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Lending a Hand in India
YES Abroad 2016-2017 participants in India reflect on a volunteer activity to help develop a local school in Indore.
By Adrianne P.
I had the privilege of going to Indore for a week and participating in volunteer work. My fellow exchange students and I tiled, carried gravel, painted classrooms, and interacted with the kids. The latter part was my favorite. While I was beyond grateful for the hospitality provided by our host families, loved being able to explore Indore, and enjoyed the satisfaction of manual labor, for me, the most meaningful part of the experience was bonding with the students at the school.
Our first day at the site was spent carrying heavy plates to different rooms. The girls at the school could see us struggling so several came over and helped fill in the assembly line. That was when the work became more than just volunteering, but actually interacting with the students. Speaking Hindi, we learned each other’s names and started conversing. As the days went on, we all became closer. The language was only a small barrier, and any mistakes made were ones that we could easily laugh off. At one point, I took out my video camera and asked a group of girls about their favorite food. The girls thought that I had said “phool” (Hindi for “flower”), so they named different flowers. I became really close with those girls and really enjoyed their company. By the end of the trip, I was hanging out with the girls more than I was working! I can honestly say that I miss them. I am so lucky to have been a part of this project and to have met so many amazing people. All of the different parts of the trip were perfect, but meeting the students at the school will hold an extra special place in my memory.
By Cyrus J.
Going to Indore was a phenomenal experience. While there, my exchange peers and I were involved in building classrooms for a government school outside of the city. For me, the most impactful moments of the trip were when we interacted with the students at the school during work breaks. The kids were unbelievably welcoming to us and so much fun to spend time with. Despite some language barriers, we were able to easily make friends. I was so happy to be able to play games with the little kids, and I really enjoyed learning cultural customs from them. We played many games together, including Kabbadi. While playing these games, we were also given a chance to improve our language skills. In addition to the good friends we all made at the school, the work was very rewarding. Beyond that, the cultural activities we got to be involved in were very fun. We had the opportunity to visit an orphanage, dance, see Dangal, do karaoke, and many other fun activities. In short, the experience I had in Indore was the perfect blend of hard work and fun activities.
By Maeve C.
Our host families went above and beyond to make us feel at home. Every night we had an activity that exposed us to the beautiful city of Indore. Whether that was a trip to the colorful markets that smelled of delicious street food, or a visit to an orphanage, our host families were right by our sides showing us the ropes. They held true to the Indian custom of “guests are God” and took care of each and every need we may have had. Adrianne and I stayed with the Dev family. We were welcomed into the house by Dadi and Dada. Immediately bending down and touching their feet for blessings was reciprocated with a title of “Beta.” This interaction is no longer foreign, uncomfortable, or strange for Adrianne or me. We then bonded with our host siblings over several intense games of Charades and soccer. Our host mother tied our first proper saree. We were filled to the brim with amazing food. That house was full of dancing, smiles, and laughter.
Even though we were only there for a week, we truly felt at home. Staying with this host family gave us a wonderful opportunity to practice our Hindi. In Indore, for example the signs are mostly in Hindi, and even though we were obviously foreign, street vendors and store keepers would initiate the conversation in Hindi. Communicating with the kids and construction workers at the school was the most challenging and rewarding experience of language building. We tried to speak as much Hindi as we knew, and they would use their limited English in return. We played hand games in Hindi, sang elementary English songs (“Doe a Dear”, “You are my Sunshine”, etc.) and simply danced. Exchange gives the opportunity to actually integrate into daily life, and to make real connections with individuals. Thank you to each and every individual that made this a full, exciting, and educational week!