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Our weekend at City of Child

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No sooner had  my computer class finished, was I planning the next thing to do! And what better choice than to spend a day with over 200 kids at a sports day then a weekend living with around 50!

City of Child

City of Child

When Dunc was with Deep Griha in 2005, he spent 1 month volunteering at City of Child. It is a orphanage of sorts for children from the slum communities of Tadiwala Road, Ramtekadi and Bibvewadi. Social workers from Deep Griha perform frequent home visits to families that they have identified need more support or where the children are in a high-risk environment. Usually, the process would be that the children are nominated for sponsorship, and if accepted and they need to move out of the family home, they leave Pune and are given residence at City of Child. Children can stay here from around 5 to 19 years of age, with the aim to give them a safe and friendly home environment, and send them to a local school for a solid education. After completing school, the children with the desire to do so are also assisted through college.

On Saturday 27th November, we heard that 20 of the kids from CoC were participating in a sports day in Pune so we went along to check it out. From 9am until 5pm, around 200 children from 9 NGOs throughout Pune took part in various heats and finals to win gold, silver and bronze medals. Concern India Foundation organised the event and their kind sponsors provided all children with t-shirts, caps, socks and trainers to give all atheletes a fair chance at the competition, as well as protection from the blazing sunshine. The training of the City of Child team paid off with them scooping medals in the 50m sprint, the 100m sprint, the shot put, the sack race and the 3-legged race! Although they didn’t win the coveted trophy for the Highest Medal-Winners, the City of Child Team Co-ordinator Santosh, believes that this experience will give the children the drive to compete more fiercely in the 2011 event.

To read a wee bit more about the sports day, take a look at the article I posted on the Deep Griha website and the photos on their Flickr site.

After their big day out, Dunc and I caught the bus back to Kasurdi village to stay with the children for the remainder of the weekend. It is an extremely rural area, but this was exactly what we need after our busy few weeks previously. We ate A LOT, watched some Bollywood films with the kids and just played around in general. It was really great to see all of the children getting along so well with one another. It is rare to see such a large group of children of a mixture of ages respecting each other so much. Older boys looked out for the younger girls at the sports day, young boys shared ice-cream with each other instead of wasting it, and best of all, they all played really well together. This may not sound much, but after 3-months working in a youth centre, it really was refreshing for us to see all of this and to see and hear so many success stories of the sponsored children.

City of Child, 2010

City of Child, 2010

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My computer class students pass with flying colours!

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First off, I’m really sorry for not giving you more updates over the last few weeks – my workload with Deep Griha had been pretty hectic! To try to redeem myself, I’ll give you a couple of articles now 🙂

So the last update about my Basic Computer Skills course was that we had just completed lesson 1 of 4.  The remaining 3 lessons were pretty intense as we kept up the 5 groups of kids per week; to make things a little easier, the numbers had dropped to a more manageable 8ish students per group.

My 4-week lesson plan went through a few revisions before it was suitable to take to the classroom – the joys of teaching 10 – 18 year olds who only associate computers with playing games! Some things that I thought would take 15 minutes to discuss only took 5, and of course some other things were quite the opposite.

Dunc shows inside the computer

Dunc shows inside the computer

The main lesson topics were: computer hardware, computer software, MS-Word and the Internet – of which the last 2 were most popular. I got a lot of help from Dunc and Praveen (a 19-year old staff member at DIYA) to make sure I had a good mix of theory and practical knowledge so I didn’t overload the kids with too much information, but also to make sure they got a decent chance to try out what they just learnt.

On Friday 26th November after teaching the last lesson to the final group of students, we had a small certificate ceremony for the ‘graduates’ to reward their commitment and enthusiasm throughout the course. Only about 15 kids completed the course, compared to the original 85 who signed up, but I don’t see that as a negative of the course. We always knew that the number of computers in the DIYA centre would dictate the number of students we cater for, so we actually ended up with the ideal number.

Kiran and Ajay complete their MS-Word exercises

Kiran and Ajay complete their MS-Word exercises

I’ve uploaded the photographs of the certificate ceremony to Deep Griha’s Flickr account – if you’ve not seen them yet, you can check them out here. I awarded the students based on how many lessons they attended and their general performance, but because I’m a big softie nobody got less than a B! Some of the boys were really exceptional and got an A+. One student, Abishek, told me (via Praveen!) that he had a computer and the Internet at home but didn’t use it for much other than games. During the Internet class, I set him a challenge to find out the population of India and compare it to Scotland. When he got home he put his newly learnt skills to use by researching all about Scotland and proudly told me all about the scenery in class the next day! 🙂

The children in my class really are a great bunch. Dunc and I also saw many of them during the twice-weekly drama classes at DIYA and got to know them really well. I must admit, the high-point for me was seeing Ajay transform from a typical 11-year old boy from the slum –  craving attention but only knowing how to get it by being really loud and acting up – into a star pupil. By the time our classes finished up, he was the one child who really showed true commitment to the course by arriving early for his 9am Friday class and even popping in during the week to practice or help translate the lesson from English to Marathi. (In the group photos, he’s the small boy in the orange jumper, next to Yamuna in the green sari).

Graduation Day!

Graduation Day!

I’ve now handed over the Basic Computer Skills course to Ashlesha Onawale who has promised that some volunteers from Deep Griha’s corporate partners will continue the same lesson format for Batch 2 of students (and so on…). She has also said that the pack I put together with the lesson plans and teachers notes will be a great help when it comes to teaching Deep Griha staff the basics about computers. I couldn’t be happier to know that not only the future students at DIYA will benefit from the course Dunc and I designed, but also the staff who looked after us so well while we volunteered with them.

Diwali in Hampi

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View to "the other side of the river" in Hampi

View to "the other side of the river" in Hampi

On Saturday 30th October, 9 Deep Griha volunteers took a bus-ride to Hampi, Kernataka, to enjoy the Diwali Festival. Dunc and I had always planned to visit Hampi after leaving Pune, but by going now rather than later on, we are able to buy a few extra days in Goa before flying home to Scotland 🙂

Hampi is absolutely stunning: the ruins of the town are a UNESCO World Heritage and the scenery is described as “the aftermath of giants having a rock-fight”. While we were there, the weather started off grey and wet but thankfully it brightened up enough for us to enjoy a swim in the lake and get a bit of a sun-tan!

We stayed in bamboo bungalows at Sunny Guest House on “the other side of the river” in Hampi, which had a lovely relaxed atmosphere, friendly staff and excellent homemade food. The comfortable lounge area had backgammon boards on every table so we even learnt how to play in between our food and drinks 🙂

Diwali in Hampi was quieter than we expected, but the staff at Sunny went all out with the decorations and celebrations for us. Our lounge/ dining area was packed full of candles and we even got treated to a mini-firework display and Harry Potter sparklers! I’ll not tell you how they lit the fireworks, but lets just say it wasn’t at arms length!

Diwali decorations in Sunny Guest House

Diwali decorations in Sunny Guest House

During our stay in Hampi, myself, Gaia and Katie signed up for a 5-day yoga course on a roof-top over-looking the river. As you can imagine, the view was amazing! The class started at 8am so we were up at 7am each morning to catch the boat across the river. Anyone who knows my sleeping habits will know that the first morning was a struggle, but after that, we all looked forward to a nice relaxed start to the day, followed by a big bowl of banana porridge or fruit muesli at a nearby restaurant.

On the second-last day of our trip, Dunc and I hired bicycles to do a bit of sight-seeing round the most famous monuments in Hampi. We saw lots of rocks and temples (obviously!), but also enjoyed seeing the old elephant stable and a pack of water buffalo taking a dip in a really big puddle!

By the end of our trip, we all felt completely relaxed, regenerised and refreshed – ready to start work back with Deep Griha – which is just as well as there are lots of big plans for this week! Eva is giving her drama class a bit of a restructure, my computer class is in full swing, Gaia is working with our photographer Avinash to make our 2011 calendar, and everyone else are enthusiastically preparing for World Aids Day as part of our Wake Up Pune! campaign. It’s just sunk in that Dunc and I have only got around 3 weeks left with Deep Griha now  so we will also be working hard to finish our projects and hand them over to the volunteers that will be here for the coming months.