VOLUNTEER REPORT - Cindy & Mauricio Salgado

lOn the last day of our trip, the ninth and tenth graders invited me up to their classroom right before lunch to share a moment. I went up to visit ninth grade, and after getting permission from Ms. Nithya, they presented me with a small package of goodbye cards and then performed one of our memorable warm up activities. They tried to put the enthusiasm into the activity that had made it the most popular chant during our visit, but it was clear that we weren’t going to be all that excited as we parted ways. Then the tenth grade called me in and simply asked me to take to the board and write out a couple of lines and scan them. I made a feeble attempt at playing out the joke but failed the goodbye weighing too heavy on me. I kept trying to call them out of the room for lunch but they kept saying that they simply wanted to review Shakespeare and I too inside wanted to do the same which says a lot considering my fear upon first arriving. This was my first time guiding a group of students through Shakespeare. I had heard of the pressure put upon the tenth grade this year due to the upcoming ICSE testing March. I felt a great sense of responsibility to provide them with a thorough and memorable experience that would help them overcome the Overwhelming test taking process, and not just when it came to Shakespeare, but in general. In the end of course, I am the one who grew exponentially from my time in the class and at meals and on the field with these students Not denying that the experience was most likely mutually felt between myself and them, but I do know that after having lived with them for the past 5 weeks, these students, as a unit, are more than ready to take on any test life has to offer.

Cindy and I spent all five weeks at Shanti Bhavan, with a couple of visits into Hosur to check the internet. Aside from that, we had no need whatsoever to get to know the country. The vibrancy of the country existed there at the school, in the dorms, in the dining hall, during assembly, when birthdays were celebrated, during movie time on weekends, and in the afternoons on the soccer fields. It was all we needed, and more. I remember one night after an exhausting day of teaching 8 classes to everyone from 10 th through 1 st grade, I was hesitant to read to the Pre-kindergarten students post dinner. More interested in returning to my room and lying in bed, I reluctantly made my way to the Pre-KG dorm and as I walked in, turned on the goofy to pass the time and make the best out of the moment. What ensued was a clown routine where I entertained the students with all the goofiness I had to offer and ended with their prayer where at its end I added ‘And may God bless the pre-kindergarten students’ to which they replied, ‘me?’ ‘wow’ I left smiling and completely re-energized knowing that at the nights end, I had fully completed my purpose to entertain a group of 3-4 year olds before going to bed and share some love. How simple and fulfilling and worthwhile.

As our time came to an end, I felt myself digress into my childhood and wanting to stay and hold on. Hold on to all the love and care Shanti Bhavan emitted through all its family. Everyone there is admirable. With clear purpose and evident humanity, the goal of creating an environment full of hope and peace was always present, and being worked toward.

On a more basic note, everything was more than satisfactory the food, the hospitality, the classes, the facilities, penny and peepers, the morning tea, the chocolate wrappers, the expeditions on the rocks, soccer matches, the assembly news, the story time at the foundation house, Katie & Harry & Ellen, and clean semi damp laundry.

We definitely felt at home.

Cindy and Mauricio Salgado

New York

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