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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.