My name is Orly Friedman. I am from Bethesda , MD and will be going into my junior year at Yale University . I spent the month of June volunteering at Shanti Bhavan. My responsibilities included teaching fifth grade world geography and eighth grade civics and literature. I also taught violin in the afternoons to a few talented musicians and played group-bonding sports activities with the seventh and eighth graders. On Fridays I would read to the kindergarten and first grade class in the library and on the weekday evenings I was allowed to read bedtime stories to the second and third graders.

The kids were a constant source of energy and inspiration and the staff was also encouraging and friendly. It was a wonderful atmosphere to work in as well as a physically beautiful setting.

At first being so disconnected from home and technology was a bit of a shock. However, the administration was very accommodating about finding rides into Bangalore on the weekends so I could get my internet fix. I would definitely recommend taking advantage of weekends to explore Bangalore or other surrounding cities. I learned so much at Shanti Bhavan, but I learned an equal amount outside of the school's gates, walking around Hosur with teacher's as my guide or exploring Bangalore each weekend until I finally felt a sense of recognition and belonging. All of that was very exciting and was a completely different experience from working at the school. It was also important for me to see the local public school and village to truly understand and appreciate what Shanti Bhavan is providing for the kids.

Before coming to Shanti Bhavan I knew I would be teaching violin and hoped that I would have some other tasks, but did not have any idea what they would be. Once I arrived at the school and Mrs. Law asked me what subjects I felt comfortable teaching about I was ecstatic that I was being given such a wonderful opportunity to actually teach kids on my own. I was allowed to make my own lesson plans and come up with activities and books that I thought would be pertinent. I was really happy for the opportunity to test my teaching skills, but a bit disappointed that I had not been informed before arriving that I would actually be teaching classes on my own. I felt like if I had been told what courses I might be teaching before arriving at Shanti Bhavan I could have had more time and resources to plan really fabulous lesson plans, especially since my mother is an elementary school teacher who would have plenty to offer.

I would definitely tell volunteers to bring books. Shanti Bhavan has a full library, but it definitely has room for more. I know from sorting through appropriate eighth grade reading material during my first couple days that high school textbooks and class sets of books are two of the school's largest needs in terms of educational material. The kids are avid readers and it is really encouraging to see how excited they are to check books out from the library.

Shanti Bhavan does a good job scheduling a full, well-rounded day of class, sports, arts, etc. Teaching group-building games with the seventh and eighth graders was a fun way to goof around with them outside of the classroom. It was great to have that time together and to go straight from sports to teaching violin where the same kids I had previously been playing tag with showed me their complete respect and attention during violin lessons. The school has done a wonderful job instilling respect, obedience and confidence into the kids. The best attribute is their forthrightness and eagerness to ask questions. I was constantly impressed with their thoughtful nature and the intriguing questions they would ask to teachers and visitors alike. I would definitely recommend to volunteers to sit with the kids at meals. That was a really rewarding time for me. I was able to get to know kids I did not have in class and learn more about their lives and interests as well as hear every riddle they know.

I would like to thank Mrs. Law for trusting me and giving me such a wonderful opportunity to learn so much. I'd like to thank the kids for all the jokes they taught me, and the teachers for allowing me to take over their classrooms and always being helpful and friendly. I would also especially like to thank the staff for teaching me a few Indian dance moves, and my neighbors in the teacher's quarter for understanding my fear of geckos. I would also like to thank Shanti for always checking in to make sure I was comfortable and well fed, and being so accommodating to the needs of a volunteer. Working at Shanti Bhavan was at times challenging, always rewarding and never boring. I cannot wait to come back.

Orly Friedman
Yale University , USA

30 June 2005


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