Monday, March 28, 2011

Medical Volunteering and Orphanage Children's Academic Reports!

Today Marie Murphy (as seen above), one of our medical volunteers from New York, went to a charitable hospital called Sharma Charitable Center. She mostly took measurements of the patients' blood pressures, weights, heart rates, etc., but she also had the opportunity to go with the doctors on rounds and observe the doctors working in the outpatient department. In one particular case, she described a patient with a rash on his chest, resulting from heat and dehydration. The doctors prescribed a lotion and told him to drink copious amounts of water, as the summer is around the corner and the temperatures are not too extreme right now: he needs to prepare for how his body will react when the temperature will peak by the end of May. Most of the other cases were fairly common cases, including cold or flu symptoms, which she felt were not noteworthy, but the rash case was particularly interesting to an aspiring dermatologist.

Otherwise, the children in our orphanage have been doing very well in their classes! Earlier this month the children took their final exams for the year, and tomorrow they will be starting their new academic year in school. In India, the academic system works differently than how most volunteers describe their academic system runs in Western countries: Our new term begins in the end of March, and the school year ends in the beginning of March. Children have summer vacation off as well, but in the middle of their school year. Once the children finished this academic year, the results came in! Muskan, Rajat, and Anish, all performed at the top of their classes! Brij Mohan and Sonu also did very well in their classes, as Brij Mohan placed second and Sonu placed fourth out of all of their classmates. Unfortunately, it breaks my heart to see Manish struggling so much through his school work. This year Manish did poorly on his exams again, though the teachers have been seeing improvements! After our parent-teacher meetings, we all decided that he would stay back in lower kindergarten, and in three months' time we will reevaluate his progress. Sonu, Anish, and Brij Mohan moved on to upper kindergarten, while Rajat moved on to 1st grade and Muskan onto 5th grade. We will continue our hard work with all of the volunteering projects, especially educating the young children in our orphanage! Our results, for the most part, prove that we have been doing the best job possible!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Volunteers Visit the New School!

Today one of our volunteers, Jenny, from Malaysia, went to volunteer at our new school for children who live in slum areas! While there, she helped distribute some donations to the children, mostly school supplies, textbooks, stickers, etc. and  helped put up charts and posters of different fruits with their names in English and Hindi, and different vegetables with their names in English an Hindi. Now that we had a volunteer with us, the teacher and Jenny went around the classroom helping the children starting to learn how to properly write some Hindi and English letters, though they have only started a few characters in each script. Jenny also helped the children pronouncing the names of the English letters and numbers, and the children have been practicing their nursery rhymes, oral counting (in Hindi and in English), and orally reciting both the alphabet and devanagari (the Hindi alphabet). We also want to express our satisfaction with our project's success, as our new program of rewarding the children with candy for attendance has had such a great impact on our attendance rate! Now our school has grown by 50%, as today we had thirty children. We do not think we can extend the group to more children, as our workspace and funds are prohibitive, but this improvement shows that our work and ideas are helping the kids in being motivated to come and learn!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

More about our Newest Project

At the school for children living in slum areas, the work has been a bit slow, since we have several obstacles to overcome before our children can start learning at a rapid rate. At the moment, because the school is in the beginning stages, many of the children have been arriving irregularly and tardy, which drastically limits our rate of progress: We must work on punctuality to help discipline the children. After reviewing our budget, we have decided to implement a program to encourage the children to arrive on time: We will award the children who arrive before classes begin with a small candy, a rare treat for these deprived children. Our volunteers have not been to the school since its opening, but starting tomorrow the volunteers will work at the school, now that the children are a little more accustomed to using pencils and doing the activities requested by our teacher, Neetu (who is shown holding a child in the first picture). We feel that the volunteers' presence will have such a great impact on the children: while the children focus on learning very basic techniques with writing, the volunteers will practice songs with the children so that they can start learning the alphabet and counting. Neetu is also teaching the children the Hindi alphabet system, known as "devanagari," or "ka kha ga" (which is comparable to "ABCs" in English). 

Neetu is actually a local teacher, having grown up in the very same neighborhood as the children! She is very studious and self-motivated, and she is pursuing a degree by correspondence right now. In the mean time, this job will help her earn while she honorably helps our students gain an education. Though her English communication skills are somewhat limited, she will be able to communicate enough with the volunteers to work together. One common theme in our children's behavior is a lack of discipline. We would like to be able to afford uniforms for the children, to help foster a sense of discipline and professionalism in the children, but the funding is simply unavailable. One complete set for the uniforms per year would cost 1,000 Rupees per child, about $22 USD, or for the entire school of twenty children, about 20,000 Rupees, or $440 USD per year. Considering what we do provide the children, however, we still feel that there is much room for improvement, once we have all of the funding necessary to support our cause. With our current budget, we can only provide one banana per day per child, but ideally we would like to provide a nutritiously balanced meal rather than a small snack. Let's see how the work with the volunteers goes tomorrow!

Monday, March 21, 2011

Happy Holi!

At Aim Abroad, we wish everybody had a colorful Holi yesterday! In spirit of the festivities, we helped organize a Holi gathering for the children at our orphanage! The children played on the roof of the house where they stay, and everybody had a wonderful time. For those who do not know about the holiday, Holi is a festival where we take colored powder, called "gulaal," and mix it with water or throw the powder on its own to color everyone in a variety of colors. There are many stories and different origins of the tradition; however, one tradition's moral is that the color of one's skin does not matter, a very respectable teaching!

Many of our volunteers recently went traveling, mostly to Jaipur, as the celebrations in Jaipur tend to be a little more vibrant than in our region of Delhi, so we hope that they too had a wonderful time. This evening most of the volunteers will be returning to their host families to continue with their projects tomorrow. We will be continuing our work with the new school and continue to post updates about the progress of the children's education. Once again, we wish everyone had a Happy Holi, or "Holi Mubaarak,"  as we say in Hindi!

Friday, March 18, 2011

School in the Slums Project Began Yesterday and Holi 2011!

Yesterday we started our first day of teaching at the new school in the slum area! Here is a picture of the view from the school and its vicinity. Though today we didn't have any volunteers go to the project, we met with the teacher for the school and began the first class with the children. We have about twenty children from the neighborhood in the slum areas, all who are completely illiterate up until now. To get them accustomed to school, the teacher passed out supplies for the children, among them pencils, which they had never used before. They all practiced grasping the pencils, and were getting used to properly holding a pencil so that we can eventually teach them writing skills. After the children we used to the proper technique for holding the pencils, they began some scribbles and doodles, and at the end of the day they a chance for creating their own art. Although today their artwork was not so artistically impressive, the children's dedication to their task and their satisfaction with their own creations impressed us by far! We are very happy that the first day was a success, and look forward to more improvements with the school!

Also, we would like to wish everyone a very happy Holi! May your day be as filled with color as it will be for all of us in India!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Launching a New Orphanage Project and a New School Project

Here is a picture of a new orphanage we are creating: this orphanage is especially geared towards helping children who are disabled. We will be hosting five children when we begin on April 1st, 2011! We are still working on refurbishing the home and some construction on the exterior of where the five children will live, which is why we have not begun the project yet.

Also, our school project has been coming along nicely as well. We currently have our student body ready, and the students' parents have agreed to allow us to provide their children with a free education, school supplies, and one meal daily. Approximately 20 students will comprise the student body. We have made the arrangements for supplies for the school (a blackboard, chalk, a carpet, etc.) and will be beginning this project later on this week too. Though we will be the size of a small classroom, we hope that we can spread awareness of the need for education to more students in the neighborhood, and we hope to raise more funds to support a larger student body!

Though we have been unable to write on the blog as often as we would like to, our projects have been running continuously, and we are finding more and more ways to give back to the community with each passing day! We will try to update as regularly as possible. If you would like to learn more about the program, please check out our website, We look forward to meeting more altruistic volunteers with a passion for inspiring and helping the needy in India and around the world!

Donations from the Local Community!

Last night the children at the orphanage had special guests visit them for dinner! A local family in Delhi NCR decided that they wanted to come and spend time with the children, and brought dinner for each of the children at the orphanage: The family was also interested in spending time and making donations for the children, for which we are extremely grateful. In other news, one of my husband's acquaintances has a connection with the people who own a restaurant at the park, which the children love to visit, and he has requested that we mention his name, and the children will be able to order anything that they like! Though we will not spoil the children and tell them, we are certain that whenever the children go to the park, they will have the opportunity to eat at the park, as a chaperone would use the connection and provide the food for the children! Here is a photo of the children at the same park, as they enjoy their morning together in the park with some volunteers! It is a true inspiration to see the kind of help that so many people in the neighborhood are eager to offer.