Flashback to Week Two in India!
Summannahali: Sarah and Laura
Our week got off to a great start with a trip to visit Bangalore Palace, Lalbagh Gardens and the Bull Temple on our day off on Sunday. We had nice sunny weather and took lots of photos, however our white skin seemed to make us more of an attraction than the tourist sites themselves; with several passers –by taking some ‘shneaky pics’ of the group.
We took a class of 6-7 year olds on Monday and attempted to do some arts and crafts. However the children got so excited on our arrival that the colouring book session turned out to be a bit chaotic!! Clinics this week have been a bit hectic also, with the arrival of 15 local 1st year nursing students. This new influx hasn’t eased our workload however with many of the students happy to watch and learn from our whole one week experience! J
We were apprehensive about our biology classes this week but unnecessarily so as our class of twenty 15 year olds were really enthusiastic to learn and well behaved throughout classes. We were surprised by the high level of science that they are studying at such a young age as we ourselves hadn’t come across some of the material until university. We really are inspired by the attitude towards education here in India; with ‘reading’ or ‘studying’ being reported as a favourite pastime by the majority of students, while School is what they look forward to most in their daily routine. The students were more than happy for us to give them lots of homework also.
On Wednesday morning the entire school gathered to watch an educational video on HIV and TB, both very prominent issues in India currently.
On Friday morning we travelled by ambulance to the Summanahalli free clinic, 20 km from our site. It was great to see the service they were providing for those who can’t afford medication. The clinic hasn’t been available for the last 3 months, but with a new doctor it is now back up and running and sure to draw a massive crowd from the area. Friday afternoon brought us back to St. Josephs school for a face painting session with the nursery children. Although it was crazy and we got covered in facepaint each child got a design of their choice from the expert facepainters we are :p. The smiles on the childrens faces were priceless and there was no better way to end the week at Summanahalli!
Jyothi Seva: Clár and Aoife
This week has been much quieter than last due to the children sitting their monthly tests. So far we have learned a lot as neither of us had come into contact with blind and visually impaired children in the school environment prior to this. Our first few lessons were a learning curve because of the language barrier as well as a lack of experience in teaching children with visual impairments. Both of us had to reassess and adapt our teaching methods in order for the children to gain the most from our lessons. We have also found that no matter where you teach there is always a class clown.
One of the highlights so far is seeing the joy the children get from producing something in craft class. Whether it be a rocket or a face mask, having something to show is important to them. You can really get a grasp of this when you hear a child has slept beside the rocket they made in craft the previous day as they were so proud of it.
Despite the children finding humour in our accents and pronunciations, English class has also been very enjoyable, we have also been sharing some Irish folk tales which the children find hilarious.
After school finishes at 2:30pm we have been taking children on a one-to-one basis for low vision classes, these classes are for children who still obtain some sight of varying degrees. These children are eager to learn and do as much as they can fit into their forty minute stint. During this time we work with them on colour recognition, shape and letter formation, moving on to work on word and sentence formation as well and a number of them large print English books or using the magnifier to bring the word up on the TV screen and reading that way.
Sister Anitha has also shown us how to type up English books, both stories and textbooks, in order to print them out in Braille. The most obvious difference between typing for us to read and typing for a Braille book is the use of hyphens instead of spaces. This typing will fill any spare time we have. We are thoroughly enjoying getting to know these amazing children and having them recognise us by our voices, as well as what watch or bracelets we are wearing and being greeted by hugs and high fives.
Thank God our time here has enabled us to now know most children by name no matter how complicated! We cannot believe we have reached the halfway point so soon, but we are very much looking forward to the rest of our time here in Jyothi Seva.
Morning Star: Laura C & Sarah D
Another fantastic week her eat Morning Star- we received a great welcome back when we arrived back on Monday and it was as if we’d never left. It’s been both a busy and productive week with lots of singing, paintin, dancing and most importantly bonding. We began the week by creating a ‘welcome to our room’ poster with the young children with disabilities. This poster includes their names, handprints and pictures. We’ve noticed how much the kids love seeing their own photos so we thought this would be a perfect addition to the room. Great fun was had by all and the kids particularly loved getting their hands messy with paint.
The boys were eager to practice their Irish songs in preparation for John’s (current leader and volunteer last year at Morning Star) arrival on Wednesday. The kids were absolutely delighted to see him – there was such a buzz about the place and it was great to see what an impact he had obviously made. We started the mural (painting) and it was so great; everyone got involved much more than we’d expected so we used this activity as an opportunity to get to know some of the older guys. Pictures to follow of the masterpiece!! On the topic of bonding ; we’ve become football pros! Football (soccer) has been a great way to bond with school kids in particular the older ones who are often busy with their studies when we are playng /singing with younger kids at night. Sarah even managed to score 2 goals this week.
We made some progress this week with the cheelchairs. We made some adjustments with help from the older boys who dismantled and reassembled the chairs and we are planning a trip to APD on Monday morning to fix some of the safety features and then we should be good to go with them.
Overall we are getting on so incredibly well and have no complaints at all. Its impossible not to appreciate all we’re seeing and fall in love with the kids and this place. They make our work here so easy and enjoyable. We are getting very used to the early starts (6am) and they really lengthen our day and the time we have with the kids which is great. Food is still absolutely amazing, they put in such an effort to make us feel welcome and its become like a home away from home for us.
This really is such a unique place, filled with very special people. We loved finding out more about the history of the place and it turns out that John (the founder) met Mother Theresa in Calcutta 25 years ago and it was her who urged and inspired him to create a place where many kids can and continue to call ‘home’ and can live dafely happily with their new found family. We are so excited about the weeks to come and can’t believe we’re now halfway through.
APD: Meghan and Niamh
Our 2nd week in APD has flown by. We are finding our feet and are slotting into the structure and routine of things. Both of us are trying to carry out as many assessments as we can on the children in order to implement a management plan with them in conjunction with the staff at APD. This is proving quite challenging due to the limited assessment resources and of course the language barrier. We also provided some tips and advice for the teachers about the importance of appropriate seating for those in wheelchairs and the alteration of communication habits to ensure that each child has an equal chance of accessing the curriculum, whatever their ability. As meals are provided in the school for each child, we discussed correct and safe eating habits, particularly for those that have a high risk of a swallowing difficulty. This is particularly important as we have noticed that some of the children are fed lying down and this is extremely dangerous and can place the child at risk of choking.
As the weeks go by we are coming to realise that our role here in APD and Ulsoor is primarily that of an educational one. We are here to share the knowledge we have with those who see these children every day and who will continue to see them long after we leave- they are the teachers, staff and parents. They have been receptive to our advice and eager to keep learning new techniques of developing their skill sets.
We are also finding out a lot about Indian culture with Caroline (a speech and language therapist in training placed at APD) explaining arranged marriages and marriages within the family to us. Marrying close within the family poses significant difficulties, with inbreeding often resulting in a child with multiple or severe disabilities due to an expression of non-dominant genes. It seemed to us a simple solution would be to stop marrying within the family. Caroline explained however, when a daughter is to marry she has to be given a dowry of property, money or land. The parting of such valuable assets does not bode well for the family, particularly the less well off. To avoid the loss of assets to another family, women often marry within their own.
On Wednesday, there was an integration day held in Ulsoor school. This involved children with and without disabilities in order to promote unity within all abilities. It was a day filled with fun activities e.g. the school children helped those with disabilities to complete a painting. Balloon making and face painting also proved very popular! This integration day was a fantastic initiative and was ultimately a great success among the children.
From our time spent working within APD, the parents seem to be the ‘missing link’ within their structure. We therefore feel that parental education and training is key to enhance sustainability and continuity of care.
Next week we plan to hold a training morning with the parents to strengthen this link. As we are now halfway through our time at APD we feel that we have a lot of work done and plenty more yet to do and we certainly have a busy 2 weeks ahead!