A bump in my visa work had me sobbing and fretting for a day in Vientiane (a mere 4 hour drive from where I live. Yes, I can cross over to Laos in less time than I can to the capital of Thailand- 7 hours). And then I found out the only way to get my visa sorted was to go to India. Word (of the fool) to the wise- never believe the Indian passport is easy to process. After waiting for 3 hours in the scorching sun at the Thai embassy in Vientiane, I was told to go back to my country. Like literally.
And so I did. Gladly too, because it meant being reunited with my best friend who I hadn’t seen for ages. A good 10 days I got to spend with her too, thanks to the promise of the Thai embassy in Chennai that it would take 3-5 working days to process my visa, with possible hitches in between. I spent the days, lesson planning and lounging about waiting for her to get back from work and the evenings, filling each other in on the details that just cannot be told over Whatsapp or Skype. From her mother mollycoddling us to the way I tell her off for making a mess of her plate while eating, it was 10 glorious days of reliving my childhood with her.
Not to say things hadn’t changed. We are both working women now with degrees, adult responsibilities and an affinity for beer. One of her many adult responsibilities is being a mentor for children from shelter homes (maybe a sentence not to be directly following one that ended with beer…) as part of an NGO called Make A Difference (MAD). I got to join her and help out with a class one Sunday afternoon and I am truly impressed with the dedication the volunteers show towards being a teacher and mentor for the children.
The children went wild with cries of ‘Akka! Akka!'(Sister! Sister) and jump-hugged the volunteers on seeing them enter at the gate. With one volunteer for every 1-3 children, they are able to get the special attention they need in their studies, and emotional guidance in finding stability and continuity from their Akkas.
I couldn’t resist taking some pictures of the absolutely adorable children.So here are some of the most imaginative,hyperactive and loving children I came across in a small home in Chennai.
The house was under renovation so we decided to play educational games for the entire 2 hours. It was a good way to keep them interested and to calm their energizer-bunny selves to some form of attention. Being a child also means a lot of bumps and bruises and to see them take care of each other at the mere sight of a scrape on a friend or a sibling was adorable. They’d sit the hurt one down on a stair, get the talcum powder out and dust it over the bruise. Some had their ‘I don’t want to study or play’ tantrums which quickly disappeared when they saw the fun the others were having with our games. Of course, it never hurts to put the competition factor in too, to bring out the best behaviour and keenness to learn.
Make A Difference is doing a great job mentoring the children and to see the dedication with which the volunteers, who have full time jobs and studies to tend to, work with the children is splendid! Lesson planning around their mentee’s life and interests and scaling their progress regularly is difficult work when you’ve got your own daily routine. But these wonderful volunteers make the time to make a difference for equally wonderful children.
More to come on the dealings with my own classrooms of Thai teens. For a few amusing stories and maybe some tips on teaching along the way- stay tuned.