Tuesday, July 22, 2014

My First Volunteering Experience

Youth for Seva (YFS) put me in touch with the Dream School Foundation (DSF) and I would like to start off by giving my sincerest thanks to them for this. My two month of volunteering or internship with DSF has been bittersweet to be honest. It started off with me helping out with their Summer Camp at the RT Nagar Government Schools. The co-volunteers were entertaining, you could say, but it was still a daily struggle for me. The general public using the school grounds was anything but cooperative. Stones being thrown on the tin roof was a daily occurrence and of course the scorching heat and lack of ventilation did not make it any easier. Despite all of this, I was amazed to see at least 80-90 children come in every day, all cheerful and excited. I would of course be lying if I said they were all very eager and interested in the activities of the summer camp but barring a few bad apples, there was great participation from the rest of them. Teaching for the first time had its own challenges. I was anxious about teaching a whole class full of people. But the kids really made the process easy for me with their genuine interest and class participation. I taught them a few topics and learnt a few lessons myself. It was wonderful to see how quickly they absorbed new information. Admittedly, they were a little behind for the kids their age (the schools are at fault for that) but I am certain these bridging courses provided by DSF at the summer camps will go a long way in reducing this gap in learning. We also conducted games everyday for the participants which were not only fun, but also promoted team spirit and led to greater bonding between students and between students and volunteers. All in all, it was a pretty great way to kick off my two-month stint at DSF.

These schools are apparently built on disputed land and so, they do not get funding for renovation  and repairs from the Government of Karnataka. This was shocking to me as it shows grave nonchalance on the government’s part towards something as important as a child’s education. However, DSF was able to secure funding and renovate these schools and give them a fresh coat of paint once the summer camps ended. They also took the initiative to make artworks in the schools related to their syllabus and also gave the schools a vibrant appeal, making it more conducive for learning. I would like to thank YFS once again for its huge volunteer bank and the platforms through which I could reach out to the volunteers and get about 10 of them to help with the artworks. I am not a very artsy person so it was quite a challenge for me. But I learnt as I went along and one of the YFS volunteers was a great help in making me more comfortable painting on walls. The final result of this project was breathtaking. The school had a very bright and colourful appeal to it once we had completed and I do take some pride in that.

After all of this was completed, I headed to the New BEL Centre of DSF to help them with a play their students were going to perform at the DSF Annual Day. I had dabbled a little into theatre here and there so it wasn't too much of a challenge. Also, they had another intern working with the actors for quite some time, so the actors were in a good position when I stepped in. Despite a few last minute problems with the costumes and the set, to hear people enjoying the play you have worked on for a month is enough to make all that trouble worth it. 

The staff at DSF is amazing to work with and it will be difficult to part ways with them as they have guided and helped me so ably through the course of these two months. It hasn't all been easy but I would like to believe I have faced the challenges that came head on and come out a stronger and more adaptable self. And as to if I think this journey has changed me? Walking back home on my last day from Impressions 2014 (DSF Annual Day), I saw a little girl riding with her father on a bicycle. I know there is nothing rare or special about this and I might have seen such a thing many times before. But this one time, there was a slight difference; I smiled at the little girl.

-- Harsh Saraswat

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