Published: April 19th 2010March 23rd 2010
Before we had started travelling we decided we wanted to do some more volunteering somewhere along the way...and since India was a country you can get a visa for a good period of time...we decided it would be a nice way to learn a bit about the sub continent. So Jean had mates Jago and Cassie who volunteered at a nice childrens home in the south of India a few years ago so we had contacted them and organised to spend a few weeks volunteering with them too!
After spending about 60 hours on the train over the past 4 days in the train to get from the north of india to the south...we finally arrived at tenkasi railway station which is about 30 minutes from the village where the childrens home is. We were lucky to be welcomed at the train station by Banu the woman who pretty much manages the day to day running of the childrens home. Banu is an amazing woman...who had the amazing ability to make a hall of busy and chatty children...quiet! she would become a good friend over the next few weeks and would also help me wear my first sari and a
whispering secrets...about bricks?
few more after that! :) We drove through the hot and dusty streets and through villages till we reached Vengadampatty, a small village which would become our home the the next few weeks (the longest we would have stayed in one place since France)! We reached the home of Thirumaran...the man who founded the TRUST Children Home....TRUST as in... Thirumaran Rural Upliftment Stable Trust. The Children Home was started by Thirumaran and his wife Shathi after the Tsunami. The TRUST also runs a few other projects including a Community College and Free Ambulance service. TO check out more you can visit their website at TRUST Children
Jean was still feeling pretty rubbish so after a nice breakfast and welcome by Thirumaran at his home we settled into our room above an office they have for a community college the project also runs. That afternoon we went to the childrens home, which is about 500m down the road on the outskirts of the village to see the project and meet the children. For me it was a sort of strange feeling to be volunteering at a new project after spending one year with the children at Baan Nana in Thailand.
But after seeing the smiling faces of the 40 or so children at this childrens home, my strange feeling disappeared (well it lingered a bit after we were welcomed into the hall with beating drums and beautiful fragrant flower necklaces and a little thing where they circled a plate with a candle and flowers in front of us before we entered the hall!). We had lunch with the children...and we were lunch to arrive a day they had a special lunch when a person in the community brings a meal for the children! We did the standard intros about who we are and where we are from, got shown around the childrens home, tried to grasp some of the extra long names (and then found they had short versions of their names which was great!), spent some time with the kids and enjoyed the nice feeling of being surrounded with the genuine love and happy energy that children bring
I could write many things and forever about our short experience at the Children Home...it was very interesting to spend some time trying to understand and learn about things...both in terms of the organisation and about India and within
that make a meaningful contribution. For me, 3 weeks is a difficult amount of time to be able to understand how things in such a small but complex organisation work and then from that how you can input your skills and experience to progress and develop things to be manageable and sustainable...but also fit in with the way they work and the vision they have. So I decided quite early on that my main input would be spending time with the children and contributing positive energy and smiles. There were many things that I found confusing about the way things are done...but I think I was guilty of comparing things with Childlife a lot. But also not understanding certain things about Indian/Tamil customs and way of life. But overall for me, being able to be around children is such a great energy and buzz! I'm going to try sum up some of the main things we did and experienced, but also the small things...the smiles, the laughs, the cuddles, the small conversations are things I will remember and enjoyed the most! You just need to check out some of the pics of the many beautiful faces!
The childrens general
routine would be 5:30am-6am wake up, 6am morning tea, 6:30am shower and get ready for school, 7:30am breakfast, 8am-9am hair and powder... go to school (the children went to 6 different schools...most went to the same middle school and got the school bus to school, the older children would ride a bicycle to school). Between 5-5:30pm they return back to the home from school... 6pm tea time...6:30-8pm activities or homework...8pm dinner time...after dinner more homework or bedtime for younger children and about 10-10:30pm bedtime for the older children. For us that would mean to spend time with the children it would be before or after school...so between 7:30am-9am in the morning and 5:30pm-8:30pm in the evenings.
For me I really enjoyed the morning routine of having breakfast with the children and then helping them get ready for school...which means oiling and combing hair, powdering face and then putting pottu (or what most people know as a bindi...which signifies the 3rd eye). This grooming time spent with the kids was super cool and really nice way to interact with them! and then the enthuisiastic wave and goodbyes as they left on the school bus was also a nice daily treat
In the afternoons after school the children usually had organised activities...monday: taekwondo...tuesday: drawing...wednesday: music...thursday:classical dance...friday: tailoring and stichwork. while we were there the only regular class was taekwondo as the other teachers were ill and weren't able to do the classes. taking part in taekwondo was cool. Other afternoons we would play with the kids during daylight and then they would have homework time in the hall.
There were also 2 other guys we met and volunteered at the same time...Nic and George...both from the UK. Nic was running a photography project named Heart Prints... a continuation of a project started by other volunteers 4 years ago. George ended up being the well man...after deciding to give up smoking! which was the condition for his uncle to donate the money to the children home to complete the digging of a well! With Nic and George we organised activites for the children that were lots of fun!
First there was the sports day! The children were seperated into 5 groups...red, orange, brown, blue and green...and even managed to have them dress accordingly! There was the lemon and spoon race (modified egg and spoon race), sprints, three legged
race, sack race, blindfolded partners race, filling bottle race...and the all time favourite tug of war! Certificates and prizes were given and lots of fun and laughs around!
We did a evening shaddow puppet theatre using an old tamil tale with a fox, lion and 4 ox. With the help of Banu who told the story in tamil and our funny looking puppets and scenery...there were lots of laughs and smiles from the children! Afterwards...miming turned into a game of charades as they all tried to guess random characters or animals they pulled from a hat! Later we ran a workshop (crazy and chaotic with almost no tamil) so that the children could produce their own puppet show! We had stories with elephants, snakes, crows, monkeys and many more!
Nic and George had organised a small bus to come and take the children on an outing after they had visited a beautiful place near to the Home. So off we went squashing probably more than twice as many people into the bus than it was supposed to hold! We visited a tiger sanctury...but alas no tigers...but we did see many gulangu (monkeys in tamil). We late visited a
stretching a little
temple and then had an interesting experience with almost the sole reason of the outing. Vengadampatty is a pretty flat dry area in the summer...so the thought was that it would be really nice if the children could go somewhere to go swimming and cool down! After finding a nice spot of the river...getting them near the water was one challenge...but then in the water was another thing! After a bit of time about 10 of the younger children tried and came in with our support...and they loved it! With one of the girls I could feel her beating heart and rigid body as I held her in the water in my arms...but after a bit of time there were smiles, laughter and even splashing heads underwater! It was a shame more did not come in...but when we had come back from a little soak under a waterfall we found the children knee deep in a small lake cooling down in the water!
The project also runs a weekly ambulance service...each tuesday the ambulance visits a few villages to pick up people and takes them to the free hospital in Tenkasi! We went with the ambulance one day as
well with some of the children that needed to visit the hospital. The small part that we saw was the paedeatic war...for treating women and children. It was a simle building with a few rooms. One there was a doctor...and a line out the door...while we were there the doctor (wearing baseball cap!) looked like he spent on average one minute with a person to hand them a prescription or to order an injection! He did make the time to speak to us though and find out where we were from! Another room was a treatment room..nurses in traditional white uniforms (even the hat) giving japs to bare bottoms! and we saw the xray room which had its door wide open and looked like just a curtain seperating the xray area from the waiting area! We walked outside the wards...but I'm kind of glad we didn't see inside!
While we were there were were treated to some amazing things...the school that most of the children go to...Hindu middle school...had their annual day where they recieved prizes and did dance, singing and theatre! It was super sweet seeing them proud and all dolled up with sparkles for this occasion! We
were also treated to as music night with local musicians and the children also did a dance night for us in the hall which was amazing too!
anyway enough writing...the pics and the smiles say lots more en francais
Nous voila donc arrive dans la petite ville de tenkasi dans l'etat du tamil nadu
!!! il fait deja tres chaud meme si il n'est que 9 heures du matin!!! sur le quai de la gare nous attend Miss Banu la jeune directrice et femme pensante de l'orphelinat!!! apres 1 heure de mini van on arrive chez mr Thirumaran l'homme derriere la petite ONG Trust!!! pour la petite histoire il fonda cette ong dans les annees 90 et c'est apres le tsunami de 2003 que lui et sa femme Shanti eurent l'idee de creer un orphelinat!!! pour plus de renseignement consulter leurs website: TrustChildren
Apres quelques Bla bla on se rend a l'orphelinat et une 40ene d'enfants nous acceuillent avec mini fanfare et collier de fleurs!!! ohlala quel moment d'emotion et d'emerveillement que de voir tous ces gosses qui nous fixent et nous regardent ne sachant quoi dirent parce que leurs timidites
infantiles leurs fait oublier le peu d'anglais qu'ils connaissent!!! bon apres 30 mins y'a plus de timidite et tout le monde se marre et joue!!! les momes ils sont tous les meme, ce qu'ils attendent c'est la simplicite et l'amour, apres ca c'est la tele, la playstation et les adultes qui leurs compliquent la vie et les forcent a etre des vieux avant d'etre des jeunes!!! ah l'innocence et si seulement on en avait garder ne serait ce qu'un chouiya pour laisser a ce monde le temps de prendre sont temps!!!
Le meme jour de notre arrivee 2 autres volontaires Georges et Nic de londres se pointent aussi!!! voila donc l'equipe au complet et prete a donner un peu de bonheur et d'amour a ces enfants!!!
Nic est venu pour continuer un projet commence 4 ans plutot par un de ces ami, Jago!!! ce projet s'appelle "heart prints" et est base sur une idee tres simple, mettre un appareil photo dans les mains d'1 enfant et lui donner la possibilite de s'exprimer en 21 photos!!! apres ca developper les photos et faire une expo avec toutes les photos de chaque momes!!!
Georges lui vient un peu comme ca en touriste!!!
c'est sont oncle qui lui a donne la motivation de venir aider dans cet orphelinat!!! apres quelques jours il trouve une super idee = trouver un financement pour finir l'excavation du puit!!! il moissonne ainsi 5000 dollards a travers tous ses contactes!!!
nous on vient aussi un peu en touriste!!! on avait prevu d'y rester 3 mois mais le probleme c'est pose avec le visa d'angela qui est passe de 6 mois a 3 mois seulement!!! alors on restera que 1 mois et on passera 2 mois a voyager dans le reste du pays!!! enfin bon on a plein d'idee et on propose aux autres et aux enfants: theatre d'ombre, journee sportive, mime, dessein,...etc!!!
Un petit mot sur les momes maintenant
!!! ils sont une 40ene, avec un peu plus de filles que de gars!!! ca va de 4 ans a 17 ans!!! ils sont tous scolarises et parlent tous la meme langue: le tamil (l'inde a je crois une 20ene de langues officielles, anglais, hindi, tamil, malayalam, maharastrian, bengali, gujarati,telungu..etc)!!! ils sont repartis dans 6 ecoles differentes!!! apres l'ecole ils ont generalement des activites comme le taekwondo, la danse tamil traditionnelle..etc!!! quant a leurs histoire personnelle, tres dur
a savoir, meme si probablement certains d'entre eux sont des orphelins du tsunami de 2003, ou des enfants de la prostitution de Madras!!! ils ont en tout cas tous la joie de vivre et la peche a fond, mais parfois aussi comme tout orphelin le sentiment d'etre seul au monde et mal aime!!! en tout cas une chose est sur, ils savent qu'ils ont eu la chance d'avoir ete recueilli par mr Thirumaru dans cet orphelinat, au lieu d'avoir fini comme des milliers d'autres, dans les rues de bombay, chennai ou calcutta, a mandier pour un mac, ou a finir sur les listes des portes disparus pour traffic d'organes ou pedophilie!!! le monde est dur mes bonnes gens, surtout quand y'a pas d'sous pour bouffer a sa faim tous les jours!!!
Donc voila pendant 1 mois on a bien donne et formidablement recu
!!!certains des plus jeunes ont meme fait l'effort d'apprendre a nager alors qu'ils etaient petrifies par la vue de l'eau!!! un echange simple et franc qui rend humble, une belle lesson de vie, enncore une fois!!! merci
aux enfants de "childrenhome"!!!
Ca y est il est temps de reprendre le sac et de quitter ce monde
d'enfants adorables, pour un petite decouverte du sous continent indien!!! gros pot mr Thirumaru a une deuxieme moto dont il ne se sert pas, qu'il nous propose!!! c'est une 100cc Bajaj (made in india) que Georges batise "Doris"!!! on embrasse tout le monde et hop libre comme l'air on s'envole sur le routes pleines d'aventures indiennes!!!
ps: C'est un peu difficile de raconter 1 mois avec 40 enfants car tout est si rapide et tellement plein de vie que seuls les mots de suffisent pas, alors regardez les photos et plongez vous aussi dans leur monde
There are more photos below