Why should we share our volunteer experiences?

Last year I had spent around a month and half volunteering in Uttarakhand post the massive floods that hit the region. As a practice (and also to keep my family updated) I wrote regular posts on my activities; what I was learning and how I was engaging with communities there.

When I got back, I thought the experience ended at me. What I learned was for my own. In very subtle ways I had changed and I thought the change ended at me. But is it ever like that? Last month, Anil who works in Delhi, contacted me after reading one of my posts. He wanted to go to Uttarakhand but didn’t know where and how to start. At first we shared a few emails over the work I had done; how it was living there and soon it happened that he asked me to connect him with Archana at SNC. After about two weeks I got an email from him that he is leaving for Guptkashi! I was amazed at how just a few blog posts led to him being there. Soon I began my own travels and for a month I was away from the computer and internet, which is one of the reasons for the long hiatus in posts on VW. Yesterday it just so happened that I called up Archana and later when I checked my emails I found this beautiful email from Anil about his volunteer experience in Uttarakhand at SNC. His email not only brought back memories from Uttarakhand but also restored my faith that we need to share our experiences. When we share we create ripples that can touch people in ways we cannot predict. The objective with which we started Volunteer Weekly – to celebrate and encourage volunteerism!

Without much delay, I would simply share Anil’s email about his volunteering experience. Hope it inspires many more! 🙂

Dear Ashima,

Remember how I had planned my trip to Space for Nurturing Creativity in Khumera after our email exchanges? Not a day passed there when I did not talk to Archana di and Nanadini di about you and not a day has gone by since when I did not remember you for this lifetime experience. In fact the amazing part is I don’t have your contact number – realized only after interacting with them that you are in Africa! – and to your surprise – as I reached and tried repeatedly to introduce myself – I realized they had assumed me to be a good friend of yours – that’s why they were so assured! Finally within few hours I managed to introduce myself, however Archana di had no hesitation at all to offer shelter to me in Shyamawan – so grateful. I reached there on 8th at around 3pm having taken 5 am bus from Hardiwar. Nandini di introduced me to children as Anil Bhaiyya and first thing I had there on reaching was pyaz ki pakodi and milk with mint that you had mentioned.
My acceptance there was immediate and within minutes children took me outside to play cricket and other outdoor games. I was of course taken by surprise at their routine (lunch at 9.30 am ) and dinner at 8 pm besides the good practices they follow there – including brushing teeth after dinner. Even after returning, I’m trying to keep up with those practices. Personally I have gained a lot from the trip – my wife is happy that I now eat whatever she prepares at dinner and am no more fussy about food, that there is no food wastage now. I have my lunch at 8.15 am before I leave for office though I am not able to follow the 8 pm dinner routine as Delhi has long distances to travel. I am into exercising and yoga in morning. Had tried it several times earlier but gave up after 3-4 days but this time I am determined.
Archana di left me on my own – first day I read 2 English stories to children explaining them the meanings as we read. I actually surprised myself! It took me 5 hours to do this as children were so much interested and so was I to explain in detail the words and their meanings. I don’t want to name this as teaching as I was a friend with them and was learning myself from them – more than what they were learning from me. At end of the day, I asked them that next day each one of them should bring 10 Hindi words for which they want English translation – the idea struck cord and next day we had 55 unique words written on board and some of the words were quite striking. I managed translation for almost all those. Later we worked on words in English that can have more than one meaning like kite. It was a wonderful engagement with them – an eye opener for me as well. At night we used to watch Animal Planet and National geographic CDs and I used to translate them for children. First CD we watched was on Hiroshima bomb dropping in Japan and children absorbed a lot – it came out in Sameeksha (reflections) that they do at the end of each day and week.
Volunteer in Uttarakhand, Volunteer at SNC
Each day with children was unique – with no set curriculum – your advice – go there with free mind with no agenda helped. Together we defined each day’s agenda and took it forward – you will be surprised – after some reference of Rakesh Sharma and Kalpana Chawla and looking at their interest – I explained with diagram the process and steps involved in air journey – noted all questions related to aero planes – showed them the inside of an airplane in diagrams than in live recordings I had in my laptop – it took one entire day and they were so happy.
Had a game where children had to speak one word in English and next person to say new word from last alphabet of the previous word – we had various rounds – again we emphasized on learning the meanings and usage of words – including sentence formation – and I was surprised at myself on this.
One day the children took me to Mandakini river and we had a picnic there and we took children to a fare on Baisakhi in a village that was 15 kms up in the mountains! We went by road 16 km and came down trekking downhill – where I had some of my scariest moments.
Days went by so quickly. I had initially planned for 7 days but ended up staying for 11 days. I was missing home but at same time I did not want to leave SNC! Overall amazing experiences in journey as well as on way back – yes I was very scared on the hills drive back!
Want to share with you that it has been some 10 days I am back but not a day passes when I don’t see photographs and do not remember the time I had there – in between also translated the report of SNC in English and came to know a lot more things.
Archana di, Nandini di carry an aura with them and so does each child with so much of knowledge – I am amazed at their intellect and how self-reliant each one of them is.
Regards and thank you again for giving me the opportunity to be there with amazing people.
-Anil Endlaw

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