Three weeks, an altered world view
A few people venture out of their comfort zone and truly volunteer to make a difference. We at BEYOND BORDERS were fortunate to have a bunch of such people from Challenger Institute of Technology, Western Australia join us in making such a difference. As part of the Challenger Educate and Make a Difference initiative, we took a group of intrepid Aussies to a school and an orphanage, at Malavli near Lonavala, India. For three weeks these folks would observe, interact, teach, help and all in all, be a part of these wonderful institution’s work.
In order to minimise the language barrier, we put the participants through a weeklong Hindi speaking course, which many came to us and reported was very helpful in understanding and interacting with the volunteers and kids at the institution.
Experiencing first-hand the life and work of the teachers at this institution came as a real eye opener to many of the participants. One of them actually said, that participating in the day-to-day lives of these children and teachers, made her more appreciative of the life she had back in Australia. A meeting with the institution’s founder and director, laid out the task that our bunch had to accomplish. Increasing the level of interactivity and responsiveness in the classroom was one of the most important tasks as these would help raise the standard of education as a whole.
The trip had many moments of wonder, for the participants. Some were really amazed at the level of respect students displayed for their teachers. Others were filled with empathy and admiration for some of the institutions volunteers and teachers who dedicated themselves to teaching these deprived children, completely selflessly.
The trips to Pune and Mumbai, brought to light the work of some extraordinary people in some really trying circumstances. People who work with prostitutes in Mumbai’s red light district, trying to make a tangible difference to the lives of the women working there, and their children. A trip to some of the slums in Mumbai, proved to be a real eye-opener to the hazardous conditions in which people manage to eke out a living. Some participants were definitely taken aback by the way these people lived and their positive attitude to life, in the face of such adversity.
Back at the school and orphanage, the participants threw themselves into the program and many of them reported having had fruitful interactions with the teachers, who proved to be most receptive to the teaching techniques they were being introduced to. Many others formed bonds with the innocent children who studied and lived at the orphanage.
The trip was not without its moments of fun. An introduction to the Indian culture and way of celebration, at Malavli, through a Mehendi party, was a great chance for the participants to see the lighter side of things. Participating in the day to day activities of the orphanage and school let to moments of laughter and joy, most ‘tourists’ never get to experience. The participants were also awestruck by the sights of the forts, caves and markets they experienced on their various excursions. A weekend in Mumbai, and witnessing the controlled chaos of the metropolis was another great highlight of the trip for many.
Three weeks of interaction, life-altering experiences and an introduction to a culture that is rich and diverse, made a great impact on the participants. Some of them came to us and expressed interest in sponsoring a child, returning to participate in future programs and wanting to associate with the Challenger Initiative in greater depth. The feedback we received and the positive vibe of the participants has encouraged us to improve and expand the initiative to an even wider audience in the near future.