As you guys may know, one of my secrets to cheap/fullfilling/non-stressful travel is “go some place and then stay there for a while.” But what do you doooooo while you’re “staying there for a while”? I like to volunteer. Not because I’m a particularly kind or awesome person but because I get bored sitting in my hostel room watching HBO and because I came to India to meet Real! Live! Indians! … not to sit in my hostel room watching ‘True Blood.’
For the last three weeks, I’ve been volunteering with the Brindavan Education Trust. It’s a non-profit school that works with students who are slipping between the cracks in the large public schools – specifically kids with ADHD, Aspergers, Autism and Dislexia. Learning disabilities are very under diagnosed in India; a lot of people don’t even know what ADHD or Aspergers are. Kids with these issues are frequently written off as ‘naughty’ or ‘a little bit off’ when what they really need are trained teachers, small classes and heeeeaaaaps of patience and understanding.
Brindavan does a great job of providing all of the above. Classes are often as small as five students and the teachers are saint-like in their patience.
Before I started teaching ESL, I actually worked with EBD kids (emotional behavioural disorders) and I worked at a group home while I was in college. It’s oddly comforting (if that could possibly be the right word) to be working with this population again. I love working with Asperger’s kids – their non-stop questions, their disregard for social mores, their total unswerving commitment to The Topic That They Want To Talk About RIGHTNOW! They can certainly be challenging, but mostly I just want to hug them and be all “I totally get you, dude.”
Some of the highlights with my favorite student from the last three weeks:
“Ma’am? Are Americans very hygienic? Can you throw rubbish in the street?”
“Yes, we’re clean. We get into trouble if we throw rubbish in the street.”
“Ma’am I think too hygienic is no good.”
“Oh, well. We like things clean.”
“Are you allergic to dirt, Ma’am?”
“Ma’am, I think Christmas is nonsense. And is Valentine’s day a bad day?”
“What’s your favorite German heavy metal band, Ma’am?”
“Ma’am, this is boring I don’t want to do it.”
“Oh no? It’s boring?! You hurt my feelings!” (followed by dramatic sad face)
“No, Ma’am. I didn’t hurt your feelings.”
“Yes. Yes, you hurt my feelings.”
“No. Nope, I didn’t” (emphatic shaking of the head and arm crossing)
(fevered and impressive nose picking)
“Oh, yuck. Please don’t. Please take your finger out of your nose”
(finger is immediately replaced with a pen. Nose exploration continues with ballpoint pen)
Have you ever volunteered when you’ve been traveling? If you have, leave a link to the program you did in the comments!