- Narayan Mandyam (Volunteer)
I was in between jobs and had a clear few weeks before my new assignment. I had pottered about for a week at home, when I got a call from my dear friend Mani, who is a part of ‘Gubbachi’ team. She wanted me to ‘volunteer’ for a Summer Camp with the Government School in Kodathi. The Summer Camp for the Government School children was anchored by the Gubbachi team. I had no idea what ‘volunteering’ meant here, but I thought that this would be better than reading books at home!
My volunteering was scheduled for 4 days, between May 3 to May 6. Given my years of corporate servitude background, off I went with my laptop bag on Day 1 to meet my “boss” Somya. I cannot recollect, but I might have even asked Somya for a ‘Job Description’ of a volunteer. In my corporate experience, I like to be prepared and avoid surprises. I would later learn that surprises are a part of a daily life in Gubbachi.
I reached a bit early on that date and met Deyone, Preethy, Nomita, Rizwan and Somya; and some of the facilitators. I understood that the summer camp was being conducted for about forty children spread over two classes. Both the classes had two sessions, each, with a snack break fit in between.
I started spending time with the children and fancied that I was pretty liked by them. The penny dropped on day 2, after I realized that the only charm I had with the kids was my “Olympus” point and shoot camera. They loved being photographed. Who knows, maybe there is an actor or a photographer hidden amongst them!
Over the four days, I met some fantastic facilitators, who had taken time off to teach the children. From a 16 year young Rohit Rao to experienced teachers like Nomita, Supriya, Samvartika and Harshita; each of the facilitator was trying to engage the high energy kids in multiple ways.
The summer camp was very actively attended by the children who did several fun activities, interspersed with learning activities as well. Younger children loved the clay workshops, art work and sports. The older children worked on colours, word ‘Bingo’ and basic English prepositions. What were commonly adored by both the classes were the drawing and storytelling sessions. The children made personal connections with some of the facilitators and wondered when the facilitators would return. During my observations, I also realized that some of the children from the Government School, were behind the learning curve, as compared to other schools. With all the investment that everyone is making, hopefully this should turn around.
Did you ask what I was really doing at the school? Apart from eating the yummy buns during the snack break, I realized that there was a completely different universe, outside of spreadsheets and cubicles. It was amazing to see the children being completely trusting and how they could bond with someone whom they had met only for a few hours. I also realized that handling twenty extremely boisterous children requires tremendous patience. Teachers around the world – please take a bow.
Thank you Gubbachi team for giving me an opportunity to be a part of your efforts.
I am hoping to return to the summer camp before my new innings in a corporate booth.