Musing: Initial Days at Hope Foundation

Hope Foundation

The landing page on my blog and the About Aniesha page would tell you that in my spare time I'm currently volunteering for the NGO, Hope Foundation. 

I came to know that they were taking in interns from my friend, Swati Bhattacharya, right after we'd finished our Masters. I'd already spent a solid month at home - whiling away time, wishing I could keep my self declared holiday a bit longer. 

It was during the break month of June, that I became very interested in revamping my blog, and writing blog posts almost daily. I even signed up to be a part of a blogging team that called itself Coup D'East....I was trying to make myself as busy as I could possibly be.

Anyway - I'm digressing from what I initially set out to write. I decided to apply for an internship with Hope Foundation as well. When I went there, however, it turned out I would need a letter of reference in order to intern there. I told the very nice lady at the desk that I couldn't possibly manage that since I'd just finished MA and didn't know what I wanted to do next. She very kindly suggested that I volunteer instead, for volunteers don't need reference letters. Just their CV, ID proof and a completed form they provided me. 
Nice, eh?

"What was your subject in college?" she asked me.
"Comparative Literature," I said, and hoped she wouldn't ask me to explain the subject to her. I still don't know how to condense five years' worth of studying in five minutes... 
Fortunately, she didn't seem to mind the 'Comparative' part. She only heard the last bit, for she went, "Literature student? Tahole ami tomake teaching e rakhchi." ( Translation: Then I'll sign you up for teaching.)
I also informed her where I lived, because Swati told me that her center was quite near my house. The lady, too, kindly placed me at the very same center. 
I was required to please attend their coaching center from 11am to 1pm, helping out the children with their school work.

The First Day At Work 

That's the steps leading to the Hope Foundation Coaching Center,
Can you blame me for missing it?

I took the rickshaw to the center the next day, missed the school, and went off into another locality. I'd lived in this part of the city for twenty three years back then - but I'd never set foot in that place. In fact, I never need to delve deep into place where I stayed. Too say I was shocked to discover life existed beyond my sheltered home is an understatement. After annoying those who've grown to like me now, I found the Lock Gate Coaching Center...

The Narrow Rickety Steps
Pic Courtesy: Swati Bhattacharya
I didn't have much to do the first day. The house mothers told me that there were already three teachers in the coaching, so if I didn't mind, would I stay with the creche?
Teach kids who haven't even started school, in other words. I was only to happy to oblige. I really love kids. And for some reason, most of them tend to return that feeling.

 Visitors came, and everyone was their usual, beaming happy selves. Even when they didn't feel like it. I was introduced as their "volunteer", and I think I almost got patted on the head for the social service.

I was a little dazed from the experience, and walked back home, reflecting over the children I'd met. 
When I got back home, another news awaited me - I'd gotten through the MPhil program at my university. I was happy, but now I wondered how I was going to finish my 30 day commitment to service, because that's what I'd signed up for...

The School where we teach, Click Courtesy: Swati Bhattacharya

Three Days A Week of Hope 

Thankfully, MPhil classes are just twice a week. And Hope required me to volunteer a minimum of three days a week...that that worked out perfectly. Instead of being a regular face for a month and disappearing, my three days a week, actually gave me time to bond with the children and get on a first name basis with them.

I learned their names quickly, and discovered that to them, (no matter how young I think I look), I would only be "Aunty". I've taught kids before - and they've never called me anything other than "Didi". Here, "Aunty" seemed to be the protocol. When asked why I don't come to Hope regularly by a kid, I told her, "Because I have to go to university the other days." She stared at me and said, "Tumi college e poro?" (You're in college?)

There's nothing I can do but laugh. 

"Aunty..."

See? They Do Barely Come Up To Our Waists... 

It's been three months since I started volunteering for Hope Foundation, and as October approaches, I know the days of my volunteering would also be over. Now, I'm used to the children tugging at my kurta, and whining, "Aunty...." When I am standing up, I know there are a sea of little heads which barely come up to my waist.And there are adorable kids who love flinging their arms around my neck, and tell me how things at home are not looking up. 

The other teachers there are used to my presence, and they've grown to like me, if not love me, at least. In fact, one of them teases me everyday saying, "Aunty go....proti din asho na keno?" (Why don't you come here everyday, aunty?)

The kids are funny and they brighten my life every day...but I guess, that'll be a different post. Because if I put everything down in this blog post...it will end up being a terribly long one. 

Next time when I write about my experiences as Hope Foundation's Volunteer, I'll definitely tell you about how hilarious an experience it is, to teach these kids. 

1 comment:

  1. I enjoyed the blog very much...always knew the existence of "Lock Gate" but never really thought of doing anything to help... thousands of innocent children losing their childhood so early...it's an wonderful narration of reality but it also fills me with guilt...I am really proud of you,Mia :')

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