Thursday, April 29, 2010

Language Anecdote

Yesterday a volunteer imparted to me an interesting story that happened a few weeks ago that I wanted to share. This particular volunteer is learning Hindi, and he speaks English and Spanish at home. Well, he was speaking to two volunteers who had returned from the market in Delhi NCR. These volunteers were from Germany and Denmark. As they passed by a smoothie stand at the local market, they saw a pineapple, and wanted to order a pineapple smoothie; however, they had forgotten how to say pineapple in English! The Danish volunteer said to her friend that she wanted to buy what people call in Danish "Ananas." And the German volunteer described that the word for pineapple in German is also "Ananas." Even more interesting, the local Indian smoothie maker explained to the volunteers that the word for pineapple in Hindi is also "Ananas!" The volunteer who told me this story also expressed that in Swahili, Arabic, Spanish, and Portuguese the word is also "Ananas!" Now why is English so different? At least the volunteers were able to enjoy their fresh pineapple smoothies from the Indian market, and have a great story too!

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Excellent Host Families

We at Aim Abroad are very proud of our recent recognition award! A couple of months ago, a few volunteers came to Aim Abroad for volunteering programs in India through a travel agency based in the US. When the volunteers completed their programs, they returned home and completed some feedback forms for Aim Abroad and the travel agency. The travel agency only had such positive reviews, that they decided to award us their Excellent Host Families award! We are very happy that the volunteers had such wonderful experiences with us, and we would like other volunteers to hear of our previous feedback!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Film with Children

A few months ago a camera crew came to the street children school. Filming the school and the children, the producers of the film wish to bring awareness of their program to people in other countries. They interviewed five of Aim Abroad's volunteers who were present that day as well, and they will probably be included in the film! This filming company has produced short films which have premiered in New York City film festivals, and we really hope that it will bring much international awareness about the street children school!. This weekend, the coordinator of the school has informed us that they have produced the film and have given the school a copy! We feel quite lucky that our projects are having wonderful opportunities to raise awareness of their missions globally.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Orphanage in India

Three of Aim Abroad's volunteers went to an orphanage in a rural part of Delhi NCR. The orphanage is for girls, ages 5-18. Inside the orphanage, there is a temple where there are daily morning and evening prayers, when the children and women running the program sing, pray, and play musical instruments for the Bhajans and Poojas (Hindu hymns and worship ceremonies). Every day the children focus on their studies and help with chores for the orphanage. Particularly interesting to the volunteers, the orphanage has its own garden area where they grow their own produce, so they do not have to depend on funding or outside donations for feeding the children. Also, there is a playground area in the orphanage, and sometimes I bring my children when I visit and they play with the children at the orphanage! All of the volunteers who visit this orphanage usually have a wonderful and interesting experience, and are always welcomed as part of the family!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Ultrasound Clinic

Today some volunteers went to the ultrasound clinic to volunteer. The clinic was fairly slow today, but the volunteers had more time to interact with the doctor who runs the clinic. They learned about the health care system in India, which they explain is quite different from their home countries. For example, as you walk into the clinic, you will see a list of the different procedures available at the clinic, with a price associated with each procedure listed. This list of costs is extremely common in hospitals and doctor's offices in India. There are also government-run hospitals, however, the volunteers have not visited those hospitals. The volunteers also asked the doctor about the frequency of cases where women are unmarried and pregnant: The doctor explained that she has seen such cases, but it is very uncommon to see these cases in India. About once a month or so the doctor will have such a case in her clinic. She explained that raising a child without a husband is not possible in this city in India, and usually the women will have an abortion, if they are unable to find a way to quickly have a wedding. The volunteers understood the complexity of the situation, as they have been living within Indian culture for some time, even though it breaks their hearts to hear the sad truth about the matter. Usually though, at the clinic, the volunteers describe the wonderful experience of seeing an expecting mother having her first ultrasound ever, as she sees the different parts of the baby, hears the baby's pulse. The volunteers feel very lucky that they are able to have such a great opportunity for volunteering while with AIm Abroad!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Malignancy Case

At the ultrasound clinic, Aim Abroad's volunteers saw one case of a malignancy today. The patient was very elderly, and had not been telling anyone about the growths on her breast. Instead of seeing a doctor, she just figured that everything would work itself out in the end. The doctor had to explain to the patient that she would do the very best she could to help the patient, but that it is a fairly serious case of cancer, since the cancer had been spreading for months. The volunteers were able to see what the malignancy looks like at the ultrasound clinic, both on the patient physically, and looking at the ultrasound machine's image of the patient.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Ambulance Project

Today, a Tuesday, is a very exciting day to volunteer with the medical ambulance project, while with Aim Abroad! The volunteers went to the ambulance headquarters, where they met the people who drive the ambulance and distribute medicines to the people in rural areas. On Tuesdays, the ambulance visits a temple in a village in Delhi NCR. Tuesdays are an important day in Hinduism, and most meat and alcohol shops are closed on Tuesdays. So, on this day, more people will go to temples, which is why the ambulance visits the temple on Tuesdays. When the volunteers arrived at the temple, they had the choice to stay in the ambulance and distribute the medicines, or to help the doctors evaluate patients just outside the ambulance. The volunteers, today, decided to work with the doctors, as they had some background with pharmacology. Usually, when working with the doctors, our volunteers will take blood pressures of patients (the doctors teach how to do so if the volunteers are not familiar with the process) and assist the doctors with their work. If the volunteers have a background with pharmacology, as today's volunteers did, then the work is always more interesting, as they can discuss with the doctors the different medicines that are helpful and come up with a treatment plan for the patients. The volunteers described that they had a very interesting day, and learned so much about medicine as they practiced with the medical ambulance.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Women's Empowerment Project

Some of Aim Abroad's volunteers were working at a women's empowerment project today. This project helps support women in a self-sustaining way: They purchase raw materials to make bags, clothes, and jewelry, and local women come to these projects to make the products. The project then can give commissions to the women for their work, and purchase more materials to continue to offer jobs to the women. Usually, for clothing and bags, the materials are recycled, and the project is very green. Besides for helping women earn money, this program also has several schools in local areas for rural women, impoverished women, and even girls who are orphans. The program is really great, and our volunteers always have a great time helping out at these programs. Usually helping with English communication, the volunteers also help the women sell their merchandise and assist teaching classes in the schools.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Vaishno Devi Temple

Some of our volunteers went on a weekend trip to Jammu, the city of temples in India! They visited several temples and mosques during their trip, and had a marvelous time. One temple in particular that they visited was the Vaishno-Devi Temple, a temple of great significance in Hinduism. The temple is situated at the top of a mountain in the Himalayas in a town nearby Jammu called Katra. The temple is actually within a cavern in the mountain, where there is water flowing within: It is said that this water is the "Arrow of the Ganges." From the bottom of the town, there is a fifteen kilometer walk up to the temple, which loops around the mountain. People can go up to the temple by foot, horse, or even helicopter! The volunteers decided to go by helicopter, a truly special experience! The trip only cost around $15 each way to go on a very scenic helicopter ride!

Although short, the ride was unforgettable for the volunteers: One of them even sat in the front of the helicopter! At the temple, they describe such a spiritual experience. Whenever a person sees another person over there, they cheerfully sing "Jay Maata Di" to one another, a ritual in which, of course, the volunteers also participated, much of a surprise to the local Indian people! The volunteers went to the temple with a friend of one of Aim Abroad's coordinators, and he really helped the volunteers with their trip every step of the way. He was very helpful and friendly with the volunteers, and welcomed them as a part of his family. We hope to help more people as they go to fascinating places in India during their volunteering experiences!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Donations to the Projects

The other day some volunteers with Aim Abroad donated some wonderful supplies to the street children school! One volunteer donated many medicines, toothbrushes, toothpaste, and first-aid supplies. Another volunteer donated enough shoes for one pair per child! He also donated some school supplies for the school, such as coloring books, English workbooks, games, puzzles, and art supplies. A group of three volunteers donated some school-bags for the children and some uniforms for the new students without uniforms! Another volunteer donated socks for the children, and each child received a pair, with enough extras to last the school a few years!

My husband and I have donated many medicines and medical supplies to the school as well, along with toys and games for the children. One of the volunteer teachers who works at the school also made a donation for the school: Her children are privileged and are aware of the conditions for the children who go to the school. So, as a birthday wish, instead of asking for a toy, her son (age 6) wanted to give the children at her school pencils, erasers, and candy! So her two children and niece came to the school and donated these gifts. It was so cute and heartwarming to see these little children wanting to give to the community.

Although these supplies are wonderful, the most important gift we can give these children is our time. This school began with the coordinator: She went to a park nearby her house and started teaching some of the children nearby. The school has grown immensely since, and now they teach over 200 children! There are several teachers who are employed by the school, as the donations from the community and government subsidies (very small subsidies, but every little bit helps), help cover costs for running the program, including offering the teachers salaries. Most of the teachers at the school actually started as students in the program, and many years later they are able to help children of similar backgrounds. Earlier, the school was unable to afford to offer these teachers salaries, but they are proudly able to help them out now as well.

The same teacher whose children gave presents away also has an interesting story. She explained to a few of the volunteers that she walked by the park one day and wanted to donate something to the cause. The coordinator explained that the children do have several material needs, and she could list them, but what the children need more is her time. Since then, the teacher began volunteering at the school every day, and this experience has changed her life in a way she couldn't believe. This school's story is truly inspirational.

The volunteer who donated shoes was unable to distribute the shoes, but I have posted a picture of one of the volunteers helping distribute and fit the shoes to the children. Even finding the time to distribute the shoes was a big help for the school. It is our wish that many more will come and donate their time with these kids.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Volunteer Story

One volunteer with Aim Abroad went to a nearby orphanage in Delhi NCR for two weeks and recently finished his project. At the orphanage, this volunteer was able to make something incredible happen for one of the orphans (a young man of 17 years). He was speaking to the orphan, and the orphan explained to the volunteer that he had come from a middle class family in a nearby state, Uttar Pradesh, and had run away from home. The volunteer asked the young man, why he had run away, and he replied that he had been involved in drugs and gangs back home, and he was so ashamed of his past that he decided to run away, so as not to shame his family. Well, the volunteer spent much time with the young man, and eventually he convinced him to call his parents. Before the volunteer's two week stay at the orphanage ended, the young man's parents came to the orphanage to pick him up. He went home and happily reconnected with his family. We were so happy to hear that the volunteer was able to reunite a broken family.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Children and their Art

Some of the underprivileged children at our local school in Delhi NCR are very very talented in art! As I mentioned before, one volunteer, a graphic designer in the US, started to teach some art classes at the local school, and the children made beautiful sketches! These children have never had any formal training in the field, and we would like to offer the best possible for these children! The children started to learn some designing skills on a computer, but unfortunately, the children do not have access to electricity during school, as the school does not have any real facilities. The school is looking for funding to afford electricity and running water in their school facility: but the children themselves are helping with the funding as well! The program coordinator takes several of the drawings and creates calendars, bookmarks, greeting cards, etc. and gives them away to raise awareness of the school and its wonderful children. Some of our volunteers have donated supplies or have made donations to the school in exchange for the calendars, greeting cards, and bookmarks. The volunteers will donate these back in their countries and try to raise funds for the school! These children really deserve an education, which they are receiving, but we hope to make their academic process more comfortable, by having, what would be luxuries to them, such as running water and electricity.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Tuberculosis Patient at the Pediatric Hospital

Today at the pediatric hospital there were several cases, but one interesting case was a patient with tuberculosis. The patient was only six years old, and had been having tuberculosis for three months. With medicine, the infection was diminished, but quickly grew resistant to the treatment and became very virulent for the patient. The patient seemed incapacitated, and was constantly sleeping. The doctor explained that administering another antibiotic could be life-threatening, as the bacteria could become resistant to the medicine. He said that the disease was considered Drug Resistant Tuberculosis. The best care for the patient would be to take a blood sample of the patient: Then, they will grow strains of the bacteria, and test different pharmacological treatments on the patient's specific tuberculosis. After determining all of the medicines that would be effective, the doctors will administer a "drug cocktail," a series of all of the drugs that were effect, to ensure that all of the bacteria can be killed before growing resistant to a particular treatment. The procedure will take some time, but they already withdrew the patient's blood sample, and they will begin running tests immediately. The medical volunteers with Aim Abroad learned a great deal today!

Friday, April 9, 2010


Some volunteers with Aim Abroad went on a short trip to Amritsar this past weekend! Most notably, they went to the Golden Temple and Wagah Border, among other places, while there. Describing the Golden Temple as spectacular, the volunteers only had wonderful things to say about their trip. They even preferred the Golden Temple to the Taj Mahal! They explain that the Taj Mahal is wonderful, but it is just a building; whereas the Golden Temple feels like the Temple itself is alive, since there is so much energy always around the Temple! At any hour, the Golden Temple will be like this, so full of spirit. The volunteers stayed in the travelers quarters of the Golden Temple, where many western people are welcome to stay free of charge, with a bathroom, beds, and food all inclusive. The border was also an interesting site. The volunteers saw the border patrol ceremony, where guards from India and Pakistan do the ceremony each day. The people on either side of the border were so proud of their countries, and it really showed! With Aim Abroad, we always help volunteers organize trips in India for weekends when they are not volunteering. We have helped people go to many cities around India, and are always happy to help and hear about their wonderful trips!

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Ultrasound Clinic Case

Today at the ultrasound clinic the volunteers saw a few interesting cases. Most of the patients had kidney stones and abdominal pains, and some checked on the status of their pregnancies. The volunteers saw the doctor use the ultrasound machine to check blood flow in the fetus, and the machine could even reproduce the sound of the pulse in the important developmental arteries. Most of the babies were fine, but one case was very sad. The patient was eight months pregnant, and, looking at the ultrasound from the neck down, the fetus was fairly healthy, as the organs, vitals, and digits were formed properly; however, the fetus' head was missing: From the neck up, the baby had not formed. The patient had not had an ultrasound of her baby during her entire eight-month pregnancy. The patient had to deliver the fetus. These cases are very sad and unfortunate, but we need people to bring awareness to those in need of health care that they absolutely must check on their pregnancies as early as possible. I hope that with more volunteers, we can raise awareness of health needs, and encourage many to seek the care they need.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

First-Aid Program

A volunteer with Aim Abroad initially started our first-aid program for underprivileged children. He was a doctor back in the United States, and he donated many medical supplies to the school. At the school, he taught many of the teachers how to give proper medical treatment to the children with burns, cuts, bacterial skin infections, stomach aches, common colds, etc. The teachers wrote a book of instructions for the other teachers in English and Hindi, so that any teacher give the correct medicine to a child in need of basic health care. Our program has come a long way, ever since the volunteers started helping out with the many projects we have available. We are so happy to reach out and be as successful as possible, to enrich the lives of those in need.

Friday, April 2, 2010

Mental Health Patient

At the hospital today, one patient came with wounds around her wrists. The doctor at the hospital treated her deep cuts and dressed her wounds. Explaining to the volunteers what had happened, the doctor described that the patient had been under much pressure at a very competitive school, and she took the matter into her own hands. He related that while she was harming herself, as her cuts had become painfully deep, she started screaming and rushed to the hospital. After explaining the situation to the volunteers, the doctor then had to help treat other patients. One volunteer, with a particular interest in mental health, asked the doctor if he could speak with the patient, which the doctor allowed. Though the patient did not want to discuss her situation, she had a nice conversation with the volunteer, who gave her as much emotional support as he could. It is very sad that most mental health patients' matters are almost brushed under the table, and doctors in developing countries can usually only focus on physical concerns of patients because of their limited time available to patients. I hope that we can balance our healthcare for mental and physical needs in any country in the very near future, as a healthy mind is just as important as a healthy body.