Sent: Thursday, August 26, 2010 4:41 PM
Subject: [SPAM] - volunteering
I hope you and the family are well.We are finally home in rainy London with time to write to you as we promised we would. Firstly, and most importantly we all want to thank you, Sanjay, Raj and Vijay for looking after us and for making the whole thing possible. Especially thankyou for being gracious when we turned up about a week late having made that mistake with the dates. I liked your phrase 'a mind like a mung bean'.
Taking three teenage girls aged 16, 13 and 13) to Rajashan in the monsoon season for almost three weeks to travel and volunteer was quite an undertaking. For me, the travelling around that we did before and after our week with you as 'tourists' was a bit gruelling and unfulfilling. The part of our trip that came alive and meant something to me was the week we spent with you at The Mandore Guest House helping in Surpura Primary school. The project you run is rare - we found nothing else that allowed a family to come and volunteer, for a short time in India, with children as young as ours.
We loved staying at the Mandore. I felt particularly looked after, arriving fairly ill, being seen by the doctor, then given Vijay's banana lassi to restore me. Isabel loved being shown by Vijay how to wear the sari she bought in the market. And we appreciated Raj showing us the photos of his youngest son's wedding - a real Indian wedding.
We felt so welcomed by you, your family and by the children and teachers,It was wonderful that we and our children could actually come and do something that was I think genuinely useful and appreciated, at the same time as giving us the opportunity to meet and get to know some local people. Such a relief to make real contact rather than be the tourist being sold something or the hotel guest being 'served'.
Sanjay facilitated the whole week with care, warmth and real responsiveness, making sure that our children had time to both play with the local children as well as do a bit of informal teaching. They all loved learning to make Chai and Isabel has written down Sanjay's recipe for us to make at home. As the senior teenager of our bunch, Isabel was so grateful to be allowed access the the internet to Facebook her friends !
Words don't quite do justice to what is in my heart. I loved being trusted to paint and enliven that bare school classroom, its a good feeling to think that every day it will be used. But what stays with me most is the (entirely unspoken) story of a relationship I made with one child, a little girl. She began the week daring to smile shyly at me from a distance, gradually looked for a little longer before averting her eyes, and who, when it was time to say goodbye, gave me the broadest grin, and found her way through the whole crowd to do the children's special handshake with me. I'll remember that for a long time.
I will see if the children will write something and send you that as well.
Please thank Sanjay for all that he did. His photos are fabulous.