Teaching at Orya Basti, a slum school close to the UC factory

I got to Sambhavna thinking I had some sort of vague idea of what I was going to do. Lorraine, a past volunteer, who left a few weeks before I arrived, had told me that she started a project involving children and drama in order to raise their awareness on basic hygiene and simple cures to common illnesses. I was very excited to continue that project as I had spent a whole year doing interactive theater on campus at UNC, Chapel Hill, and I had lots of ideas about activities that I could do with the children. It was going to be such fun! So after a few days at the clinic, I met with Sathyu and told him that I was interested in continuing with Lorraine’s work. Sathyu burst my bubble, however, by telling me that it required knowledge of Hindi and that I wouldn’t be of much use unless I was able to communicate properly with the children as their English was very poor. Not so great. But Sathyu told me that if I was interested in working with children, I could teach English at Orya Basti school and given that I’d be spending such a long time in Bhopal, I could start a heath project with them instead. He said that they had a huge garden surrounding the school and if I could help turn it into a herbal garden like the one we have here at Sambhavna “that would be good” (one of Sathyu’s favorite sentences).

I was thrilled, more so by the garden project than by the teaching part, especially when I realized that teaching English still meant that I needed some Hindi to make sure that the kids understand the meaning of words. So the first few weeks were a time of adaptation for me, my fellow teachers and the kids. But after two weeks, I quickly realized that I had become really attached to the school and that I would look forward to getting to the school, especially every Saturday where I would teach the kids “American” dance and they would teach me Bollywood dance! The herbal garden project was no longer my primary goal with kids. I realized that I was living a very unique experience at the school and that I should follow the rhythm of the kids and the teachers rather than my own. So yes, the herbal garden project has taken time to start, especially because two staff members– community health workers– are the ones responsible for the project and I’ve been following their schedule. They said that we’d be planting seeds in July and that, for the time being, the priority was to get the garden cleaned and ready. However, weeding the garden is easier said than done! Just imagine, eight- year old kids digging, huffing and puffing to clean a tiny piece of garden! And I’m not doing much better, because the weeds are so deeply rooted in the ground. Anyway, we’re doing our best.

I’ve been having a very very enriching experience teaching at Orya Basti. From waking in the morning, having a quick breakfast, biking to the school amidst the puddles, the traffic and the noise, arriving at the school welcomed by a warm choir of “GOOD MORNING, DIDI”, to small talking with the teachers, to teaching my English class, to having lunch with the kids, to playing games with them, to letting them ride my bike, to saying bye to them: my Orya Basti experience has become a ritual and my most favorite part of the day.

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