Thursday, May 31, 2012

Gaining More Than I Can Give

Hello everyone!
Two weeks in and I've finally gotten around to writing in our blog! I can't believe we've been here for two weeks. The fact that at this time next Friday I will be in a plane heading back to the U.S.A. is crazy to me. When I first got here I was overwhelmed thinking that I would be away from home in a foreign country, experiencing discomforts that I certainly am not used to for 3 weeks. Two weeks has flown by, however, and I know the next week will too. While it took me longer than I thought to adjust to these crazy weather conditions and food I'm not used to, I'm really starting to embrace Indian culture as best as I can!

I've been working at Prem Dan, the home for women who have mental illnesses as well as terminal illnesses. Working with those women has been an absolute delight. They teach me to be happy no matter what I'm facing. Seeing them be able to smile through everything has really inspired me to not take life so seriously and to really embrace life and the love around me. I will miss those women dearly. Doing laundry by hand each morning there maybe not so much.

Our group has also been working with Brother Xavier's school, a school that puts kids back on their feet in an academic setting and gets them ready for the real world when they are an adult. I've met two very sweet girls. One of them is 8 years old and the other is 9 years old. The first day I walked into the gates of their section of the school, they immediately latched onto my two open hands and commenced to show me around their area. As females, we are called "Auntie" every day no matter where we are working, mostly as identification since there is a little bit of a language barrier. Having these two girls call me Auntie compared to the adults we work with, though, was different. It was very touching and I felt so loved. One of the girls sat me down on her bed and started wiping the sweat from my forehead and told me that I needed to lay down because I was tired. It brought tears to my eyes that someone so small could encompass so much love and compassion for a stranger. It's something I've been striving for and after 21 years, I'm positive this little 8 year old has what I've been in search of. I'm definitely learning a lot from her. It was such an odd change, though, from what I've been working with (doing laundry, caring for the women at Prem Dan, etc.) to actually be cared for myself. Here I am sitting at the foot of this child's bed getting so much love when I came there to be of service to her. It seemed a little backwards but I truly gained a lot from it.  I was surprised that when we returned to Brother Xavier's school that those same two girls recognized me and jumped into my arms when I walked through the gates again. I never thought that in a city full of so many people that I would make such a wonderful connection with someone.

It's crazy to see the progression our group has made. We are tackling the heat waves and sweat and truly adapting to a culture that is just about opposite of ours. I'm pretty sure would can now sleep through anything as well! Between car horns, the call to prayer at 4:30 a.m. every morning, and people yelling at all hours of the night, you learn that all you need is a flat place to lay down to allow yourself to drift into peace and quiet.

I'm not sure what this next week has in store for us, but I know that we all will be holding onto our last few days together in this beautiful country.  The memories I've gained from interacting with the women at Prem Dan, the volunteers at the Mother House, the guys that work at Blue Sky Cafe (where we eat all of our meals) who are slowly attempting to teach me Bengali, and the various sights and smells we walk through every day are ones that I will cherish forever. I thought that I would be coming to Kolkata to help change the lives of those here, but I really think they all have made much more of an impression on me.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

I See It In Your Eyes...


I can finally say that I am slowly becoming accustomed to life in Kolkata. The heat doesn't affect me as much as It used to and I've becomed "numb" to the sights and smells that are part of everyday life in the city. This past Saturday, after spending an awesome morning at Daya Dan with Rama and the other children, I decided to volunteer at Kalighat, the home of the sick and the dying. Kirsten and I, along with three other volunteers, Fabio, Joaquin, and Izzy met up at 2:30 and took an auto-rickshaw to a spot where the rickshaw could no longer go. In order to get to Kalighat from where we were dropped off, we had to walk through a slum. Walking through a slum was something I was not expecting to do here in India. Walking through as little boys and girls played with the street dogs, their parents curiously watching us from their makeshift homes and toddlers running around naked is haunting and surreal. After a ten minute walk we arrived at the front gates.

Upon entering Kalighat, I was immediately asked to help clean and clothe three men that had soiled themselves. I had no time to process what was about to happen, what I was about to do, I was nervous of doing it alone. I thought to myself "It's my first day here, my first few moments here, and the Sisters expect me to do this the right way?" Luckily for me Joaquin had volunteered at Kalighat before and decided to help me with the task. We entered the dimly lit room and walked past the rows of beds to the corner where the three men were waiting for us. We began to clean and clothe them and before I knew it, it was done. One of my "fears" I guess you could say, about going to Kalighat was to be put in a situation where I was required to clean someone who had soiled themselves. It's not that I am easily grossed out, because I am not, but I guess it was the action of actually doing it. It's hard to disconnect yourself from everything around you and simply do such a difficult task, it is surely easier said than done. However, I found a way to somehow pull through it do what was asked of me. Needless to say, it felt good knowing that I had conquered one of my small fears about Kalighat.

Shortly after, A man asked me to take him around the compound, he was in a wheelchair and had no movement in his body. I sat next to him after about ten minutes of me taking him around the garden. I introduced myself, and tried to get him to talk and tell me his name. He looked at me right in the eyes and my heart sunk. I had seen similar eyes before. The sadness, desperation and frustration that I saw in his eyes were the same emotions I had seen in my uncles eyes about four years earlier. My uncle George had been a victim of ALS, a horrible disease that slowly kills all muscle activity in the body, ultimately leading in death after the lungs, heart and diaphragm are unable to properly function. I saw how badly the man wanted to communicate with me, but for some reason couldn't. I knew he was frustrated, I knew he was upset and seeing that in his eyes broke my heart as I remembered the numerous times my uncle had grown frustrated with himself, my mother, grandmother, and myself for not being able to understand him. I grabbed his hand as my eyes began to fill with tears and told him it was fine and that everything was going to be okay. I prayed silently in my head as I held his hands, and smiled at him when I opened my eyes. I continued to take him around the compound for about twenty minutes after that. It was hard for me not to see my uncle in this man, I couldn't help but to think of the numerous times I had to wheel my uncle around places, or the times when I had to help my grandmother feed or change him. It was hard keeping all my emotions in but I had to be strong for all the men at Kalighat. I was there to serve and do my best, and knowing that my uncle would be proud of what I was doing, I pulled through the afternoon and was able to successfully complete my first day at Kalighat, something I was unsure of in the beginning.

Take care,


Cheers with Chai!

    Today at Prem Dan during chai time I visited one of my favorite friends. She is an old woman with gentle wrinkled hands that like to be wrapped around my fingers. I make sure that I go and visit her at least once during my morning serving. As I walked over to her area today for a second time I noticed that she was cheering a friend of hers who was sitting across the room from her. The two were raising their cups of chai to the other and nodding in agreement. It was the most beautiful example of friendship even in a place that can be very stressful at times for these women. I have had the chance to witness a few exchanges just like this between old friends at Prem Dan over the past week. It reminds me how important friendships are and how they can even brighten an unfavorable situation. I make sure every day that I go and visit her and get her to smile her wide gummy smile. I recently have begun talking to her more even though we can't understand one another. It's the simple things like a smile or holding hands that can say so much more in the absence of words.I value my mornings with these women at Prem Dan as they constantly inspire me to pursue my passion. Their strength and welcoming loving nature should be shared with the world and I hope to do that even in the smallest ways.
 Much love,  Beth.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Now I lay me down to sleep...

I always new I was blessed growing up as a child, but to what degree I was still unaware. I never had to worry about going hungry or about not having a roof over my head . At night I knew there would always be a comfy bed to greet me as my sister and I recited our favorite prayer, now I lay me down to sleep. Coming to Kolkata my eyes have been widened. I know have a new sense of reality. A reality I once read about in books and learned about in school but never experienced myself. Its The reality of poverty.Here, comfy beds and healthy meals exist only behind the iron gates of tourist hotels that line sudder street. These hotels are where volunteers escape for the night to recouparate for another day of hard work. Life outside means little food and a bed upon rags on the sidewalks. It isn't just the old, or the men who sleep among the streets in kolkata-by night fall and a busy day of work those of all sizes take rest in the street. Sidewalks once used for walking become the crowded hallways where those find themselves at rest. On our way to mother house in the morning we find ourselves walking through these hallways, trying so carefully not to disturb those still catching their last minutes of sleep. It's difficult not to feel intrusive,like your walking in someones bedroom after they,ve woken from a nights sleep. As intrusive as it feels most greet you with A gentle nod of the head, or a namaste. A wonderful way to start any morning of service. Peace and love, Ashley

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Freddy & Spaghetti

There is a gecko watching me shower. Some days there are two in the bathroom I share with Beth and Ashley. Ashley named the first to appear, "Freddy", I named the second, "Spaghetti." I don't have any privacy issues with the gecko high up on the bathroom wall, making his exits and entrances via slotted window. If you had told me a week and a half ago that there would be geckos in the bathroom, I would have been uneasy with it. I would've wanted to be relaxed about it, but I know deep down it would have made me feel strange. The fact that very quickly, it does not bother me, and I even get a little sad when the little amphibians aren't in there, shocks me. I'm not sure exactly what I was expecting my reaction to India to be pre-adventure, but with this as with many things in the last year and a half of my life, I surprise myself with my adaptability. This is the closest I've ever come to the exact opposite of my ordinary lifestyle and I'm genuinely relishing in it. My mother will never believe this, but the other day I was telling Alyssa that I was even really loving the bucket showers. There is something so graceful about the simplicity of our life here and I am thoroughly enjoying being reminded of how little I need.

I thought I would be complaining about the heat, I expected to be incredibly uncomfortable with the smells and abrupt poverty and always to feel on edge, a little unsafe. While the poverty is another thing to consider entirely and I'm sure it will maybe never sit well with me, after just one week I feel much more at home in Kolkata than I ever expected to. I am much more comfortable here, particularly on Sudder St., the walk to Mother House, and in Daya Dan, than I would have imagined. The taxis, cars, buses, autorickshaws that buzz by used to terrify me and even though today Carlitos and I had a close call walking from an autorickshaw to the metro after our first visit to Brother Xavier's, I feel safe even with the chaos. I have been thinking that there seems to be a thin line between such vibrant life and the potential of death in this city, and Ashley also brought that up in reflection the other night. In the homes, on the streets and even in our group, there is the joyful and the distressed living so symbiotically that it's an interesting but beautiful experience to be a part of.

Much love & peace to all of you thinking of us. Your support is remarkable and gives me so much gratitude.

Share what's in your heart (and what's on your plate)

"Share what's in your heart," read a poster at Brother Xavier's school in Kolkata.  This particularly interesting poster features a little girl sitting in a toy truck, sternly looking at the camera.  I laughed at the irony of the angry child teaching the importance of sharing her emotions.
It is so important to share your thoughts and love for other people.  This act of sharing can be practiced in unlimited ways.  An ear for listening, borrowed shampoo, touch.  For me, and others in this group, love is apparent through our interactions at the meals we share.  Reaching arms, spoon feeding, and vigorous nods of approval are not uncommon sights at Blue Sky Cafe.  We want to enjoy our food, but we also want to make sure that everyone else can experience our satisfaction.
During our mornings at Prem Dan, we feed the women chai, buscuits, and lunch.  Some women just need the plate handed to them before they begin to eat it with their cupped hands.  Others require much more care, and we spoon feed some women their lunch.  I have never had someone rely on me in order to be fully nourished, and it is an alarmingly powerful experience.  I volunteered at Shishubavan, a kind of nursery, and fed some of the adorable children there.  Feeding the elderly and toddlers is so similar, and I am reminded for the hundrenth time of our human similarities.
Feeding can happen on so many different levels, and I like to think that we are constantly feeding each other here in India.  Whether that be through actual food or through friendship, it is so important that we are being nourished.

Saturday, May 26, 2012

Crash course on life

The past few days have been extremely enlightening and tough all at the same time. Yesterday, for the first time, I did both morning and afternoon service at Kaligaht. Bth shifts were very intense for very different reasons. In the morning, there were a lot of patients that were unable to et out of bed...never a good sign. One patient in particular was a man that every voulenteer has gotten close to. His name is King. Unlike the majority of the other patients there, he is all "there" mentally. He also speaks fairly good English and even a little Spanish. As I arrived there yesterday morning, King was no where to be found. Eventually, after looking for a little while, I found him in his bed with 3 or 4 sisters working diligently over him. He had explained to me, a few days before, that he had been in a car accident hat had broken his femur and left him with some sever gallbladder problems. He said that sometimes the pain meds work, sometimes they don't. He'd seen he scar on my leg from my surgery and we bonded instantly. Anyway, he was in some serious pain lying in bed with the sisters working on him. I could hear his cries no matter where I was. It was so tough because I know almost exactly what kind of pain he is experiencing. I know what it's like to not have the pain pills work and be in that sort of excruciating pain. It was the first time that I really found myself understanding exactly what one of these patients was going through. Anoher part that made it so difficult was the fact that King is always so cheery and talkative. He's always helping voulenteers and showing them who sleeps in what bed and cracking jokes at you if you do something wrong. It reminded me, in a very harsh way, how fragile and valuable life is and how quickly it can turn south...even for someone as amazing as King.
As if that was not enough, I decided to go back to Kaligaht in afternoon so I could really push myself. What happened in the afternoon was even more shocking than the morning. A man, whom I had helped change his shirt in the morning, was unable and refusing to get out of bed. When it came time to give medicine, he couldn't swallow his pills... He was struggling to breathe so myself and another voulenteer notified the sisters. After crushing up his pills so he could take them, they too realized something was wrong. They ended up putting him on oxygen and giving him a few shots. Then though, they just left him. They left to go about their business and take care of the other patients. It was just myself and this other voulenteer sitting with this man as he struggled with us to to and take the oxygen mask off. We sat there for all 2.5 hours with this man just holding his hands and trying to put him at ease. I honestly thought I was going to see this man die right in front of me. He struggled at times to try and take his oxygen mask off and we had to hold his hands down so he wouldn't tamper with it.
As we were being kicked out at promptly 530 we insisted that someone stay with he man, but as far as I know, no one did. As we were leaving, the man grabbed both mine and the other voulenteers hands and squeezed them. It was an absolutely beautiful moment. Even though he had been fighting us most of the time we were with him he understood that we were there to help him and I honestly think he was grateful. He even brought his hands together and nodded at us which is a sort of sign of respect here in India.
I was afraid I would not see him, or King, when I returned this morning, but luckily both were still there. King was in much better spirits and was up, crutching around and smiling as usual. The other man was still in bed when I got there and still not breathing well. He seemed much more stable than yesterday though, which is good. I sat with him for a few moments and he woke up and seemed to recognize me. He reached out again for my hand and gave them a little squeeze before falling back asleep.
This trip, and Kolkata as a whole, has really forced me to realize just how lucky we all are. Everyone reading this blog right now is blessed in more ways than can be counted. Blessed for being able to read, blessed for being able to use their eyes, blessed for having a computer, blessed for being able to use their hands to type, for being able to walk, to breathe....I could go on forever. I can't speak for everyone but I have truly taken for granted the things I am blessed with one a day to day basis. Despite the fact that I am not the most religious person, I still recognize how privledged and lucky I really am.
This trip is changing me. I can feel myself growing everyday when I go to sleep and when I wake up. I can only hope that I am making as big of an impact on the lives of the people I am serving as they are on mine. Less than a week in I've already done things that I never thought I would be capable of doing.
I feel as if I am beginning to ramble now so I think it's best to end this entry here. Tomorrow, Sunday, we are going to an orphanage to hang out with some children. That should be a nice change of pace and a chance to get my butt kicked in basketball by kids half my size.
Still sending love back home,
Brian Meloche

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Healing ourselves and others...

Healing is something I continue to be moved by. All forms...emotionally, physically, and intellectually learning about the variety of ways to heal ourselves as human beings. At home, my technical work title is "Living Skills Clinician", but I also dabble with the 8 kids I individually work with, by using yoga, reiki, art, outdoor adventure, music, conversation, and writing into their therapeutic plans of care. Being here in Kolkata on my second trip with MOVE, I am reminded again, that we are all constantly healing, being healed, and able to heal each individual we interact with in some way; socially, emotionally, or physically.
It has been beautiful, to say the least, to be able to share and witness healing unfold in my first few days here...personally, and for the other. I pretty much white-knuckled Beth and Kirsten's hands on the airplane in order to overcome my fear of take off and landing. John has poison ivy and I was able to give him some Reiki yesterday at the breakfast table in hopes of settling it down. Anna and I stayed back today to recoup and I have been able to check her temps, check in on how she is, share in conversation, and bring her some food/fluids. My service site placement is at the part of Shanti Dan for physically and mentally handicapped girls aged 8-25. We were asked on the first day if anyone had massage or physical therapy experience, I immediately jumped on it. I enjoy reading about holistic health practice and alternative medicine approaches such ad massage, while having my first reiki training under my belt. My Mom has done so much physical therapy on me over the years, I figured I could wing this request to be the "therapist" for the next 3 weeks! So I have.
From 8-12:30, I try to treat as many girls as I can on the lime green pads thrown down in a back room of the complex. The Massi's in the room I share space with dance, play instruments, and sing with the girls in wheelchairs waiting for their therapy. All of the girls I have massaged and done physical therapy with so far have, a minimum, cerebral palsy, while most are also quadrapalegic. They come into the room curled up in their wheelchair and are lifted by Ashley, the massis, and myself onto the mat. I begin with gentle massage and simple relaxation techniques as many of them have no joint range of motion and their muscles are spastic (high tone, tensing). Each girl receives a 30 minute session. It has been powerful to witness the gentle relaxation of a muscle, slow uncurl of a frail leg, and many eyes closing into utter relaxation mode.
I was touched deeply by Tiya. Tiya has multiple diagnoses, some being CP, circulation, and an auditory disability. As I began to work oil into Tiya's neck, I closed my eyes and began to pray gently over her tight, unaligned, weak body. Her eyes gently closed with me and I felt something coming close to my face as my eyes remained closed. Tiya, being non-verbal can only make noises and smile, but this day she communicated in a way I will never forget. She gently put her frail, weak fingers into my messy and extremely sweaty long, straight hair and began massaging my scalp. I continued working her allignment from her neck down to her hips while she reciprocated this touch back to me. I was moved and naturally teared up instantly, seeing such beauty in this non-verbal, cross-cultural interaction that is so essential to all living things and beings; to be touched and cared for with such sweetness.
Be well,


I swear this place gets hotter when the sun goes down. I am currently dripping sweat in our hotels lobby. it is the humidity that is brutal. We are now a couple of days into our journey and today was our first "day off" from the mother house. I was just invited into an air conditioned restaurant attached to the room i was sitting in and am quite thankful. I apologize in advance for the poor punctuation ... Electronics Are not my favorite...especially while in India... Today we visited an inspiring business that gets women out of the red light district of kolkata and into a factory that makes tee shirts and hand bags... Bringing women freedom. Kolkata is a beautiful, chaotic, sweaty, smelly, dirty, delicious, and wonderful place..... I just ordered malai Kofta with roti... It is one of my favorite Indian dishes.... I highly recommend it. I have not done enough service work in my life. Already, this trip has opened my eyes ears and heart so much. I am so thankful to be here and be able to help people in need. I love India. This is my third time visiting the country and god willing it will not be my last. ... There is so much to say and I do not know where to start.... I have been working at Daya Dan. My first day as a volunteer at Daya Dan was rather frustrating but it has gotten better each day. At Daya Dan we work with some great children with mental and physical handicaps... On the first floor of the building(where sunny,carlos and myself have chosen to work) Each volunteer is paired with one particular child... We have lessons with our child each day and try to help them learn. The work requires a lot of patience... Ultimately the important work is providing these children with love and care. I have been working with a boy named Justice. We have been working on counting and simple addition. We have also been working on writing his name and numbers. I was just informed we only have ten minutes before our reflection so I will try to touch some things quickly.... Justice has a BEAUTIful singing voice. Each day after classes we sing with the children, smile and dance. It is my favorite part of the day. the children get so happy. baby baluga? Papa shark, the Macarena, the chicken dance... Classics.... The other day we had. A class called "light class" and layer in a circle with the children looking at a cylinder disco ball. . And music I have also volunteered at Kalighat the home for dying men. I realize I really like bringing water to people who cannot drink water Especially in this heat... I just want to bring water to people. At Kalighat I helped change and move some folks, did some laundry and helped feed some of the men. I am thankful. I must go for now. Be well and happy. ...johno

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"My name is Rama..."

Namaste everyone!

Let me start off by saying that India is HOT! My first days in Kolkata have been getting progressively better and better. The first day here was probably one of the hardest on me both physically and mentally. You never really know Kolkata until you experience every aspect of it. The combination of the scorching sun on my skin, the saltiness of my sweat dripping on my lips, the sting of my sweat going into my eyes, breathing in smoke, gasoline, urine, feces, trash as well as seeing old people laying on the streets, children and women begging for money and bumping into goats, dogs and cats that freely walk on the streets is something that was hard for me to soak up on my first day. All of that has now become the norm for me, it has become part of my day to day life here in Kolkata and is something I experience everyday as I travel to and from the site I am volunteering at.

On Monday (my third day in India) I was assigned to volunteer at Daya Dan, a home that works with physically and mentally handicapped children. Getting there via bus and auto-rickshaw was fun and scary at the same time, but I made it along with John, Brian, Anna, and Melissa. When we first entered the home we were welcomed and assigned to our tasks. Brian, John and I started by doing laundry and bringing buckets of laundry from the first floor to the rooftop and hanging them to dry. It was simple work, but having humidity and heat working against you makes such a simple job arduous and tiring. After about an hour a Massi informed us that we had to get a lesson plan ready to teach one of the boys on a one on one basis. To be honest, I was worried. I did not know whether I had the skills necessary to run an hour long lesson, let alone one on one with a boy that did not know who I was. We were brought to a classroom where the Massi told us to pick a backpack out of the twelve that had the names of the boys written on them. I grabbed the first one I saw. It belonged to Rama. I had no time to prepare a lesson because as I was about to start with some ideas, a wave of boys entered the room. I was approached by a small boy who took the backpack out of my hands and asked me to follow him. I followed the boy to a small cubicle. He grabbed a stool and put it in front of his desk, he sat down and asked me to do the same. "My name is Rama, I am 11 years old. I live in Daya Dan, I am a good boy, and Jesus loves me" where the first words Rama said to me. He proceeded to point to my red MOVE shirt and say "red." Rama was a very smart boy, as I looked through his old notebooks I saw that he had some knowledge with basic math, colors and shapes. I based my lesson on this. I taught him to use his fingers to count when doing addition problems. He picked up it very quickly. I then drew him some shapes, flowers, cars, stars and asked him to color them. As he picked up a crayon he told me color it was, smiled, and continued coloring. Before I knew, the hour was over and he went off to have his mango for snack time.

As we finished our morning shift at Daya Dan we were told we were free to go. As I grabbed my backpack from the volunteer room and was heading out the door, Rama saw me and waved as a big smile filled his face. That afternoon when we were in orientation, we were required to pick a site where we would volunteer for the rest of our time in India. Since applying for this trip, I knew I wanted to work at Kalighat, the site for the sick and the dying. As I was called up by one of the Sisters to register, I decided to commit not only to Daya Dan but to Rama as well. Something inside me told me it was the right thing to do and after spending my third day with him today, I am glad I made that decision!

Love always,


Tuesday, May 22, 2012

First few days...

For those reading, I am Brian Meloche. We arrived here in Kolkata in the wee hours of the morning a few days ago (not really sure how many, 2 or 3) by taxi from the airport. The taxi ride was pretty crazy since no one seems to follow any sort of traffic laws at all. It's pretty much a free for all, all the time.
Once here at our hotel we got settled in and trie to get some sleep. It was tough due to the jet lag and being on a plane for so long, but I think some of us go a little sleep, I know I did. The next day we all went to Mother House which is the main place/organization that is in charge of all our different service sites. It is he place where Mother Teresa lived, worked, and died. We got to see her tomb which was an amazing experience. It is a beautiful convent. From there, we all got split up to different sites for the day. I went to (I'm going to butcher the name but please cu me some slack) Diadon. It's a home for physically and mentally handicapped Bo's and girls. I was paired up with a boy named Justice who had some severe mental handicaps. I got some one on one classroom/reaching time with him, but I think I was mostly unsuccessful in teaching him anything. I don't think that site was really for me, so I'm glad I did not get permanently placed there.

Fast forward to today.

Our first real day of service. I was lucky enough to get my first choice on whee I wants to serve, Kaligaht, the home for the sick and the dying. The weather today was 104F and apparently the heat index, with the humidity, was somewhere around 120F. With that said, I found myself on the roof of this place all day hanging and taking down laundry. It was brutally hot, but I had some good company with other volunteers to help male it more manageable. I was able to get a little time with some of the residents though. I helped them lean their Hans after they ate (many of them ate only with their hands, and also physically carried a few into bed. I was/am a little dissappointed that that was my only interaction with them, but it was only day one....we still have 3 more weeks of this.

To be honest, I am a little concerned about how I will react when i finally do get a chance to work directly with the residents. I witnessed a man soil himself today and one of the volunteers, who was also on his firt day vouleneteerng, and no older than me, help him into the shower room and wipe him off and help him clean himself. I'm nervouse because I've never been in a situation like that before and am not sure how I will react. I think/hope that once I find myself confronted with a situation like that that I will be able to handle it. Im sure it will be tough, but nothing about India has been easy so far...

To get to our work site, and even Mother House, we have to walk through some extremely poor neighborhoods. Nhe street, which is directly off the street we are staying on, is so impoverished. Now, I'm not talking about American poverty, I'm talking about men, women, and children living in conditions worse than I ever could have imagined. Yesterday, for example, I saw children playing in large piles of trash, naked and barefoot. The smell alone is enough to make you choke on the air as you walk by...

I want to take pictures of everything I see and experience, but I feel really weird, guity and perverted for doing so. Is tough to explain unless you see it, but it feels very voyeuristic. This is these people's lives on a daily basis and it just seems wrong to take pictures of them...I don't know if I'm explaining it very well but I'm confused about it myself. Even if I could get a picture, it wouldn't be a true depiction of what it's really like, you cannot apt urge the sounds, the smells, the heat, or the constant bustle that is everywhere you.

We are baeky half way through our first week and clearly a lot is going on. I am excited to continue doing service and experiencing Kolkata in every way. This is truly a remarkable and strange place, and will undoublty be an experience I will remember for the rest of my life.

I hope everyone is well state-side and not worrying about us to much. We are all safe and in very good spirits. As a final note, I am not writing on behalf of the group...these are my thoughts. Hopefully other people will also write and share their own.

Sending love and support to everyone back home.

--Brian Meloche

The start of something wonderful

Hello! We are on day three in India and everyone is doing well here. We are slowly integrating into our new lifestyle and ways of the city. I wanted to take a moment and introduce myself, My name is Beth and I recently graduated. I studied Anthropology/ Sociology. I can't believe that I am actually seeing and experiencing what I have been learning about in the classroom for the last four years. I am volunteering at the Prem Dan house working with older women with various health issues. Walking to the house we have to briefly walk through a slum which is an experience in itself. I am really valuing all the work I am getting to do each day. The rhythm and motion of our mornings working is so unique to any other work I have done. Laundry is a carefully orchestrated dance. The whole precess is unique and makes me think how the next time I go to put it in a machine how simple and effortless it is. I find my interactions with the women to be very special as I smile and hold their hands. Not being able to understand what they are saying can be frustrating as I would love to hear their stories and be able to understand what they need, but gestures and smiles can say so much.
     It is interesting to also be a part of such a welcoming family oriented community of volunteers. Being new we rely on other volunteers to explain the work we will be doing, how to get to our site, and talk to throughout the day. I have met so many wonderful people and have also had the opportunity to speak Italian with a volunteer women who speaks no English. My Italian is very rough, but I have been slowly regaining it as I explain why I am here and how to get back to our street. I am grateful for the opportunity I have been given to come to Kolkata and do the work I'm doing. We have an amazing group and each  bring something unique to our dynamic.



The sun beats down on Prem Dan;

I am scrubbing. Fregando, fregando ("scrubbing" in Spanish), Allison says it's all about the friction. I'm not very good at scrubbing these sheets. There is a rhythm here, but it's like it's in a language that I don't understand and I'm having trouble keeping up. Bent over the basin, I'm moving slow and the small, Indian woman is noticing. The timid, Japanese volunteer sharing our basin accidentally pushes soap suds into a burst in the air and it flies at the Indian matron who makes a noise in disapproval. Selfishly, I am glad that my slowness is being overlooked now, or at least that I'm not alone on the outside of the woman's good graces.

I'm thinking about hands. My hands don't know these rhythms, they don't do this work so well, but theirs do. my hands know other things - like how to find a library book, drive a car, flip a Spanish tortilla, make a mix CD. All these hands here were made in wombs separated in likeness only be genes of ethnicity and their physical location. How is it that my white hands know so naturally how to type or tie my shoes, yet struggle so much where their brown hands pick up the work with ease? I'm holding a different Indian woman, a massi's, hands while she stands in the basin and mixes the soap in with the clothes. It's like we're doing a secret washing dance with her hands in mine and her feet gently stomping in the water. We don't know any of the same words but her hands organically came to mine as I helped her into the bin. When she's content with the mixing she steps out and we go back to scrubbing, scrubbing, scrubbing. The sun is hot. It's only been an hour, and my fingers are swelling up with dehydration and yet also pruny from the water. Is it possible to be two opposites at once? If it is, that might be what Kolkata is - a bunch of opposites.

I'm on the roof and there are colors everywhere with the sheets we've washed waving like flags. The women move methodically to hang and point us with our buckets of clean, wet laundry. I look out onto Kolkata from the roof. This city is a lot of colors, but so far to me it's mostly blue, yellow and brown, although this morning from the rooftop I'm overwhelmed with a lot of green - just not the Vermont kind, and it reminds me how far from home I am.

love & namaste,

Thursday, May 17, 2012


It is so cliche - but I truly cannot believe how the time has flown to get us to the night before we leave for India. I remember vividly my 22nd birthday, opening my mailbox to the letter that said I would take flight across the globe on May 18th, which as my group knows would be my beloved Nana's 81st birthday - a great sign in my book.

We're a busy group, and we've been busy with our own lives as well as planning for this adventure. On Monday six of our group members graduated - five undergrad seniors (all with new Bachelors of Arts degrees) and one graduate student, Alicia, who graduated with a masters in TESOL. Emotions, at least for me, have been running wild since our senior weekend began a week ago. So many doors and windows flying open and slamming shut (gently) all at the same time have left me with a lot of thoughts in my head and as Allison notes, a lot of anticipation for what's to come.

I've already been thinking (too much, probably) about the circumstances that allow the kinds of conditions that we're going to to exist. With the Arab Spring last year and the release of Kony 2012 this spring, the uncomfortable face of injustice and the seeming impossibility of overcoming and reversing any of these conditions weigh heavily on my mind. I know Kolkata will bring more of this frustration and confusion at the unknown and apparently insurmountable obstacles, but I'm hoping it also helps me to look at it all and my own world with a new perspective.

Abundance is a word that is coming into my life from all angles recently and packing my bags for Kolkata is no exception. I have an abundance of medical supplies, clean tee shirts and underwear and fruit snacks for the little kids I'll hopefully be working with. I have an abundance of support and love from my friends, family and Saint Mike's family worldwide. As a college graduate, I'm going off with a bit a confidence that I'm filled with what I hope is an abundance of sensitivity, compassion and curiosity. I've already had abundant love and opportunity poured onto me throughout my life and this experience I'm sure will be no exception. I'm so grateful to be getting on a plane tomorrow and I'm overwhelmed with excitement to see what's in store for us.

It is not how much we do,
but how much love we put in the doing.
It is not how much we give,
but how much love we put in the giving.
- Mother Teresa

Namaste & love,

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


For five months the group has been collecting donations to take with us to India. Now eight bulging  duffel bags sit waiting to join us on our flight to Kolkata in two days. Last weekend Meghan and her wonderful sister packed and re-packed the bags, distributing the weight evenly and double wrapping the liquids (medicines, lotions and even bubbles for the children).

Our extended community has been so generous, offering gauze, bandages, latex gloves and syringes for Mother Teresa's homes; chalk, notebooks, paints and pencils for the children's school at New Hope, New Life; clothing and little shoes for toddlers; and a treasure trove of toothbrushes and toothpaste for the men, women and children we will come to know.

Eight duffel bags and 13 travelers are ready to fly.


Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Last Meeting!

This past Sunday we all got together one last time at Allison’s house to alleviate some of the stress brought upon by finals week. It was nice to have everyone together for a potluck dinner. As I said before in my previous post, it is amazes me how well we all work together. As Brian made the french fries, John made the Caprese salad, Sunny, a few others and I set up the cups while everyone else took care of arranging the table with all the food for us to eat.

Time to eat!

Allison discussing last minute logistics.

After enjoying a wide variety of delicious foods, eating delicious home made ice cream and brownies and getting to know each other a bit more with a reflection Meghan had everyone take part in; we headed back to St. Mikes for Mass to receive a blessing from Fr. Brian. After Mass, we concluded our afternoon together by taking our first group photo right outside the chapel.

SMC India 2012
From Left to Right:
Top-Myself (Carlos), Beth, Melissa, Alicia, Anna, Allison
Bottom-John, Alyssa, Sunny, Meghan, Ashley, Brian
and Kirsten (not pictured)

As I sit on my bus ride home, I cannot believe how close we all are to the departure date. I still can’t believe I am going to Kolkata to volunteer and I know the reality of it won’t hit me until I am actually there, walking the busy street of Kolkata in less than two weeks.

Until then,


Thursday, May 3, 2012

As I sat in the doctors office today getting an immunization I forgot about (oops!), it hit me that we will be living and breathing in India very shortly. I have been in overdrive and know it will continue that way until the plane takes off!

A student I was working with today asked me what state India is in and it opened my eyes to the opportunity we all have to share our life experiences with others. Be it this India journey you, a friend or a loved one is taking, or something you yourself have done, share it somehow! I often hesitate sharing, afraid of how it will come off or be portrayed, but at the end of the day, we're doing an injustice to those we work with and interact with if we hold back. I proudly whipped out a map and explained the difference between states and countries, United States and the world. I am blessed to take this journey again and be surrounded by 12 others who have dedicated so much of their days and energy to making this journey happen.

Be well,


Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Sixteen Days...

Namaste Everyone!

I can’t really help but think how fast time has passed by. It seems like yesterday I turned in my application, got interviewed and anxiously awaited my fate. Turns out I was one of the lucky ten to be picked for India, and 8 months later here I am now, in my room, having just finished my last day of classes, taking a break from studying for finals, and there’s 16 days until we leave for India. WOW! I still can’t believe that my freshman year at St. Mikes has already finished, but I also can’t wrap my head around the fact that in about two weeks I will be on a plane on my way to Kolkata. 

As with any other service trip, planning for this trip has taken a lot of time and preparation. The group has been meeting every two weeks since our first meeting in the fall semester, to discuss important aspects of Indian culture, to get to know each other better, and to plan all the fundraisers. After having had the opportunity to work with my peers through fundraisers and other activities, I couldn’t be happier to get to experience such a wonderful adventure with this amazing group. Because of our diversity, we compliment each other as a group. We haven’t even landed in India and we are already so close. I can’t imagine how much closer we’ll be when we return from this trip. 

Of course, all our accomplishments couldn’t be possible without the help of Allison, Alicia and Meghan, our group leaders. They have also been a vital part of our group, they have worked so hard to make our fundraisers happen and because of that, I thank them immensely. 

As I wrap this up, I will leave you guys with one of my all time favorite quotes from Mother Teresa. It reads: 

“Life is an opportunity, benefit from it.
Life is beauty, admire it.
Life is a dream, realize it.
Life is a challenge, meet it.
Life is a duty, complete it.
Life is a game, play it.
Life is a promise, fulfill it.
Life is sorrow, overcome it.
Life is a song, sing it.
Life is a struggle, accept it.
Life is a tragedy, confront it.
Life is an adventure, dare it.
Life is luck, make it.
Life is too precious, do not destroy it.
Life is life, fight for it.”

As I get ready to embark on this amazing journey, I will keep this quote in the back of my mind. I will try to live by this quote as I spend my time in India and when I come back and I encourage anyone who is interested to give it a try. 

Adios for now,

Carlos Sian