When I first found out I was selected for the Celanese International Impact Program (CIIP) 2016 project to Dharamshala, India, I was very delighted and filled with so much excitement. I knew right then how lucky I was to be able to travel to this beautiful country that is so diverse, filled with lots of great culture, religion, food and people. Adding to this, I was very happy that I had gotten a great opportunity to make a difference in someone else’s life and be able to give back. Making a difference, regardless if it was big or small, was my goal. To top it all, I was going to volunteer with a group of our very own like-minded Celanese representatives from all around the globe. Alone we can do so little, but together we can do so much, and I was looking forward to the trip with great anticipation.
Upon reaching India I was greeted by our friendly Celanese CIIP team. In no time we were all warmed-up to one another and looking forward to our volunteering assignments with Cross Cultural Solutions (CCS.) The CCS staff was welcoming and catered to our needs with great hospitality. I got the chance to meet and mingle with other volunteers collaborating with CCS too. I remember how all of us understood the definite purpose for being there and the commitment we had.
The next couple of days were spent discovering and understanding more about India and its culture. We had Hindi classes and lecturers to aid us in the process of being there with ease, and even being an Indian myself, I was fascinated with all the new facts I was discovering about India and its culture.
Finally, we began our volunteering work at our assigned areas by CCS. Most of us were assigned as teachers at the day cares in Dharamsala. Throughout the weeks volunteering, I became aware of how schools lacked staff and teachers. Some teachers were even teaching in multiple schools in a week and received minimum wage for it, yet they gave their best to the kids. Resources available for teaching were minimal and each class had about 10 to 15 children with an age group ranging between 2 to 6 years old. We were assigned to teach basic counting, alphabet, colors and good personal hygiene. Teaching the kids was challenging at first due to the language barrier, but in time with the help of the Hindi classes I was able to teach and communicate with them better. We used lots of body language to communicate too. Over time the kids started opening up to me and I could see all the fun they were having whenever we sang and dance. The classrooms were small and had poor lighting and there were no tables or chairs for the kids. They had to sit on a mat that was laid over the floor. Often, I realised how eager they were to learn new things despite the challenges they faced. They were so happy to be in class, which made my day, and built my enthusiasm to volunteer. My partner, Kathy Borhauer, worked closely to make alphabet posters for the kids so that this could be used as a visual aid for teaching in the future. We sang nursery rhymes and colored with them, too.
The CIIP team made useful teaching aids for the schools over the two-week period. Every day we would share with great joy how well the day went with the kids and how we believe that even the smallest action made a difference for them, and in return, how we felt so accomplished and happy to be able to serve them. I believe in the saying that every action in our lives touches some chord that will vibrate in eternity. We loved working with the kids.
In addition to the volunteering work, I was so happy to be able to travel and create a tight bond with the CIIP team and they were like family to me. I loved how we would constantly look out for one another. The biggest take back for me from this trip was something that the kids have taught me. They had so little yet they were so appreciative and eager to persevere and keep going forward in life, to learn and explore new things.
This trip has also increased my love and motivation for volunteering. I believe that we all have the responsibility to volunteer somewhere, and I’m lucky that I am taken to places to see what’s out there and see what’s happening and to then be a part of it in hopefully an impactful way. I cannot wait to share my experience with others and encourage them to volunteer too.
Lastly, I would like to thank Celanese for giving me this great opportunity. I am so honored to be able to do what I love doing, and I am very glad to play my part in giving back. I hope to do more and get others to do it, too. Being on the Global Citizens Network (GCN) team is going to widen my chances to do so and I look forward to serving with great pleasure. ‘No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.’ I encourage everyone to volunteer and experience personally what I had encountered too!
Editor’s Note: This is the ninth in a series of 9 blog posts by Celanese International Impact Program (CIIP) team members who served for two weeks in Dharamsala, India.