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Ceremonies and Parties at Deep Griha

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Women's Empowerment Ceremony at Tadiwala Road

Women's Empowerment Ceremony at Tadiwala Road

Never a day goes past at Deep Griha without something happening, as you’ll know if you’re keeping up to date with us on Facebook ūüėČ

DIYA Рthe youth centre at Ramtekdi) was the location for the October Birthday Party for the children on the sponsorship programme, Aadhar Kendra (which Dunc wrote an article about for our website).  Many of us Deep Griha volunteers worked with volunteers from Family International (the local charity who donated a truck-load of food to DGS) to put on an outstanding party with clowns, balloon animals, face painting and a magician!

Last week, the Varsha Memorial Hall in the Family Welfare Centre at Tadiwala Road – and DIYA at Ramtekdi –¬†were host to ceremonies for the ladies on the Women’s Empowerment programme and the Literacy & Post-Literacy classes.

And the students from the Yuvi Sphurtu Kendra IT School were due to receive their Certificates of Achievement this week, but unfortunately the ceremony is now postponed until next week. I’ll be sure to get lots of photographs of the event and have also asked some of the students to write a case study for our website ūüôā Although I’ve not been as involved with these students as I would have liked since we arrived about two-thirds of the way through their block of lessons, there are still a few in the class who I’ve got to know and their stories are really quite interesting.

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My New Computer Class!

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IT School Batch 16 Graduation

IT School Batch 16 Graduation

So as I’ve mentioned before, the promise of teaching in the IT School at Tadiwala Road didn’t quite go to plan. A combination of the English – Marathi language barrier, inconsistent classes and the 3-month batch nearing completion when we arrived, meant that I wasn’t able to do much more than act as a classroom assistant… and a miming one at that! Batch 16 of the IT School graduated on 15th November, and I managed to get a couple of photos with them first. There is also an article on the Deep Griha website if you want to read a wee bit more about their day.

Instead of giving up on using my IT skills after this revelation, for our first¬†few weeks with Deep Griha Society I concentrated on internal IT work at Tadiwala Road.¬† Although these were all worthwhile tasks and interesting (for a geek anyway ūüėČ ), it didn’t take long for me¬†to realise that I should be concentrating my efforts on what I came here to do: empower the youths of the slum communities by teaching them about computers.

After a long conversation with Duncan and Anurag (who volunteers at our DIYA Centre in the Ramtekdi community), we spotted an opportunity for me to setup a computer class and teach a younger audience at DIYA. The proposal that I outlined to Rajendra Aher (the supervisor at DIYA), explained that I wanted my classes aimed at 10 – 18 year olds who had little to no computer experience but were keen to learn.

I planned an ‘Orientation Meeting’ at DIYA on Monday 11th October so any kids who were interested could come along to register then learn about the 4-week course. Because there are currently only 4 working PCs in the DIYA Computer Classroom and classes in the past hadn’t generated much interest,¬†I only¬†expected about 25 kids to come to the meeting to sign-up. You can imagine my complete shock and horror when I was called in an hour early for the meeting as there were over 100 children in the room!! With the help of Rajendra, Eva (one of our volunteers) and Praveen (a full-time worker at DIYA), we managed to get the numbers down to a more realistic¬†number of¬†children. After the mad dash of kids then sigining up for their preferred session, we came to realise that instead of 2 groups of children having 2 lessons per week for the length of the¬†4-week course, we had to be more realistic and have¬†5 groups of children, each with only 1 lesson per week. Already I felt tired at the thought of it!

On Wednesday and Friday of the same week, we had a test-run of my lesson to guage the number of kids who were actually serious about coming to class. Between the 5 sessions (Wednesday 4pm – 6pm¬†& 6pm – 8pm, and Friday 9am – 11am, 4pm – 6pm & 6pm – 8pm), there were still about 60 kids who came to class! As Nick would say, too many kids was “a happy problem”, since although it’d be a challenge to accommodate them all, it was great to see that so many children wanted the opportunity to learn new skills. Pune is well-known for its recent technology boom, and it has clearly caught on even in the poor communities!

I’ve just finished my first week of the official first lesson for the 5 groups of kids… and it was a big success! With an average of 12 kids per class, Duncan was¬†a star in helping to keep the kids engaged (and under control!), and Praveen translated the lesson, where required, from English into Marathi, as well as adding his own computer knowledge to enhance the lesson. We’re off on 10-day holiday now¬†for yet another Hindu festival – Diwali – so I’ll be sure to use the time wisely to relax for my next 3 lessons! Wish¬† me luck!

A twist in the tale at Deep Griha!

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So as most of you know, my main focus at Deep Griha is working in the IT School as part of the Youth Empowerment Programme and Dunc was hoping to work alongside the DISHA team to spread awareness about HIV prevention and treatment. But the life of a volunteer is never as clear-cut as that!

It was obvious from Day 1 that all the programmes here require assistance in some form or another, so we’re all pitching in to help wherever we can and whenever we can! Dunc has assumed the role of Volunteer Coordinator to help out the guys who were trying to take on this massive responsibility, along with their massive workload. As for me, word has got out that I’m a computer geek so I’ve been involved in producing new brochures, PowerPoint presentations, updating the website and creating a Facebook Fan Page for Deep Griha Society (which you should all become a fan of)!

And as if that wasn’t enough, Dunc is working with Child Sponsorship Programme and other volunteers to organise their frequent birthday parties, and I’m now also teaching English to the IT School students! Don’t be fooled into thinking it’s just us that have obtained these super-human powers, there are now 13 international volunteers who are all as manically busy as us! It’s hard work but extremely rewarding and a harsh reminder of just how much we are all relied on.

The End of Ganesh Fest :(

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Boats lined up at the riverside

Final day of Ganesh Festival

On Wednesday 22nd September, the Ganesh Chaturthi Festival came to an end.¬† The days leading up to this final day were amazing: the shrines where Ganesh was worshiped became even more extravagant with lights and decorations dripping from every free square inch of space and people coming to deliver their offerings and prayers in their masses. It wasn’t uncommon to see street-theatre productions depicting the story of Ganesh, and dancers and musicians playing the tabla (drums, to you and me!) through the streets while throwing red powder paint at one another!

Perhaps even more amazing, was the final day of the festival.  Our friend Anurag kindly invited all 10 of us volunteers along to his home in Aundh to join in the celebrations with his family. His mother treated us to an outstanding traditional Maharashtran meal, complete with all the spices that  most restaurant chefs leave out!

Once we’d all eaten, we were invited to join in the prayers to Ganesh and then accompany Anurag and his family down to the river to immerse their household idol.¬† The atmosphere was truly amazing! Families were making their way to the river in droves, all with their idol on proud display with offerings to share amongst their friends – and us tourists! I’ve uploaded some photographs of the scene down by the river, but I would be very surprised if our real-life experience comes across as magical as we witnessed on the day. There was actually quite a somber mood as families said farewell to their idol and prayed for him, before rowing out to the centre of the river to be immersed.

The walk back to Anurag’s house was full of celebration: we passed truck-loads of families making their way down to the river to pay the same respects as we had done, and those who had already made the trip were celebrating with yet more music and dancing… and lots of red powder paint!

The whole festival was extremely entertaining, but the celebration on this final day really was the icing on the cake!

My Birthday Weekend

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This year I spent my birthday in India, and it was quite different from a quiet weekend in Edinburgh and then living in the lap of luxury at Stobo Castle as I did last year!

It turns out Dad isn’t the only person to share a birthday with a¬†famous¬†leader¬†(Buddha, for those who don’t know!) –¬†2nd October¬†is¬†also the birthday of¬† Mahatma Gandhi, possibly the most famous Indian¬†political¬†leader. As part of the tradtional celebrations for his birthday, many states of India declare a ‘dry day’ where no alcohol is sold… My birthday was therefore celebrated properly on Friday 1st October instead ūüôā

After work on Friday, a¬†whole crowd of us went to The Hotel Grand near MG Road for a few Kingfishers in their massive beer garden, then onto Smokies Bar in Corinthian’s Club. From the outside, it was like you were looking at a hill-top club in LA complete with water features on the patio,¬†but then the inside was more¬†like a O’Neils with YMCA and Ace of Base blaring! One thing we’ve come to learn about India (amongst many…) is that a pub with a dancefloor is possibly the closest you’ll get to a club – not that I’m complaining, we all had a great night!

On Saturday morning my birthday celebrations continued – as always, a¬†1-day birthday isn’t good enough for me! Chris and Christa Somers, our friendly volunteers from the US, took us to nearby Peter’s Pan in Wanowrie for breakfast. Before long, our table was rammed with chocolate pancakes, blueberry pancakes, toffee & banana waffles, omlettes and fried eggs on toast, complete with a look of shock from the man who took our order! We finished the lot with some groans and sighs, then took a much-needed walk back to the Deep Griha Cultaral Centre.

Without even any time for a nap, Jennie (from Sweden) joined Dunc and I on a trip to Pune’s Rajiv Ghandi Zoo and Snake Park. I was delighted with the size and cleanliness of¬†the animal enclosures, and even more so when we visited the tigers, including a¬†rare White Tiger ūüôā Despite the lovely surrounding and the wide variety of animals to enjoy, sadly many of the zoo’s visitors found us to be the star attraction.¬† It became very tedious telling people to stop taking our photograph, but very funny watching the look of shock on their faces when we flipped the tables on them and asked to take their picture instead!

Anyway, after our trip to the zoo, there was only enough time for a quick shower and change of close before we went for dinner at Shisha’s Cafe in ABC Farms, Koreagon Park. As well as the 12 or so Deep Griha volunteers that we live with at the CC, we were also joined by other friends we’ve met along the way.¬† I’d been well-warned of the Indian tradition where the birthday person gets their cake rubbed in their face, and Jennie was quick to demonstrate this once we’d finished our meal! I must admit, it’s a tradition I’ll be bringing home with me so watch out sis – you’re birthday is next! ūüėÄ

By the time Sunday rolled around, I thought it only fair that my friend Anurag take the limelight – it was his birthday today after all! Anurag’s family kindly invited all of us to their home in Aundh to celebrate with him, where we enjoyed the spiciest biryani I’ve ever tasted, and yet more cake in the face! I hope Anurag enjoyed his day as much as we did; it was great being with him, his friends and family to celebrate his 23rd birthday.