Myself and my boyfriend joined the volunteer India program in June – one of the hottest months of the year in India – for a total of three weeks. After arriving in Jaipur, where we travelled to by train from Delhi, we went straight to the guesthouse that had been booked for us and had some much needed rest after the long journey. In the evening Vinod came to meet us and we had our first Hindi lesson. After getting to grips with some basic Hindi we went out for dinner and learnt a bit more about what we would be doing over the next few weeks. Vinod was very helpful and explained what was required from us in the coming weeks. We spent the next two days exploring Jaipur with our own rickshaw driver Abdul who was helpful and informative. We spent time in the bustling bazaars shopping for gifts as well as visiting the famous sights such as the Amber Fort and the City Palace.
On the fourth day of our project we drove with Vinod to the small city of Sikar two hours away from Jaipur and arrived at the beautiful Bajaj Bhawan Haveli which was to be our home for the project duration. We were welcomed by all the lovely and friendly staff and made to feel at home straight away.
Our placement was to teach the children of the Kachi Basti slum school. It was a brilliant experience but far more of a challenge than we bargained for! We had over 45 children in our class room each day ranging from 2 to 16 years but all so keen and excited to be there. We would teach for about 2 hours each day in the morning then spend the rest of the day preparing for future lessons and making up activities. After the 1st few lessons we got in to the swing of things and got to know the children and their ranging abilities better. We devised a basic structure for each lesson starting with everyone participating with teacher led vocabulary sessions. We would then go over the words learnt the previous day and introduce the new days topic. Splitting up the group allowed us to focus on the older children with the more advanced topics, and provide colouring and play time for the younger children. We purchased folders for the pupils to keep a record of their work and give us a chance to see their development.
It was a big challenge at times trying to keep everyone entertained for the duration of the lesson but when you can see them progressing and learning new words as the lessons went on it all felt worth it! At the end of the lesson we would always finish with a game or a song, ‘head shoulders knees and toes’ and ‘okeekokee’ were particular favourites!
It was a very exciting time to be volunteering with the Bajaj Trust as they were in the process of setting up a variety of new projects and developing the site to accommodate lots of new volunteers. The staff and their families are all so friendly and welcoming we felt so at home and really part of the team when we were there, and since leaving we are still in regular contact. One project that we got involved with outside of teaching was the yoga camp. They hired a yoga teacher to visit a near by village and teach yoga to all the residents each morning at sunrise. It was an amazing experience to see how the money is used locally for the people and an opportunity for me to get involved in a traditional Indian activity.
Life at the Bajaj Haveli was fairly relaxed we spent our spare time chatting to staff members planning lessons and visiting sights in Sikar. We had three delicious healthy vegetarian meals cooked for to us each day as well as copious amounts of chai tea whenever we desired!
On the weekend we visited Pushkar a touristy town with amazing temples and markets it was easy to reach by bus. We also fitted in a visit to the home of one of the staff members and met his family and shared a meal with them.
Overall our time with volunteering in India was something we will never forget we saw a totally different side and experienced things that you would never have the chance to if you were just visiting India on holiday. Although it was really challenging at times there was no better sight than the children’s eager smiling faces desperate to start lessons when we arrived in the slum area each day. We met so many people that are so passionate and dedicated to their work it was a very inspiring three weeks.