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Toads, Mangoes and empowerment. | Nourish International

June 9, 2013 | Posted in 2013, India, Summer Projects, UT Austin | By

Hi ya’ll! Dhanya here.
Let me paint a picture for you. Now, you really have to close your eyes and imagine this. Ready, set, GO.
Imagine sitting under a heavily fruited mango tree. The only thing illuminating the darkness is the glow of your laptop. But somehow, your eyes have adjusted and you can see the little cottage where you live, the stage where you teach, and the dinner hall where you eat every meal. The faint thud of mangos falling on the soft sand is the only sound you hear. And as you stand up with your bare feet, all you can feel is the sand between your toes.
Got the picture? Good. This is where we live. And if you’re thinking of how beautiful it sounds, you are absolutely right.
We’ve been at the lovely Shanti Rani Bavan (the convent where we live) for two weeks now, two of the most challenging, eye-opening and joyful weeks of my life. As I’m sure most of you know by now, we are teaching English, computers, organizing literacy workshops and starting micro-enterprises in 3 villages in and around Gopalpur, Orissa. The students we have here have been some of the most resilient people I have ever met. The 22 of them ( all ages 16-23 ish) show up to class every day and are eager to learn all about the English language and computers. It sometimes gets difficult to manage them at times and behaviors that are completely unheard of in America are common here. But I remember that respect is seen completely differently here and I’m sure that some of the things that I do seem absolutely ridiculous to them.
Everything is completely different here. For example, I have a mouse, a toad and a gecko all living in my bathroom. That’s pretty different. I’ve named them all … but that’s another story all together. Back to our kids, even if it does get difficult it is worth every moment because I see them learning, growing and taking every single thing in. If I ever question if what we’re doing is making a difference (which I do often) all I have to do is think about them, how much they are actually learning in our classes and how much they are benefiting from the programs we organize.
We started our village assessments last week and it was painful to hear that some of the families don’t have the luxury of having water in their homes. As Chris (one of our volunteers) pointed out, how can anyone think of an education or a livelihood when they cannot have something so simple as water in their homes? It feels like we are getting to the root causes and challenges in these communities and I’m beginning to realize how tough these problems are. I can’t help but feel a little helpless.
But, at the end of every day, I’m reminded of how strong the people of this community are and how they themselves can start movements, change mindsets and develop their villages. All we can do is give them a little push and watch the rest unfold. I’m thrilled to see what is going to happen in this community and how the kids we are teaching are going to help mold and shape it into something even more beautiful than it is now. That’s empowerment. That is what makes it worth every single moment here. =)

-Dhanya

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