Hi all, greetings from FSL India’s Centre for Experiential Living (CEL), Kundapur!
On the 17th and 18th of July, a monthly get-together (GTG) took place in Yercaud, Tamil Nadu. Eight volunteers and four FSL-India staff members attended this GTG.
Participants visited Mundakabati village and planted saplings in a playground. They also interacted with the inhabitants. Volunteers also had a chance to have one-on-one talks with their coordinators.
July’s monthly long-term volunteers (LTV) orientation took place from the 5th of July to the 9th of July in Bangalore. Seven LTVs attended the orientation that was facilitated by ten FSL-India staff members. The volunteers hailed from France, the Netherlands, Japan and Germany.
Sarak Keamper, a long-term volunteer (LTV) from Germany has been volunteering at SINAM since September 2013. SINAM is a non-profit organization in the Tiruvannamala District working with poor and destitute children, promoting the welfare of differently abled people, underprivileged women, unorganized and marginalized labourers, widows, Dailits and people suffering from HIV/AIDS. Following is a testimonial of her thoughts and experiences.
“To empower women in India, a lot can be done. One way is to give them some knowledge they don’t get in school. Computer education is one opportunity. A lot of young women don’t have experiences with computers. What is normal for most western youngsters is something extraordinary for girls in India. A lot of families can’t afford computers or laptops and this means their children don’t know how to operate a computer. To give girls better chances for a higher education and job opportunities, computer classes are a good possibility. In a world where nothing seems to work without computers anymore it is important to make sure that also girls from poor families can gain access to this world to ensure a better future for themselves and their families.
For me, as a volunteer, is was a great experience to see young Indian girls learn how to operate a computer and help each other out when someone needs help. I was able to teach them not just how to operate a computer but also give them some background knowledge about how a computer works, the history of computers and the internet.”
Following is a testimonial about long-term volunteer (LTV) Nadine from Germany, who has been volunteering at Gnanodaya High School in Chennai. Rubini, her coordinator, writes to us about Nadine’s experiences.
“I don’t know how to start the article because I have lot to say about this volunteer Nadine. She is the most amazing volunteer that I have met in my career. Nadine did lot of good work in the project. She was working with orphan children in Chennai; she came to India for 4 month from January to April 2014. When I had spoke to her at end of her volunteering service, I really impressed by our conversation.
The first thing she said that when volunteers got the chance to go abroad, she decided to come to India after seeing very beautiful pictures on the Internet. Then she applied to come to India for 4 months. Nadine was very happy to travel to country where there were lots of tourist places. The first day she joined the project, Nadine felt that she had to start her traveling from the coming weekend onward. Then second day, Nadine planned her journey for 4 months to where and all she can go. After working with orphan children for the first three days, Nadine decided not to go traveling. She decided instead to work with orphan children for the rest of her time in India.
Nadine had complications with the children because she didn’t know the local language and the children couldn’t speak English. Then Nadine took the initiative to learn the local language. After learning basic Tamil, Nadine started to teach English to the children. There are around 126 children in Gnanodaya, but she focused on 6th, 7th & 8th grade children and taught them English, Maths and Environmental Education. She not only focused on Education, but also made all the children to have fun in the evening once they all returned from classes. She had a really nice time with the children in the project.
After three months, Nadine was so happy to see the result of her work in the project. Almost 50 children were able to communicate in English with her, and not only that… Around 80 children broke out of their shyness and took steps to speak with international people. Along with Nadine, there was another volunteer who helped Nadine to achieve her goals. Nadine is now feeling that without any help, the children can form sentences in English and speak with people. Nadine felt that she attained her objectives in the project.”
The Orientation of the 13th Happy Move Camp (scheduled between 20th – 31st July 2014) was conducted for Graduate Engineering Trainees (GETs) of Hyundai on the 8th of July in the training centre of Hyundai Motors India, Irungattukottai, Sriperumbudur Taluk, Kancheepuram District, Tamil Nadu. Three members of our Chennai team facilitated the orientation for 18 participants with the coordination of Mr. Sridhar from Hyundai.
During the session, the Chennai team introduced the vision, mission and projects of FSL-India, then introduced the Happy Move Camp:
– The schedule of the 13th HMC
– Roles and responsibilities of being a volunteer
– Field services during the camp
– Intercultural activities such as the Indo-Korean Forum, Indo-Korean Workshop, special events, historical places to visit etc.
Both counterparts, Korean and Indian, are looking forward to working towards benefiting the community.
Margaux, a long-term volunteer (LTV) writes to us again about an awareness raising activity on sanitation she has been carrying out for children in the Kanchipuram District of Tamil Nadu.
“On 17th June 2014, I (Ms. Margaux, LTV volunteer working in Water and Sanitation with FSL-India) continued my journey towards promoting good hygienic methods towards achieving better sanitary conditions among children in Panchayat Union Primary School in Thenneri, Kanchipuram District, Tamil Nadu.
I found that puppetry is a good medium to get the attention of children which make them attentive to the issue addressed. On this finding, we conducted a puppetry show for the children belonging to the 8-9 years age group in Thenneri. It is a kind of fairy tale telling to the children through puppets. I drew the characters of the tale and made the puppets by sticking the pictures drawn on the stick.
It is the story of the kingdom in which the people fell ill all of a sudden and the reason for their illness was anonymous. The princess Stella asked the wise Horseman of the kingdom to roam through the kingdom to find out the cause of the disease and how to cure it. He travelled across many lands and seas, finally found that the water which was supplied for drinking purpose from the pond caused the illness. He met the magician on the way back and the magician made the soap out of magic and asked the horseman to give to the people for use. He further insisted the horseman when and how it had to be used like before eating food and cooking; after going to the toilet etc. Then the horseman met the doctor who insisted that the water has to be boiled before drinking; he also explained how the water is getting polluted such as through open defecation etc. Finally the horseman came back to meet the people and insisted the personal hygiene methods to keep away from diseases. He left the message that “PREVENTION IS BETTER THAN CURE”.
I am really excited to convey the message through puppets by acting out as the puppets behind the screen. Of course, FSL-India Chennai Team helped me with Tamil voice over. I am very happy to make the children to be attentive to hear the fairy tale story through the puppets. I believe that they carry the message and not only follow the personal hygiene themselves but also spread among their friends as well.”
From the 26th of May to the 28th of May, representatives of Better World Organisation, Hyundai Motor Company (Korea) and FSL-India visited the shortlisted villages for the 13th Happy Move Camp (HMC) in Kancheepuram District, Tamil Nadu. The three day schedule included (i) The delegates meeting with FSL-India and Hyundai Motor India for logistics of selection of villages; (ii) A visit to the nine villages that were shortlisted by the FSL-India Chennai team; (iii) A final meeting between the partners to finalise the schedule, events, accommodation etc. The six villages selected during this pre-visit were Alapakkam, Karur, Nallur, Kuthirambakkam, Neykuppan and Melottivakkam.
The 13th HMC is scheduled to take place from the 20th of July to the 31st of July. There will be 120 Korean volunteers, 18 Graduate Engineering Trainees and 12 university students participating in the HMC. Participants will be undertaking renovation and educational activities in the six villages.
Margaux, a long-term volunteer (LTV) working in Tamil Nadu writes to us about her experience during World Environment Day.
“I am Ms. Margaux from France, volunteering in the Model Village Project (MVP). On 5th June, the day began as “World Environment Day“. We (I and the FSL-India Chennai team) planned a puppetry session for the primary school children of the age group between 8 10 years in Panchayat Union Primary School, Thenneri, Kancheepuram District.
We focused on the hazards of plastic polluting our environment and insisting the importance of throwing out our waste in a garbage bin. We made our puppets with old socks, papers, wool and wooden sticks.
The story was about the Journey of a Plastic Bag which was carried away by the wind. During its travel it meets a snake, a turtle and a young girl. All these characters share their sadness with the plastic bag and tell him how the environment gets destroyed, causes of health problems due to pollution, water pollution etc. Then they all worry how their next generation is going to survive in the polluted environment peacefully and healthily. At the end, the plastic bag understands the importance of segregating waste and recycling. It meets the village chief, headmaster of the school to spread this message to the villagers and school children.
It was really a great experience to hide behind the screen and express the dialogues through shaking the puppets on the screen. As I could not speak the local language Tamil very fluently, one of the FSL-India Team members gave me the voice behind the screen. I thoroughly enjoyed the session and can visualize the attention as well as the enjoyment of the children being behind the screen.”
On the 28th and 29th of May, our Chennai team, along with Margaux, a long-term volunteer (LTV), conducted a workshop on Home Remedies for Diseases in the villages of Thenneri and Echoor in Kancheepuram District, Tamil Nadu.
The aim of the workshop was to show participants how diseases or illnesses such as cholera, malaria and the common cold can be cured by natural resources that are available at home. The session began with an informative video on cholera, malaria and the common cold – how it spreads and what steps to take to tackle it. After that, the facilitators actually demonstrated to the participants how to make home-made solutions from resources such as ginger, neem leaves, lemon, onions and black pepper.
From the 2nd of June to the 6th of June, FSL-India hosted its monthly orientation week for newly arrive long-term volunteers (LTVs). Facilitating the sessions were 11 FSL-India staff members. Six volunteers from the Czech Republic, France, Italy and Sweden took part in this orientation week.
Orientation sessions cover topics such as Expectations and Fears, Roles and Responsibilities of a Volunteer, Safety Guidelines, Indian Culture and Lifestyle and much more. The LTVs will now go on to volunteer in projects around South India doing work such as animal care and conservation, slum development and prevention of child labour/promotion of child rights.
The Tent School project started with the aim of providing basic education for migrant children by enhancing their skills and motivating them.
On the 8th of May 2014, the four members of the Tent School team (two FSL-India staff members and two international volunteers) began teaching basic computer literacy at the tent schools in Senapur and Marvante, Kundapura. Ten children from Senapur and twelve children from Marvante benefited from the computer literacy lessons.
The children were very curious and immensely inspired and happy to be operating the computers. They were keen on learning more, and the Tent School team is happy to say that they will be continuing the computer literacy lessons.
Ruth Achterwinter is a long-term volunteer from Germany. She has been volunteering at the Rural Education and Development Society since August 2013. Following is an account of her perspective on India and the work that she does.
“It may seem strange to you, but I have lived here for 9 months and I still can’t decide how to feel about India. On the one hand, it twirls you up, bounces you around, spits you out but somehow you still come to love all its colours, varieties and of course, people. One thing I learned is not to make decisions too lightly. If you really want to get to know this huge, and in many ways contradictive country, you have to spend time here. Travelling for two or three weeks won’t let you into the deeper layers of the Indian society.
See my project for example: I work for an NGO in a really small town in Tamil Nadu. We encourage women from rural and poor backgrounds to form ‘self-help groups’. The groups not only give them security of a union, but also the space to discuss financial or general issues of the village. My NGO then connects them to a bank for the poor where they can lend micro-credits and use the money to buy things such as cows. This way they can start their own small businesses and learn how to be self-responsible, and in the end, independent.
Another volunteer and I built up the self-defense classes for girls in local schools. We teach these girls about their rights and how to react in case of. sexual harassment or domestic violence. Seeing these girls, how eager they are to learn and how willing to contribute their opinion on a new topic, I realized how important education is, which we often tend to take for granted in western Europe. I felt like my work as a volunteer is really valuable to those children. While travelling through India as a tourist you might meet some people, you’ll enjoy the food, you’ll get to visit the Taj Mahal and other incredible buildings. You see the life of Indians. What you lack is actually living it. To be part of a culture so diverse and yet intense. To wear your own Chudidars and Sarees (Indian traditional clothing). To have people you can call ‘Amma’ (Mom) and ‘Appa’ (Dad), to be yourself called ‘Akka’ (older sister). To have your first conversation with an Indian grandma in the local language (which will probably be about food, haha). To find yourself laughing because you’re finally able to understand the cultural jokes in those Bollywood movies… the list is endless.
After 9 months in India I can honestly tell that here are things I won’t ever get used to and some that I will miss incredibly after my return to Germany. What I am sure of is that India is becoming more and more of a home to me and that the people I live and work with have become family to me. In the end, even though I cannot say I love or hate India, I am very happy about my decision to come here. It’s more than a trip. It’s a life-changing experience.“