India, Bryan

Bryan volunteered in India Helping Care for Children with Disabilities

Words cannot describe the magical experience of going on a placement to one of the holiest and oldest cities in the world. Thanks to Lattitude Global Volunteering, I and my fiancée, Jane, were given the opportunity to go on a placement to India and work with mentally and physically disabled children. We both stayed in the city of Varanasi where we worked at the Integrated Institute for the Disabled (IID). Thanks to the bursary scheme provided by Lattitude Global Volunteering Jane and I were able to fulfil our dream of volunteering abroad.From the moment we all landed in India it was hard not to be awe struck.

We were all over whelmed with our new culture and new environment. After a few days settling in Calcutta all the volunteers departed to go to their designated placements. Upon arrival we were met by our local representative Prabhudatt Tripathi. We stayed with Prabhudatt and his lovely family, who all went out of their way to make us feel at home. We cannot thank the family enough for their hospitality and for looking after Jane and I while in India. After a couple of days getting to know the family we then started our volunteer work at the IID.
The IID catered for a wide variety of disabilities, such as, hearing impairment, autism and Downs Syndrome. The institute had different coloured classes, Yellow, Green and Red. There were also different classes for those with a hearing impairment. Jane and I focussed our attention on the Red class, which consisted of the most severely disabled children. During our first couple of weeks we got to know all the staff and the children. We assessed the children in order to determine how best to support them and help their development. Our role within the class was to play with the children and teach them basic skills. We would normally take a different child out to the market every day and buy them a little treat, which they absolutely loved. We also arranged day trips out and in one occasion we took several children to Shiva temple. As we got to know Doctor Joseph we were allowed to take children out to eat at restaurants and walk along the Ganges.

Jane and I also got involved in making a concept book with Klal,who was a teacher at the IID and a close friend. The book was designed to help the children with basic life skills such as brushing your teeth, combing your hair and dressing yourself. Unfortunately the book has not been printed as of yet due to a lack of funding.Although Jane and I have returned home we would like to donate the money in order to complete the book in the near future.While on our placement in India Jane and I developed many personal and life skills. Having previous experience within the deaf community I was able to communicate with children with a hearing impairment at the IID. They taught me the sign language used in India and I showed them the sign language used in Britain. There were some similarities and differences but it enabled me to communicate with them. I feel the experience has also developed my organisational skills as we had to plan classes everyday and organise events.

Staying with the family really helped Jane and I with getting accustomed with our new culture. When you go on holiday you do not get enough time to really experience the new culture. Going to a country as a volunteer gave me the chance to really immerse myself into Indian culture. The family would always invite us to special events and local festivals.

My experience in India has led to me being more patient and understanding with my family. Family was a really important aspect of everyone’s life in India. They always had time to go for a cup of tea and a chat with you at the drop of a hat. It has made me realise that I should always put more effort into spending time with my family.

In the future I plan to become a teacher. My voluntary experience made me realise how much I enjoyed teaching and spending time with all the children at the IID. My experience in India was one of a kind and has opened my eyes to what I would really enjoy doing in life. Without the bursary that was provided to Jane and me we would have been unable to volunteer abroad.

I think it is important to also mention that while Jane and I were in India we got engaged and on the 14th December 2009 we had a very small Hindi wedding. Prabhudatt and his family arranged a small yet very special ceremony which all the other India volunteers attended.Our whole India and volunteering experience is one that we will treasure forever and we seriously cannot thank Lattitude and the bursary system enough.

Thank you and Namaste!