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Volunteering in Kanjanur

Hello all, I thought it was about time I shared my experiences of the first project I have volunteered with teaching children in a school.

Fresh off the flight I made my way straight to the village of Kanjunar in Tamil Nadu (South East India). This Nursery and Primary School was founded in 2004 to provide basic and global standard education to children living in underprivileged rural communities aged between 3-8 years, who cannot afford a good education. There are approximately 70 children from the neighbouring villages and 5 staff. The school is run by a local family, Bala and his wife and mother (I was there for 3 weeks but embarrassingly can’t remember the names of Bala’s wife or Mum).

New school building built two years ago

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As I mentioned in a previous blog Kanjanur is a rural village where the locals speak limited English and live in basic conditions where access to electricity and running water is limited. Like the village school life was a massive culture shock.

The three main differences are:

1). There very little play time even for the 3 year olds.

2). There is extremely high expectations of the children

3). Physical chastisement is normalised in the classroom.

Being at this school made me realise how easy I had it at school.

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Before arriving to India I tried to prepare myself for seeing a different style of teaching anticipating that the teachers would hit the children but 3 years being hit or whacked on the head for not sitting quietly (after a 1 hour lesson!!) is distressing to watch. The social worker inside was having a heart attack. Not surprisingly all the children even the little ones behaved perfectly for most of the time. For me however they were not so well behaved. On one day myself and fellow volunteer Jayne took the nursery class thirty 3 year olds. They were all amazing at first and very engaged with our activities, however like most 3 year olds after 25 minutes they progessively started to lose their concentration and misbehave. Jayne and I tried all the strategies we knew to keep them engaged but our efforts were not successful. Instead we admitted defeat and watched 30 children go crazy. We both found this highly entertaining and enjoyed watching them have so much fun, even if it was at our expense.

 

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As you might have gathered I Initially felt very negative about the school however time at the school, getting to know the teachers, children and families has shifted my view. Time at the school hasn’t chased me into a child beater and I still don’t agree with hitting children but I think I need to accept the cultural differences in India and most importantly turn my attention to the bigger picture. Forgetting about how children are taught in this remote and rural village it is extremely positive that education is valued for both girls and females. Speaking to parents and grandparents a lot of them mostly females did not have the opportunity to go to school. And of course very day I saw the happiest faces walking into school. Nearly every child I asked said yes to liking school, don’t think I would get the same response in England.

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My home in Kanjanur

Myself and the other volunteers stayed in the old school building, pretty basic is an understatement but after a few days it felt like home. I genuinely missed it when i went away for the weekend.

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The only thing I didn’t enjoy about the shower was all the bugs that were joining me. At one time I counted 5 lizards, over 15 spiders and a ridiculous amount of ants crawling on my feet until I poured water on them. Most people who know me are aware that my showering routine is less regular than most people. However it is so hot and sticky here a cold shower felt like Christmas. I became a pro with using a bucket to throw over my head and on one weekend away in Pondicherry I chose the bucket over the shower head. I wonder if the ice bucket challenge was a help?

 

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Some of the other volunteers initial worries on arrival were about how they were going to go to the toilet and shower. Mine was how I was going to get some food as I was starving. There was no need for me to worry as there was plenty of food to eat in the village, I had no idea what it was half the time and had to ignore the ants crawling but it was damn tasty and cheap as chips.

There was always a choice of where to eat but we always made our way to the same place owned by a local family. We really got to know this family and so far the Dad of the family in the picture below is my favorite person that I have met so far. He would do anything for you and expected nothing. Before I arrived in India lots of people told me that I should be very wary about trusting people and that nothing is done for free but so far it seems the people of Kanjanur and neighbouring villages are an exception to this.

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I loved my time at the school, the kids we’re great and not wanting to sound too gushy BUT I feel privileged that I had the opportunity to get to know the people of Kanjanur. The kindness and warmth by everyone is inspiring. All that said I felt it was time to leave and see what the rest of India had in stall for me. I also hope that I can become involved with a project where my support can be more sustainable. I have many more in the pipeline so I will keep you posted.

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Welcome to my Blog

Thank-you for visiting my blog…….

On Wednesday 3rd September 2014 I arrive in India to start a years adventure volunteering and travelling around India, Nepal and South East Asia. I am not the first person to do this however……..the twist for me is that I bring some added challenges to my journey.

I have a diagnosis of Narcolepsy and Cataplexy (you will find further information on this blog).

 I have no idea what will happen during these 12 months, or how I will cope, and perhaps a year abroad (with limited access to good chemists who stock the necessary medication) is over zealous. However I am determined to give it a go and see where this adventure takes me. If there is one thing I know for certain there will be some truly entertaining stories which I hope will inspire others to tackle lifes obstacles whatever they may be. 

I would love to share these with you all. Please explore my blog and follow my trials and tribulations around Asia.

Enjoy!

wake up to narcolepsy