Hi Family and Friends!
We are now four days into our service program with VOICE 4 GIRLS.
Each day our Global Navigators depart from the dorms at 8:00 AM and begin the 40-minute commute to the two local schools where we are conducting “Her Voice” camps. As mentioned in earlier posts, the focus of these camps is to help students practice spoken English through activities on topics like school, family, finances, conflict resolution, health and hygiene.
Our Global Navigators are paired together to lead these camps. The pair prepares the materials, sets up the classroom, and facilitates all the activities together. While hosting the camps is an incredible leadership opportunity, this partnership between co-counselors allows our students to grow their teamwork skills as well.
The excitement from the local students is tangible every time we walk into the schools. In many ways, the VOICE camps are counter-cultural to typical Indian education. The camp encourages active participation in discussion, lots of moving around, and offers freedom for just having rambunctious fun. While this difference meant some local students were shy at first, many have become more comfortable, and you can now feel the energy from the students as you walk through the halls of the schools.
After four days leading the camp, Lani and Natalie gave me some insight into their experience: “We think the students are genuinely excited to learn, and they are just amazing overall. It can be tough sometimes because of language barriers and we come from two different cultures. However, they are eager to learn English and it has been a great lesson for both us and them!” Natalie specifically observed that the students love to help one another, even more so than she has seen in her school back home.
Mia says, “honestly it has really surprised me how shy they are to talk about even basic health information. For example, I have received written notes from girls about pain they feel on their periods and how to ask their teachers to leave for the restroom. I know at my own school back home that I can access tampons in the restroom for a quarter, or I can ask any of my teachers to leave for the restroom for that reason. I have never felt shame for this.”
The camp day runs from 9:30 AM to 12:45 PM, after which we return to our dorm. We eat lunch, take a quick rest, and then gather together for a debrief session with our VOICE 4 GIRLS facilitator. This is a great opportunity for our program participants to ask questions about cultural differences they have noticed or to gather strategies for classroom management and increasing camper engagement.
After the debrief session, the Global Navigators spend time lesson planning and prepping for the next day.
The days are busy but fun, and we are simultaneously exhausted but energized. Through reflections at night, it is clear that our Global Navigators have really connected with their students, but they are also doing deep reflection on what their own role is as a servant in this community for such a brief time. It is a privilege to work with a group of students willing to tackle tough questions about their identies at such a young age.
On a different note... We got to celebrate one Global Navigator’s birthday and one Program Leader’s birthday! Piper turned 17 on June 19th, and she says spending her birthday in India is something she will never forget. Our leader Robin celebrated her birthday a few days before departure and was touched that she was recognized too. Both were surprised when our CIEE staff smeared cake on their faces, a common Indian tradition. Happy Birthday, Robin and Piper!
Check back in a few days to see how our service wraps up and to learn more about our upcoming trip to Hampi!