Volunteering India

It’s been hot here in Jaipur.

The nature has again taken a turn for the worse in Myanmar and China. This newsletter cannot go without the mention of these natural calamities. Donate if you can to support those who are rendered homeless.

Back home, Alexandra Achenbach has written about her experience at Bal Ashram.

There is Fathers Day coming in June. Remember your Dads this day, give them a call or better still take him out for a Father-son/daughter bonding day.

Be good and do well.

Till next time…

Vinod Meena,

Volunteering India
URL: www.volunteeringinindia.org

VII news

With the financial help of volunteers we have purchased two brand new computers with latest configurations for Bal Ashram. They are meant for the children, volunteers and staff. VII hopes that volunteers too will benefit as they can contact their family members whilst they are volunteering here with us.

Mr. Tom Hambour from Australia is also willing to pay for the internet connectivity for Bal Ashram for one year through GPRS. Thank you very much.

We have also purchased furniture like tables, chairs and carpets for the class rooms and are donating the same to the nearby Government middle school, Sothana. Some of the children of Bal Ashram are going to attend classes here.
The new session starts from July 1, 2008.

We thank you for your concern and generosity.


Alexandra Achenbach, Germany

Before I left Germany I was really worried about my stay in India. I was worried about travelling to India all by myself, and travelling alone being a woman stressed me out even more. I didn’t really know what to expect and what the mentality of the people would be like. This uncertainty made me constantly afraid of everything in the beginning of my trip. India is like arriving in another world. Everything is very different to home beginning with the large crowds of people and all sorts of animals on the streets and ending with the different smells; good and bad ones. I was also unsure about the organisation “volunteering India”. Even though Mr. Meena tried his best to answer all my questions in advance, you never know about the trustworthiness of pages in the internet. As soon as I reached Jaipur, my worries finally started to disappear.

Mr. Meena had sent me the right address of the guesthouse, had booked a room for me there and he was already waiting for me at the lobby. I was so glad to see him and he did his best to make me feel comfortably and to ease all my concerns. He took me out to dinner, helped me to assure the communication with my family by buying an Indian sim-card for my mobile and he helped me to get some orientation in the vicinity of the guesthouse. The second day at Jaipur was meant for sightseeing. Mr. Meena had organised a personal tour guide for me, who showed me Amber fort, the water palace, Hawa Mahal and important Hindu temples of the city. It was a lovely day and I didn’t have to care about anything myself so I could concentrate on arriving in India with all my senses. Besides sightseeing, “Volunteering India” provided information on Indian culture, mentality and etiquette as well as basic Hindi. All of this and the personal care of Mr. Meena gave me a warm welcome during the first three days at Jaipur.

After this introduction, I was brought to Bal Ashram, a transitory rehabilitation centre for boys rescued from child labour. The main purpose of Bal Ashram is to rehabilitate boys between six and 16 from the devastating experiences that they had to live through and to introduce them to a normal life. They learn about their rights, learn to read and write Hindi and get the chance to be children again. Children over 14 also get the possibility to become skilled at a craft like carpentry or tailoring. Most of the boys stay for six months and return back home to their villages full of new experiences, knowledge and most importantly self-esteem.

Bal Ashram is located about 2 hours from Jaipur close to the village of Virat Nagar (former Beirath) in Rajasthan and it consists of several dormitories, a meeting hall, a dining hall and kitchen, a library and a large play ground for the children. At first sight, everything appears very open and welcoming with the aroma of all the colourful flowers and trees planted at the property, and the dormitories and bathrooms for the volunteers are spacious (at least for me since I was the only volunteer at the time) and clean.

In April 2008 I stayed for 5 weeks at Bal Ashram. During the time of my stay I was the only woman there, which made me feel slightly intimidated in the beginning even though the office members and teachers were friendly and very helpful with all my questions and queries. In India, the gender issue is far more present compared to my home country Germany and it took me a while to feel comfortable, to relax and to stop worrying about how to behave properly. The contact with the boys helped me a lot. They were so lovely! Sharing time with them, painting, taking part in group activities like morning exercise, playing cricket and meditation or sharing food with them made me feel like a part of their community. This was the most beautiful experience for me! Besides the daily routine, I volunteered as an English teacher from Monday to Saturday. With the help of Dada Ji in Hindi, one of the founding fathers of Bal Ashram, I prepared my lessons on different topics and taught the boys basic vocabulary and basic English sentences and grammar. It was so great for me to see how excited the children were about learning and during my stay, there were more and more children coming to my library class. Even though I never taught English before, teaching really was fun and day by day the boys trusted me more and got rid of their shyness.

During my stay I also had the chance to get an inside view at the head organisation of Bal Ashram, Bachpan Bachao Andolan (BBA), and to learn more about their rescue operations and projects. I visited several so-called “child friendly villages” and got the chance to experience the harsh reality of fighting child labour in India. The enormous contrast between the living conditions and education in Germany and in India was shocking on the one hand, but on the other hand it was also interesting and fascinating to see how patiently people accept their lives and seem happy with the little they possess.

At the end of the five weeks, it was so hard for me to say goodbye and at the end of my trip finally leaving India was even harder. Besides all the difficulties and the culture shock arriving in India, I felt at home at Bal Ashram in the end. I met so many lovely people and felt the unforgettable Indian hospitality and learnt a lot about myself, my abilities and limitations. India is a challenging experience in every possible way, but meeting Indian people is worth every challenge. You make a lot of friends in India and back in Jaipur, Mr. Meena's warm welcome and our evenings at Jaipur's cinema and excellent restaurants felt like sharing time with an old friend.



Fathers’ Day June 15 2008 in the US

Have you ever wondered what actually goes into parenting a child?
A whole life time!
Father's Day is a day of commemoration and celebration of Dad. It is a day to not only honour your father, but all men who have acted as a father figure in your life - whether as Stepfathers, Uncles, Grandfathers, or "Big Brothers."
A lot of countries observe this day to commemorate the importance of not only the Father but the Family. The first social unit of any society. The Unit where we all begin our journey called life.

Nature Strikes- Myanmar and China

The people of China's Sichuan province are beginning to rebuild
their lives and heal their souls. The devastating on 12 May earthquake has an estimated 80,000 people dead.
On May 2, 2008, Cyclone Nargis swept across southern Myanmar, with high winds, heavy rain and flood water claiming thousands of lives and damaging hundreds of thousands of homes. This is the worst storm to hit Asia since 1991 when 143,000 people died Bangladesh, and the worst to hit Myanmar since 1926 when 2,700 people were killed. The cyclone impacted more than 2.4 million people, many of whom still need assistance, including shelter, food, clean water and protection against disease.
Help out in any way you can.
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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