A Volunteer’s diary – Mysore through Spanish eyes: Work Camp with Teens
Day 1/ July the 5th : We began this diary from the second (and last) plane to India. We’ve done scale in Dubai, because there is no straight flight from Madrid to Bangalore. This journey to India is strange for ourselves, we feel an emotional mixing: a bit of uncertainty, passion and joy.
The flight from Madrid to Dubai took 7 hours approximately and the next one to the 5th largest Indian city took 3 1/2 more hours. It seems impossible when we all will arrive at our accommodation – such a long way, but we will.
We have talked about our feelings, how we really want to know everything about the folk culture, their meals, religion and people. We expect this experience will be unforgettable, and we will have to let our mind and heart open up in India.
Day 2/ July the 6th : We´ve arrived in India. After a long verification process of our visas, they finally let us to go out of the airport. It was more or less 10 in the morning, Indian time. After keeping our luggage and also a neverending wait, we met our team leader at last. It seemed to me very funny, all of them found it impossible to say his name properly: Monju, Monja… but it was Manju, so easy, like that. But a few minutes after, we had an even more difficult challenge, when we meet Ashwini, an Indian volunteer who would join us during the whole programme.
After that, we had an introductory meeting just to know each other better and to have a wider perspective of this amazing country. We took a break just to have our first tea time. At the beginning, we didn’t like at all this tea issue, but after a while most of us have changed this thought, and what is more, some others have become Indian tea fans.
Day 10/ July the 15th: This day, we faced our project, related to sustainable agriculture. We went to Heskasthuru, for most of us it was going to be our first experience in this sector. We arrived at the farm and quickly we were taking out weeds from the tomato fields. We were working for a couple of hours side by side, all the group together to finish our common task.
After the lunch break, we went to a palm grove where they gave us other work. We needed to dig grooves around the trees to improve the irrigation. We started to do that and suddenly, we had finished everything and also, we were asking for something more to do. That was because we did it well as a team, the union and the constant desire of doing that all of us felt in there.
It was physically a hard day, and despite our wounded hands due to digging and taking out weeds, the heat and the strong rains, it was an enriching experience. Also it was funny, we learnt a lot about agriculture and of course, we appreciated the farmers’ work. But the main issue of the day was that we realised the value of teamwork and the connection between us. Staying together, there are no impossible things.
Day 11/July the 16th: St Philomena’s College and the local high.school. The day started by visiting a college at Mysore. At the time we arrived, the Director and the Head of studies introduce themselves and also the other teachers in charge of different departments. We had a visit tour through different classrooms in the faculty, Biochemistry or Science lab.
We met many students, whom we could ask about education in India, how the educational sytem works in there, how they value that and the lack that students could face every day. The most shocking thing for us was that they have to separate their classes by gender.
After visiting many places, we had an interactive meeting with some local students. Looking forward on how to have a good teamwork experience, we did some ice breaking games. Then, we had the moment we really wanted: talking face-to-face with young people like us.
We had a discussion forum with a common topic: what is for you a perfect world? It was complicated to get one meaning of the same concept. It is normal, we have different life perspectives, and between us, issues such as gender equality or peace was a different thing for us. So, being tolerant and respectful, we tried to be empathetic, to achieve understanding about those issues and what is more, to understand why those answers were given by them.
In the evening, we talked with students of our ages in a public high school at Mysore. We talked with them about our concerns and our different ways of thinking and living. We shared some controversial items such as marriage, gender scholarship differences and also families.
What shocked us the most was that talking about equality, boys and girls agreed about the differences. They accept they don´t have the same choices and despite of the current progress, they still have more improvement to do.
At both institutions, we could find the coexistence of religion, it made us get surprised: they were very tolerant people, for them, they don´t care too much about your origin and about your religión, but they respect you just because we all are people.
Day 12/ July the 17th : We went to a village called Chamarajanagar, were we had the aim of doing some service to the local families.The purpose of the survey was to analyse the families’ structure and show it to a SHG group in the village. SHG is a small group of local people that conducts meetings just to discuss and solve their own problems. The data we had before told us about incomes, family structures, family savings etc. SHGs promote small savings among their members, the savings are kept with the bank.
At the time we made the survey, we had some narrow circumstances. First of all, the language was a barrier when we were trying to talk to people. Only a few families could speak English. Some groups had Indian people to make it possible.
This experience was a chance to see the cultural gap on the ground. In fact, every group of volunteers was changing areas inside the village just because they wanted to find a wide range of answers in the sample survey and also a good representation, taking into account the differences about religion, ethnicity, etc. From my point of view, one of the most rewarding activities in the whole journey.
Day 13/ July the 18th: India gets empowered. There are many brave women, fighters and strong; and what we were shown that day was a fair example of it. This fact has marked us, with no doubt, in a beautiful way. 2 days before, we went to Chamarajanagar to interact with an association: SHG. It was created 20 years ago in spite of the different problems they had to face. So, it was time to show them the data we took and the conclusion of it.
Several times, those women invited us to support their struggle. We realised the harsh reality and we could see how some brave women stand up and claim for their rights. They showed us their courage and women’s pride. In that place we discussed, laughed, cried, and we realised that a real change has come all over the world. It is up to us make this experience a learning issue, to share and encourage the brave women living everywhere who have broken all the stereotypes. India can be whatever she wants, if she has women such as we have met in these days – women who impress us and make us grow up.
What we brought into our “backpack”: Joy, fellowship, empathy, empowerment, solidarity are some of the thousands of adjectives that I can think of when I´m writing about this awesome experience. Before we started this adventure, I didn’t know what I expected about India due to a wide range of opinions about this country.
I have to confess that when I arrived at Bengaluru I really freaked out about the chaos wrapping the city: cars driven in the middle of the road, cows crossing the street freely, crazy motorbikers blowing their horns everywhere. As the days went by, my view about India was improving significantly due to the incredible mix of feelings which was new for me. Of course, I missed my family often and sometimes I’ve missed other material things.
To conclude, I highly recommend this experience for everyone who wants to learn and at the same time go out of their comfort zone. Just because, as I’ve lived shocking and suprising moments, I also have lived experiences that being a 16 year old teenager, I felt myself very lucky and I had a remarkable story with an extraordinary group of people.