My Indian Experience – 2nd year in a row - Sarthak Dalal
I will remember the four play sessions that I attended in Borivali for a long time. Although, I had volunteered for Toybank last year, I learned a quite a bit more from my play sessions this time. I was once again shocked to see the conditions in which these children went to school and felt sorry for them that they had no other choice. The conditions these kids studied in reminded me to always be grateful for what I have while always helping the less fortunate.
Coming from the United States, one of the things that shocked me the most was the quality of the classrooms. The desks looked really old and unstable and it seemed that they would fall at any moment. The roof was a tin roof, and that meant that the classroom heated up very quickly. Also, there was always the imminent threat of the electricity going out at any second, leaving all the students and teacher in darkness. The walls were old and worn out, and the whole room was very unstable and seemed like it could collapse easily. Despite all these faults in the infrastructure, the kids were about as happy as anyone. They did not seem fazed by the poor condition of the school and were always excited to work and learn.
The other major fundamental difference that I noticed was the teachers’ attitude towards the kids. They were very strict and were not afraid to scream at the kids and use force to get their point across and discipline the children. I had never seen anything like this in America and was shocked when I first noticed this. Although, the practices of banging a ruler/stick on a desk and screaming at students to get them to listen to you was strange, I saw that it worked very well and that the kids here were more disciplined and mannered than back in the United States. I have mixed feelings about this style of teaching because on one hand it works, but on the other hand I see it as awkward, and too intimidating to be used on preprimary and primary students. I think, in the long term these tactics hurt much more than they help in the short term.
Since the children were always so happy and excited, I had no problem playing with these students and teaching them various games. A lot of kids I was working with were very interested in puzzles and some were quite good at them. Overall, I really loved working with the underprivileged children as their happiness is always contagious and it was deeply touching to see them having fun and enjoying themselves with the toys that they rarely get to play with. Their energy, happiness and curiosity always made the play sessions fun no matter what. I enjoyed the play sessions and hope to do more soon.
However, playing with the special needs kids was much harder. I did not know how to handle them and it got really difficult trying to teach them how to play the games. I felt lots of empathy for them as they were born with such genetic conditions that severely disabled their learning ability. I learned that the best way to teach them and enable them to play with games was to slowly explain it to them and model it before letting them play. It is a slow process trying to get the kids to understand and play the game, but after an hour or so they can play with the toy or game sufficiently without any help. Working with the special needs kids was very chaotic and it was impossible to work with more than one kid at a time. They were very excited and full of energy playing with the games but is was difficult to get them to focus on one thing for a few minutes. All in all, working with the special needs kids was a challenge for me that I will need to work on in future.
Overall, I enjoyed my experiences playing with these kids at play sessions. My experience at the play sessions was both fun as well as challenging. I learned quite a bit from these and most of all I learned to never stop helping people that are less fortunate than me. These experiences were eye-opening and deeply humbling as I saw how underprivileged kids live and why they need these toys and care. I am very happy to have volunteered with Toybank and I will be back to India very soon to once again help Toybank and better the lives of these underprivileged children.
Thank You TOYBANK for giving me this opportunity.
- Sarthak Dalal, July 2017
(A Happy Toybanker!)