First experience of a Youth Expedition Program

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June 30th 2011
Published: December 10th 2012
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The KidsThe KidsThe Kids

The Joy of Giving, and Receiving
Did a 2-week overseas community involvement program (or Youth Expedition Program) that I did, along with 17 others, in Bangalore, India.

I have decided to post some excerpts for sharing. The journaling that I did (along with some reflections) for the past 2 weeks that I've spent in India. Along with the pictures posted, I hope it'll give a better idea of life over there and serve as a living memory for all those who were there =)

Typing this on my bed on the 1st night:

Finally arriving at Bangalore aft a one hr transit flight to KL and a 4 hrs flight to india. The weather was cooling with night breeze at around 20 degrees. We took a 14 seater van which was carrying our luggages on it's roof (pretty interesting for singaporeans) and arrived at the church's guest house (where we are residing in) after a short half an hour ride on the seemingly endless expressway with endless horning from cars moving at speed that will most definitely be caught for speed driving in Singapore. Lol. The guest house has simple decorated concrete walls, Indian styled beddings and rural toilets (squatting style) with super cold water (we had our first cold bath too!) The accommodation was way better than expected (Kudos to Dhiraj!) But touring has to wait, for it's 1+ am so its, for now, good night world, and hello bed😊

First day of Cultural Experience:

An exposure to a different culture and a day of many "firsts". There was the early sunrise at 6am that woke me up when my alarm was set at 7.30am. (Breakfast was 8.30am I think!) Then, goats and cows roaming freely around on the streets and grass patches en route to the children's home and public school. Reaching the public school the size of a basketball court after half an hour's walk from the guest house. Entering the children's home to huge applause, shaking the hands and greeting the hands of kids so ever eager to learn. Taking photographs with the kids and even adults who probably found the camera more fascinating than kids in Singapore found the iPad. Entering Living Hope Children's Home (LCHC) to huge applause and warm hospitality. Finding out the shock truth of how small their dorms are, with 30 over kids crammed up in less than 10 double decker beds, with 3-4 kids on average sharing a single mattress. First time eating India food with bare hands, preparing the stomach for more spicy food to come (lol!). Realizing how much rice the kids in the home eat, at least twice the amount we stomach (no joke!) for an average pri 3 kid. Ashamed to be a spoilt Singapore kid upon seeing how well brought up the Home kids are. Having so much fun and laughters with the same kids who have practically nothing but abundance of love, smiles and care for each other. A reminder that our lives are so much more fortunate, though not necessarily happier. A reminder that happiness can be so simple yet not necessarily easy to attain. But today was a simple but definitely a great and enjoyable day. Not just for me, but for the team, and more importantly I hope, a happy day for the kids as well😊 It's just the beginning and we'll have 2 more weeks to touch their lives. We definitely can and will, for they have already touched mine.

Days of teaching:

First day of teaching was a fantastic experience though language was
Home VisitsHome VisitsHome Visits

An experience that truly opened my eyes
a slight barrier during the delivering of lessons. Nevertheless, music, actions and lots of smiles n games clears all boundaries n barriers😊 Just amazed at how well disciplined the children were, be it at the public school or children's home. And I'm still pretty much intrigued (yes, it's like day 3 or something) by how fascinated they are whenever there's a camera and how much they yearn to have their pictures taken. Just a simple photo makes them happy and smile wide open. 😊 And its really refreshing to face their curious faces and eagerness to learn and listen, something which is not very apparent in a Singaporean. And i have definitely learnt a lot from them too. For one, learning their language is interesting but challenging, albeit all the fun n hilarious moments of mispronunciation. Learning to manage and facilitate a big group of kids who don't quite understand your language is another. But it was definitely fulfilling. And I remembered there was a period during a break where I had a short chat with some of the older kids (standard 7-10), with them sharing about their ambitions and interests. Could really feel the spark in their eyes as
Mysore TownMysore TownMysore Town

A grand palace during our rare visit away from Bangalore
they talked about it, and how much they were willing to share with you. That passion to break away from that poverty cycle and head out for a brighter future was something so apparent in everyone of them. And I'm glad that we had a chance to play a small part in their bright future. That really made me look forward to more lessons and small chats with them. That's when the mind ignites and the hearts are touched.

House visits (an invaluable experience):

The day that really touched our life. We went on house visits to the homes of four 10th standard students from the home. (who will be going on to pre-uni) And that experience has really changed the perspective of life once again. Words can't describe the emotions that went through me, or at least I can't find the appropriate words to describe it. The conditions in which they live in, the makeshift aluminum roof and concrete walls in which they call home, the bags of clothes n belongings tucked neatly in the corner of a floor area the size less than half of a Singapore living room n half the height,
Cultural NightCultural NightCultural Night

A touching story
the tears of joy of having visitors to their homes, the gracious hospitality towards serving their guests with drinks and food even though those biscuits and milk can feed the families for days, the smiles on their faces even when life's not easy for them, and the enormous hearts that embrace human beings in a manner I've not experienced before. I've learnt numerous life lessons today, on not taking my life for granted, on how to genuinely care and share for fellow mankind. I have learnt the lesson on humility and pride, the positive attitude towards life and living for a dream. It was more than just an insightful trip for me, and the pictures will definitely serve as more than a reminder.

Cultural night (2nd last night):

Just had an awesome cultural night where the children and volunteers performed to a night of joy (and tears for some) with an exchange of dances and songs. As the kids took their gifts with excitement and when we opened up the handmade ones made by the kids, reality struck, that we only had one more day left with the kids. The past 2 weeks really passed with
My class!My class!My class!

The journey of learning in and out of the classroom
a flash. So fast! On one hand, the rational side of mine tells me that I need my Internet and phone access to the world out there. On the other, my emotions overwhelm me with the lives that the kids are living, in their home called living hope. What stays in memory from that night the most was a segment which tells a simple story of how the children's lives were transformed, along with the growth of the Home. The story of how a kid who lost his house, has now a bed and a roof over his head. The story of how a kid who was always hungry, has now 3 meals a day. The story of how a kid who is born poor, is now rich in love. The story of how a kid with no education, can now speak simple English. The story of how a kid was alone an orphan, has now friends and family in a place called Living Hope Children's Home. How apt. Living hope. A noble cause, started from a dream built into a reality, and now shared with more than a hundred young minds ever-ready to see the bright future. There is hope in life, even for the poorest of kids. And there is hope in life, as long as we do not stop believing. Some kids had nothing to begin with, no food, no clothes, no bed, no roof over their heads, no love. But now, they have them all. More importantly, they are happy and contented. The handshakes and smiles on their familiar faces brought me back to 12th June when I first shook their hands in the church. The feeling of hope, gratefulness and liveliness didn't change. What changed was the tinge of sadness on the knowledge that the feeling has to go into the memory bank. But one thing is for sure, that the kids are in good hands. They are in good hands.

The day of Farewell:

Left the Home with a heavy heart, saddened to have left, tears welling up as we waved our last goodbye and choked on our last few words. It's never easy to say goodbye. This was perhaps one of the most difficult ones for me. And something really struck me hard as we jumped over the wall that separated the Home from the open field. Thinking that I could still wave to the kids through the windows from the rooms facing the field, what appeared in front of my eyes was a plain white wall with no clear opening and hands waving. There were no windows, something so apparent yet only noticeable to my naked eyes on the day of goodbye. And that is the reality, we are going back to our world of comfort and the kids will stay on behind that wall in their normal lives. The writings on the top left hand corner of the plain wall reads: living hope children's home. That 4 words will be firmly etched in our minds. Living hope that have been provided for them and living hope shall continue to be shone on them. And to answer to their pleads of:" Anna, aka, come again next year okay?" We, I'm sure, all of us would really hope to be back, and defeat the saying of some that the goodbye was probably the last time we'll ever see the kids and the local friends in our lifetime. Let that be the living hope.

With that, I would really like to acknowledge each and every single one of the volunteers who have contributed to this cause. Pastor John, and his family for this noble work for which wouldn't have happened had it not been for his dream turned reality. The local volunteers alongside Dhiraj; Akash, Ameetha, Manahor, Raju, Manish, Bunty, Ada, Abilash, Lira, Shinny for all the precious time put into this project, and more importantly the warm hospitality, all the fun times we've had and the friendships forged. The Singapore volunteers John, Li Hui, Wilson, Guan Jun, Durwin, Yoga, Kunal, Russell, Valerie, Eunice, Noriko, Sharon, Vanessa, Nicolette, Syahirah, Kimberlyn, Clarissa for the commitment and hard work done for it wouldn't be as successful as it was without the contributions from each and everyone of us, so *2 claps* *power woosh* GREAT JOB PEOPLE! Let the end of the YEP be the start more great things to come =)


25th January 2013

I'm pleased to see that you went back to blog previous trips.
25th January 2013

Traveling is an education
Thank you for sharing your experiences. I've really enjoyed your blog and look forward to reading others.

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