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,



  1. What a wonderful experience ... you will remember it for a lifetime ... I suspect Rama will too! Keep up the good work, Carlos!
    Cheryl Paluso

  2. What a well written post. Thanks for sharing your experience. Lisa Spear