Monday, February 14, 2011

Volunteer work at AIC

I started talking to AIC before leaving the States and submitted my formal application shortly after arriving, but hadn't heard anything for a while.  I was beginning to worry that Grampa gave me a bad reference and this whole thing wasn't going to work out.  Turns out the HR-and-everything-else guy I've been talking with, Eric, had been back Stateside.  So he e-mailed me Saturday.  We met at the education center on Sunday.  And today I got a glimpse of the work I'll be doing with the Ashraya Initiative for Children.  You can read about all of their programs on their website.

I'll be starting with the education outreach program.  AIC arranges enrollment; pays tuition; provides supplies, uniforms, and a place to bathe and study for about 250 slum children.  The kids in the program return to the education center before or after school for additional instruction, help with homework, etc.  I was lucky enough to catch the weekly dance class yesterday.

All of the new students are enrolled in English medium schools, but originally many of the students were sent to Marathi medium schools.  (Marathi is the regional language in Maharashtra.)   Volunteers like me work with these students for two 1-hr sessions each week to teach them basic English.  I'll start Thursday with 3 groups of about 10 kids from the 3rd to the 9th standard.

I'm excited.  The kids are all delightfully friendly.  Even on the street near the center they run up to shake my hand, yelling "Didi! Didi!"  But I'll admit I'm a little intimidated too.  I sat in on one session with a 2nd standard group today, but I'll be leading my own classes already next time.  There are some obvious challenges and I'm sure more subtle ones as well.  The volunteer that is leaving is preparing some detailed reports on each of the groups for me.  I'll be talking more this week about how I'm trying to prepare too.


Shelley said...

I read the website and AIC seems like the kind of organization I'd want to support. Your work will certainly be a mitzvah (blessing) to these kids. How did you find out about them? I'm impressed that it was started by college students.

Siera said...

Thank you, Shelley. I hope I can help them. Did the first batch of classes today and Housie (bingo) was a big hit. I think it will motivate them.

I learned about AIC just through an internet search for volunteer opportunities in Pune. But I was especially attracted to their unique approach - they have the residential program, but most of their programs focus on helping large swaths in the slums in a real way.

I also really liked that they are secular. Church orgs do a lot of amazing work, but I like that we are coming together without that doctrine, a doctrine of humanity maybe.