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Archive for June, 2008

Ramavaram Trip

Monday, June 30th, 2008

Our trip to Ramavaram was another exciting learning experience. Our plan of action today was to organize activities for the children, finish up the survey we had been conducting and provide dinner to the children at the end of the evening.

Watching the children participate in the activities we had organized was truly a great experience. We divided the children into two groups and played games to help us get to know each other. This gave the kids not only the opportunity to engage in role playing games but also taught them the importance of leadership, unity and respecting one another. Many thanks go to Swagatesh, Apoorvaa, Shilpa and Bhavya for organizing the events and doing an excellent job executing it as well.

As everyone was having fun, Benedicta, Aslesha, Deepika, Lalita, Niranjani, and Naveena took the time out to finish surveying the houses that they missed. This, from my point of view, showed their exceptional commitment to this cause and reminded us why we got involved with this community in the first place.

Dinner was by far the most interesting part of the evening. Just getting the children to wash their hands and sit in the straight line so that the food could be served was very exhausting! But watching their faces as they were served hot fresh biryani made the whole experience worthwhile. Many thanks go to Aslesha and her parents for not only providing us the biryani but also transporting and distributing it as well. Without you, this night would not have been possible.

All and all, I thoroughly enjoyed my evening with the children and am looking forward to our next trip to Ramavaram.

Ramavaram, 20th June 2008

Tuesday, June 24th, 2008

Friday was our fourth time visiting Ramavaram. We went with the intention of establishing a good rapport with the children and to bring about the concept of external mentorship and internal leadership.
We were a group of 28, and we divided ourselves into small groups. Six of us focused on completing the survey, and the rest of us spent time with the kids.
All the children of the slums were assembled in the grounds and were divided into two groups according to age.
It took us a long time to manage the kids and make them sit down, though the group of the elder kids was much easier to manage.
We basically wanted to create a bond with the children being one amongst them. We tried doing so by sitting down, playing their games and eating with them.
Just like the other times, we served the children a square meal and for the first time we introduced the concept of washing hands before they eat and hopefully with enough repetition we will make it a part of their daily routine.
Our interaction with the kids was satisfying in the sense that we got to know them better and we definitely saw potential leaders amongst them.
We are happy with the response we got from the kids and also that they are as excited to see us as we are to see them.
At the end of the day we realized that there will be obstacles but we are also sure that we will be able to overcome them.

The Ramavaram Project is now Sangam India

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

Hi Everyone-

After a lot of deliberation, our group has decided to call ourselves “Sangam India.”
We are going to be at a new website at http://sangamindia.org . This new site will host our photos and blog as well.

Stay tuned for more information!

Sending Two Girls to School

Saturday, June 21st, 2008

This week, we managed to send two of the girls at Ramavaram to school. The following is written by Apoorvaa, who, along with Malar, managed to do this:

To start with I was excited to go to the school and talk to the people there. I felt like I was in charge to put Amudha and Meena in school. I know how hard it is to sit at home without studying. After my 12th class I could not go into medical college so I had to sit at home and all my friends were in college going to college and studying. I was ashamed for sitting at home even though it was not my fault, but I know the consequences. I prepared myself to go and talk and to convince the people in school to admit Amudha and Meena. I saw Amudha from my place so I very badly wanted to put her in school and I didn’t want Meena also to face the same consequences.

I also realized that my responsibility has increased and it made me feel as if I had grown up. My dad sponsors two kids every year, but he started it at the age of 50. I am starting from the age of 20.

Sriram Anna and I went to the school first with Amudha, Meena and their dad to the school (St. Thomas Higher Secondary School) and then Nivedita Akka, Malar and Venkat joined us we spoke to the teacher and then we spoke to the assistant headmaster and she said she would give seats for these two girls. They were ready to give the girls E Group but they wanted to do C Group. Considering their future, their teacher said that E group would help them more. They were somewhat uncooperative because according to me, to succeed in life a person has to love the work they do. So I didn’t want to spoil the girls’ life by putting them in a group which they didn’t like. But as Akka and Malar suggested, studying E Group would provide a better future.

We met the headmaster in the evening and he said we can pay Meena’s fees as we had her original marks sheet. Because Amudha didn’t have hers, we could not pay her fees then. He gave us a deadline till Friday evening to bring her paperwork.

The headmaster was a sweet person and he was very co-operative and wanted to help us in all the ways he could. He is a good person who really cares about getting the kids educated. He told us that it is enough if we pay Rs 25 for one child as a school fees and just pay for their notebooks in the future. Not many people in this world would say like that. Being a students organization especially from a medical college, they could have asked us more money or could have asked something else. However, he was very genuine and he understood us.

After paying the fees in the school for Meena,. I came back to hostel and told all my friends and my parents. We went to the temple made archana for Meena and Amudha.

Getting to know the Ramavaram children – June 14, 2008

Saturday, June 14th, 2008

Today we made our first trip to Ramavaram since the survey in April. Even though we didn’t have strong plans in place, we thought it would be good to just go and try to show our presence in the community. The only real idea we had in mind was to play games with the children. We did not have a lot of manpower today, but overall I think we managed quite nicely. We made a last minute decision to make food for just the children and feed them well, until every child felt satisfied.

Even without much planning, we managed to put together a team to cook tamarind rice (puliyogare, pulihara), we prepared an abridged survey, and planned a few basic games for the children. When we arrived this morning at the slum, we allotted tasks to everyone that came. Four of us took charge of painting numbers on the residences so that we have addresses. Last time, we used chalk so the numbers have been erased by now. From now on we’ll have a permanent way of knowing the home addresses. Two pairs were dispatched on survey duty, so that our census is complete. Remarkably, we managed this with only one true Tamil speaker. The other pair managed with basic knowledge of Tamil, which got us through the abridged survey.

The other six of us took charge of the children and played a few games with them, trying to learn their names in the process. There were about 50 children playing games with us at any given time, with a few coming and going. It was difficult for us to find a place to play, but we finally managed to find a place. We had to cross streams of drainage water to get there, but as the children were so excited to play with us, we made sure that we played where they wanted us to. We started with a game of catch that would help us learn their names. Afterward, we had a few of the children stand in front at a time and either recite a poem, sing a song, or dance for the group. The children were eager to show off their talents. I hope to see this “talent show” grow into a larger production for the general public, to improve the children’s presentation skills as well as to publicize our project.

After we felt that the children (and us) had had enough games for one day, we came back up to the road and lined the children up to serve them lunch. All the children sat on either side of the road and we laid down banana leaves and served the rice. It was truly a satisfying feeling to serve this children as much rice as they wanted. I think we made a good amount of rice. It was a bit difficult to ward off the adults who were trying to take food off of the children’s plates, but overall we managed.

Today’s trip was really nice, I think. We’re getting more used to the community and they’re getting more used to us. We’re hoping that by the next time we go we’ll have a better curriculum set up so that our activities are more productive. One of our biggest obstacles is that most of us do not speak enough Tamil, but we are quickly learning enough to get by. Hopefully we will make some real progress in the next few visits.