Kirstie our first volunteer at Sarita

Kirstie our first volunteer to Sarita School

If you would like to volunteer to support our work then in the first instance please contact us.

Volunteers are required to go in pairs ( 2 female, 2 males or a married couple).  We need you to commit for a minimum of 4 weeks ( a worthwhile length of time both for us and you!).  If you have a teaching background so much the better but the main skills we require from you is a willingness and determination to make a difference, enthusiasm, adaptability, patience and a sense of humour!   Our focus is always on helping the poorest and most disadvantaged children and you will encounter this at our various projects. You will be provided with accommodation at Sarita School – our volunteer base.  You will need to meet the cost of your airfare, visa and onward travel to Gwalior, as well as taking out all necessary travel insurances and having the correct inoculations for India.  Your accommodation costs will be £50 per week per person payable to the School and this will include meals.

The most rewarding time to go is between October and March when the School is at it’s busiest.

So that volunteers can make a difference we ask them to act as our “ambassador” and to, where necessary (with funds we will provide you with), to distribute funds for agreed projects or provide you with resources so that your own volunteering can be effective.  For example:- arts and craft materials when you visit Snehalaya or fruit and sweets when you visit the Mercy Home. We will discuss and agree this in detail before you depart.

There is obviously a lot to discuss – which is why as a first step we would like to meet you, Depending on where you live, a trustee will arrange to meet you.

We have put together the following schedule as an introduction to all of the projects that we currently support in Gwalior. Obviously some of these projects are the ones that you will spend most time at as they are more opportunities for you to be involved with. However, we think it is important that you are able to spend this first week getting a feel for the different projects as well as orientating to Gwalior and meeting everyone you will be spending time with. Please be aware that the schedule may well be different to the one below due to circumstances beyond our control but should include trips to all the projects listed in this handbook.

Intro week:

DAYS 1 2 3  4 5
AM Sarita School (English Medium) Justice Thankar School Snehalaya – play and orientation only. Blind Boy’s School Mercy Home
PM Sarita School (Hindi) Tourist trip 1. Blind Girl’s School Tourist Trip 2.

Please read the detailed information under each project for further information and requirements when visiting.

The tourist trips are there just for some gentle relief – they are not compulsory and can be moved to more convenient times. Remember most tourist attractions are closed on MONDAYS. See the ‘Gwalior and Sightseeing’ and ‘Other Opportunities’ sections for more information.

Our Projects.

Sarita School. This is the school run by Bhagat Kushwah and his wife Yogita. It was started by his father in 1995 as a single storey school and has grown due to their hard work. The school works in 2 sittings (as shown on the intro week table) due to the numbers of children – there are nearly 1500 children registered.

Morning Afternoon
Start 0700 for 0730 prayers 1200 – 1230 for prayers
Break 0940 1400
Finish 1200 1600

Classes are 40 minutes long.

The morning classes are taught in English and classes run from year 1 – 12. The afternoon classes are taught in Hindi and run from kindergarten class to 12. The afternoon students are the poorer students, many of whom we sponsor.

It is important that you spend time in both sessions during your stay. Arrange with Bhagat which sessions you can cover. We have started a lesson plan book which will be in the ‘volunteer box’ to give you some ideas, please remember to write your new lessons, games and ideas in this to help the next person. You should have a teacher with you to explain if needed. Generally years 8/9 and above in the morning sessions will understand, lower than this and lessons will need to be very simple or just join in with the teacher as a support worker! The very little ones need help with reading, writing and playing. In the afternoon remember to spend time with the tiny ones and lots of playing as they need more help with ‘learning through play’ concept.

You don’t have to teach every single session, try a couple a day to start with then mingle at play time, shake lots of hands, the kids love selfies and photos and don’t be shy! Bhagat and Yogita will always help you with ideas.

Snehalaya. This is a hard project to explain and we have a lot of emotional history with this place.  Snehalaya is essentially an orphanage/refuge for women and children with mental health issues. Started in 2006, by director Dr BK Sharma, it was a beacon of hope for better treatment and care for these women and children. There is a main building for classrooms, kitchen and hall and 6 smaller cottages which are the childrens’ homes where they live with carers. Day visits will be arranged and we have an agreement to take food and medication for the children. We will pay for these and advise you when you are there.

There is a volunteer coordinator at Snehalaya called Ravi. He is a helpful with good English. He tries to implement all he has leant from volunteer visits and particularly from Gill Ely – a retired nurse who has spent the last 8 years coming out for 4 months at a time, living and working at Snehalaya in these conditions.

Suggested Activities:  Cleaning, clothes washing, teaching the children how to wash/play.  Spend quality time with the children; playing games, colouring, art projects, nail painting and using hair/body oil.

The presence of volunteers showing the carers how to care, play, love and work hard is a positive example of what should be done.  We will brief you further at your induction.

Example week of activities:

Mon Tues Weds Thurs Fri
AM9am arrive Visit classes and ‘physio’ room and interact/play Cottage 6 clean. Boys will all help with guidance. Cottage 2 clean (with Monoj)Fly tent needs scrub. Classroom session – art/ games. Classroom session – art/ games.
Lunch.Take your lunch and rest. Help with Cottage 1/ 2 meals. Ensure all have water. Help with Cottage 1/2 meals. Ensure all have water. Help with Cottage 1/2 meals. Ensure all have water. Help with Cottage 1/2 meals. Ensure all have water. Help with Cottage 1/2 meals. Ensure all have water.
PMLeave 5pm Hand and face cleaning and nail polish and oil application. Sports/ games and playtime. Arts/ craft. Sports/ games and playtime. Arts/ craft. Sports/ games and playtime. Arts/ craft. Sports/ games and playtime. Arts/ craft.
Other Encourage some daily clothes cleaning by carers/older children.

This timetable is just an idea – we’re sure that you will be able to work out what is needed during your time here.

Cleaning: All products in store room – children and carers should be involved. Use Dettol on floors. Washing powder from stores – you can boil water upstairs or use cold.

Classroom projects: Building blocks, colours, reading, painting.

Art projects: Finger/hand painting, making mobiles/decorations, glitter glue, colouring in. Make a hand print family tree/flower garden etc.

Sports: There should be equipment for you to take up every day – PLEASE BRING BACK! Football, cricket, skittles, skipping ropes etc. Try and do some team games and include all.

Other games: Clapping, singing and dancing all go down well.

Children health information: Nits and scabies can be a problem so please be vigilant and if treatments are needed then Ravi will assist. Sometimes head shaving is required. Personal hygiene and cleaning after toileting needs to be checked and taught to those that can manage. All the older girls who have started their periods must be on the depot contraceptive.

Volunteer health information: There is little safe (unfiltered) drinking water for volunteers, often the filter has stopped so please bring plenty for yourselves. The food provided is basic. Yogita will always offer a packed lunch –take time upstairs/on the balcony to recharge. Toilet facilities are variable. There is a problem with institutional head lice. Wear long hair up, hairspray is a barrier, tea tree is a natural repellent. There will be lotion and combs in the volunteer box if required. Scabies can also be a problem for both us and children. Take wet wipes and hand sanitiser.

The children are beautiful and just need love and attention. We realize that this may be an emotional week of hard work but incredibly rewarding and well worth it.

Justice Thankar School. This is an amazing little school specializing in children with special needs. It is privately funded and well equipped. There are specialist teachers for sign language and autistic spectrum disorder students, a physiotherapist as well as a computer room. Some of the older students have had work experience placements arranged.

Suggested activities: Join in with classes, arranged activities and sports. Consider an art project for each class or a simple English lesson/music lesson or new game.

Blind School for Boys: This is a government run residential school for boys with a range of sight problems. They have good Braille facilities and teacher and love their music and sport. We have tried to supply some specialist sports equipment.

Suggested activities: Encourage boys to read you their Braille. Music, games and sports.

Blind Home for Girls: Similarly well established funded school for girls with visual impairments. Better facilities than the boys school.

Suggested activities: Braille reading, games, join in the craft sessions and music/dance.

Mercy Home:  This is the government residential home for children and adults with learning difficulties. It used to be horrific and when Snehalaya started in 2006 we ‘rescued’ the most vulnerable of children and bought them to Snehalaya. Now, Mercy Home has had a revamp in the last 2 years – it is well staffed and just boys and men on the last visit (Oct 2014) as the girls had been taken to Snehalaya. Conditions have been cleaner, brighter and nicer on previous visits than expected. They seem to have some lessons now and their food is good. Sometimes in order to gain access we are asked for a gift – this will be arranged through Bhagat.

Suggested activities: Go armed with fruit, hair/body oil and nail polishes. *ALWAYS GO WITH A CHAPERONE* (even male volunteers) There have not been any incidents but your safety is our responsibility. The residents enjoy the interaction, kindness and care. Take some wet wipes for the younger ones, take our sports equipment and have a go at cricket or football. Take paper/art equipment. No photos are allowed.