I arrived here at CEL on 5th August this year, together with around 40 other German volunteers. I was the only one to stay longer than the orientation week. So, I had the chance to get to know the place uninstructed by other foreigners. The Centre for Experiential Living (CEL) is located close (30 minutes) to the town of Kundapura, in the State of Karnataka. It contains a number of dormitories (where people stay during various events like our orientation week), a dining hall, two administrative offices and a big garden.
The place I work in (or prepare my work) is the HBP office which handles all the Home Based Projects of my organisation, FSL India (Field Service and inter-cultural Learning India). That means, these projects are all FSL India’s responsibility and they have to fund these themselves. The responsible persons are Manju and Manjesh, 2 really nice and well organised guys that keep all the projects running.
My main project is called Environmental Education (EE), but I also help out in STC (Sea Turtle Conservation), SAP-K (Sustainable Agriculture Project-Kundapura) and Tent School, if needed. Furthermore there are programs like the 100th Monkey project that my contact person is doing, and that I sometimes visit. It consists of sessions designed to motivate High School children of 8th and 9th Standards to be responsible citizens, and how to get happy in their lives.
We played games trying to get the girls and boys to mingle. It’s a quite common phenomenon that they stay in their gender groups. The first sessions of the programme so far mainly addressed this issue, but we also already talked about their dreams and hobbies. I LIKE THE IDEA OF THE 100TH MONKEY SESSION. The name comes from an island where one monkey discovers an easier way of living and teaches its conspecifics about it. He is the one to change society.
In my first month, we had a STV (Short Term Volunteer) from Taiwan. He was really fun and the first foreigner to work with, in HBP. His job was Media and Public Relations. He focused on making short video clips to introduce different volunteers. He also made a really good one on me. Sadly, he just stayed a week.
We also received a work camp volunteer for a week, whose main project was SAP-K. That was my chance to also get to know this fascinating project. There are a lot of different agricultural approaches in the CEL gardens which Sandeep is managing most of the time. The approaches reach from different ways of composting, to prevention of erosion through construction of trenches and gully plugs. We have permaculture, medicinal and kitchen gardens. Goats and chickens run around for fertilising the soil.
Finally, in beginning of September, my LTV (Long Term Volunteer) mates came. All three of them are working in STC, and all are Germans. Even though I miss being the only (LTV) volunteer in CEL, I am happy for the company, too. Their arrival also meant that we started to do more Sea Turtle and coastal related activities. So, after their introduction and preparation, I joined them for beach cleaning with a fishermen’s community and helped out to prepare some educational games about marine life.
Together, we came up with the schedule of our winter camp. This was a camp for local students between 10 and 15 years old that I really enjoyed. The children came for 3 days during their October holidays, and we played with them and talked about topics we consider important (like EE and STC). They got lunch here and stayed till the afternoon. The days contained energisers, agricultural participation, a movie-afternoon, quizzes, a presentation on the reasons to protect the environment and a great treasure hunt. Finally, all 25 children got a hibiscus plant to take care of. HBP tried to make it as affordable as possible, so it just cost ₹150.
In the winter holidays, there was also another programme offered. The Adventure Camps aimed more on fun and contained so many adventures that the participation fee couldn’t stay that low. But because it was just cost-covering, even children from Mysore and Bangalore came to CEL. During the 2 Adventure Camps, we did a 15 kms hike to fantastic waterfalls, rope-activities close to lake-CEL, a campfire and so many other games. Because the days sometimes started at 6:00 am, children stayed in the camp for the time (of course, Mysore -12 hours away and Bangalore – 13 hours away) kids couldn’t have made it home, anyways).
Together with FSL India’s HBP team, we sometimes make small day trips to learn something new, and to get to know the region. So, earlier this month, we went to the Kundapur office of the Forest Department and heard a presentation about whales and dolphins. We also visited the SLRM (Solid Liquid Resource Management) facilities in the village of Vandse. This Panchayath (comparable to the German entity of “Gemeinde”) is collecting, separating and recycling their trash, is the one and only of its kind in our Taluk (comparable to the German entity of “Kreis”).
The last Home Based Project I went to was the Tent School. This is a school made for migrant children that live in tent communities. Their parents came to Udupi district (comparable to the German entity of “Regierungsbezirk” or something a little bit smaller) or elsewhere, because there is more work here than in most parts of the country. Actually, they could easily access government schools, but their family responsibilities, many times, doesn’t permit that. In some cases, children have to cook, or doing general household work when their parents are at work. Most importantly, they take care of their younger siblings. So, attending a regular school is difficult.
FSL India’s Tent School provides basic and non-formal education for 3 hours a day, and tries to motivate children and their families to go to regular schools. The current Tent School is situated right inside the Baikadi tent community. I went twice so far. The first time, for the Independence Day ceremony on 15th August, and secondly, to decorate the school with some nice mural painting, around 1 month later. One of the LTVs is always working there since September.
Also, quite a lot of other paperwork is part of the job. It’s not too much, but it’s interesting to learn how many reports, permission letters and whatever documents are required in NGO work.
Leisure time-wise, Shettrakatte (where my host family is) turned out to be a little bit difficult. I played some cricket with the local children, but they are not there every day. Of course, I can spend a lot of time with my great host siblings (9,11,13 years), but their favourite games are not necessarily mine… now they can obviously play Wizard, but I need some variety in activities.
During the week, I didn’t really know what to do after work (5 pm) at first. Finally, I decided to leave office on time, if necessary, and take the 5:01 bus to the city (₹ 13). There, I can spend almost 2 hours before I take the last bus back. Kundapur is perfect. They have every important item there and the food is like in heaven. Around Kundapur, there are around 25 volunteers so the city centre is a good spot to meet. We arranged a time to learn Bollywood dance together in a dancing school. Sessions start in November. Twice a week. Hopefully, it will not be too hard. I will also try to go to badminton regularly.
TEven though it feels like I just arrived I’ve already been to some places with other volunteers.
First of all, we visited Udupi where we saw Krishna festival. We also went to Mysore to meet some other volunteers and then went again for Dasara festival, the next week. Basically, all long distance travelling is over night, so I could already check out various sleeper buses and sleeper trains.
With my host family, I did a nice day trip to a religious side some hours north of Kundapur, called Murudeshwar. Talking about day trips, a group of other volunteers and me also went to Jog falls with a private bus. Unfortunately, it was really cloudy and foggy, but the ride was fun. We took a small ferry and curved roads through the mountainous forest.
I drove to Mangalore recently just because I was bored. I will try to travel alone more often in the future. Next step is already prepared. I will go to Mumbai (with others) than Pune (alone) and finally Goa (where I meet them again). The moment I am writing this, my fellow Mumbai-travellers are already on the way to the train station. So sorry for keeping it short this time.
I hope to be able to write again soon. Then I will also explain my EE sessions.