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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Dharma - Day 5 @ Odanadi

Odanadi – Day 5 (December 16, 2010)

Part I:

Chatting with Ode over breakfast in the garden and sharing our experiences and frustrations thus far with volunteering started off the day. The day again was overcast and I definitely have a cold now :( Despite not feeling well, I decided I had to go to Odanadi and spend time there as this exploratory trip is short as it is. Some of the younger children I think are sick too, but their energy levels remain high – something which I cannot match at this age!

I had brought some construction paper with me and a box of new crayons, so after checking in at the main gate and peeking into the counselor’s room I went to the second floor where the library and main office is located. I shared with Tom (the new Business Development and Strategy guy from the UK who just started a few days ago) the volunteer document I had received from Sharon prior to my arrival and then went to the library. Manjula one of the college-going girls asked me to help her prepare notes for a Database Management course! As some of you know, I am technologically challenged, but after fumbling through I was able to help her find most of the notes she would have to revise to prepare for her exam. I really hope she passes!

Ok so back to the construction paper! My idea in buying this initially was to do a card-making project with the children. I wasn’t sure how they would react to it, but surprisingly I found that they really enjoyed it. I made one as an example, and one by one some of the children became engaged in displaying their creative talents. Some said Thank you from Odanadi and others said I love Odanadi in Kannada. I asked them all to sign the backs so I would know who made each one. I will leave some with the children, but will bring the rest back and distribute them as thank you cards. A few of the children were ever so sweet and gave me personalized cards saying endearing things like “you are so nice sister”, and almost heart-wrenching things like “don’t forget us sister!” As I observed everything going on around me and watching the children proudly give their cards to me, something just struck me – it’s hard to explain to you all exactly what – but I had to hold back the tears because I realized I would only be here a little while longer. Without knowing it these children had reached deep inside my heart. Ugh – I’m really not looking forward to saying “see you soon!” on Sunday.

Tomorrow I will have a day off from Odanadi so I can see some Mysore sights, recoup and reflect. I’ll be back there this weekend in full force though and plan to spend a good amount of time with the US7 working on various activities to improve their English, and increase their public speaking and self-confidence skills. Note I said plan – things don’t always go as you hope or happen when you had anticipated, and in India this rings even more true, so you just have to go with the flow :)

Part II:

At dinner I asked Parashur more about the background of some of the children that I have been getting to know. One young boy was freed from bonded child labor; another was left by his mother as a baby as she had been raped by a village elder and a man who came forward to marry her (once she was rehabilitated by Odanadi and helped with getting a job) did so only on the condition that she come sans son. One of my favorite young girls’ mothers is a sex worker and Odanadi rescued her so that a second-generation of sex workers would not be born - this is a similar case for some of the other younger girls also. One of the older girls who has bonded with me is creative and keeps asking me for a chocolate cake party on my last day. I was shocked to learn that she was raped by her father, and also suffers from Schizophrenia and another social disorder. Some of the children do act up or argue and fight with each other, but given what their young eyes have seen and no doubt they have physically and emotionally experienced it’s really humbling to see them live each day and treat you with so much love and affection.

Ok, I’m getting a little teary writing this. Perspective. That is definitely what I have gained thus far and the impetus to keep giving unconditional love and treat everyone with respect. It will come back to you ten-fold - the universe is keeping track. If any of you have any inclination then book a ticket to Mysore and spend some time with the children at Odanadi. You will not be sorry you did.

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