Alex Miller - 2012 Program Participant
The wonderful students of Taabar
Why did you decide to apply for an international program?
I decided when I was organising my trip to India that I wanted to perform some service and give back to the community. I did some research and found the opportunities provided by Volunteering with India to serve and experience new and exciting cultural traditions. I was also particularly interested in helping the children in India, as I had recently learnt of their plight and hardships they experience on a daily basis.
Why did you choose Volunteering With India?
After extensive online research I decided to volunteer with children India for a variety of reasons: it was reasonably priced, a worthwhile initiative, in a beautiful location in India, and was ideal for someone (like me) who wanted to contribute, but did not have extensive prior teaching experience. The NGO we worked with (Taabar) is doing such amazing work, educating young boys who are homeless or orphaned and have no other opportunities for gaining education. The staff at Taabar work tirelessly and really give back to the community. There are opportunities to stay long term, and I would definitely consider returning at some point!
Making kites for the festival
What was your favorite part about Jaipur?
The city of Jaipur is safe, accessible, and fantastic, with a fast paced energy on the street and lots of colourful flower markets and sari stalls everywhere you look.
What made volunteering abroad in India unique for you?
The amazing opportunity of volunteering with such passionate people; Ramesh, who runs Tabaar, has dedicated his life to this project. It is a project that is really transforming these children's livelihoods and giving them future possibilities. Also, the staff of Volunteer with India (Sukret and co.) welcomed us to numerous celebrations during our stay, making us feel like family. We attended a wedding, which was an amazing three day affair! We dressed in colourful and sparkly saris and met lots of wonderful family members.
On the day of the Jaipur kite festival, we spent the whole day on the rooftop drinking chai, eating samosas, and flying and cutting kites, a day I will never forget! In general, we felt accepted into a giant family, and have lots of friends in Jaipur now if I ever go back!
How did local staff support you throughout your program?
It was very easy to communicate with and ask questions if we were unsure at any stage of the process. We saw the program staff every one to two days, and prior to arriving I communicated with the prompt and responsive program coordinator Sukret.
What's one thing you wish you would have done differently?
Nothing, I feel I embraced the opportunity with open arms. It was challenging, and at times emotional, but highly rewarding.
Describe a day in the life of your program.
Each morning we woke up and had a delicious breakfast prepared by our host family: hot chapatti and dipping sauce. Then we would usually go off to explore the streets of Jaipur for a few hours. There was a big market right next to our house where ladies in colourful saris were selling chilli, eggplant, mangoes, and also vibrant orange flowers in giant piles.
While we were volunteering, my friends and I took the afternoon classes, so we were picked up by our lovely tuk-tuk driver Totram ji at 1 p.m. each day. We would then head to Taabar, which is a safe-house and school for young boys who have no families to look after them due to a variety of circumstances. A few of them had been involved in drug trafficking and prostitution from a young age.
We usually started with a math class, teaching the boys basic counting, adding, and subtraction, which was a challenge as they were all at such different levels. We would then do some English practice, usually teaching some new words and drawing pictures, and then making it into a game to help them remember, which was always great fun! Last for the day was dance class, which was the highlight of each day; we taught some moves, they taught some moves, and we all shared some laughs. After class we would be picked up and taken back to our home. There was usually time to go out for an afternoon or explore the colourful streets of Jaipur before dinner.
What did you enjoy doing on your free time?
Walking through the flower markets with bundles of yellow and orange blooms wrapped in colourful blankets and eating out at local restaurants; best garlic naan I had ever had!
Learning English with the students
What type of accommodation did you have? What did you like best about it?
Whilst volunteering, myself and the two friends I traveled with stayed with a local family, which was organised as part of the program. They were very friendly and gave us a nice insight into what life is like living in Jaipur! We went shopping with the young daughters and got punjabi suits made and stayed up late with the grandma watching Bollywood movies.
Now that you're home, how has volunteering in India impacted your life?
The week I spent volunteering in India changed me in many ways, one of which was to encourage me to pursue new and different volunteer experiences. I was unsure when leaving Australia of what was ahead, but once I had arrived I immediately was settled in with my lovely host family, and from there it was smooth sailing. I will no longer take things for granted and will be aware of my own potential and responsibility to help those in need.