Barriers only exist if we let them. This is the first thing I learned during a two-week volunteering experience this month at Temki Paada, a government-funded village school in Maharashtra, India. Spending a few days teaching English, yoga, and playing board games with school children were part of our first project as a non-governmental organization.
Temki Paada is a small ZP government-funded school located in Mahim, Palghar district (in the Maharashtra state). 22 students from grades 1-4 make up its small classes. Most of the children’s parents are fishermen, laborers, or farmers.
Initially, Saloni and I were both worried about the language barrier. I was raised in Bangkok, away from my native country throughout my entire life. I was also concerned I wouldn’t be able to connect with the children because I was from different social and economic circumstances.
I couldn’t have been more mistaken. The barriers I anticipated were there only because I mentally created them. After two days at the school, the children were already calling me Tai (older sister in Marathi) and shyly high-fiving me as I left. They would listen to me tell them stories about Amreeka (America), crowding around me as I showed them the photographs I had taken of them on my camera. We connected on a level past mere physicality — our minds were in sync.
Prior to visiting the school in December ‘16, Saloni organized a donation drive at her high school, where she collected books and board games. She then transported all the donations from Bangkok to Temki Paada.
On our first day at Temki Paada, we arrived in time for their morning prayers. After this, we taught them how to play the boardgames and let them flip through some of the picture books. We were aiming to break the glass and become more familiar with each other.
After the second day, we fell into a routine. We would have a thirty-minute session of Yoga followed by a different activity every day. The activities varied from reading, English learning, group discussions and watching videos.
For too long, societal norms and the media have prioritized certain issues and abandoned others. The state of government-funded schools in India for less privileged children isn’t in the news too often because politics, the economy, businesses, and entertainment are often deemed more important. However, that doesn’t mean the lives of these people are any less valuable.
You can see more photographs from my experience in my 'Photography' section or on my Instagram.