Friday, April 19, 2013

Mitali visits Gurukulam from London UK

Mitali volunteered her time with our Children...

In her own words....of her time with us at school:

My name is Mitali Sen and I am a 24 year old psychology graduate and trained TEFL teacher from London, England. I spent three weeks volunteering at Gurukulam School between February – March 2013 and it was one of the most humbling, meaningful and enriching experiences of my life.
My first impression of the children was that they were extremely polite and well-mannered, impeccably turned out and very warm and welcoming towards me. I was consistently met with “Good morning/afternoon Ma’am”, from confident children with beaming smiles on their faces. Additionally, I was presented with many cards and gifts, including flowers for my hair so that I could look like “a proper Tamil girl”, which was very sweet! I was pleasantly surprised to find that the children could speak and understand English well, which made it possible for us to communicate easily with each other.
The children were naturally very curious about me. I told them all about London and the UK - our culture and identity, the Royal Family, the climate and the currency. Some students were very excited to do coin rubbings that they kept as mementos. I only hope that their new found knowledge of a country and culture so different from theirs will spark their curiosity further and inspire them to see and experience the wider world.
Our apprehensions that we had towards each other quickly disappeared. Each day, I would eat my lunch with a different class, hearing about what they had learnt that day, their ambitions to become doctors and teachers and their shared love of and passion for cricket. I was especially touched by a boy in VIII standard who said he would like to be a Pilot just like his idol – Capt. Nandkumar (founder of the school). The children would play and chat with me on the auto journeys to and from school and by my final week, I was out in Panayur most evenings playing cricket and riding bikes with those who lived nearby. They were so friendly and accepting of me that I had to keep reminding myself that I was there to teach as well as befriend!
I taught some of the older children some Spanish phrases and soon enough we were greeting one another with “Hola Senora!” and “Hola ninos!” and saying good bye with “Hasta Manana!”.  It was great to see them so keen and able to absorb yet another new language. I exposed the children to English stories, games such as Scategories and Chinese Whispers, songs and clapping rhymes, much to their delight!  In exchange, they taught me Tamil, regularly testing me on what I had retained! They impressed me with their Yoga and Karate skills and proudly showed off their science and social projects, including models depicting the solar system and forestation and deforestation. It was clear that these underprivileged, first generation learners were just like any other children – hungry for fun and knowledge, proud of their achievements and environment and most importantly, genuinely enjoyed being in school.
I was very lucky to have been at Gurukulam for Sports Day, a platform for the children to show off their sporting talents, teamwork skills and boundless energy. It was an absolute joy and privilege to have been a part of this significant day! Similarly, I was thoroughly entertained by and had the responsibility of grading a ‘Friday Fest’ - an assembly in which the children showcase their singing, dancing and acting talents in a bid to win points for their house teams. The teachers and students both invested a great deal of time, effort and energy into both events and I highly commend the school for having an inclusive curriculum, paying attention to sports and creative arts as well as core academic subjects.
Gurukulam is a truly exceptional school that provides children living in the most adverse and impoverished conditions with something that they are so often denied – access to education – a basic yet essential human right. Capt. Nandkumar, the academic staff and all the volunteers who work tirelessly to provide for these children not only deserve respect and admiration but also support and assistance. It is this grass roots level provision that will equip the next generation of poor children with the knowledge, skills, confidence, drive, morals and ethics needed to break out of poverty. Where the state fails and neglects it’s most vulnerable citizens, I believe it is up to the privileged, educated, literate population to step in and make a difference. As the great Gandhi so poignantly said, “Be the change you want to see in the world”.
I would like to extend all my thanks to everyone who made my stay so enjoyable and rewarding. I hope to return to the school someday to see how the children are progressing and to further my contribution.