So what do I do with myself here in India? A while ago, I mentioned that I visited a charity called Deep Griha Society to see if I could volunteer with them.
‘Deep Griha – meaning ‘Light House’ – is an independent charitable organisation working to better the lives of people in the slums of Pune (India) and several nearby villages. Through a range of family welfare programmes encompassing education, empowerment, health, awareness building and self-help projects; Deep Griha Society (DGS) helps thousands of beneficiaries to give them the skills, confidence and support they need to improve their futures.
Deep Griha Society now runs centres in three slum areas in Pune - Tadiwala Road, Ramtekadi and Bibvewadi. Additionally, Deep Griha Society also runs rural development programmes, through its two major set ups; City of Child in Kasurdi village and Vidyanagari - City of Knowledge in Choufula village. Currently Deep Griha Society’s programmes reach out to 68,527 people. '
Three days a week (sometimes more), I now volunteer the Deep Griha Society Family Welfare Centre which is about 3 miles from my house. To keep fit and cut down on auto rickshaw costs, I cycle there which takes about 20 minutes, I really enjoy the ride and gives me a chance to listen to my podcasts of ‘Iain Lee on Absolute Radio’, which is kind of my link with what’s going on at home, plus its amusing!
|Building that I work in.|
In the mornings, I spend my time in one of the 4 crèches where about 20 children from the ages of about 2 to 5 are looked after by a teacher and a helper (most of them are usually around 2-4 though). Each crèche has a teacher and a helper plus any volunteers that want to help. The children usually arrive between 9 and 10am and are normally dropped off by a member of their family. The crèche room is quite small and there is not much furniture, so the children all sit on the floor when being served their morning glass of hot milk.
|Class helper, the children call her 'Moushi'|
(my spelling is probably wrong, but its what it sounds like to me)
|Teacher, the children call her 'Byhee' |
(my spelling is probably wrong, but its what it sounds like to me)
After their milk, they all sit around the edge of the room in a semi circle facing the teacher and we all sing English action songs such as ‘Twinkle Twinkle Little Star’ and ‘Heads, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ plus some Marathi songs. The children also get taught things like the alphabet, numbers, names of animals and parts of the body.
|Sitting around singing songs.|
They also just get a chance to have fun, run around, play with toys and with each other. I have taught them the song and actions to ‘Row Row Row Your Boat’, which they absolutely love and are constantly wanting me to sing it with them! It is so sweet when they come to me saying 'Deedee, mewely mewely’! (Deedee, means sister and that is what all the children call me).
Sometimes the children fight with each other (it’s usually over not wanting to share toys or wanting to play with me) and it is a bit difficult with the language barrier to tell them off. Most of the children only speak Marathi with a small bit of Hindi and English. They have now though learnt what the phrases ‘Be nice!’ and ‘No fighting!’ mean and they usually stop what they are doing when I say them. The clever ones sometimes say it to each other before I do, which is funny! I am trying to learn the phrases in Marathi, so I may be more effective in discipline. ‘Bhandan Karu Naka’ means no fighting, I think.
|Cute Radha and Sanjana.|
I want to take them home with me!
At 12 o’clock, we serve them their lunch, which consists of white rice and dal which they all eat using their hands whilst sitting on the floor in a circle. I sometimes have to help feed some of the new arrivals to the class, but after a few weeks of watching the other children, they soon get the hang of what they need to do and begin to feed themselves.
When I first went into the crèche, I was really impressed at how well the children could fend for themselves. They can all feed themselves and are very well toilet trained. In the UK, I know of so many children the same sort of age who are still in nappies and getting spoon fed! Here even the really little ones know when they need the toilet and what to do.
The toilet is a small cubicle next to the crèche room with a porcelain Indian style long drop loo in it. Whenever a child needs to go, they pull down their pants, step out of them and take themselves off to the toilet. Most of the time, I have to help them a bit by rinsing their bare feet with a jug of water before they come out of the cubicle and help them get their pants back on.
After lunch, we take the children out of the room, to the front of the building outside where they sit for about 15 minutes whilst the helper cleans the room and prepares it for nap time. The children love being outside, they never like to sit still and they often run off around the driveway willing you to catch them! They can be a bit of a handful and I’m often worried that we may lose one when we get distracted chasing after the runaways!
|Waiting to be led outside.|
|The driveway. (One of the children took this picture for me).|
I probably have the spellings of all their names wrong too, but hey, I try!
At 1 o’clock when we lead them all back inside, they all go to the loo and then they lie on the mats that the helper has now laid out and they go to sleep. This is when I usually say goodbye and leave them, to get my lunch. Sometimes it’s hard to leave them though because some children can get a bit attached to you and cry when you leave, so you feel really mean, but you have to go.
My lunch also consists of white rice and dal, but we get extra chapattis and a spicy vegetable dish that changes from day to day and is usually very delicious!
After lunch, I spend my afternoons in the volunteer office and work on fundraising, where I have been sending emails and letters to various companies to try and acquire more support for the charity. A lot of it so far has been unsuccessful, but I’ll keep trying.
There are usually 10 or so volunteers that help at any one time but at the moment there are 8 of us, some stay for 6 months or longer (like me) and some only stay for a month or 2. Currently there are 4 girls from the UK, 1 from USA, 1 from Finland and 1 from Sweden.
At 4 o’clock, I teach some of the staff English for an hour. The 3 members of staff that I teach all have a good grasp of English but just need some help with their spelling, grammar, letter and report writing. It is also good for them to have a proper opportunity to have conversations in English, which also helps them to improve.
My day finishes at 5pm where I cycle home and go to an aerobics class at the gym I joined at 7pm.
I am really enjoying my time at Deep Griha Society and I really feel like I am in some way making a difference. It also is a great way for me to meet new people and use my time here in India well. When I first came to India, I didn’t do anything really all week and the time used to drag and I felt like I was just wasting my life, but now I really feel I am experiencing the real India and I am loving it.
If you want more information about Deep Griha Society or are interested in helping them continue to do the brilliant work that they do for the people of Pune, India,
please visit their website: www.deepgriha.org
or email: firstname.lastname@example.org