Volunteering India

It’s been a long time since I have written to you. I for a change have been travelling. I saw one of the awesome man made structures last month. I was in Cairo for a holiday. I was amazed, awestruck and spellbound by the sheer size of the Sphinx .The person who dreamt of this amazing structure to the person who made it possible. The foresight of the designers, the blood and sweat of the thousand of worker/slaves has resulted in this monument.

Meanwhile, I get over the spell of Egypt, how have you been? It is May 2008. Time flies. I just wrote to you all in January and wished you all well for this Olympic year.

This month is the hottest month in Northern India. If you are planning trip keep lots of budget for sun screen and water.

Maria Loftus has written to us and she writes quite vividly how her experience of Bal Ashram has been.

Keep doing well.

Till next time…

Vinod Meena


Maria Loftus shares with us her experience at Bal Ashram

I arrived at Bal Ashram after three days of ‘prepping’ and orientation in Jaipur. During this time I’d been given a guided tour of the city, had Hindi lessons, seen traditional music and dancing shows, and been taught a bit about the economy and culture in India.

Set in the countryside and surrounded by mountains Bal Ashram (BA) is a haven in the hectic continent of India. It’s hidden somewhere between Delhi and Jaipur off a long and bumpy bus route near a tiny village called Virat Nagar.

The place I lived and volunteered at is only for boys. These boys came from all walks of life around India and Nepal. The aim of BA is to provide a transitional place for them where they can live and learn together. There is a real sense of community in this place. Everyone works together, whether it’s for chores, preparing meals, or just to play cricket! There’s a lot of love and inclusion, and as volunteers we were also privileged enough to become part of this extended family.

I spent the Australian summer, but Indian winter in Bal Ashram. With a team of dedicated volunteers from a plethora of countries around the world we taught English to some of the boys at Bal Ashram, and also at a local school. We became a tight knit team pooling our ideas and strategies trying to help these children. In school I taught years 1, 2 and 3. My classroom was an area in the playground, a blackboard, and a chair. With 60-100 kids in this ‘class’ I found teaching quite a challenge. My Hindi was enormously stretched; and I spent a lot of time warring out my voice and constantly moving everyone around to avoid getting sun in their eyes. Each day was a challenge, and I had to constantly think on my toes, but I wouldn’t have changed the experience one little bit. I loved every minute of it! I was immensely challenged and as a result found that I learnt and grew so much as a person. Given quite liberal teaching restrictions I was able to use a lot of songs, simple rhymes, and fun activities. Teaching such a big group was quite a new experience as well. There’s nothing quite like having fifty pairs of big dark eyes looking up at you and giggling at your Hindi pronunciation!

Back at Bal Ashram cricket was without a doubt the most popular activity. The boys can just play and play and play, which for someone as un-coordinated as me meant I spent quite a lot of time fielding! We also helped around BA preparing chapatti bread for dinner in the kitchen, and joining in with yoga, morning sun prayers, and wobbling hilariously trying to imitate Indian Bollywood dancing! My favourite memories are of hanging out with the boys on warm winter days in the sun making things like find-a-word and windmills.

One of my highlights was when we managed to celebrate Christmas. With help from some Indian friends we found a Santa Clause costume. We stocked up on sweets, colouring books, and bracelets and Santa came to visit giving everyone a present. The party that followed was a hyperactive blur of games, dancing, and too much sugar!

Days off were spent exploring with the other volunteers, visiting sites such as Agra and Delhi; walking into the village for supplies of delicious homemade sweets, and exploring the nearby temples and mountains.

Bal Ashram is an absolutely amazing place. The people that work there genuinely care about, and are concerned for the boys. The boys themselves are selfless, giving young people who have come from sometimes impossible background situations. With help from the carers they are re-building their lives. This is being achieved through caring for their physical and emotional needs, and through education. I feel privileged that I was able to become part of their lives while I was in India. They have left a mark on me that will never be forgotten. It was a truly moving experience and I gained so much from it. I only hope that I was able to give as much back to them as they gave to me.

Maria Loftus


Mothers’ Day-11 May

Everyone has one or had a mom at one point of their time. She is our first school, our first friend, first teacher. Don’t we love what she tosses in the kitchen for us? Don’t we love the way she hugs after coming from work?
We love it when she comforts us. She reigns supreme in our hearts. She is our mother. Just remember your mum on Mother’s day. She is not expecting a bouquet of flowers but a little phone call for her will do. Remember how she and her words used to make your day. Now it is your turn to do what you can do best for your Mother.
Happy Mother’s day!


Well! Its’ May. Apart from the Mother’s day it is very hot in Northern part of India. For us Indians it doesn’t get any hotter than this.
Don’t worry I am not trying to scare you with heat. Heat brings along a lot of goodies.
Mangoes. Yummy mangoes are at their cheapest. If you haven’t had Indian Mangoes this is the time to do it.
Children and adults sit down under the shade of a tree with a bucket full of water and mangoes. They eat them for breakfast/ lunch. A variety of cool drinks are made to ward off the heat.
Summer is fun too as exams are over. The best of Bollywood movies are released at this time. Everybody likes to cool it off at the cinemas.

My Visit to the Sphinx

This newsletter I could hardly finish without talking a little about the Pyramids.

The ancient Egyptians built pyramids as tombs for the pharaohs and their queens. The pharaohs were buried in pyramids of many different shapes and sizes from before the beginning of the Old Kingdom to the end of the Middle Kingdom.

There are about eighty pyramids known today from ancient Egypt. The three largest and best-preserved of these were built at Giza at the beginning of the Old Kingdom. The most well-known of these pyramids was built for the pharaoh Khufu. It is known as the 'Great Pyramid'.

This should be high on your list of ‘ must see places’ in the world.

See you next time

In Solidarity We Trust

Vinod Meena



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 Volunteer Stories

When I first arrived in India, it felt like every little thing was so different from back home- the sights, the sounds, the smells, the people, the animals; every moment was a new adventure, and I was always excited to see what would happen next! I volunteered teaching English to rescued child laborers in a rural village near Jaipur.

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