Tuesday, August 7, 2012

So Much Work, So Little Time

As I sit here in my hotel room in Delhi on my very last night in India, I can't help but feel...............super excited about going home. Don't get me wrong, I'm extremely grateful for the experiences I've had in India and for the opportunity to come here, but being here has made me even more grateful for the privileges we have (and take for granted) in the good ol' US of A. But that's a post for another time. For now, let's have a recap (or rather, a first post) about the projects we worked on during our time in this country.

GLOW Girls: One of the first projects I worked on when I got here was the GLOW Girls group (Girls Leading Our World). Alee was the project lead on this and she did a great job. This group was set up to help girls in the slums ages 10-17 start to realize their potential. The sessions covered topics from having dreams and setting goals to understanding the female body. Unfortunately it was cut a little short due to us being able to work out a good time to have these sessions in the slums. But it was still awesome while it lasted!

Alcohol/Tobacco Classes: Alcohol and tobacco use/abuse is a huge problem all over India, but especially in the slums where people are barely scraping by on their income as it is. Men and women (but especially men, it seems) spend a good portion of their daily earnings on these substances without realizing the negative impact it has on them and their families in areas ranging from health to finances. Katrina lead these classes where we taught them about why these things are harmful and ways to overcome these addictions.

MVF Sports Day: One day for a Friday service project, I headed up a sports day where we brought a bunch of equipment with us and taught a boys bridge camp how to play various sports. Bridge camps are set up to get children out of child labor, catch them up in what they should have been learning had they gone to school, then send them out into public school system once they're up to speed. It's a really cool program. For this project the boys LOVED learning and improving their sports skills.

LEPRA Case Studies: One organization we worked with a little was LEPRA - a non-profit started in the UK originally to tackle leprosy, then expanding to work on other communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, lymphatic filiarisis, etc. One thing they needed was a native English speaker to revise and edit case studies people from their office had written about various patients. This turned out to be one of my less favorite projects because it was more a time filler than anything. But it gave me good experience in working with non-profits.

Girls Count: One of the projects I lead was female maturation classes we taught to girls ages 11-17 years attending schools in the slums. A major problem in poorer regions (such as the slums - go figure) is that the topic of maturation and menstruation is very taboo so there are lots of misconceptions and stigma surrounding this topic. This leads to societal problems, infections, etc in adolescent girls. At first I was a little nervous about how these classes would go over because the schools skip over these chapters in their curriculum so the girls have next to no knowledge about the physiology of their bodies. I was greatly relieved/surprised/thankful that these classes went so well! In each class that we taught, the girls were extremely open to this topic by the end of the lesson - asking questions and coming up to talk to us. And the schools kept expressing their gratitude to us for coming and teaching the girls about maturation. It turned out to be one of my favorite projects I worked on!

LEPRA Instructional Video: Skylar has some awesome raw talent for cinematography so he was signed up to make an instructional video on diagnosing, treating, and caring for patients with leprosy. This started out really strong, but as more and more projects started piling up, he wasn't able to spend as much time on it so he's still trying to get the finishing touches completed even though he'll have to finish it in the US. I got to go with him while he was filming and it was really fascinating to see first hand the things I've learned in classes about this disease.

School Murals: School attendance is always a struggle in this country. One of the large reasons for this is that kids have no desire or motivation to go due to lack of stimulation there aside from the teacher lecturing. The extremely talented Kendra headed up this project. We painted the inside of several schools in the slums to include murals, letters, numbers, fruits, etc. It turned out great and kids even showed up for school on the days where there were no classes because they were so excited to be there!

Soilets: The main organization we worked with this summer was SAPID (anytime we worked in the slums, it was through SAPID). They are such an inspiring grass-roots NGO and I look forward to working with them more in the future. They had an idea for a big project that would require obtaining a fairly hefty grant through some charity or other non-profit. Brook wrote a grant proposal to LDS charities and was awarded a grant to build 25 soilets (a very environmentally friendly, India-friendly, sustainable, multi-purpose type of toilet) in the slums. Skylar headed up this project and it took nearly all of his time (including free time). Eryn, Alee, and I were each site managers over one of the three slums we put these soilets in. There wasn't enough time to get them all finished before Skylar and I had to leave, but we left the project in good hands to finish before the summer's end.

All in all, it turned out to be a very busy summer we've had here in India. The first couple of weeks were pretty slow going as we tried to find our niche and figure out which organizations we wanted to work with and what we wanted to do. That was really frustrating because we just wanted to jump right in and get our hands dirty. But it taught us a lot about how to work in these situations and the best ways to work with various NGOs to get the most accomplished. We're very tired, but feel very satisfied with what we were able to do these past couple of months.

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