We woke up at 6:30 AM and ate breakfast. There were corn flakes, pancakes, yogurt, and toast with apricot jam. Then we took tuk tuks into town to see the children and their homes that we would be building the boarding house for. Travelling through Sikar was so cool. On the way there, we passed lots of farms (wheat and vegetables like pumpkins and onions etc). Everything is so chaotic. There are cows and motorcycles and people everywhere. It took about fifteen minutes, travelling through the bumpy roads of the market. Vendors sell fruit and goods and pigs, goats, and bulls just casually stroll by. As soon as we stepped off the auto rickshaw, children swarmed us! They spoke decent English (they could sing the alphabet and count and introduce themselves). They wore worn clothes and were pretty dirty. They don't wear shoes and there is sharp things like discarded glass all over the ground. Usually when volunteers work at Youth Touch, they teach English here. We're the first group to do construction (starting tomorrow!).
When we visited the school I met a girl wearing a makeshift cast because she was pushed into a wall that was falling down. Anyways, I'm obsessed with these children. I could play with them forever. They called us madam; it was so cute. Just like in Guatemala, they wanted to play that KitKat bar hand game. This boy I was carrying would point to the words on my shirt and I would spell them out for him. They wanted to take pictures and show us around. In all of their friendliness and happiness, the environment was quite startling. They live in tents surrounded by garbage and the hugest pile of water bottles and rubber shoes I have ever seen. Women and children collect the bottles and people come and take them for very few rupees. The men don't work. They take the money that the women and children make and buy alcohol and cigarettes. Three thousand families live here. They don't have a doctor and rely on Youth Touch to send them to the hospital if they are sick. The women there wanted us to take pictures of them with their kids. One family had a pet monkey! I feel like my words are not enough to explain this morning.
We met a family with four daughters. The two youngest daughters (ages two and three) were very malnourished as well as mentally challenged. Youth Touch volunteers have been feeding them everyday and nursing them back to health for the past year. There bellies were distended and they had weak, skinny legs. They couldn't walk before, but now they can! The parents had no interest in feeding and taking care of them (because they were mentally/physically challenged, but also because they were female).
Unfortunately we had to leave. I really hope we have the opportunity to come back. We then stopped at a store in the village to look at some work clothes. I bought some beautiful bindis that I am going to rock. Quinn and I also bought detergent for the crew! The ladies of Youth Touch are going to show us how to wash clothes here soon.
Right now, it's hot and sweaty and sunny. I have drank almost two liters of water and it is not even 12:30 yet! I'm having the best time. This afternoon was super chill. We watched How to Lose a Guy in Ten Days. Sometimes I feel bad Jerry is the only boy participant! He's a trooper though. Madan got the chance to talk more about Banjara Basti - most people are or were nomadic, but have settled around the town of Sikar. They don't value education because they see no need for it. The children do not go to private or public school because their peers and teachers treat them differently (because of their class). A lot of work Youth Touch does with the children is with personal hygiene; they'll be more accepted if they do not look like they are from Banjara Basti. Their only priority in life is finding food. They will go around the town of Sikar and beg. Over the last four years, Youth Touch has taken thirty children from Banjara Basti and have taught them social skills so they would be able to attend school. Other volunteers in countries like Sweden and Germany sponsor kids. Youth Touch will provide a family with a goat if they send their child to school (with Youth Touch's program) as incentive to participate. They have built three schools for Banjara Basti so far.
The foundation has already been laid and tomorrow we start making the walls for the ground-level floor. We'll be making the foundation stronger with rock and water so in the next couple of years it will be able to manage three floors. The building will house around twenty kids as well as a single mother (either widowed or divorced) from Banjara Basti to take care of the children as well as get a salary.
A kind of sad thing is that this project will probably not be completed until 2014. Because of funds and a lack of volunteers, it's hard to finish the project this summer. Hopefully another group like ours will come next summer and finish it the first two floors (the third floor is a long-term project). Maybe I'll come back next year? :)
We got a tour of our camp. All of the food we eat (dairy, grains, protein) all come from the backyard! The women make yogurt, bread, and butter daily. We're so lucky!
Things I like about India: I like how we have tea time each day. I like how there is only one tap for the showers and sinks. You never know if the water is going to be hot or cold. I like how all the women wear these crazy bright and beautiful saris every day. I like how we were all chilling and heard this amazing Indian music and when we looked, it was a wedding party! All the groomsmen were dancing toward the woman's house to pick her up for the wedding! I like how everyone works so hard, but relaxes hard too. I like how when I am chilling in my room and I can hear a cow moo because there are actually some outside my window.
Anyways, off to bed because breakfast is at 6:30 AM and work starts at 7! Miss y'all.
DWC Student Team Leader
Sikar, India: May 2012