Thursday, October 18, 2007

Volunteer's Stories...

Jacqueline Ryan - Kerala Link - India, 2004/5
One of the best times of my life was spent during my gap year in India. More than a year on since I left India I still have vivid smells, tastes and experiences from the country and the most cherished memories of the people I encountered and worked with. Three years ago is when I initially got in touch with WWV along with a multitude of other sites that recommended and listed voluntary organisations, it was WWV that proved the most helpful and accurate in presenting voluntary opportunities that best suited my ideas. I found Kerala Link, a small charity set up by a couple who had stumbled across Jyothis School, a school for children with mental disabilities, in Kerala, South India.

I had just finished my A-levels in the June and it was my first time living away from home when I started my placement in the September of 2004. The whole experience was both daunting and exciting at the same time, I remember stepping off the plane into a thick of humidity, heat, noise and smells. The roads were crazy. And I'll never forget the evening I arrived in the small town of Mavelikara, my home for the next six months, it was Lord Krishna's birthday and the streets were filled with music, dance, colourful costumes and plenty of food. I jumped out of my taxi and hurried to join the celebration; the first of many to come.
The hospitality and generosity of the locals was unimaginable, people really went out of their way to welcome me and make me feel at home. During the first month, when the novelty period had worn-off, the previous volunteer had gone home, and I was left to cope with the reality of being stuck in such a diversely contrasting country, where I didn't know the language, had no friends or family, and undertaking work that I really didn't have a great deal of experience at - I have to admit, the prospect was daunting.
Caroline, the founder of Kerala Link had provided me with lots of verbal support and contacts to get in touch with, and she advised a very gentle work load to ease myself in. The staff at Jyothis School were difficult to get comfortable with at first as only a couple of them spoke English. I started with just a few mornings a week teaching Makaton sign language which really helped with their communication skills, and took sports, art or dance in the afternoon, which was an enjoyable activity for both staff and the students to join in. Teaching Makaton was a first for me, but I found it easy to pick up and it actually helped me to learn the local language, Malayalam. Once the communication barriers began to come down I realised it was often people were nervous to talk to me more than I was to talk to them, and soon found myself being invited to weddings, tea and full Kerala meals.
I love the kids I worked with, all eighty (as it was then), half of them boarded and the other half of them made up to a three hour journey on the fourteen seater mini bus to school (but it was most likely to be about twenty-five students on the bus). I tried to work with most of the students although some were quite seriously disabled that I felt too inexperienced to conduct sessions that included them. I did lots of art work with the students; from collages, painting, paper lanterns, and a huge mural for the Christmas Nativity. We made costumes and even performed a dance with some of the more able students to "Wig-wam-bam" in the Christmas play. The students loved to dance, I used to join in and we'd all mimic the Bollywood moves or just dance like crazy to the Malayalam songs. Most of the students loved playing sport, or at least attempting to, as running round waving the badminton rackets or just simply booting the football as far and as hard as possible were often a practiced technique. However, I did manage to train up a group of about thirty of the students to take part in the Kerala State Special Olympics, where the students won lots of medals in long jump, shot putt, and all the running events. And just prior to the State championships in March, I organised the first Jyothis School Sports Day, where all the students participated in an event, whether it was the walking race or throw the ball in the bucket and each student was presented with a sports medal I brought over from England.
There are so many individual incidents and memories that are still so vivid in my mind, things always make me chuckle, like when Shubu used to stick a pencil on his top lip and pretend he was the teacher, one hand on waist and the other wagging his finger at the students or at the State Olympics when Regi sprinted past Hassan at the last 100m on the 4x100m relay, Hassan crouched there in a low start position ready to sprint to glory, his dreams stripped away from him, he was in tears of devastation and poor Regi couldn't understand what the problem was, we were cheering him to run - so he just kept running!
It really was the most fulfilling time of my life; I learnt so much on and off placement. I made so many life long friends and received so much from the students than I ever imagined I could teach. It has altered my values, my opinions, and changed my whole perspective on life.
I am now at university studying an Arts Management course and hope that I can one day pay-back what I received again by working in a similar deprived or developing community using the arts as a medium and an opportunity. But whether charity work, voluntary work, or humanitarian aid is in your future plans or not, I do recommend taking a voluntary placement to indulge in experience and broaden the mind.
I would like to thank WWV for their initial help and particular support from Liz who has kept in touch. And of course Kerala Link; a superb charity. Caroline, Colin and Elaine have been a great help and great incentives to do more work
Find out more stories on Worldwide Volunteering


Anonymous Barão Van Blogh said...

Coloco a leitura em dia , é sempre bom passar por aqui .

Bom fim de semana .

5:20 pm  
Blogger Cátia said...

Ola Ofelia,

Todos nós somos chamados a fazer o melhor, mas existem alguns que dedicam a sua vida, os seus momentos para ajudar os outros. São nestas pessoas simples que devemos colocar o olhos e ver não devemos esperar apenas por políticas, ou por ajudas internacionais para que tudo fique melhor. Há que pôr as mãos à obra e dar um pouco do muito que temos.

Celebramos o dia mundial das missões. Que reconheçamos o valor do missionários que tanto se esforçam e dedicam a vida aos outros.


9:16 pm  
Anonymous Apaixonado said...

Gosto muito de ti. Mais do que qualquer um. Tu sabes.

11:36 pm  
Anonymous Noite de sonhos said...

Eu tb te canto!
a tua escrita
faz lembrar:
a respiração
as tuas palavras
um prazer em mim
meu amor.

12:38 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think the author of this article is a very richer person now that she was a volunteer. volunteer work is a very challenging experience and it gives us a different perspective of life.
this woman travelled to a poor country and helped everyone with her love, kindness and respect. she lived in a foreign country and contacted with disabled and poor childreen. she lived their problems closy. And now she is a different person. This was a hishly newarding experience for her.

Mara Araújo 10ºA

7:45 pm  

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