studying in a Tamil medium school didn’t know the basic alphabet. apparently it is a government rule that irrespective of the fact whether the child attends class or not he is supposed to be promoted to the next class…initially I thought it was absurd but later after I thought about it kind of made sense because if the children fail the parents immediately pull them out of school thinking that they are not learning anything. so corporation schools figure that it is better to have children who are failures than not have children at all… (personally I think the parents must be educated first. I mean these schools provide the children with books uniform and a midday meal. what more can these parents ask for? but no the parents have to crib and give some excuse for not sending the child to school)

But seriously this kids were pathetically hopeless(I use pathetically hopeless for want of a better adjective) and everyday given my short temper I flew off my handle umpteen number of times and felt like strangling those kids…thanks to hema and akila there were no causalities!! Patience is one more thing that I began to learn in those fifteen days…I learnt to be patient with those kids because they are not our normal kids with normal upbringing and background. they are kids who have been abused ill treated not fed properly and what not!

Hema and Akila teaching the kids Tamil..

Later the teacher/staff of the corporation school told us about the backgrounds of some of the troublesome children…one of the child’s mother had attempted suicide by trying to immolate herself but was rescued and now is in a state of depression(which obviously tells on the kid)..another child’s mother had been in an accident and had lost an arm. yet another child had a father who was a drunkard and abused the mother in front of the kids. it is at times like this that I feel we live in a really cocooned atmosphere with absolutely no knowledge about what the real world is like. our sphere of understanding covers only our parents (who obviously shield us from such things) our friends (who are with u most of the times to chill and have fun), our teachers (who cater to our academic growth)…we never really get time (or lets say never really want to) interact with ppl who are less fortunate than us…personally I feel that god has been very very kind to us and we should count our blessings each and every minute of our life!!

These fifteen days have truly been a learning and eye opening experience for me…I have no idea what these kids learnt from me and what they will be in future but what I have learnt from them is priceless and something which I hope I will never forget all my life!!

All Smiles :D:D

Hems Akil and I with the kids!!!