Let the Academics Begin! by Chandler Rosenberg

The centers have officially began teaching their curriculum mid July. Manav Sadhna has been fortunate to hire a sixth teacher. Her name is Intolerant and she will be teaching the prathama class for students that need more help and taught in smaller group for 3rd-5th standards. The centers have began their health and hygiene lessons for the value based curriculum. The teachers have taught about how to bathe themselves particularly when water maybe hard to find. The students are learning about combing their hair, brushing their teeth, and the importance of taking care of their feet by wearing chappals (sandals). A local donor provided backpacks and notebooks to all the children at Manav Mitra. There were a lot of parents that attended the beginning of the school year meeting. In the meeting they discussed the purpose of having the center in their community. Another reason for the parent meeting is to teach the parents to engage their children in conversation about what they are learning and how the value lessons are influencing their children.  

 

I’m nearly completing my “Reading A-Z” phonics material work. Yogishbhai and Jagatbhai, coordinators for Earn N’Learn, did all the precutting, laminating, and cutting again for all 30 lessons each for 3 centers. I’ve enlisted a few volunteer friends to help sort the phonics cards to organize for each lesson. Thank you to Manav Sadhna for investing, for seeing the benefits of this curriculum, and trusting it’s impact on these little one’s education.

 

The 3rd and 4th students reviewed English letter names, sounds, and the actions that goes along with them. Several of the 4th standard students are remembering the “Humpty Dumpty” nursery rhyme and the phonics picture cards that sound the same on lesson 1. I’m very pleased that they retained a bit from last February and March. The 3rd standards are just beginning to learn this method but are excited to be engaged and their response has been positive.

 

Gauri Vrat festival is a Hindu celebration to honor girls and young ladies. They dress up in their best dresses and saris. They fast for 5 days to be blessed with a good husband in the future. They do not eat anything with salt, eating mostly fruit, nuts and drinking juice. The teachers celebrated these young girls by doing mehindi and giving gifts to them. At the end of the week the teachers and the girls did Garba dancing, a traditional  Gujarati folk dance, at each center.

 

I’ve been invited to help teach a couple of English classes for the Jai Jagat journey 16 kids. The teachers are wanting to create an English curriculum for the kids but being engaging and interacting to develop their English oral language. The purpose is to help the students to build their confidence with their conversations such as being comfortable with introducing themselves, sharing any thoughts, asking questions, etc. both for the show and if any travels happens such as a tour for their production. We did a quick review on letter names and sounds. The last class I had them read short comic stories of basic conversation skills concepts such as how to express feelings, adding numbers, and understanding parts of a book. The kids then acted out the comic story. They each had a speaking part and acted them out for the other groups. They seemed to have enjoyed this way of learning and being engaged.

 

I celebrated my 31st adoption anniversary on July 21st. It causes me to reflect on my life journey up until now.  I’ve learned a bit more about my adoption story since obtaining my full file from WACAP adoption agency in Seattle back in August. I learned that I was born in Vellore, India which is close to Chennai at the south end of the country. My birth mom was too young to take care of me so she made the hardest and the best decision a young mother could make. She placed me in a children’s home in Vellore in 1984. Then I some how got moved to another children’s home in Calcutta. Then finally got placed in my last orphanage to be eligible for adoption in 1987. I learned that my adopted mom, Joni Jensen, was infertile because she had Turner Syndrome. She also didn’t feel the need to be married to have children. She did the bravest and the best decision a young person could make in their life. Not only adopt one child from India but adopt my brother from Bulgaria. It’s my intention to visit my children homes and orphanage in Vellore and both in Calcutta the end of October for the first time.It’s surreal to be in India serving and teaching children who live in the slums. I’m very humbled to lead this incredible journey and humbled to be serving at Manav Sadhna. Thank you to both of my mom’s for providing life and a strong foundation for me. I wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for either of you.

 

I was also invited to teach a value lesson to the Earn N’Learn students at Manav Sadhna. Because I’ve been reflecting on my blessings that God has bestowed upon me and my heart has been full of gratitude, I decided to do my value lesson on this topic. I shared my adoption story and said that I’m thankful for my mom’s and my pets at home and explained why. I had them talk to a partner about what they were thankful for or who. I showed a YouTube video of when we serve others with love and kindness, it changes our emotions to positive feelings and filled with gratitude for what we have in our lives. Then the students and the teachers wrote a letter to someone thanking them for how they have helped in their life or the students could choose to write a list of the things and people for what they are thankful for. I’ve been enjoying teaching older students for a bit which is different for me.  

New Beginnings by Chandler Rosenberg

It was World Environment Day June 5th. It was another positive experience to go rag picking with the Paryavaran Mitra (PM) project and other local volunteers from companies and from Swagyan at Gandhi Ashram. We picked up recycled waste on one of the main streets in Ahmedabad on Ashram Road at 5 am. These group of women are some of the most enduring and resilient people I know. In morning, PM organized the walk with our rag-picking sisters where participants did actual rag-picking witnessing the tremendous efforts these amazing souls put in everyday ensuring cleanliness our city. Every single participant was filled with loads of emotions and resolutions after this enriching experience. This simple act encouraged us to rethink our lifestyles from the a waste management perspective.

I did a two-day training on the Reading A-Z phonics program for three teachers from Manav Mitra, Manav Jatan, and Manav Seva in the comfort of my own home. I presented the basics knowledge, the reasons, and the vocabulary terms of phonics. They worked hard and asked numerous questions to seek to understand this teaching style better. They had fun learning and playing the games. It amazes me that these teachers are willing to not only learn English along with the concepts of Phonics but also to teach and learn a new teaching method. These teachers inspire me every day! Such a privilege to do this.

I did my first day of sitting in silence, meditating for a few hours, reading, reflecting, fasting all day, and participating in iftar at Manav Sadhna with the families from one of the centers in the slums to break my fast. Such a lovely way to spend my day. I read and reflected on one of my new books, "The Forty Rules of Love." There are countless profound passages from Shams Tabriz about how God isn't just found in temples, churches, synagogues, or in mosques but He is in everything and in everyone. Shams was one of Rumi's (a famous Sufism poet) closest confidants. I strongly resonated with Shams belief in that God is all about love and compassion. “The Path to the Truth is a labor of the heart, not of the head. Make your heart your primary guide! Not your mind…Knowing your self will lead you to the knowledge of God.” Wow! This speaks to my heart and my love for my God. Just because I left an organized religion doesn’t mean I stopped believing in God. As Shams eloquently states, “To each his own way and his own prayer. God does not take us at our word. He looks deep into our hearts. It is not the ceremonies or rituals that make a difference, but whether our hearts are sufficiently pure or not.” I truly believe this. Shams was said this to the judge of Baghdad in 1242 A.D. because of his skepticism of Sufism. He was trying to find and connect with Rumi. But I will say that being in India has helped me light that fire of beliefs and reaffirms my relationship with God more. I'm really learning a lot about my breath, using body scanning in my meditation to release the tension and relax while sitting. I'm figuring out how to calm myself down by understanding that everything is temporary by saying "this too shall pass."

Walked to the Hanuman Temple on a military base camp. It was so much fun to hang out and get to know the students from Earn N’ Learn program. Incredible kids, they work by making cute greeting cards, crafty photo albums, and pictures frames, etc. to help provide for their families. They work and also get tutored, and taught English all after they attend school in the mornings. Then they help at home to take care of siblings, chores, and do homework after a long day of school and work.

Eid Mubarak festival: celebration to end Ramadan of the month long fast and Hanuman: Hindu festival. Manav Gulzar has the Hindu temple and the mosque next to each other in the center. A celebration of putting in the Hanuman (monkey statue) and Lord Shiva statues in their temple. I danced, served food to about 2,000 people, and then ate the delicious food. Such an extraordinary experience.

June 18th was the first day of Manav Mitra (new name instead of Kiran Center) opening back up after 2 months of kids going to their villages for summer break. I was so excited to see them again! They were so cute in their paper hats. I learned 2 Indian dances and dressed up. I wore my blueish green sari and learned 2 Indian children dances. It was so good to see my kids at the center I began my first 4 months. This center is still under major construction and won't be done until July 8thish. Kids are still attending while this is going on. We will use this time to build connections and fun with them while all this is going on. Renovation will look so nice.

School's out for summer! by Chandler Rosenberg

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Manav Sadhna decided to change Kiran Center’s name to Manav Mitra which means human friend in Gujarati and Hindi. They wanted to change it so it aligned with the rest of the centers names: Manav Seva. Manav Gulzar, and Manav Janta (Tekro Community Center). Manav Sadhna also purchased the building. They are renovating three more rooms in the back part of the center. One room will be converted into a teacher and storage space. The wall will be knocked down to make one bigger room for a class. It is the hope to have the Vidhyadham students 6-10 standards to join the center in 2 years. The local architect has been working hard in 112 degrees Fahrenheit heat in preparing for this new renovation and trying to complete this by the beginning of school on June 13th. Manav Mitra has been fortunate to hire 5 new teacher candidates that will begin when the teacher trainings begin on May 23rd. I am excited to get to know them and have a strong teaching staff at Manav Mitra!

Manav Mitra had a fun end of the school year celebration in inviting the parents with their students to share their snacks with each other. There were about 50 parents that came and the teachers also asked them if they have seen the effects of the value-based education lessons in their children. Ajaybhai asked if their children use manners, clean up after themselves, sing hygiene songs, and discuss what values they have learned this year with them. Teachers also gave out summer gifts of badminton and little water soaker toys.

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I was invited to train the teachers on how to make and incorporate games into their lessons. It was a fun experience to watch the teachers adapt a classic game, “Snakes and Ladders,” into values and math concepts. Thank goodness for understanding and patient education coordinators who are will to translate and make me feel included in this training. They had a good discussion on what questions to use on their “Snakes and Ladders” game board. It was fun to watch them play and get competitive with each other. The idea is to use this as an assessment tool at the end of a unit and have the students develop their own board game in small groups. Then swap the boards with another group to play. The education coordinators also invited a national guest speaker on how to see the best in our students and in each other. Teachers presented different ways to teach values and examples of various academic lessons to review the process of a lesson and the flow of timing in the classroom. We also went to see a Hindi movie, “Hichki” which is an inspiring movie about a teacher who has Tourette’s syndrome but has the passion to overcome this and goes onto teaching the toughest class at a school. Then all the teachers enjoyed a nice lunch after the weekend of training was finished.

It’s been a whirlwind of changes in the last couple of months. Several of the volunteers have left to continue on with their lives in various parts of the world. That is one of the challenges being a volunteer of Manav Sadhna. The connections with volunteers is amazing and it’s hard to say goodbye to them. I’ve met so many incredible people. It is incredible to think that young volunteers are wanting to serve and make this world a better place to live in and be as young as they are. An older volunteer taught me that age is just a number that you aren’t too young or too old to serve one another.

Now we are preparing for the next school year which will begin on June 13th but the first academic teaching day is on July 17th. A few of the Manav Mitra students have been helping us in preparing by making newspaper hats as a way to greet the students back to school.  I have been meeting with Anjaliben to discuss the phonics curriculum. We have changed some of the phonics images to align with Indian culture images such as cricket bat, cricket ball, Indian bride, etc. I have also been going through the lesson instructions to see what to simplify and have the education team translate into Gujarati. We are also planning to have me do the phonics training with the 3 teachers that are teaching the English, one from each center: Manav Mitra, Manav Seva, and Tekro Community Center. I will be training on each concept of the phonics curriculum by discussing the reasons behind phonics, the concept progression, modeling for the teachers, then have them teach each other each concept. I will be still rotating to each center at least once a week to guide the teachers through each lesson. We really only have 24 teaching days as there are other center guest visits, field trips, holidays, and school functions to consider throughout the year. We are also planning on having at least 2 more training sessions in August and October to train the rest of the concepts as they get more challenging for students to understand. The point is to develop a strong foundation for the 3rd and 4th standard phonics curriculum to sustain once I leave. I really hope that the next teaching fellow has a strong education teaching background to be able to continue the teacher development, phonics curriculum training, and teaching.

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Life is Full of Celebrations! by Chandler Rosenberg

There were so many events and celebrations that happened in the months of February and March. I attended my first Hindu wedding. One of the Manav Sadhna staff members invited the volunteers to attend her celebration. There were six weddings that took place at the same time in an open space. The bride was all ornate with gold earrings, bangles, mindi, and the finest sari I’ve seen. There was a swami that officiated the six weddings with Hindi mantras and traditions. I was told that there are usually 100 weddings simultaneously so they all can share the cost of the venue and food. The Hindu wedding is all about the traditions of sacred rituals to ask for blessings upon their marriage and health.

 I went to visit an amazing school for children and adults with disabilities! They do so much there! They have a Rehabilitation center for children recovering from Polio surgery. They also have a senior citizen housing for only 1500 rupees a month. They actually have a special education specialist on staff. There's 50 staff members including teachers. They have 30 of their own cows and goats to get fresh milk from. All ran by donations from UK and US. They also provide the same salary as the government does which is hard to match when running on donations. They installed solar panels and have their own recycling water and filtered system. Just in awe with all that this school provides! I'm going to try to volunteer there for 2 weeks some time in July or August.

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My first time meeting the beautiful parents of the students who attend Kiran Center. We had such a great turn out! I talked about being a volunteer, my teaching in the US, and why I'm here. I shared my appreciation for sending their kids to our center. And how much I enjoy being with them. Our amazing teachers reminded them about continuing to teach values at home, the importance of hygiene, dental, clean dishes for snack time.

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Celebratory visit to the Mother Goddess Ambaji Temple with several members of the Manav Sadhna family. We gave thanks to the Hindu Gods for blessing us. The FRRO (Indian Gov.) approved all the donations from the US and from UK donated to Manav Sadhna to gain access to these major funds for all of the people we serve and projects that we do. Which means I will get financial help with my phonics curriculum.

We first threw color just amongst the volunteers and a few Manav Sadhna staff then we went into the closest slum that I teach at called Tekro. At first, I was nervous to go into the community because of how aggressive men can get here especially when they get intoxicated. But I felt safe being with our group. The kids and the men were hyper! We got thrown into mud and water fights. It was a blast though. We ate popcorn and dates as those are the snacks they eat with kids for Holi.

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It was such an honor to be amongst the women of Manav Sadhna and the communities that we serve in for International Women’s Day on March 9. We helped prepare lunch for 800 women at Manav Sadhna then joined the rest of our teachers and staff for a movie showing of ‘Pad Man.” It was such an inspiring biographical movie based on Lakshmi Prasad who built the machine to make sanitary napkins for women in remote villages in India. I felt so empowered being there with my colleagues and friends who are all working for similar social causes.

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All the centers held Math fair at the Community Center for the first time. I was so impressed by the presentation skills, knowledge, and their displays. I walked around with a group of the 3-5th standard students from Kiran Center. They asked questions and were intrigued. This is the best way for a student to learn about the subject. If a child is able to teach the concept to his/her own peers, they absorb the information better. There were some fun math games and creativity. This was also a great way for the 6th standard students to look forward to doing these types of projects and get innovative with their education.

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I had the opportunity to go at dawn with the Paryavaran Mitra (Rag Picking Women’s group). I went with one of the leaders of the Kiran Center Recycling Center, Jessie-ben. We walked the streets picking up trash and hauling the bulky bags around. She was hard to keep up with. I was moved by her story and how dedicated she is to provide a better life for her two daughters. Jessie-ben has been working for Paryavaran Mitra for eleven years. She shared with us some of her stories since she began this job. She also shared with us how Manav Sadhna provides interest free loans for her daughters to get into college as long as she continues to work. I cannot imagine doing this for six hours of the day, seven days of the week, for your entire life to earn about 200 rupees a day. But it provides a life for her and her two daughters. I am once again humbled by the resilience and bravery these women face every day.

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 Celebrating My First Birthday Back in My Birth Country by Chandler Rosenberg

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Performers Without Borders came to perform their magical and optical illusions at Kiran Center. This is an international group of performers that captivated their young audience with their tricks and maneuvers with hula-hoops, juggling, fire poles, and acrobatic ways.  

Republic Day of India is their National holiday to commemorate their Constitution of India on January 26th, 1950. People gather together with patriotic speeches, singing and dance numbers. Sixteen of our 3rd-5th standard students performed a dance number which was choreographed by Bharat about their love of India. It made me ponder on my patriotism and love of America amidst the fireworks, barbecues, and parades. The children are taught to take patriotism seriously at a young age in a military fashion. The celebration was at the Community Center where most people wore white as the symbol of unity and peace for their mother country.

I have lived 33 years, now beginning my 34th year as people say in India. One of my family-friends reminded me that this was my first birthday back in my birth country. I don’t know if many of you know but I was born either in or near Kolkata, India. I was adopted from an orphanage in Kolkata when I was nearly 3 years old. Either the hospital or the orphanage predicted my birthday. It is such a serene reminder to have a birthday in the country I was born in. I was concerned about being homesick and my first birthday without my grandma. Despite these emotions, I was enveloped with love and celebrated my day of being “born” with my family away from family, with my family at Kiran Center and with Manava Sadhna family. I celebrated with another volunteer who had her birthday a few days before mine. We decided to do a joint party for all of Manav Sadhna at Seva Café. My Kiran Center family surprised me with decorations, Dhokla, singing, and dancing. Turned out I celebrated my birthday with 3 students who also shared their birthdays. So, I brought loads of chocolate cake to share with them. Then the volunteers and I went to Barbecue Nation and indulged in eating a bit of meat and desserts. Such a special way to acknowledge one’s life.

Another group from DMU gave 2 very important trainings to all the teachers at Manav Sadhna on child abuse and mental health issues. These issues are already sensitive but more so in India as they are not talked about. I did have some feedback to offer such as not to compare statistics in England to India. I also think it is a very important stepping stone to find local government resources and training programs to connect Manav Sadhna with to learn more about safeguard procedures and free or reduced cost resources that these families can access. At least the staff and teachers have a safe place to be further enlightened and they can now grow in these trainings.

            Manav Sadhna has begun another project in reaching more people by feeding the homeless and in need of a hot meal in various parts of Ahmedabad. The project is titled “Hari Har Ram” which serves hot khichdi and khadi. A Maheshbhai who happens to have one arm bicycles the rickshaw to various parts of Ahmedabad to volunteer with other Manav Sadhna’s volunteers in the evenings to serve the homeless. The opening night was on February 7th holding a ceremony of bhujans, honoring the father that passed away who left a contribution for this project to happen, honoring Hindu Gods, wishing positive spirits and abundance, and cracking the coconut on the side of the rickshaw cart like smashing a champagne bottle along the side of a boat as a celebration.

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            I have been busy teaching phonics at Kiran Center, Tekro (Community Center), and Manav Gulzar to standards 3rd, 4th, and 5th standards. Falguniben at Manav Gulzar taught the first phonics lesson and it went very well. There is discussion on how to make phonics lessons more applicable to the Indian culture and increasing teaching time and frequency for English class for the next school year. But the education coordinators have been liking this type of teaching of hands on and engaging approach. I have been asked to start teaching my phonics curriculum at Manav Seva now which I am excited for. I am excited to start training the 4 teachers that will be in charge of teaching English at their centers come June for the next school year.

            February 13th is a Hindu celebration called Puja also known as Maha Shivratri. Virenbhai invited all the volunteers, staff, teachers, and students to his home to honor Lord Shiva marrying Goddess Parvati. We made an almond milk based with medicinal herbs as an offering to Lord Shiva for everyone to taste as part of the rituals. We also packed 500 bags with different goodies for everyone to take home. He started by telling some stories about Shiva and some other gods, including Parvati (also Shiva's wife), Ram, and other gods. Their stories are all intertwined in some ways that he explained. Now I think he's explaining why we say the prayers we say, what each of the words mean and how they have power. A gentleman wore all orange because he is a swam. You have to spend your whole life practicing religious devotion to become a swami. Virenbhai also mentioned at the beginning that he is very well known in Gujarati/Indian government for the things he says and does. His name is Svantantratha Swami, and his name literally means independent/independence. This bhajan is saying all the different names of Shiva! Rameshwar, Kaleshwar, Ishwar, and others. And generally praising Shiva by saying "om namah Shivai.” We had 2 processions in the streets for people to dance to the drums and Hindu music. Indian people have such high energy for dancing and singing. They are definitely a culture known for their celebrations.

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Let's Go Fly a Kite! by Chandler Rosenberg

India celebrates the Kite Festival on January 14th every year. The festival celebrates the sun and the sky and respecting how the world moves and the sun gives us light without expectations. The kite symbolizes continuity of it being “cut” down then ascends back up to the skies. The festival symbolizes unity of the country. Kite Festival brings friends and family together on many rooftops. Children fly kites all throughout the month of January but all people fly them on the 14th and the 15th. People cheer as they “cut” other neighboring kites down through lots of skills and technique. I went to Virenbhai’s rooftop and enjoyed homemade chili, guava seasoned with masala spices, and chikki which is peanut brittle. Viralbhai and Vaishaliben wanted to help provide the children at Kiran Center to have a fun Kite Festival. Each child was given 5 kites to fly along with a guava and chikki as we sent them home for the weekend.

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Moving Together from Lester, England and college students from DMU did a dance workshop with the 4th and 5th standards. The choreography was such high intensity and the children were mesmerized by their passion for dance. It was fun to see the children dance to English music as well as to Indian pop. The boys get into dancing just as much as the girls. Dancing is a cross cultural and multi-language connection without having to say very much.

5th standard had another great opportunity to experience with painting for the first time thanks to Deborah and Gerald Huth from Santa Rosa, California. Gerald Huth is a successful artist who provided this experience. They painted their favorite animal or flower utilizing bright colors, being meticulous with the materials, and the details.  

I have been waiting patiently to start the English curriculum. I met with the education coordinators and got their approval to test pilot the Reading A-Z online reading and phonics program at Manav Gulzar and at Tekro Center (Community Center) for 2nd and 4th standards. I am testing this for the next few weeks. I’m teaching along with Falguniben and Kusumben at Manav Gulzar to see if the program is simple to implement. Then we will start training the teachers for the next three months on how to teach this curriculum. My goal is to print all the materials (lesson plans, basal level reader books, picture phonic cards) for all five centers. So far, the reactions have been positive in that the kids are enjoying being engaged in the lessons. The students are learning nursery rhymes to as a fun way to hear words that have similar sounds. They are showing understanding of rhyming words; I’m teaching family word patterns for them to understand how sounds work in English and modeling fluency during the read aloud time of the lesson.

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How to spend the holidays in Ahmedabad by Chandler Rosenberg

                                                                  Christmas Dinner at Virenbhai's

                                                                 Christmas Dinner at Virenbhai's

Spending the holidays in Ahmedabad and away from my typical Christmas and New Year’s traditions and family and friends was such a unique experience, unlike anything I’ve had. Manav Sadhna staff, teachers, and volunteers become your family. It was one of my favorite Christmas’ I’ve had. 150 older students and 50 preschool children from Manav Sadhna centers and various programs participated in the Jai Jagat theatrical production. I had the opportunity to travel for a weekend holiday to Gir National Park and was able to witness lions, monkeys, peacocks, deer, and buffalos in their natural habitat in the wild.  

Virenbhai held the Christmas Eve celebration at his house. I helped decorate the tree in the backyard and the outdoor patios. We had Mexican food, sang Christmas carols, read the Christmas stories of “Twas the Night Before Christmas” and the Bible passages in Luke chapter 2. The next day the children at Kiran Center also celebrated Christmas by watching the “Twas the Night Before Christmas” story, had a special treat, learned a couple of Christmas Carols, and danced. They love to dance any time they get the chance. I taught the 5th standard how to make Christmas wreaths with colored tissue paper. The students loved doing this craft; they aren’t used to doing art, craftworks, and having the opportunity to be creative. For New Year’s Eve, some of the volunteers got together at the park, tossed the frisbee at the Sabramati River Front, went to Ashray’s for a nice dinner, then enjoyed the evening on the rooftop of an apartment building, and listened to the dance music that was playing at a hotel while watching the fireworks throughout the valley of Ahmedabad.

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I have never witnessed such a special event as the Jai Jagat live production of dancing and acting with such a powerful message. The main theme was that we all can be superheroes. Nimishbhai had the idea of involving as many of the children as possible through dance and wanted to teach them how to love, serve, and respect all creatures and mankind. Him and along with five choreographers (Manav Sadhna teachers and volunteers) with one working from LA, produced most of the dances for the students. Gandhiji, Malala Yousafzia, Dalai Lama, Nelson Mandela, Jane Goodall, Wangari Mathaai, Jose Mujica were the main superheroes of our times that were highlighted. I was so moved by this production; it brought me to tears. This also brought tears to many parents, teachers, staff, and to the public audience. These children acted and danced with such maturity and passion for these spiritual giants of our times. I tried to do a reflection with my 4th and 5th standard students who attended to see the production. I quickly learned that they don’t start to learn critical thinking skills until the 7th standard because it was a challenge for them to ponder on how they can be a superhero. Young students are used to copying from the board with little engagement in government schools. It is one of my goals to encourage my older students to do reflection for value-based lessons once a week. I hope to send the message that it’s normal to have your own thoughts and opinions in life.

                                                                             Jai Jagat Show

                                                                            Jai Jagat Show

                                              Making Christmas Wreaths with Children at Kiran Center

                                             Making Christmas Wreaths with Children at Kiran Center

I was invited by another volunteer and her local friends to go to Gir National Park. The park is about seven hours away in the south part of Gujarat State. The sanctuary hosts about 200 lions. It was breathtaking to see various creatures in their natural habitat. I saw a male and a female mating then another pride of three cubs and the male and female adults. I was so close that all there was between the lions and me were sagebrush and the bank of a canal. I also went to a nearby village in the Kutch district where I visited the locals, drank fresh buffalo milk, and enjoyed listening to an older gentleman playing the ektara. The food was delicious as always; one of the dinners was at a farm to table restaurant. It was some of the freshest food I’ve eaten here. The next day on our way back to Ahmedabad, I stopped at a Hindu temple called Tulsi Shyam Temple that has two shrines. One of them sat on the hill where you had to climb several flights of stairs. As I meditated at the top, several older women joined me. They started to do bajan which is to sing Hindu mantras together. It was one of the most spiritual moments of my life. I am just so humbled to be part of this teaching fellowship. To have several these spiritual moments in India is something to behold.

                                                                      New Year's Dinner at Ashray

                                                                     New Year's Dinner at Ashray

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- Amy