I was in India as a short-term volunteer; I had the opportunity to be a member of Bodhi Tree School during 21 days. I had the possibility to share my experience with another short-term volunteer and seven long–term volunteers. During that period I was working as a teacher and I could be part of a great project that had relation with the establishment of some playschools in the villages that are far away from the location of the main school. Furthermore, I was helping in the maintenance of the school.
In my free time, I took part of some spiritual activities that were developed by the staff of the NGO and I learnt Hindi. They make plans for you to learn more about their culture and their social values. By this way, you can have a better integration in the country; it makes stronger the cohesion with children and local people.
You can develop different kind of activities and they are open to implement your ideas for improving the situation of children. You are an important part of the program.
I would like to point out some examples about my routine and experiences there to show you how your life could be there:
1. Support of important programs
I had the first contact with the villages and its atmosphere with a person of the staff to take the first decision related with the best room for having a playschool for 20 children that live too far of Bodhi Tree School. The idea was perfect for avoiding a long walk for coming to school and also for giving incentives to the parents for considering the education as an important way for building a better future. We visited five rooms. I took some notes about the needs, resources and problems that had to be solved and should be taken into account before opening the playschool there. The mentor was helping me with the main issues that had to be considered for improving the conditions of the room to make possible to set a playschool there.
I prepared in advance the activities that could be developed during my period there and the staff of Commonweal gave me the chance of sharing the activities with children, apart from the ones that they had planned. I had taken some activities and material from Spain. The students were very grateful and they were very interested in showing me how they painted, so I decided to decorate the rooms with their help to have more interaction and to influence on their positive perception of their process of creativity.
3. Improvement of facilities
The Bodhi Tree School offers better opportunities for children and also for local people there, different projects are developed also for the adults. For example, the women contribute with the Rice’s planting. This kind of activity is a good way for providing food to children and to influence on the social integration of women. They were explaining me the processes that should be taken into account to get a correct growth of the plant. You can learn more about the lifestyle and the way of its way of survival.
I had the chance to plant trees outside the classes, in the playground. By this way, your effort and help with the environment will improve the facilities of the school and your collaboration can be present for the future.
Some classes needed to be repaired, painted and cleaned. The volunteers can cooperate to offer to children a better context where they can learn.
4. Social integration
They teach you Hindi. The language is a way to encourage a better integration in the country; it makes stronger the cohesion with children and local people. They organize activities for your learning about the culture and to interact with local people and the rest of the volunteers that can be with you. So, you can understand in a better way the culture and the religion. For me, it is wonderful to help people, to learn more about their culture, the social structure and the problems that they have to face in their life´s routine.
For example, I went with another volunteer and a person of the staff to a villa to visit the house of one local teacher and to see the village where the school is located. I visited different villages to set up playschools, I interviewed the family of the students, so, I had an overview of the social context where the children are growing up. I got more information about their lifestyle, main problems, social profile etc.
I would like to point out another activity that was based on the importance of the tolerance and the differences that we have in the cultural field. I had an intercultural exchange with some English students in Gaya (between 15 and 25 years old) and other volunteers. We had a dialogue with them and we shared our personal experiences; we spoke about their aspirations, interests and their culture. Furthermore, they could learn more about the life in Europe, our corresponding cultures and our personal ideas about different themes, our lifestyle, work and family. It was wonderful as I could learn a lot.
I had the chance to live an important day there: Independence’s day. This day is an important day in the whole India; a lot of celebrations take place on the streets and also in schools. I gave the children a lot of material that I took from Spain like green masks, balloons etc. We decorated the school with some volunteers and children, all of us were very excited with the celebration.
In Jenifer School Campus some representations were played by children in the memory of Mahadma Gandhi and the volunteers were involved in hoisting the flags. Different songs and dances were played for the rest of school and visitors. At the end of the celebration a person of the staff gave typical sweets from India for all the assistants. The Independence’s Day had a great impact on my feelings; everybody had been working a lot for that day. It was a pleasure to live this wonderful experience like another Indian resident. I was very impressed, children worked a lot during weeks and everything was amazing.
The school is located in a spiritual place, you can visit the different temples with the staff of the NGO, and also alone for having peace with yourself. You can understand better the Buddhism and the Indian culture. I would like to share with you one. We took the car and we went to a wonderful temple in the middle of the nature. We had to climb a big mountain during hours. It was a spiritual place where the silence and the nature are mixing, a good place for connecting with your inner.
The project is not only a volunteer program; there is an experience for changing your mind, an experience that changes your life and your value scale. The staff of the ONG is always taking care about your comfort and they are always making efforts for your welfare.