We thank the wonderfully inspiring Celina O’Mahony who is presently on superbly praiseworthy volunteering work in India, for the very interesting update below and for also sharing an excellent short video of the location and of her work in education there. You will recall some months past of the uplifting generous response there was to Celina’s (and her Team) fundraising projects especially in the Millstreet area. (S.R.)
Here is Celina’s most recent update regarding her splendid volunteering work and the link to the relevant video:
Hope all is well in Sráid an Mhuilinn?! I have successfully completed the 1st part of my volunteering so I thought it best to send an update back.
I arrived into Delhi at about 3.40AM and was escorted to very basic accommodation in the centre, it was a total culture shock and a whole new world. I was here for about 2 days and then got a 14hour sleeper train to Pathankot in Himachal Pradesh and then about a 4hr car ride to the Idex volunteering house in Bundla, Palampur, I stayed here for the duration of the project, when I arrived there was an older lady, Barbara from Wicklow, just finishing a woman empowerment project then I was on my own until the last week when a travelling group and another volunteer arrived. Staying at the house there was Sudha, who attended each project with me every day, Happy, the driver, Gaytri, the cook and Kushbo her 8yr old daughter who lived at the project house full time as they lost their husband/father 4 months previously in an accident. I shouldn’t forget to mention the squad of monkeys that woke me up every morning playing outside my window. 3 meals were provided for me each day and I had my own room and also my own bucket and scoop as my shower, hot water was available from outside so all the basics really the cultural exchange was fantastic. I was taught Hindi, how to wear a sari, yoga, to cook traditional dishes and was also hosted at a local family’s home for dinner. I thoroughly enjoyed the whole experience.
From 9.30AM to 12 noon I was teaching English in a local Government school – Rani Sidhpur to 4th and 5th class, there were 11 students most days aged from 8 to 11. I’ve attached a video snippet of the children I was teaching. After my time with them they can now introduce themselves, greet others, discuss their hobbies and have a better understanding of prepositions of place. They were very eager to learn and I feel a difference was made with me being there. Most families in India try to send their children to private schools as the education system in the government ones is not the best (but some can’t even send them to Gov’t schools) and if a student is behind that student is just left behind, I had 2 students that struggled a lot especially in reading literacy, I tried to focus a lot of my attention on them but it was difficult. I used to play a word game with them where I passed a ball to each student and gave them a letter to give me a corresponding word which they had to spell, as the days went on I only picked a few letters and wrote each word said on the board so they couldn’t repeat that one again, eventually their vocabulary grew, it was wonderful to watch. My 3rd last day there was a national holiday so no schools were open, on this day I visited 3 students houses which was a great experience, their families were very pleased to meet me and again a great cultural exchange. One of the students Muskan picked a bag full of edamame peas from her garden for me which we ate that night. It’s been a massive learning and grounding experience for me and I would advise anyone thinking of volunteering to do it!
In the afternoons I went to a local village up in the mountains – Rajnali with a population of 275, this was called woman empowerment but I mainly taught them English and some days computer skills too. Attendance varied every day, I could have 6 to 15 woman aged from 4 to 40 but mainly I had about 6 aged between 16 and 36, none of them ever received schooling as their life at home as a wife or just helping out was more important for the family. Sudha from Idex was always with me to translate if required but it’s amazing the level of English they knew once practiced. They were afraid and unsure about speaking it but we were having full conversations by the end and with them I focused mainly on verb tenses, past, present and future. Card games like go fish and pair were the favourite and the joy a simple game of musical chairs brought was brilliant. The younger generation of this village were all going to school and some even to a private school so that was very encouraging to see and some days they would also join the class, it was good to see all the different levels, one thing no one seemed to know was arithmetic division so I taught this to all and everyone picked up maths very quickly. I only have a few pictures of Rajnali as the woman preferred not to be videoed while I was teaching. (Videos of the journey to and from there I have alright as it terrified me for the first 2 weeks, a tiny road up steep mountain hills with hair pin bends)
I could go on and on, I really could but hopefully this little update will show the community of Millstreet where their generosity went.
After the other volunteering stints, I’ll send updates of each.