Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Manish's Birthday and Gay Pride in India!

Two days ago was a very special day here in Delhi! It was Manish's fifth birthday, and perhaps his first birthday party ever! Two volunteers from the US bought him his birthday cake, balloons, the birthday present, and his birthday card to celebrate the occasion! On the evening of his birthday, my entire family, all of the children at the orphanage with the caretaker, three close family friends who frequently visit the orphanage, and four volunteers (one from Canada, one from Spain, and two from the US) all gathered for butterscotch cake and fun! The children loved playing with the balloons afterwards too, but made a mess on the floor! When the volunteers were getting ready to leave, they figured it would be best for the children to clean up the mess of popped balloons on the floor, so one volunteer, who had just learned the phrase "Saaf karo!" ("Clean up!" in Hindi), said the phrase for the first time, and she really impressed all of the children! At first the children, who did not see her say the phrase, all looked at her, dumbfounded, as if they were thinking "Did she really say that?" Then, she repeated the phrase, and in one minute, the entire home was clean! We were all amazed at the children's respect for our volunteers, especially the volunteers who come and spend much time with them! It was a very successful event, and we are looking forward to celebrating Rajat's birthday on January 31st!

In other news, two days ago, on Manish's birthday, it was also Delhi's annual Gay Pride Parade! The parade is usually held in the summer, but because of the excessive heat during this period, they shifted the date to the winter to expect more turnout at the event! Several volunteers expressed interest in going to the event, but decided in the end to stay in our region of Delhi to be with Manish on his important day! According to the papers, this was the most successful Gay Pride Parade in Delhi ever, with over a thousand participants! We are very happy to see that Delhi is becoming more and more welcoming of sexual minorities and equality for every person!

Friday, November 26, 2010

Orphanage Benefactor and Inspiration!

Before we begin about the news about our orphanage, here is a picture taken at Vrindavan on the Yamuna River, when our volunteer went with his family to visit the holy town. The volunteer, who drank a sip from the sacred river, did not know at the time that the water is said to be "Amrit" (a Hindi word which somewhat translates to "Panacea" or "elixir"). Though he drank the water about five days ago, he is still healthy with no stomach complaints! He is very lucky to have had the opportunity to learn so much about Hinduism and Indian culture in just a short day-trip.

Yesterday, our major benefactor and the person whose dream it was to begin the orphanage, from the US, and who inspired us to work on the project, donated a wonderful shoe rack for the children! She has been staying with us for about two weeks, and we have bought the children all new clothes and sweaters, winter quilts, frames and homely pictures for the home, and some funds for renovations of the home and hopefully a washing machine! The children have loved spending time with their "Didi" ("Older sister" in Hindi), and she has fallen in love with the children, seeing them and interacting with them each day since she has been with us. We are so thankful for all of her help, because without her monthly contributions and constant support, we couldn't have started this haven for our six children at the orphanage!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Spanish Volunteers and New Orphanage Plans!

Yesterday another volunteer from Spain has arrived here in Delhi NCR to help the needy here! Before coming, she emailed another previous volunteer from Spain, who was recently with us, and she decided to join the program and make a difference with us! She is a nurse back home, in Vitoria Spain, and today she has gone to volunteer at the ambulance project, Help Age India, with another volunteer from the UK. Another volunteer from Spain, an acquaintance of hers, who is also a nurse, will be arriving to volunteer with her in just a few days as well!

Otherwise, one volunteer from Canada and another from the UK have gone to a nearby public school to teach the children English, play with the children in the nursery, and paint and color with several of the classes. The volunteers at the women's empowerment and street children programs have been enjoying their stay with their new host family and new project assignments. Also, we are interested in starting a new orphanage this month, if we are able to fund the project! We have very exciting and promising plans, and we will post more information as time passes. Here is a photo of five of the six children at our orphanage, as they got ready to go out to the park with the volunteers the other day!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Vrindavan and Volunteers

One of our volunteers from the US went with his family to a very special city, Vrindavan, for a day!  This city is especially famous for the Hare Krishna movement, and many foreigners live in this city! It lies only about two hours from Delhi NCR, so they left early in the morning and came back in the evening. He describes the city as an extremely spiritual place, as he went to "Bankey Bihari Mandir" ("Bankey Bihari," a name for Lord Krishna, "Temple" in Hindi), Iskcon Temple, and the Yamuna River in particular. At Bankey Bihari Mandir, our host prayed in what we know as "God's home," the place where Lord Krishna used to play when he was a child; he even went up to the sanctuary in the temple for blessings and prayers. After eating some "Prashad" (offering to God after prayers) and receiving the "Teeka" (the symbol on the forehead after prayers), he exited the temple with his family and they enjoyed the very famous "Lassi" (yogurt shake) from Vrindavan out of the special clay glasses which are unique to Vrindavan. Then, the family went to the Iskcon Temple, where they prayed and observed beautiful paintings and prayed to Radha-Krishna. Finally, for a scenic view of the city, the family went on a small boat on the Yamuna, where they learned more about the city and even tasted the holy water from the Yamuna. The volunteer had a fantastic experience with his family, and he is sure to go back to visit the city another day! The first picture is of the Bankey Bihari Temple from outside, and the second was taken on the Yamuna River.

In other news, the orphanage, children, and other volunteers have been doing very well! Yesterday morning, one volunteer from the US, another from Canada, and two from England went to Town Park, in Delhi NCR, with all of the children for a nice picnic. In the afternoon, they enjoyed some toast and chai with their host family, and in the evening the volunteers went to the movies to see "Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows," about which they gave great reviews! Today, after helping the children get ready for school, one volunteer, a nurse back home, went to a government hospital to observe surgeries and assist with injections. Two other volunteers have gone to a public school in the neighborhood to teach the children and play with them, while another volunteer has gone to central Delhi for the afternoon. Though one of our volunteers from Australia has gone back home, the other four are continuing their project at the disabled children's school today, and this evening they will go to a different project to experience the women's empowerment program while also volunteering with slum children.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Id Mubarak and Hindu Ceremony!

We would like to wish everyone a "Bakra Id Mubarak" (Happy Bakra Id)! This holiday, a national holiday in India, is celebrated amongst Muslims, as they observe this day with goat for dinner. Yesterday, the group of volunteers from Australia, two volunteers from the US, and one volunteer from the UK went to an orphanage, which particularly specializes in "Sanyasi" (giving up the material world for introspection), so that the volunteers could observe meditation and a Hindu religious ceremony, called a "Pooja," which the women at the orphanage hold twice a day, every day. The pooja lasted for two hours, and the foreigners were involved in the ceremony, as they received some "parsad" (offering to God) and participated in the prayers and chanting. After the pooja finished, the girls at the orphanage (ranging from ages 5 to 16) interacted with the volunteers, as each were eager to speak to one another. One girl in particular, Maneesha (14 years old), is very clever, and she is able to communicate almost fluently in English, as well as Hindi, Bengali, and Haryanvi. She, and a few others who could communicate in both Hindi and English, interpreted for the volunteers and the other children, and everyone had a pleasant experience. Here is a picture of them in the sanctuary at the orphanage! 

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Volunteers Begin Indian Culture Classes

Hindi classes began yesterday for a group of five volunteers with us, visiting from Australia! Three of the girls are family, and they have been traveling together in Nepal; the other two girls, who are friends of the three family members, have also come together for traveling, but had stayed in India to visit Amritsar, to see the Golden Temple, and Dharamsala or McLeod Ganj, famous for one of its residents, the Dalai Lama. Yesterday, the volunteers focused on their Hindi classes with our Hindi teacher, as he taught about Indian culture and about some of the local languages and dialects. This teacher gave some information to the volunteers about the language spoken where I grew up, in rural Haryana also: This language, Haryanvi, is very similar to Hindi, but has a very harsh accent with a slightly different vocabulary. To give an example, in Hindi, when we say "Kya kar raha hai?" (What are you doing), in Haryanvi, we say "Kye kar reeya sai?" Though Haryanvi is a similar, yet distinct, language, the people in this region all speak Hindi, and almost anyone who grows up in Haryana can understand Hindi, because of its similarity to Haryanvi and its practicality as a spoken language. We find that many volunteers enjoy learning about the different cultures and people from different regions in India, and they particularly appreciate soaking up the details of our society here in Haryana and India. After the language classes finished, the volunteers ate some traditional Indian "samosas" (a pastry filled with spiced vegetables) with some "hari chutney" ("green sauce," or more specifically, coriander sauce/chutney), which everyone enjoyed. Afterwards, we introduced the volunteers to the cook at the orphanage where they have been staying, and he showed them how to make "roti" (or in English, we say "chapati"), which they enjoyed with "chaaval" (rice) and "daal" (lentils). We are looking forward to continuing their Hindi language classes and offer some sightseeing of the neighborhood in Delhi NCR! Also, we should have a very special blog post coming up, with a display of a video about our orphanage! One volunteer, from Barcelona, came, shot, and edited an entire documentary in just one week! When we finish reformatting the film, we will try to post it on the blog in the coming days! Here is a photo of Rajat, one of the children at the orphanage, holding the volunteer's camera at his home, as Rajat is shooting some of the video himself too!

Monday, November 15, 2010

Sponsored Health Insurance

In the photo, you see Eli, from Barcelona, at the local park with Muskan and Sonu, two of the children we now look after! Yesterday, two of our volunteers from the US went to the orphanage and played with the children in the morning, and helped them with their studies and work for school in the afternoon and evening! We also received a very special visit from one of our benefactors, who helped place two of our orphans into our orphanage here in Delhi NCR: She was aware of these two children, Anish and Manish, who were living in what appeared to be forced labor, and she was able to rescue these children and settle them into the home with us. Yesterday, she came to visit the children, and she donated 10 kgs of rice, 10 kgs of "aata" ("whole wheat flour" in Hindi), some biscuits, and some chips for the children. Afterwards, she also decided to sponsor the Anish and Manish's health insurance for one year, for which we are extremely grateful. We would like to be able to offer each child health insurance, but we are unable to subsidize the funds, so we are constantly looking for new benefactors and contributors. If you are interested in helping us in our cause, please contact me!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Snake Charmer and Helpful Volunteers

One of the volunteers from Miami, who has been with us for five months, went with my daughter today for a parent and teacher conference: The volunteers very frequently become very attached to my family, as we welcome everyone as a member of our family, and the volunteer and my daughter had a nice day this morning together. The volunteer has been helping out at our orphanage, and he has really been connecting with the children and helping us with all of his volunteer work! We are always so grateful to have such wonderful volunteers come from around the world and help us with our mission to help the less fortunate. Tonight, another volunteer from the US, who frequently comes to India to support our social programs, will be arriving. We are very excited to see her after so many months, and we look forward to her meeting the children at the orphanage, which she helped us start. Other volunteers have been continuing their volunteering projects elsewhere, and many volunteers are taking the opportunity of the weekend to travel: Some volunteers will be in central Delhi, while others are going to Varanasi before heading to Goa. A group of other volunteers are currently in Jaipur as well. By Monday, most of the volunteers will be back from their travels to continue their work at the plethora of volunteering projects we have here. We look forward to hearing about each volunteer's trip! Also, here is a photo taken in central Delhi when some volunteers went to a restaurant and saw a snake charmer outside of the restaurant!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Manish Needs our Help!

In dedication to Children's Day, which we celebrate here in India on Sunday, we would like to talk about a very special child here at our orphanage. Manish has had a difficult time adjusting to his new life with us here, but he has made some amazing improvements since he first came a few months ago. He is the youngest of two, and they come from a state called Orissa, where Oriya, quite different from Hindi, is spoken. When he came to the orphanage, his elder brother, Anish, had picked up some more Hindi than Manish did, and he adjusted very well from the beginning. But Manish, just about four or five years old, could not communicate with anyone, as nobody understood Oriya. On top of his frustration with no one being able to properly communicate with him, Manish shows signs of hyperactivity and lacks concentration. When any of the other children take a crayon away from him, or slightly bother him, he becomes infuriated and is quite difficult to calm down. With the language barrier we all have with Manish, it only makes him more frustrated that when people try to calm him down he doesn't understand what they say, and that we cannot understand his language. After getting used to his nature, we have all adjusted ourselves gradually to find ways to keep him happy, yet setting boundaries as well. He has become very well-behaved, and is slowly picking up the language, as he is able to communicate one-word fragments in Hindi, which we manage to understand. His understanding of the language has immensely improved, as he is around other children and parents who are only speaking in Hindi, rather than in Oriya. I wanted to write about Manish today because I feel that there is so much more that we can do for him. Here in India we do not have many people who specialize in behavioral disorders such as ADHD, if he even does display such type of behavior, or the few that we have are far too expensive for us to offer him. I am writing this blog to reach out to anyone who has, or knows anyone who has, any specialty in working with or teaching hyperactive children, as we really want to learn about how to best help Manish with his difficulties. You are welcome to come and volunteer with us, as Manish really needs all of our support. Thank you, and I wish everyone a Happy Children's Day from us at Aim Abroad!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Hospital Volunteering

Our volunteers have been continuing with their variety of social work programs here in Delhi NCR. Early in the morning, two of our medical volunteers went to work in a government hospital in India to assist in surgeries, distribute medicine, and learn about the health care system here in India, especially for the patients in poverty who cannot afford to visit private hospitals. Other volunteers have been continuing working with the women's empowerment programs, helping at orphanages, and teaching at the slum schools. In the photo, you can see María José walking the children from our orphanage to school: She and the children went together with her friend from Spain, Elisabet, who took the photo! Finally, several of the volunteers are planning to visit Jaipur this weekend too: it's always nice to see when the volunteers can balance their travels abroad with their volunteer work in reaching out to the needy!

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Current Volunteering Projects

Today the volunteers from Aim Abroad have gone to several different projects: A few of our volunteers are staying at an all-girls' orphanage in Delhi NCR, where they have been helping running the orphanage by learning to cook Indian food and lending a hand in the kitchen and by helping the children with their chores in the orphanage. Another pair of volunteers is at a slum-school project, where they teach the children English communication and grammar, basic computing, and elementary mathematics. Four other foreigners here in Delhi NCR are helping out at a women's empowerment program, where they interact with rural women and help them with English communication and arithmetic skills, useful for their profession of creating materials for sale and awareness. Three other volunteers have been in a different women's empowerment program as well, where they have been participating in similar activities as in the other project. In the meantime, two volunteers have gone to Jaipur to finish their Golden Triangle tour. One volunteer from the US has been consistently volunteering at one of the nearby orphanages, where he has been ensuring that each child finishes homework ahead of time, so that the children can go to the park and play before dark. I have attached a photo from when one of our volunteers, Silvia (from Spain), donated to the children new pencils and pens, since they were short on supply. You can see the difference!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Happy Diwali!

Happy Diwali, or "Shubh Deepawali!" I was unable to post this week because of the festivities here in India, but we had a very nice holiday here in Delhi NCR. Some volunteers, two from Barcelona, one from Japan, another from the UK, two from Canada, and two from the US spent their Diwali with my family, in-laws, and parents. We all participated in the Pooja (Hindi word for "prayer") ceremony, which my father-in-law led, at our home. We all enjoyed a nice evening, filled with fireworks and delicious Diwali treats. Other volunteers went to central Delhi to observe the fireworks and celebrations from India Gate, whereas most other volunteers stayed with their host families for the holiday and a few others went traveling for the festival. Yesterday, some volunteers finished up their Hindi language and culture classes, and they went to see a new Bollywood movie, Action Replayy. Today, many of the volunteers are going to Agra for a day, while others will be participating in today's holiday, Bhaidooj (the last day of Diwali): This festival is celebrated amongst brothers and sisters, and we place a "teeka" (vermilion dot on the forehead after a prayer)  and a "moli" (red string tied around the wrist) on our brothers for protection. We wish everyone a Bhaidooj kee shubhkaamnayein! ("Happy Bhaidooj" in Hindi!)

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Children Play in Park and Diwali Approaches

Yesterday one of our volunteers from the US and another from Barcelona took the children from the orphanage to a local park in the morning for a few hours. The children were ecstatic to be with the volunteers and venture into the large park, where they played on swings, monkey bars, slides, and even rides! here are some photos of the children while they were enjoying their day in the park!

Today the volunteers walked the children to school, as it is their last day of school this week because of the festival of Diwali! During this holiday, nearly everyone in Delhi NCR, where we are, will celebrate the holiday with massive fireworks all throughout the night! We will celebrate the holiday with the volunteers, family, and orphans, by having a Pooja ceremony (the Hindi word for "prayer" or "worship") together, and then celebrating by lighting the Diya and fireworks. We have even decorated our homes with lights, just like Christmas lights, to prepare for the holiday. We are really looking forward to spending this holiday together!