India Adventure

It’s been sometime since I’ve posted anything, largely to do with the fact that I’ve been in the UK trying to catch up with everyone and get myself together a little bit.  I hadn’t quite appreciated how much stuff there is to sort out when you decide that you’re not coming back to the UK.  

Its done now and I’m back in India ready to focus on delivering our Gwirvol funded project “India Adventure”
16 volunteers over the next 10 months supporting Silo India.


Thursday 28 August, Manchester airport

Time to meet the next two volunteers who had the pleasure or otherwise of travelling out with me to India.

Jack and Simon both graduates from Cardiff were understandably nervous but excited as we slowly made our way through the airport.  9pm and we’re on the plane and India bound, time to get really excited.  The boys even took time to do a selfie and post it on twitter -click to view!

6.5 hours later having probably made a bit too much of the free drinks on offer we touch down in Abu Dhabi, 30 degrees 7am local time, 3am UK time feeling a little ropey!  3 hours sat looking at the runway and onto the next flight of 4 hours to Trivandrum.  Thankfully the plane was pretty empty so we all ended up with 3 seats each.  Which confused me a little.  I got on the plane. Window seat. Two Indian guys then sit in the middle and aisle seat.  A very quick exchange of pleasantries with them and I’m asleep.  I wake up 30 minutes into the flight to find both seats empty and no sign that anyone was sitting there!!

5pm local time 12.30pm UK time we touch down in Trivandrum.  A very pleasant 30 degrees but humid and threatening rain.

Immigration was interesting.  
I’m beginning to think I must look suspicious or something because every time I enter the country I get a million questions.  This time,
why am I here?
how long am I staying?
who do I work for?
what do they do?
I was a little tired so the first thing that came into my head was ‘education’.  
I thought that would be it but oh no the question that really threw me.

What do you know about education in India?
Urm Urm Urm, think, think, think……………
well Kerala has very good literacy rates!!!!

I’m thinking I might just take Jack and Simons lead next time and just say pardon 3 times to each question so they give up asking!

Bags arrived ok too which was good but I now had to trek what is probably my life belongings in 3 very heavy bags around Trivandrum, on to a train, into a taxi and up a flight of stairs to get ‘home’.

I’ve definitely got used to India now.  I just sat in the taxi amongst the crazy traffic, rickshaws, cars, bikes, people and cows and thought hmm ok I’m back, this is good.  It wasn’t until I looked at Jack and Simon that I realised how quite alright I am about it all as they sat there mouths open just shocked by the chaos.

4 hours on the sleeper train! 12.30am arrive in Tirunelveli.
Taxi then to the orphanage and finally back to my house.
2am and me and my bags are through the door.  Excitement as I now have a double bed, just a small amount of comfort, hoping it will be cooler to sleep too.

2.45am and I’m in bed, next thing its 8.30am and I’m thinking I should really get up to shift my body clock.  9.30am and I finally move.  Didn’t feel to bad but by 6pm I feel dreadful.

It wasn’t long before I realised I was well and truly back.
No wifi in the house, problem with the line,
No 3g as per usual
And woken up every morning at 5am by the church and its ‘celebrations’.
Not the best recovery for jetlag but I had the excitement of out first volunteers being out here to distract me from that.

 

Natasha and Helen our first volunteers had been out here nearly 4 weeks when I arrived.  It was really good to meet them and talk to them first hand about their experience.   Not sure if you’ve been reading their blog (click here to read) but they’ve been really insightful, giving a great flavour of how they’ve felt, what they’ve been doing and some of the quirky things that just make them giggle.

So second day back and off to the green garden (eco project) to meet them and have a debrief session.

It was clear from the moment I got there they were having and have had a great time out here.

The jokes were that bad that they were good!!  

It seems it also didn’t take Simon long to settle into Indian life as he clocked an Enfield motorbike, now the one thing he wants to purchase before his placement ends!

simon on bike

So after a good catch up, worthwhile handover between Tash, Helen and Jack, Simon and I’m fully reassured that whilst we’ve still got some more work to do the volunteer programme is running well.

Monday and time for Jack and Simon to be welcomed formally and complete their formalities.


and for them to get stuck into their activities for the next month

 

https://twitter.com/JackPritchard93/status/506671851045531650

Tuesday and back to the farm to complete formal feedback with Tash and Helen.  Believe me the jokes had not improved in 2 days.  A month here, very long days, a lot of work they were understandably tired so perhaps it was delirium setting in??????

I fully expected just to be there for the morning but much to my surprise we didn’t actually leave the farm until 11pm.  To be fair it was worth it to listen to Raisas story about a mad trek up mountains doing species surveys which ended up being a close call with wild elephants!  No one had any idea where the story was going and with all the interruptions it took best part of an hour to tell us.

So 11pm and I thought back to Manur but no to Raisa house to stay, which was fine, it was closer after all. Next morning get up and Swathi says “so we’re going to head back to the farm now!”  Oh ok!?

Another good day at the farm helping out with various things.  Massive job of cleaning the well complete (not that I had anything to do with that), cattle fodder sticks purchased and it seems Helen’s joke about mushrooms had caught on that much that they got invited to a meeting at the university to share their knowledge!!!

Having spent two days with them at the green garden project (eco-farming) I feel so reassured and happy that they’ve had such a great experience. They were both in such good spirits, getting involved in everything, having a real laugh and joke with the staff and providing really helpful feedback to Silo India.  Not to mention the important handover to Jack and Simon.

7pm some 37 hours after leaving my house and I’m back home!


Thursday and its now time to say goodbye to Tash and Helen.

The trip clearly had a huge impact on both them and importantly we know their hard work has already made a massive difference to the kids here.


Jack and Simon have literally not had a second to think about being here, worry about jetlag, the change in climate, food and to continue where Helen and Tash left off.  But in a week they’ve done heaps and again clearly enjoying it all.

So whilst Jack and Simon enjoy some much deserved time off in Kollam I headed back to Madurai to move the rest of my stuff there.  And again it wasn’t long before I was rolling my eyes and chuckling at being back!

 

Its been a really enjoyable week.  The volunteers are having a great time and importantly having a huge huge impact on the kids they are working with.  There are certainly lots of photos of smiling kids as you can see from some of the tweets that have been sent out.

On top of this we ran a small social media promotion via some contacts from Sport Wales (you’ve got to use your contacts where you can!!) and within 48 hours had 32 individuals express an interest in being part of the Vi-Ability/Gwirvol funded programme.  We now have the difficult challenge of whittling these down to 12 and with more requests coming in everyday!

So a very good return to India.  Its been busy, very busy and its not been without its technology challenges but I’m really pleased, as is everyone here how its gone with the first volunteers and the work the guys are starting to do.

I know for sure that I made the right decision.  Its going to be hard work, long days and I’m sure they’ll be their frustrations along the way but at the moment its great to work alongside such enthusiastic, skilled and committed volunteers and see first hand the impact they are making.

To keep up to date with all our activities please follow us on twitter:
@Vi_AbilityIndia
@siloindia
@joclayva
@gwirvol – our funding partner

Not on twitter?  You can still view all the activities by clicking on each name to see the tweets that have been sent.

The Gwirvol project is for residents of Wales aged between 18-25 years but if you don’t fall into this category and still want to volunteer then please contact either Silo India or myself directly and we will happily share with you the range of opportunities to support our work out here.  Both in India and remotely from your own country.

 

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