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Maggie To is from Marlboro, New Jersey and is entering her senior year at the University of Pittsburgh in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. She is a double major in the Biological Sciences and History and Philosophy of Science and hopes to practice medicine internationally in the future.
When: July 1 - August 11, 2012
Morning: I was typically woken up at around 7:30 am each morning for breakfast, which usually consisted of Chapati (think unleavened bread) with a side dish, maybe jam, oatmeal, or bananas. I often also had Chai, a popular Indian tea mixed with spices, milk and sugar. Depending on where I was volunteering that morning, I either walked or took an IVHQ auto-rickshaw to my destination.
While on the health placement, I volunteered at various hospitals and local clinics observing surgeries, taking vitals, or simply shadowing doctors. For the last four weeks of my six week trip, I taught English at a slum school located in the heart of one of the slums close to my host home. I taught English grammar and conversational skills to a school filled with 100-200 children who lived inside the slum.
Afternoon: In the afternoons, I typically roamed around with the other volunteers. Some days we took the Delhi metro into New Delhi and shopped or went to visit the local sites. Most days, however, we visited the local orphanage that was set up by my own host father which housed 9 children. We often brought the kids to play at the local park and sometimes treated them to ice cream from a nearby store. We also took daily trips to the "market street" close to our home, which was filled with boutiques, bakery shops, and small grocery stores. Malls and cinemas were only an auto-rickshaw trip away - we ended up watching quite a few films here, including the newest installation of the Batman series, the Dark Knight Rises!
Evening: The evenings were usually quiet, unless I was coming home from New Delhi, in which case I was flanked by screeching horns and bright headlights on the journey home in an auto-rickshaw. After eating dinner around 6:30 pm, the other volunteers and I would recline in our bedroom, secluded from the mosquitoes, lizards, monkeys, and other animals that roamed about. I usually showered in the evening, washing off a day's accumulation of dirt and sweat from traveling about along unpaved roads and pollution filled air. Other than for our trips out to Delhi, the other volunteers and I usually stayed in after dark, particularly after 9:00 pm, for safety reasons.
Highlights: The highlight of my volunteering experience was interacting with the children at the slum school. Along with teaching English, the other volunteers and I would lead the kids in song. Jingle bells was a particular favorite - they would sing it so loud the principal would have to intervene because we were disrupting the older classes. At first too shy to join in, the kids stared beady-eyed up at us as we did the motion of the itsy bitsy spider and the hokey pokey. By the end of my trip, they were singing enthusiastically along with the rest of us and even asking specifically for it. "Didi! Didi!(Hindi for sister) they would shout, and then poke their little index fingers to the ceiling, asking if we could do the hokey pokey again.
The highlight of my overall experience was having the freedom to travel and experience the sites of India. IVHQ gives its volunteers the weekends off, so the other volunteers and I took advantage of this liberty to visit Dharmasala, Varansi, Agra, and Delhi. Getting to Delhi was relatively easy via the Delhi metro, but it was less easy to travel to Dharmasala and Varanasi. Luckily, our host father gave us pointers about where to go to book bus and train tickets. I got to visit beautiful sites like the Taj Mahal and witness religious cremations at the ghats along the Ganges River. Participating with IVHQ afforded me the unique experience of being a tourist whilst also being a volunteer.
Michaela Collins, 23, is a student in New Jersey, USA. She volunteered in India from Feburary 20 to May 7, 2012 (11 weeks).
GO: Why did you decide to volunteer with IVHQ in India?
Michaela: After deciding to volunteer abroad I did a lot of research on volunteer programs. Many of them were extremely expensive and I was concerned about being able to afford to do this. I also was skeptical about where the money I would be paying would be going. When I came across IVHQ the first thing I noticed was how affordable the programs were; they also had a lot of information and testimonials about their programs. With IVHQ I felt informed through the whole process about the program and what to except. I also knew that with them that my money was going towards the program and not just being pocketed by the organization. Overall I felt very comfortable with IVHQ from the very beginning.
GO: Describe your day to day activities as a volunteer.
Michaela: The program I chose was teaching English in northern India; I ended up being placed teaching young monks. I taught them for around 4 hours a day; in the morning and the afternoon. It was a challenge at first because they were all at different levels. Once I figured out their different levels I was able to figure out how to teach the class. Most the class was broken up between conversation and grammar. We also did group projects, arts and crafts and sports. Apart from this class I also chose to teach a beginners English class to adults in the morning, as well as conversational classes. I usually taught for around 6 hours a day.
GO: What made this volunteer experience unique and special?
Michaela: Since I was in India for 11 weeks I really got a feel for the area I was in and became part of the community. Everyone was so friendly and welcomed me instantly. I also really connected with my students and learned about their lives, hopes, and dreams for their future. The people there became my family and I will never forget them.
GO: How has this experience helped you grow personally and professionally?
Michaela: This experience changed my whole outlook on life. I did not really know what I wanted to do with my life before volunteering; now I know for sure that I want to teach and help other people. I am planning on going back to school and getting my certificate to teach English as a second language; I hope to be able to teach all over the world.
IVHQ (International Volunteer HQ) provides safe, unique, meaningful and extremely affordable volunteer programs in 20 developing countries around the world, with a constantly expanding base. Programs are available in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, where IVHQ works alongside local NGOs to provide meaningful volunteer opportunities. Currently, IVHQ has programs in Mexico, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Ghana, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, South Africa, Morocco China, Nepal, India, Cambodia, Vietnam, Thailand and Sri Lanka.
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