My First Month in India

By Anna Zanoli

“It's been a month since I arrived.
But has it been JUST or has it been ALREADY?
Now, let me explain before I decide,
How it is to not be ready.

Well, actually, you think
you are prepared
But as soon as you open your eyes, after a wink
You'll see things that thinking you never dared.

And it's a shock
at first, at least. But then
Everything, in your heart you will lock,
For you like it in a way that can't be said by the pen.

I've been drinking tea,
In a day twice at least!
And I have seen the sea,
And eaten food during feast.

Here people love sitting on the floor,
and share everything in a whole new way!
They wouldn't like that much to see a closed door,
For they like to be here, there and wherever may.

Even all those letters that at first I couldn't understand
Now with a little practice and time
are starting to make sense
Line after line

I have tasted, smelled, touched
Just so, so many things
And heard noises and music wrapped
All around those beautiful, new earrings.

And I'll see more and more and more,
There's so much for me to discover !
Of that I'm a 100% sure,
and that's why I'm an India-lover.

As I go on (and so does my imagination)
I find that there are so many things that I could learn
and that is much of a big inspiration.
All the awareness that I could earn

So,  back to the question, it's been both ways.
'cause , you know, India to me is ALREADY a friend
and, even though I'm not going to stay here always,
This is JUST the beginning and not the end."

US Girls Scout Program Participants in India

The first edition of US Girls Scout Program was conducted successfully from 16th -30th July. US Girls Scout Program is a 2 weeks Community Service Program that offers a unique opportunity to the participants to work at an Education Center for Street Children.

AFS India facilitated the program with an Indian non-profit and non-governmental organization named Salaam Balak Trust that provides support, care and protection to street and working children of Delhi and NCR. The main objective of this organization is to provide sensitive and caring environment to the street children, imparting knowledge and skills that would motivate them to do something meaningful in their lives, thus enabling them to be responsible citizens of the country.

The 4 participants along with their Chaperone arrived in Delhi on Saturday, 16 July 2016. During the program, they were all engaged in conducting classes for street children belonging to the below poverty section of the society. The participants prepared lessons on Basic English, Mathematics, and General Education, with a non-traditional and informal education teaching methodology along with extracurricular activities. They also conducted sessions on art and drawing. Their main focus was on making the children understand the value the education that is imparted at the center. In addition to this, the participants were given a chance to witness few colorful traits of Indian Culture, in terms of Cooking demonstration, Indian dance forms, Yoga and Heena classes.

The four participants of the program were: Elizabeth Wakefield, Emma George, Madeleine Gapusan, and Virginia Keenan. Elena Gonzalez, staff from AFS USA was Chaperone of the group.

The program also included visit to the Majestic Taj Mahal, Agra and a day tour of Delhi, national capital of India.

Namaste to all of you!

By Salisa Thongrod

"“Now, I've spent 10 months in India. And the bad news is that, I am about to leave this wonderful country. India is the country of variety, different lifestyles, beliefs and livelihoods. Let's just say you're going to see things which you never expected before.

I'd like to talk about "Holi Festival", which is about throwing different paint colors  at each other. I think, it seems like Songkran festival in Thailand.  The difference is, we just throw water instead of color powders. And some color in India you just can't wash it off so easily.  It'll be there for weeks before it comes off.

After Holi festival,. I went to Mumbai, the city of dreams, Alpha city. Mumbai goes by many names, and each represents a different facets of this surprising city. It is the richest city in India and home to the largest number of billionaires in India. There is a lot to see in and around Mumbai. I had the opportunity to see the gateway of India, the landmark in Mumbai and loved to be at the Juhu beach. 

After coming to India, my attitude changed. I really want to tell all the Thai people that you should visit this country. At the beginning, it was very hard for me. I was scared of everything here. I was scared of people that, they might cheat me etc. But after I spent quite long time here, I came to know that India is like any other place. Indians are nice people too. They're very Indy and extremely free willed. They are like everyon else!!! I feel very lucky that I've spent time here and I have to say thank you to AFS Thailand that gave me this wonderful chance in my life.

And Dhanyawad to AFS India who took care of me!

Thanks to all my sweet friends who helped me a lot, whatever I didn’t know, whatever I didn’t understand... you guys were always there to explain every thing to me.

Thanks to my host family for providing me a second home in India. We did spent time a lot together. Without you folks, I can’t imagine what my exchange year would have been like. The year that I spent in India can never be forgotten.

Thank you everyone!”

My community service program

By Zoe Papineau

"I am Zoe Papineau, from Quebec, Canada. I plan to pursue a Bachelors in Social Work, beginning in the next academic year. I always wanted to travel and the Community Service Program of AFS gave me the opportunity to travel to and work in India, and experience Indian culture for 5 months. It is a really good opportunity for me and I would like to show you how it will help me to become a good social worker and to grow as a person too.

I choose to work with children as a volunteer, because I knew it was going to be fun, while also being challenging. AFS India placed me in a school for blind students in R.K. Puram sector 5, Delhi, run by the National Association for The Blind (NAB). This organization is a NGO and it is supported financially by the donations it receives. Many volunteers also attend daily, to give their quality time here. I was really happy about it, because it was unexpected that I will have the chance to work with blind persons and I knew that I would learn a lot from this experience. The reality was better than what I was expecting.

I worked there from Monday to Friday, 9:30 AM to 1:30 PM, from the 1st of February till the 11th of May, 2016. My responsibility was to teach English and help the students with difficulty during the class. During the summer holidays, I work in the computer lab to help the blind indirectly. I convert the normal books into Braille books with the help of a program on the computer and a special printer. During the month of June, I worked as a volunteer in the St. Thomas Church for thechildren’s summer camp. I would teach them Bollywood dance, because I’ve learnt this dance in Canada. I can say that I am really involved in the society and I feel really useful. In Canada, it’s impossible to be a volunteer like this because I don’t have time. It’s a beautiful chance for me and I learn a lot from these experiences.

In Blind school there are two units. The preparatory unit has 6 classes, each with around 10 students and one teacher. These classes are to prepare the blind students to go to normal school. The other unit is immature unit which is for multi­handicap students. I was working in the preparatory unit with a blind teacher, Ms. Shalini Matthew. We really help each other during the school. For example, when I was reading an English story she translated it in Hindi to help the students understand the story. I really admire Shalini ma’am because she has the patience to teach the kids every important thing. She showed me that the completely blind people are able to do so many things. You wouldn’t think that going from one place to another can be difficult or to fold your clothes, or to wear your shoes, or to wash your lunch box; but for blind students it is. Shalini ma’am takes the time to teach those simple things that can be very useful for the students and I helped her with this.

In the class, teachers teach the Braille reading and writing and one method of counting numbers. As some students have difficulty to follow the rest of the group, they need extra help and I am the one who helps them. Some students need to practice the fine motor activities, with the help of puzzle games, to be able to read Braille. I organized many activities for the students. At the beginning I thought it’s going to be difficult to teach them because of the language gap, but they learnt English really fast with the help of my translator Shalini ma'am. At the end, I was able to have an English conversation with the students.

In my time at the Blind School, I took part in many activities and also introduced the students to some new activities. For example: taught them English songs about body parts, taught them basic English (colors, numbers etc.), read stories in English etc.

Finally, I really enjoyed my time at the Blind School; the kids are always full of energy and you don’t have any choice but to be energetic too. I think, I made a difference and that my time invested there helped them a lot. I also learnt many things there, like Braille, Hindi, how to teach, how the blind people function in their life. I believe I grew up a lot from this experience.

In the beginning, I thought it’s too difficult because they don’t understand me and they never listen to me. I thought, I didn’t have the patience to be a good teacher. Then I thought, I will wait and after some time I will be a good teacher; this is perseverance. I have learned to be patient; if you have to repeat more than 10 times, 20 times the same activity with a student, its fine. They don’t have the same capacities of you and I have. It was difficult to say bye to them; I appreciate them and they really appreciated me. In the beginning the students called me “Zoe madam”, and at the end they called me” Zoe didi”. I hope they will remember me as I will remember them.”

It Starts With Us

RKK on their Hosting Experience

“A totally different world, away from their home, known for its heritage, culture, traditions, food, hospitality and colors, ‘Marudhara’ welcomed Julia Marden from USA and Silvia Cunsolo from ITALY with open arms on 6th July 2015. Draped in paternal love, blooming like rose, both came to Jodhpur and entered into the portals of RKK where they were received and treated affectionately. AFS-India  provided a momentous opportunity to Rajmata Krishna Kumari Girls’ Public School to host 2 foreign students in Grade XI for the session 2015-2016. It was rather bestowing RKK with immense responsibility. Their stay in school boarding and with host families for almost a time span of 10 months experiencing family environment, motherly care of teachers and wardens, friendship with students created some undying bonds that could be cherished.

Travelling to new places like Udaipur, Haridwar, Deorital, Chopta, Jaipur, Hisar, Delhi and Kerala gave them a chance to explore and get familiar with new cultures, new cuisine, different people, different languages and new locations.Ideas, culture customs, traditions, knowledge were exchanged which added spice to their life and they lived it to the fullest. Assessments, School Functions, Projects, Community Services, Festivals and Indian weddings etc. kept them intellectually and emotionally active.

RKK and the host families, Principal, Mrs. Neera Singh, Singhals, Sishodiyas and Mittals provided them the real flavors of our ‘Blue City’, Jodhana’s warm hospitality, affectionate care, rich cuisine and pleasant stay. Indian traditions gained a deeper meaning; everyone experienced the world around through a different perspective and ‘new eyes’. A new set of relationship and sharing, caring and bonding have been developed with both Julia & Silvia which has enabled RKKians to enrich and expand, to connect and contribute for a broad vision. The entire session had been completely rejuvenating and recharging their body and mind with inter cultural exchange supplementing their knowledge.

The alliance of RKK and AFS-India ushers in an era of fruitful and meaningful exchanges providing impetus to the concept of Global Family."

Kerala Trip - Fusion of Metaphors

On this trip, the host participants took the opportunity to travel and explore the serene nature’s kaedioespic. The trip had the opportunity to Visit a National park and waterfalls at Munnar. A visit to the tea plantations for organic spices can’t be exempted on the stay at Munnar. On the route to Munnar, the participants had paused to watch the waterfalls at Cheeyappara, were seen having coconut water and buzzing around with photogenic clicks.

The next days, the group visited to natural reservoirs such as Mattupatty Dam, Kundala Rain Water Natural Reservoir which is located at the confluence of three flowing mountain streams. The participants also had the opportunity to do local shopping at the Echo point & even visited a plantation garden, vividly known for roses.

The group took the fullest opportunity to enjoy the elephant safari. Everybody took their turns to take a full ride on the elephant. For some, it was the first time experience!! Whoops!

On the fourth day, the group had started early morning to watch the habitat living in the National Wildlife Sanctuary. The next most awaited juncture was the stay in the houseboat and cruise in the lagoons of Alleppey.

The group had pitted the last of their journey in Kanyakumari, Trivandrum and Kovalam. At Kanyakumari, it was a productive day of exploring the same for the historical significance of the place and the essence of the temples situated in these cities.

At Kovalam, one of the last junctures, the group had great fun and enjoyment at the Lighthouse Beach. This is that particular moment, which nobody wants to let go and forget. The participants took the decibel of fun, with splashing, playing and swimming in the Ocean, amongst themselves.

On this trip, there were 37 students with 4 AFS Staff, which took the lead count as 41 pax. AFS India was the facilitator and took moral responsibility in ensuring the security and safety of the participants throughout the trip.

AFS India initiated the grant of giving scholarships for participants who undertook to apply and submit the scholarship form. In total, 19 of the participants received individually the winning amount of the gross scholarship amount.  The scholarship amount INR 5000 was given to four students, amount INR 3000 was given for six students and lastly, amount INR 2000 was also given to eight students. The scholarships were handed over to the students on the first day of the journey for the Kerala Trip.
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