Saturday, May 29, 2010

Kara Marg

This morning, a few volunteers went to an orphanage for children to spend the day with them. This particular orphanage, Kara Marg, is really great, and all of the volunteers who visit this orphanage and the children there have a wonderful time. The orphanage is in a very rural area, and there is a large building that houses the children, equipped with bathrooms, a kitchen, and extra classrooms for the children to enhance their education outside of school hours. Also, there is a very nice garden and playground area,  where the volunteers went time playing with the children. Some of the children played cricket, and even taught the American volunteers how to play the game! Other volunteers played chess with the children, and others just sat and talked to the children, who had quite impressive English communication skills. Spending time talking to the children, some of the volunteers also picked up a few phrases in Hindi, which surprised me and my family! Located in the rural areas of Delhi NCR, Kara Marg also employs rural women to sew and create clothes, bags, and wallets. The women are paid by the number of items they create, so if they are busy or tired they are not forced into labor. Then, the orphanage sells the items to the West, and with the profits they generate they are able to continue to operate the orphanage for the children. Some of the volunteers also bought the wallets and purses that were made at the orphanage! Afterwards, the volunteers came back to my home and they went to the local markets to buy bangles and get some henna done. They had a really great day, and this evening the volunteers will be spending time with each other and at my home with my family.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Playing Frisbee!

Aim Abroad's volunteers went to the street children school today to teach the children English and to play and interact with them. As the volunteers had been learning some Hindi, they came and said "Namaste" to the children, who all happily replied, "Good Morning!" The teachers and volunteers couldn't help but laugh! Then, the children did their morning exercises, which help teach them discipline. Once they finished their exercises, they split into their groups for the classes. Although most schools differentiate the children by age, this school separates children by abilities: As many of the children don't know their age, the teachers have to give the students a birthdate as an approximation. Some of the students are extremely talented, and able to have conversations in English, while others, at the same age, are still learning the alphabet. As such, the school operates by sorting the children by ability and challenging each student to the best of her or his ability. The volunteers went to each class, and taught English from the basics of writing the alphabet, to reading stories with the children like Alice in Wonderland. During the children's break time, the volunteers tossed a frisbee with the children, and had a really marvelous day! Tonight, some volunteers went to the movies, as they wanted to see a Bollywood film in India! They saw the movie Kites, a Hindi film. Although they couldn't understand the Hindi, the movie was fairly easy to follow, as the volunteers could understand the universal language of love and were able to read body language and facial expressions. They enjoyed the movie, but were most impressed with the quality of the movie theater, which makes theaters in their home countries pale in comparison!

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Pediatric Hospital

Today with Aim Abroad our medical volunteers went to the local pediatric hospital in India for volunteer work. When they arrived at the hospital, they looked over the medical charts of the patients in the In Patient Department as they waited for the head doctor to arrive at the hospital. After reviewing all of the charts, the volunteers got to know the doctors and staff in the hospital, and shortly after the head doctor arrived. A team of doctors and volunteers went around the hospital to do rounds, and the doctor described why and when each patient had been admitted, the treatment to the patients, and progress of the patient. Then, the head doctor went to his office with the volunteers, and the Out Patient Department's hours began. Many patients came to visit the doctor, and the volunteers helped the doctor by taking the patients' temperatures, weights, measurements, blood pressures, and listening with a stethoscope to the patients' lungs. Also, the doctor explained each case, if there was any extraordinary case rather than the usual  cough and cold symptoms, which many of these infants and young children have at the hospital. 

In particular, the volunteers described they saw three cases where the infants' heart was not fully developed. There is a condition where all of the chambers of the heart are not completely isolated from one another, and so oxygenated and deoxygenated blood mixes and is sent to the rest of the body. The patients survive this abnormality, but surgery is advised very early on to fix the problem, as mixing of the blood does have very serious health consequences. The volunteers commented particularly that these patients had similar symptoms: when they observed the patients' tongue, fingernails, eyes, and such the skin color was a characteristic blue color for patients with this heart abnormality. Also, the doctor explained that the shape of the fingers and toes were characteristically club-shaped, which was also apparent to the volunteers. The volunteers described that they had a great day, and look forward to learning more as the volunteer with Aim Abroad. 

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Urgent Surgery

Yesterday with AIm Abroad our medical volunteers observed two surgeries at the hospital! The first surgery was a birth, which was performed as a Cesarian section surgery. The next surgery was not planned, as a patient was in need of urgent care. He came running into the hospital screaming in agony, and he explained to the doctors that he had been unable to urinate for almost a week now. The doctors asked him to try to go to the bathroom, while they cleared the operating room to prepare for his surgery/ The man was unable to go to the bathroom, and so the medical team began his surgery. First, the team used a camera and extremely fine blades to reconstruct the man's urethra. The volunteers explained that his urethra was very small, and they watched the blade make incisions through the video camera. When the team finished reconstructing the urethra, they then reached his bladder, which was extremely enlarged. They were able to affix a tube which released the urine, with extreme pressure, and finally, were able to finish the surgery. The volunteers were very impressed with the procedure they had seen, and had learned much about medical surgeries and techniques in just one day. The volunteers who went to teach English also had a positive experience, describing the love and the warmth they felt from being around the underprivileged children, who burst into smiles whenever the volunteers were around! Today the volunteers also went to their respective projects, but there were no surgeries on which to comment. The medical volunteers accompanied the doctors at the hospital when they wen on rounds to check the patients, and a few cases in the out patient department were observed. The volunteers teaching the street children taught some songs to the children, who were ecstatic to sing and play with the volunteers! 

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Volunteers in India

Today two of our medical volunteers with AIm Abroad are going to the hospital in Delhi NCR while two other volunteers with us will go to the street children project to teach English and to interact with the children! The medical volunteers are going to study medicine in the US and England after their volunteering in India ends this summer, and they hope to see some interesting cases at the hospital in a few hours! The other volunteers are interested in Psychology degrees in their respective home countries, the US and Canada, and have come to interact with disabled children as well as underprivileged children. I will update this blog later with their stories about how the day goes!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Indian Languages

With Aim Abroad, we have been offering some of our language and culture classes to a pair of volunteers. The volunteers have been observing the cooking classes, visiting local temples, have been going to the local markets with Aim Abroad's assistance to learn the tricks of the trade, and have been learning about Hindi and Indian culture. I figured this would be a good moment to comment on Indian languages and give some information about them. 

Here in Delhi NCR, my husband and I speak Hindi, our mother tongues. This is our primary language, and our children also speak the language. In Delhi, the main spoken language is also Hindi, and with knowledge of Hindi, there is rarely a language barrier between people from India. English is also a common language, but not everyone will understand the language itself: Most people understand something we like to call Hinglish, a mixture of English and Hindi. Basically, with Hinglish, the primary language is Hindi, but some words are replaced with English words. For example, in Hindi, to say "Please wait," we would say "intezaar karo" or "prateeksha karo;" but in Hinglish we say "wait karo!" Even though there are two words in Hindi for the word, you will more often hear people say "Wait karo," rather than a pure Hindi sentence!Surprisingly, even those with the least knowledge of English would probably still speak some variation of Hinglish, rather than pure Hindi. 

Hindi also is a very extensive language, while it is not exactly uniform depending on the location where it is spoken. For example, there is what we call "Shuddh Hindi," or pure Hindi, and there is "Khariboli," or standing speech, the form of Hindi that we speak in Delhi. Shuddh Hindi is a much more Sanskritized language, favoring Sanskrit loan words rather than Urdu, or Persian equivalent loan words. In the example I mentioned above, "intezaar karo" and "prateeksha karo," the word "prateeksha" is a Shuddh Hindi word, because the word comes from a Sanskrit root. The other word, "intezaar," is coming from an Urdu lexicon, and is favored in Khariboli speech. Although Khariboli is not always favoring these Urdu loan words, it tends to favor them. One major difference between Shuddh Hindi and Khariboli, apart from vocabulary, is the grammar arrangement. In Shuddh Hindi, to ask "What is his name?" we say "uska naam kya hai?", but in Khariboli, we say "kya naam uska." The words are the same, with the exception of a missing word in Khariboli, but the arrangement is clearly very different. In our newspapers and textbooks, the favored speech is always Shuddh Hindi, unless there are quotes from people speaking in Khariboli. Understanding one of the major forms of Hindi, you will be able to understand another form, but it is interesting to see that the spoken language in Delhi, Khariboli, differs greatly in word arrangement from Shuddh Hindi.

Although Hindi is a fairly extensive indian language, it is not the only language spoken in Delhi NCR, or especially in all of India. In our part of Delhi NCR, we are living in the state of Haryana. Like most Indian states, Haryana has a state-language, called Haryanvi. Haryanvi is very similar to Hindi, with the same grammar features and similar vocabulary, but the accent is much harsher than the Hindi accent. Growing up in Haryana, my parents would speak in Hindi, but there was a distinct Haryanvi accent tinged into their speech. My husband, children, and I understand Haryanvi, but it is rarely spoken by us (although occasionally with family we hear the language spoken). Other well known state-languages are Punjabi, spoken in Punjab, Gujarati, spoken in Gujarat, and Bengali, spoken in West Bengal. The north Indian state-languages tend to be very related to one another, all of which are somewhat related to Hindi; yet, the south Indian languages are very very different from Hindi. As such, it is rare for people in south India to speak in Hindi, but their own state-language and English are much more popular in these south Indian states. Though south Indian people usually learn Hindi in school, and pick up the language by watching Bollywood movies, there is much less promotion for speaking Hindi in these areas. 

One final note to make is that Hindi and English are still the major national languages of India. With one of these languages, a traveler will have a less difficult time journeying through this beautiful and stimulating nation. With both of the languages, people rarely encounter a language barrier in the metropolitan areas, where at least one of the two languages is highly favored over a regional language. Even with just the one week of language and culture classes we offer, volunteers have an advantage when they venture out into India after their program with Aim Abroad ends. I hope this information was interesting, and if you have any questions, please feel free to comment, and I'll help in any way I can!

Friday, May 21, 2010

Street Children

Today the volunteers with Aim Abroad visited the street children school for their volunteering projects. The volunteers talked about their respective countries to the children, played with the children, and helped teach them some English and Mathematics. The children showered the volunteers with their own drawings and art creations, and the children were thrilled to showcase their creativity! One child in particular had such an amazing talent: He had drawn a picture of Gandhi, which looked impressively realistic, especially considering the child could not have been more than ten years old! It is very sad to see the conditions of some of these children though: For example, when one of the volunteers asked the child his age, he replied that he didn't know. Most of the children at the school do not have a recorded birth date or don't have a general idea of their age, so the teachers just give them an estimate for a birthday and age, based on size and developmental growth observed. It really was heartbreaking for the volunteer to see a child with such talent, and yet so little at the same time. After they displayed their art for the volunteers, the school had ended, and the volunteers returned back to their host family's house. One of the volunteers has ended her project with us at Aim Abroad, and will now go sightseeing to several different cities in India before she heads back home, to the US. We hope to see her again soon!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ultrasound Misfortune

Today two of our medical volunteers went to the ultrasound clinic in Delhi NCR. The clinic was fairly empty today, and the volunteers only saw a few cases that were interesting. Most of the patients who came had complaints of stomach pains, and a few kidney stones and swollen nodes in the patients' bowels were observed. One patient, though, had a very unfortunate diagnosis.The doctor explained to the volunteers that this pregnant patient had come to the clinic a few weeks earlier because the embryo was having difficulties. The doctor explained to the patient that she must be extremely careful, but based on the ultrasound machine's output, the doctor believed it would just be a matter of time before a miscarriage occurs. Overhearing this, the patient saw another doctor, who prescribed a medicine, which this other doctor claimed, would heal the embryo and she would be able to give birth to a healthy child. So, the patient had been taking the treatment for a few weeks, and now she was back at the ultrasound clinic for a checkup. Right away, when the doctor used the machine, she noticed the fetus was not moving at all, and there was no heart beat. The doctor said that the child had passed away, and the patient wanted to double check, with more testing. The male volunteer waited outside while the female volunteer stayed inside with the doctor (a female), and the patient. The doctor used the ultrasound probe, and after examining the patient again, the diagnosis remained the same: the child had passed away. It was very difficult for the patient and the volunteers, but after the patient left, the doctor explained that these things have happened before in her office. She gives her diagnosis, and the patients want to go to another doctor in India who will say what they want to hear (basically quack doctors). Then, the patients pay the quack doctor for frequent checkups, even though there is no reason to do so. It is very sad to see these cases, but this reminds us that there is a much bigger issue at hand here as well, and we want to find ways to reach out and stop the corruption that many people practice.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Market in Delhi NCR

Today some of the volunteers with Aim Abroad went to one of the major market areas in Delhi NCR. This particular market area has three florists, three bakeries, several toy stores, a few electronic stores, a gym, a post office, and much much more! The volunteers returned from the market, having bought groceries, fresh fruits, some DVDs, Indian bangles and bindis, some western sweets (Oreos and Lindt chocolates), and some clothing (jeans, shirts, and some Indian clothes as well!). One volunteer also got some henna done from the local mehndi waala (henna artist). There is one mehndi waala in the market that always does a really amazing job, and so the volunteer waited until he was able to put the henna on her! She explained what she wanted, and agreed on a price (after bargaining a bit, of course!). Here is a picture of the mehndi before it came off. The mehndi works by utilizing the body heat of the person, and it crusts off from the heat. If you wait longer before picking off the crusted mehndi, the henna will stay on your skin for a bit longer (usually a few days to up to three weeks, if lucky!). We hope hers will stay on longer! It's a superstition in Indian culture that it is good luck if the mehndi stays on you for longer, so we will see her fortune in the coming days!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010


Today one of Aim Abroad's medical volunteers went to the ultrasound clinic. In one case, the ultrasound output of one patient revealed that she needed surgery to remove an ovarian cyst. The patient was a bit worried about the procedure, and was asking the doctor about the procedure. The doctor explained that the procedure would be laparoscopic, meaning there would be minimal incisions and the recovery period will be much shorter for the patient. Both the patient and volunteer learned a bit about laparoscopic techniques in general, and, because of the urgency of the case, the patient was able to go and get the surgery that same day at the hospital across the street from the ultrasound clinic. The volunteer also went to the hospital, where he observed the entire procedure as well. He said it was so interesting to see an entire case in one day: The patient had just been diagnosed that day, and a hospital was able to remove the cyst, while he observed the surgery. Luckily for the patient, there were no other patients needing urgent surgery, and the hospital staff could operate on her immediately.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Touring India

Here is a picture taken in Agra: The volunteers reached the Taj Mahal early in the morning to see the sunrise! They took a photo of the first appearance of the Taj Mahal as they first approached the structure.

The volunteers took this photo from one of the two buildings adjacent to the Taj Mahal. When in the building and facing the Taj Mahal, the sunrise can be observed, just as in the picture!

This photo was taken at Qutb Minar in Delhi. The giant brick pillar is the famous Qutb Minar, which is nearby other significant structures in the area.

This other picture taken at Qutb Minar shows one of the earliest mosques still standing in India.

Here, the volunteers went to the Hare Krishna temple in Delhi, called the Iskcon Temple. The picture was taken in the main prayer area.

Next to the Iskcon Temple, is the Lotus Temple, a beautiful temple in Delhi in the shape of a lotus flower. The temple is truly a must-see sight for everyone!

Finally, this picture was taken in Delhi, at Chhattarpoor Temple, a Hindu temple. At Hindu temples, it is a tradition to receive prashaad, as we say in Hindi (coming from "Prasaad," the Sanskrit word). The tradition of prashaad is to offer a sweet or treat to the deities, and after the offering, the deities have blessed the prashaad (some say the deities even have a share of the prashaad!). Now, the person who has prayed and offered prashaad, can enjoy the treat blessed by the deities. Here is a picture of the prashaad enjoyed by one of the volunteers!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Travels in India

Yesterday after the projects and programs finished for the week, some volunteers went to different destinations in India. A pair of volunteers went to Agra, while another pair went to the main tourist area in Delhi. For the pair in Agra, I suggested they take a bus to the city, and a friend who works at a hotel by the Taj Mahal met the tourists at the bus station. He accompanied them to the hotel, and has helped them decide on a touring plan for the city of Agra, beginning with seeing the Taj Mahal at sunrise. Usually, he takes volunteers to different shops, if they are interested in marble pieces or silk and pashmina cloths. Otherwise, he is happy to arrange other sightseeing tours for travelers when in Agra. Then, the volunteers will take the bus back to Delhi NCR tomorrow morning. 

The pair of volunteers in the main area in Delhi also have arranged plans for seeing some major tourist sites. They began their travels in the south side of the city, visiting the Lotus Temple, a Bahai temple, and then the Iskcon Temple, a Hare Krishna temple. After seeing these neighboring temples, the volunteers likely visited Dilli Haat, a major government-owned bazaar, and then observed the awe-inspiring Qutb Minar, a giant brick pillar in the middle of Delhi, whose construction began in 1193 AD. If they had time, they would visit Chhattarpur Temple next, a Hindu Temple in the area, and then head to a hotel. Today, the volunteers will most likely visit India Gate, then Red Fort, a historically important fort in Delhi, and then Jamma Masjid, a famous mosque located in the center of Chandni Chowk, a huge bazaar in Delhi. Once they have spent time in the mosque, they will likely spend some time strolling through Chandni Chowk, until they head back to the hotel. Finally, tomorrow, the volunteers will most likely visit Connaught Place, a major market sector in Delhi with very affordable and quality items, especially for the tourist with good bargaining skills! Volunteers who have gone to this market have found several brand name items (scarves and jeans in particular) at extremely fair prices! There are also great jewelry stores in this area, with affordable prices (such as $12 pearl necklaces, all very real river-pearls!). One volunteer in the past had bought several pashminas at a very fair rate at Connaught Place, even cheaper than the volunteers who had gone to Kashmir (and the same quality)! By midday, the volunteers will head back to their host family's house to arrive in the early evening. We hope both pairs of the volunteers have a wonderful trip!

Friday, May 14, 2010

Rickshaws in India

Today some volunteers went to the movies after a day of volunteering at a few different projects. They went to the movies by auto-rickshaw, and I wanted to give some information to travelers to India regarding bargaining with the rickshaw drivers (or rickshaw wallahs, as we say in Hindi). Typically, local people will call for a rickshaw wallah on the road, and will tell him where to go. Usually, any negotiations about the price for the ride are not done, and once the passenger exits the rickshaw, she or he hands a reasonable amount of money (according to the passenger) over to the rickshaw wallah. If the rickshaw wallah is unsatisfied with his earning, he will tell the passenger, but rarely he will complain, or if so, he will rarely receive extra earnings, as most passengers give appropriate amounts of money. If the rickshaw is empty when the passenger gets on the rickshaw, the price of the rickshaw ride could rise significantly; otherwise, if a person tries to find a rickshaw with other passengers, the person should be lucky if the rickshaw is heading in her or his direction; otherwise, the person must find a new rickshaw heading in her or his destination's direction.

These rules, of course, for foreigners do not generally apply. After being in India for about a month or so, foreigners can learn the tricks of the trade and manage to perform the rickshaw transaction correctly, but very rarely this will happen! We always suggest that foreigners agree on a price with the rickshaw wallah before getting on the rickshaw: As such, the rickshaw wallah cannot argue with you, because the price had been agreed upon (although, you must be specific, because they usually try to make extra money!). Sometimes, the rickshaw wallah will argue "That was the price per person, not for the total ride," or some other condition, so please be careful! If you are confident that you are correct in giving him a fair wage, based on your earlier agreement before riding the rickshaw, then you can give him your payment and walk away: He will know that you are correct if you have been honest the whole time. Much of the process actually deals with your confidence: If you are confident in giving him the correct amount of money, he will respect your honesty and confidence. We have hosted a few volunteers who have gone on rickshaw rides without agreeing upon a price before getting on the rickshaw, but usually they stay with us for a few months and have a grasp on the prices of the rides depending on the distance of the ride. Of course, the rickshaw wallahs will accept the money from the foreigner, but don't be surprised if, after giving him an amount, he argues, because you had not set a price before entering the rickshaw. Sometimes the rickshaw wallahs will follow the volunteers a bit, but eventually they give up, if they have been given a fair wage. We do suggest, though, that you stick to asking prices before entering the rickshaw!

Nowadays, we have a few rickshaw wallahs that we know personally. We have their cell phone numbers, and house numbers, so that we can arrange for them to pick up volunteers ahead of time, and they are pretty good about arriving on time and accepting a fair wage for their work. As the rickshaw comes directly to the volunteer's host family, the cost is a little higher, but there is no need to give directions back home, and no need to wait outside trying to find a rickshaw going in your direction at a fair cost. Ever since we have had our own personal ricksha wallah contact numbers, back this past December, volunteers have had a really easy time traveling around Delhi NCR.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Volunteering at the Hospital

Today at the pediatric hospital some volunteers saw several interesting cases. Most of the patients, as usual, were having common cough or cold symptoms. The volunteers also saw two cases of tuberculosis patients, one recovering, and the other still receiving treatment. The patient receiving treatment was suspected to have diphtheria: Diphtheria is a virtually nonexistent disease in advanced countries in the west; however, in very rural or unhygienic parts of India it is not uncommon to come across a diagnosis of the disease. Today, the doctor confirmed that the disease was actually tuberculosis, after checking the patient's blood work. Otherwise, there was a case of bronchitis, and a few cases of pneumonia. The doctor explained that the weather had changed fairly rapidly, and the hospital always becomes more busy when the weather has such sudden changes. Most of the patients come for the out-patient department, but in the morning, the volunteers go on rounds with the doctors for the in-patient department. Unless a case is severe, the doctor gives suggestions to the patient's parents about treatment and dietary restrictions during the treatment period, and the patient will go home. Generally, the doctor can see around 100-200 patients a day in the out-patient department, depending on how busy the hospital is on a given day. The doctor who works at the ultrasound clinic also stops by this pediatric hospital if there is a patient who needs an ultrasound examination.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Language Courses

Two of our volunteers have been participating in our language and culture classes. In the photo, you will see our language teacher, Bindu, with two students, and my son next to Bindu! She works as a therapist in a hospital, and she speaks very good English and Hindi. She has been teaching the Hindi language courses for our students for several years now, both to speakers of English as a first language, and to people who learn English as a foreign language. With students, she covers material such as greetings, important adjectives, nouns, and verbs, and some dialogues for memorization. Some of our students who really have an interest in the language grasp the material very quickly. She always translates any sentences volunteers would like to learn (for example, most commonly, people ask how to say "I love you" or "Nice meeting you"). She also teaches some very useful phrases for bargaining, and ways to explain "Not interested" or how to ask for directions. We have had very positive feedback with our language courses in general, and we are very proud of being able to offer these courses to the volunteers interested in this program. Additionally, in our language and culture program, volunteers learn how to cook traditional Indian recipes from our cooks, they go to markets with locals to learn bargaining traditions, and visit local sights in Delhi NCR. If the volunteers are interested in these activities, we also arrange trips to local temples and a trip to see a Bollywood movie. Many times, foreigners comment that the movie theaters back in their countries do not compare to the wonderful movie theaters we have here in India! The theaters here have big, reclining seats, and each theater is little smaller than the size of an IMAX theater, according to our volunteers. Even though some movies may not have subtitles, the movies are fairly easy to follow and understand through body language and tone of voice. With these activities and opportunities in our language and culture program, our participants have always recommended and enjoyed the program with Aim Abroad.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Video of School

The school for street children project has been going very well! The coordinator has sent us the short film about the project, and we have placed the links to the video (in two parts) to this blog post! Enjoy learning about this program!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Volunteering in Ghana

We will be updating our website soon, but we are now offering volunteering placements in Ghana! Africa is a continent rich in culture and history, and we are looking forward to offering similar international aid services as we do in India and Nepal. There is a street children school program in Ghana, similar to the program we have here in Delhi, and volunteers will be able to teach the needy children. The main spoken language in Ghana is English, so volunteers will have the opportunity to teach the children advanced English, or even other subjects, such as mathematics or history. Our host family in Ghana has hosted several volunteers, and we have had great feedback from the program. We are very happy to continue offering such volunteering experiences for societies in developing countries.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Agra Anecdote

One of our participants who went to Agra a few months ago shared a funny story with me last night, and he uploaded a picture that I wanted to share with you! He has studied Hindi for two years (the only person we have hosted who had learned Hindi before coming to India), and he went on a trip around the Golden Triangle (Delhi, Agra, and Jaipur) with some friends who came to India while on vacation from their studies in Saudi Arabia. As a gift for him, once they arrived in Agra at the hotel, they gave him some prayer beads from Saudi Arabia, called "Tasbee." They told him he could pray with the beads, or just play around with them, as they were very smooth and entertaining with which to play. So, a few moments later, they went to the hotel lounge area and ordered some alcohol and sodas. As he didn't drink, he explained to the workers at the hotel to make sure to bring a soda for him. Afterwards, he went with his friends to the restaurant in the hotel, and they sat and waited for the waiter to come and take their orders, as he played with the smooth tasbee in his hands. The waiter came, and suggested a chicken dish to the foreigners, to which he replied "I am a vegetarian, so instead I will order a daal, but thank you for the suggestion!" in Hindi. The waiter couldn't believe his ears, and he told the volunteer in Hindi, "Wow, you are truly an amazing person! You have learned our language, you do not drink alcohol, you do not eat meat, AND, as you are sitting here talking to me, you are praying! I feel honored to have met you!" After the waiter left, the volunteer explained to his friends what the man had said, and they burst out laughing at the comical situation! The next day, they went to see the Taj Mahal!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Culture Clash

Yesterday and today a few of our volunteers went to the local pediatric hospital. Aside from the average cases of fevers, one case particularly affected the foreigners at the hospital. A couple came to the baby nursery to check on their baby: A few days back, the child was born, and ever since he had been living in the hospital. The doctor explained to the family that the child's esophagus was not connected to his his stomach, so whenever the child ate, he would simply regurgitate his food. At the nursery, the child was supported by IV to sustain himself. The doctor and family agreed that he could not live on an IV support for the rest of his life, and the family must make a decision about the matter. Describing a surgery which would correct the connection between the boy's esophagus and stomach, the doctor attempted to convince the parents about the best option. The family inquired if the surgery would be 100% effective, and the doctor discussed that such a surgery is not 100% effective, but without the surgery, there is a 100% chance that their son would die. The family came from a lower class background, and the couple decided to take their child home. The next day (today), the family did not return to the hospital, and the son never received any treatment. The doctor explained to the volunteers a few aspects about the conditions in India that would justify how the family could act in such a manner: Firstly, Indian people of lower incomes tend to be extremely conservative, especially in financial affairs. Hearing that the surgery was not 100% effective, the family decided that spending unavailable funds on the newborn was too high of a risk for them to make. Also, these families don't understand the value of a human life: The family probably considered that they could just have another baby after this baby dies. Even though the baby was a boy, a circumstance of fortune and high status among the uneducated in India, the family still did not value his life enough to give him a chance to survive. The volunteers were very sad to see the entire case develop as such, but they have matured and see the situations that affect the poor in India. We all hope that through our interactions with the local people, we can teach awareness about many valuable ideals and ethics. Though we cannot ever force our principles on anyone, it is best to simply interact and have discussions with such local people, which can help promote these virtues in an effective yet acceptable way: without imposing on a foreign culture.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Ambulance Program

Today with Aim Abroad, one medical volunteer went on the ambulance to visit the local temple in Delhi NCR. As today was a Tuesday, there were many many patients coming to the temple, who then were able to receive subsidized medicines and health examinations from the doctors and volunteer. In the photo, the volunteer measured the blood pressure of the patients. Actually high blood pressure is a fairly common health concern among the elderly in India. The doctor at the ambulance project described to a volunteer that one of the common ingredients used in Indian cooking, ghee (clarified butter), can lead to high blood pressure if people are not mindful about using ghee in excess. As ghee is so commonly used in India, many of the elderly people develop blood pressure irregularities. So, at the temple with the ambulance, the doctor explained to our volunteer that almost every patient requires a blood pressure checkup to see the effectiveness of their treatment plan. Before coming to the ambulance today, the volunteer did not know how to measure blood pressure: once the doctor taught him how to properly measure it, he measured the blood pressure of approximately forty patients! After the ambulance left the temple, the medical team went to an ashram for elderly people. The elderly were so warm and welcoming with the medical team, and were very happy to meet them, especially the foreigner! He was able to measure the blood pressure of each person at the ashram (another forty or so patients) and interact with many of the patients. Most Tuesdays the ambulance team visits the ashram after the temple, so we always suggest that our medical volunteers see and work with the ambulance project on a Tuesday.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Teaching English in Delhi NCR

Today three students went to a school in Delhi NCR to teach the children several subjects for the first time. Although communication in English for some of the children was limited, the volunteers explained that they were still able to substantially teach the children subject material in mathematics and English. Most participants with our program usually teach English if the children in their project location are less exposed to English. We have hosted many volunteers who have been able to effectively teach English to the children, and interacting with the volunteers really helps the children develop an ear for a proper English accent as well, coming from a native speaker of the language. Some of the children's English language proficiency is quite remarkable, after many hours of practicing the language with foreigners who come to assist with our programs. The children feel very lucky to be acquainted with many people from many different cultures.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Patient Procedure

Yesterday two of our volunteers went to a local hospital in Delhi NCR. This hospital is a pediatric hospital, and the volunteers have opportunities to work with many babies and children! The day was filled with ordinary appointments: generally about 80% of the cases are babies with fevers or general cold symptoms. None of the cases yesterday were too interesting, they described. One case in particular though was worth mentioning: A young girl about 5 years old had a few large boils on her abdomen. The volunteers and medical assistants helped calm the child, who was hysterical, as the doctor drained and treated the boils. The patient's mother was trying to keep her daughter as calm as possible, but hearing the child's shrieks of excruciating pain disturbed the mother: she had to leave the room. One volunteer noted that he felt that such situations must be even more difficult for parents to endure, to feel helpless to their children and hearing their children in such agony. He really learned from the experience, and he noted that after the procedure, rather than comforting the patients as much as possible, he found himself comforting the patients' parents much more. It is extremely important to the patients at any pediatric hospital that their parents can be as strong and supportive as possible.