Friday, July 15, 2011

Shanti Ashram

Ok, so during my time in India I have been volunteering with an NGO called Shanti Ashram. It's pretty much the coolest place EVER. The Ashram was started about 25 years ago as a grassroots organization that has many different community interventions like teaching women how to sew so they can get better jobs, HIV care and support for those who are infected or affected by HIV, anemia screening, inter-religious teachings and peace, etc. etc. It's founded on Gandhi's principle of Sarvodaya, which means the progress of all. Basically it's a movement that Gandhi started to try to better society as a whole by having members of society help others so that they all can progress and live in peace. The programs are really interesting and I've really enjoyed helping out and trying to make a difference. Every day is something new and I generally usually learn something new about Gandhi and his teachings of peace. I'll have to write about that in another blog. Its something that we never really learn in the US but is considered very important in this part of India.

We get to go to a lot of small villages for the programs, which is always an adventure. As soon as I step out of the car all the kids instantly look at me. I pretty much stick out like a sore thumb around here. I find that I get a variety of reactions: some start yelling the few English words they know "What is your name?" and "Hi, how are you?", some just stare me down--they are not ashamed of looking at you for a looong time--and others cry. The last one has happened a surprising amount.

Hahaha...there is this cute little boy that lives in the house next to us and he gets soooo scared whenever he comes within 5 feet of us. He will smile and be shy in the arms of his family members, but the moment they try to bring him closer to us he screams, so basically I scare the children. I've been here for about a month now and he is just getting used to us. The other day he even shook my hand for about point 2 seconds before bolting in the opposite direction which was a huge sucess! I honestly think that the kids here are probably the cutest I've ever seen. They have big brown eyes and the school girls where their hair inbraids with red ribbon and flowers, and the boys wear shorts and a red tie. Every day the mother of the house where we are staying, Jeeva, holds an after school program at her school. Just imagine 30ish kids on your front porch every day, never a dull moment. So every night I sit out there and try to do homework or help the kids with their English homework. The other day they wanted us to play games with them so I taught them "Thumb War"....big mistake. I've seriously played that game like 100 times within the last week. I always win, but the kids are getting better. I knew it was a hit when I was standing at a bus stand and a kid i'd never met before came up to me and said, "Auntie...war". So if anyone wants to challenge me when I get back, I'm ready. They in turn have taught me how to play their version of "down by the banks" (the hand game). Basically instead of having to take your hand out of the circle, when it lands on you you have to grab your neigbor's ear with that hand. I have no idea why but that's what they do. It actually makes for a more exiting game. Anyway, those are some of my adventures as of lately. Until next time!


  1. I remember making children cry just by existing ... sometimes it was kind of funny, sometimes kind of depressing.

    I'm pretty sure Martha was the one to introduce "Down By the Banks" in Chavadi, though I don't know if she was the one who altered the rules, too. It's funny how some things live on.

    Anyway, it's good to hear how things have been going. I'm looking forward to hearing more in a few weeks!

  2. Have you ran into a boy about 14 years old named mahgendrin? He lives up the hill from Mathew and Jeeva, down the road by the big tree. There is also a girl that lived on that road with her family, she would be about 24 now. Her name is Nagamal, have you heard of her?

  3. Jay, that would make sense. But did she teach them words in Tamil too? Because they were definitely singing in Tamil...actually it was a different tune too. But other than that it was very similar to Down by the banks.