Posts Tagged With: volunteer

The journey some papers take!

“To think if pieces of paper can have such a journey and story!”

About 3 years ago, a packet, for me, was delivered to my parents’ home in Chandigarh. It had a pack of 500 very good quality origami papers and a handwritten letter. 

The letter told the journey this pack had already had… 

“This paper meant for Japanese artwork was made in Germany and imported to Kansas. From there it was delivered to California, where another colleague got it to Delhi and yet another colleague got it to Bombay. From where my friend couriered these to Chandigarh with the hope that I will carry them to Angola where they will turn into exotic shapes and bring smiles to someone’s face!”

He knew all about my volunteering with kids in Angola and also knew that I took back supplies from India as it was very hard to find good and cheap art supplies there. We had been talking about the legend of 1000 origami swans and because he couldn’t find any good origami paper in India, he asked some of his colleagues who were coming back from the US to bring some. Of which one was sent my way for my kids.

In Angola, these papers brought many a smile when we turned them into windmills, and frogs, and hearts, and many more shapes. 
volunteering with kids in Angola

And then I left Angola and the stack went into storage with all of our other stuff. A year later it took another long journey, this time on the big seas as it came with our shipment from Angola to Romania. 

It was only after almost 2 years that the stack came back to life. This time again at a learning space for street children. From being a perfect square, it went on to become a hearts, tulips, fish, whales, and birds… bringing many more smiles 🙂 

Volunteering with children Bucharest, easy origami for children

And we have just begun! No one knows the journey and the stories these will create! Waiting to be an instrument and a witness to it.

The journey of a stack origami papers

Oh! the journeys some papers take. I can write an essay on myself as a paper. I remember in primary classes we used to have essay topics like “the autobiography of a paper!”. This was a perfect journey for that 🙂

 

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D-I-Y newspaper gift bags

Holiday season is coming up soon! The season for sharing and gifting. And what better than homemade gifts? There are some great activity ideas, on pinterest, to do with your kids at home during holidays.

Next week I am starting a new, once a week, project with children at the foundation where I volunteer –

“Christmas gift for my family”.

We got a donation of lots of beads from a girl who was leaving Angola and that is what started this idea. Over the next 4-5 weeks I’m planning to teach kids, how to:

  • make a gift bag using old newspapers
  • decorate the gift bag with colourful cutouts and make gift tags- we will try to reuse empty biscuit boxes, wrappers etc for this.
  • Make a Christmas card for their family. This would include writing a letter to their family as well. Telling them what it means to be together during the holidays :).
  • make bracelets or keychains or other small trinket using the beads we received.
  • make christmas ornaments for the tree at home.

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Categories: go green, recycle, Volunteer | Tags: , , , , , | 2 Comments

Being Palanca

This post was first published on Volunteer Weekly – a platform for celebrating volunteerism.

Palanca is an endangered species of the Angolan wildlife but it is more than just that. It’s a national symbol that represents – Peace, Tolerance, Unity, Self-esteem and preservation of biodiversity.

About a year ago, the foundation brought together 10 artists who gave a blank wooden palanca their expression of these values. The exhibition, called ‘Being Palanca’ ( ‘ser Palanca’ in Portuguese), served to raise awareness among the Angolan people about the importance of the values at hand: peace, unity, tolerance and self-esteem, and to the significance of the Palanca as an endangered species and as the national symbol of Angola.

Going through some of the old material, I found files of the “ser Palanca” or “Being Palanca” project and together Ana and I thought of doing this with our kids at the  foundation. We imagined it would be a great way to engage the children towards thinking about these values and give them an expression.

We started the day with a discussion on each of the five values — what it means, is it important and why? can we live with one without the other? The discussion went into talks of how somewhere lack of tolerance for the other is the cause of current conflicts all over the world. The children were also quick to explain by themselves how peace is the blanket under which each of the other values thrives and vice versa — that without unity, tolerance or self-esteem and a respect for our biodiversity, we cannot have peace.

being palanca, teaching values to children, volunteering with children, volunteering in Luanda, volunteering in Angola

I was intrigued by that. All the children were born in peace time but 30 years of civil war meant that each family had stories of loss and tragedy passed on from parents to children and it was clear how they valued peace more than anything.

After the discussions, each child chose one value that they most identified with and started to give expressions to their thoughts on paper. Each value was depicted by a single colour so each painting was only in one colour. In the end we brought them all together to create one big Palanca. The idea was that the density of each colour in the collage will clearly reflect which of the values the children most identified with.

Being Palanca, see palanca, teaching values to children, volunteering with children, volunteering in Luanda, Volunteering in Angola

Does it mean something that most works were on Peace and Unity?

I am Peace. I am Unity.

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Meeting Amma

me_n_amma29/09/2013 Shivanand Ashram, Uttarkashi; 3pm
We were walking from Uttarkashi to Ganeshpur after listening to Col. Ajay where he shared with us few glimpses of the first few days of the floods.
Joseph ji has friends in all corners of the country and he wanted to introduce us to them, so we set out on a walking tour of Uttarkashi. As we were walking, we first crossed the famous Kashi Vishwanath temple. We went in for a quick darshan. Now, Uttarkashi is the abode of gods so temples are a regular sight. We soon came across Omkareshwar temple. The temple had a huge peepul tree in its compound. Since it was afternoon and the sun was very hot, we thought of taking a short break here. Pratyush sat inside the temple, I sat under the tree and Joseph ji, who it seems never needs a break, went down to the banks of river Ganga. There he saw an old lady and after asking her permission called both of us to meet her. I would refer to her as amma from here on.
Amma lived in a tiny room on the steps that went down to Ganga. As soon as we came, she put out a blanket on the ledge outside her room for us to sit, while she sat down. She asked us if we have had food. Even though we told her repeatedly that we’ve had food she insisted on making some lunch for us. “Sab kuchch hai, daal hai, chaawal hai, aata hai. Tum bolo main abhi bana doongi” (There is everything – pulses, rice, flour. You tell me and I will quickly make lunch) 🙂
I was thinking how we get so worried whenever there are unexpected guests at home and here was a lady who had little for herself and is eager to share it all with 3 strangers who just showed up at her door. Such unconditional love!
She obviously won’t have it that we not eat anything and gave me a biscuit packet. I couldn’t refuse it. It was a gift of love. She again asked “kya khaoge” and this time Pratyush replied “maaji gyan khayenge. Thodi baatein sunaiye” (we want knowledge. Tell us something).
Then she started sharing her life with us. Her pilgrimage to the mountains, her travels and stays at different ashrams. She had a smile that reached her eyes and her eyes were sparkling. For the last 40 years she has been living in the room waiting for the time when Ganga ji will take her away.
In between she looked at me and said “tu yahin mere pass ruk jaa” (you come and stay with me) and I sat down with her and I was remembering my grandmother so much. And I addressed her as amma. She held my hands and she started talking about how I should not worry about troubles that come in life because happiness does not come without struggles. And that only when there are struggles will we get closer to God. It was as if she was looking inside me.
She only spoke Garhwali but I could understand everything. It was like she was talking to our hearts. I had one of my most intimate conversations with a stranger, with her.
We went to meet her again the day after and as we were leaving she said fondly “aate rehna” (keep coming).
I am leaving from uttarkashi today and I dont know when I will be back but I say to her “amma I will try”.

Categories: Family, Travel, Volunteer | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

The SMILE Deck game

Every trip to Ahmedabad gives me something new to write! There is so much that I receive there that I can just not let it pass without sharing and giving back 🙂 I shared it on Volunteer Weekly, but like the Seva Cafe volunteering experience, I wanted to share it here as well. But this one is a shorter version of the original article.

Last month when I was in Ahmedabad; Mihika gifted me a SMILE deck.

SMILE deck, SMILE cards, random acts of kindness, pay it forward, little acts of kindness

Four suits of the SMILE deck

The smile deck is like any other deck of cards – 4 suits with 13 cards each and 2 Jokers – with a twist that each card has a unique kindness idea. These decks were created by a group of volunteers, people just like you and me.The four suits are four categories for kindness towards people you know, stranger, yourself and for the world. You can view all the ideas here:

    Clubs: For People You Know
    Hearts: For Strangers
    Diamonds: For Yourself
    Spades: For Our World

My SMILE deck has become a game now. I started with the Joker card as soon as I opened the deck – telling a joke to the person who gifted it to me. For a week I thought about how to use it. And then I decided to pick one card at random every day and do what it says. I have to confess that I haven’t been able to stay one-a-day with them as I had initially thought but the game is on till the deck gets over and it has been fun and rewarding. Here are some that I have picked till now and what I did :).

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Atithi Devo Bhava: A mantra I saw in practice at Seva Cafe

I first wrote this volunteering experience for Volunteer Weekly. But then I had to share it here as well! 🙂

This post combines three of my favorite tasks – cooking, volunteering and writing!

seva cafe logo, living is giving, volunteering at seva cafe, Ahmedabad,Last week I went to Ahmedabad to volunteer in Seva Café. I was introduced to Seva Café almost a year ago during a training in my previous organisation. Since then I have wanted to come back here. Even though Ahmedabad is just a couple of hours away, it still took me almost a year to return.

It is difficult to explain Seva Café – it’s an experiment in ‘Peer to Peer Generosity’ run by volunteers (and a small staff) from diverse backgrounds. At Seva Café, volunteers offer meals to strangers just like they would to guests at home. At the end of your meal your bill reads 0.0. The café runs on gift economy.

Even though I love cooking, I have never cooked for more than 15 people at a go. I wanted to see how it is in big kitchen and so I decided to volunteer for both food preparation and later in waiting, serving and cleaning dishes. It was an amazing experience! I realized the cooks in restaurants must have solid arm muscles because even mixing such quantities and holding such big pans (with food) was a task :D!

volunteering at seva cafe, ahmedabad, seva cafe, india, karma kitchen

The day began with me making tea for everybody. Then Raghu bhai and Raju bhai decided on the menu for the day and we all got busy. Since I was a novice I was mainly peeling and chopping and passing things. Then Bhaskar bhai decided to teach me fried rice and red sauce for pasta. I was all excited! Yeah! I get to cook! 🙂

What followed is something I will always remember.

As soon as a picked up the pan; Bhaskar bhai asked me to look up and read:

“अतिथि देवो भव” [meaning ‘The Guest is God’].

I said okay and I said it loud “अतिथि देवो भव”. He then said – don’t just say it; believe it. Believe it from your heart that the stranger you are cooking for today, is your guest; is like God. Cook like you would cook for God. Leave all the negative emotions that you may have aside; if you had a fight with someone earlier in the day and you are angry; throw that anger out. There is no place for it in this kitchen. Cook with a happy heart; cook with love and its only then that your food will be delicious. He said – there is no technique in cooking a great meal; the only essential ingredient is love. If while cooking you are thinking about any fight you had then those negative emotions are bound to travel to your food also.

The thought was so simple, yet so profound. It’s the reason why no restaurant can match mother’s food. Mom’s make food with love which a restaurant chef rarely remembers to add!

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Once a volunteer, always a volunteer!

I was searching for cartoons to share with our volunteers, when I stumbled upon this one.. really described what I felt when I had started volunteering.. 🙂 It was a trap.. I fell into it almost 10 years ago and still haven’t managed to come out  and don’t want to either 🙂 Read my story here.

image taken from: http://www.grantland.net/volunteering.htm (check out the link for many more interesting cartoon strips)

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What will you do?

22nd April is Earth Day. I didn’t know about any such day until about a week ago when events about Earth Day celebration started featuring in my news feed. And today my 4 year old niece told me that she is practising for an Earth Day painting competition happening in her school tomorrow. I never celebrated Earth Day in my school or college, so I thought it must be a recent thing (10 years or so) to celebrate Earth. But when I looked it up on the Internet, I was actually impressed to read it’s 42 years old history.

I work towards promoting volunteerism in India and interact with a lot of volunteers on a daily basis. Sometime I’m at a loss when people ask me difficult questions like “How can I as an individual eradicate poverty from the country? If I can’t do much, why should I try?”. But if I think of Earth Day; celebrating Earth would mean celebrating everything we have received from her (it). It’s water day, food day, animal day, climate day, anti-pollution day all rolled into one – giving us unlimited options of celebration. If I don’t run my tap idle, I’m celebrating Earth Day; If I don’t waste paper, I’m celebrating Earth Day; If I water the plants, I’m celebrating Earth Day. It’s so easy :).

And why do we need an Earth Day? Shouldn’t Every Day be Earth Day? We use our planet every day, why not celebrate it every day?

Here is a list of 7 things that I will change/adopt to celebrate Earth every day for 7 days; every week for 4 week; every month for 12 months; every year till I can.

  1. I will put a pot of water for birds to drink on my balcony
  2. I will walk to shorter distance
  3. I will minimise my AC/heater usage. I will increase AC temperature by a degree in summers. (Every degree lower in the winter or higher in the summer you put it is a 10 percent decrease on your energy bill.)
  4. I will run my washing machine on cold temperature
  5. I will switch off all appliances from the mains switch, when not in use.
  6. I will use vegetable leftovers in the kitchen like coriander stems, spinach stems, cucumber & carrot peels, cabbage core etc to make vegetable stock instead of throwing them
  7. I will carry my own reusable bag for shopping

What will you do?

Categories: go green, recycle, Volunteer | Tags: , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

The Journey…

The Lok Mitras

We often wander in search of inspiration and so was our case when we began our journey to Gandhi Ashram. Though there weren’t any expectation, the visit led to some soul searching. It answered some questions we had been struggling with but raised many more.

Over the last two days we met so many inspired people with equally inspiring life stories that it is difficult to write about them all in one post but what we all observed through the stories (or rather the journeys) of those people is the common thread that holds them together. The deep sense of solidarity and the spirit of changing themselves by serving others. A selfish motivation – as described by Nimesh :). Truth, love, joy, compassion, humility, friendship – the Gandhian principles so often forgotten were imbibed by one and all associated with the place. None of the people we met ever talked about changing the world but about changing themselves. “Be the change” is what their kurtas read. They all had at some point of time broke the shackles of their routine life in search for purpose and satisfaction. They had originally come to the ashram for one hour, one day, one project and never left.

Madhusudan came here as a filmmaker with an idea of making a film on manav sadhana for increasing awareness. Little did he know that one interaction with Jayesh bhai and his message of spreading love and greater love would strike such a cord that it has been 7 years since that day and he hasn’t thought of turning back.

The place is a collection of individuals, organisations, groups and ideas working towards one message “Love All Serve All”

Nimesh was running a successful animation firm in Pune when suddenly he realised that while he was successful, he was not content. Today he is enjoying at the ashram engaging with 16 children through the medium of arts and theatre. Madhusudan says he is “mothering” instead of using the word ‘fathering’ the children. Nimesh accepts that he stayed on because he was selfish. He was changing and he liked the change.

Siddhartha and Leher came to the ashram for one day during their journey across India. This was one year ago. Raghu bhai came here because he felt he was becoming a burden on his family due to his disability, but today he is the support of nearly 20 mothers due to his “tyag no tiffin”. He started by sharing his tiffin with an elderly lady and slowly others joined him. Today they fast for one meal every Thursday and the money they save by skipping the one meal is used to provide tiffin to these 20 elderly women.

Rahul an avid photographer strongly believes in the power of images to bring change. He says he is a bit shy in talking to people but he found his purpose when he saw the smile on the kids faces when they get a print of their picture. A lot of us click pictures of kids in slums, in streets or in other public places but how many of us go back and give those pictures to them? Rahul does. He says the families display the pictures on their walls and it is s sense of pride and togetherness for them. He is now working on a project where he would click pictures of at least 100 families and give them the framed photograph.

Like Nilesh bhai, Madhu bhai, Siddharth, Rahul, Leher.. .the place is a buzzing with people moved by love. Deepam aptly says that they stay on because they gain more than what they give.

Everybody I spoke to has a journey I would want to be part of. The place didn’t just inspire, it taught me. Yes, in just two days, it taught the message of humility and gratitude.

To know more about the people and their initiatives go to http://www.movedbylove.org/

Photo credits:http://www.flickr.com/photos/17347460@N00/4776131151/sizes/l/in/photostream/

This photo belongs to ‘charityfocus’ on Flickr

Categories: development, Travel, Volunteer | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Volunteers V/s Professionals

“Noah’s Arc was built by Volunteers

The Titanic was built by Professionals”

I read this quote about volunteers sometime back on a website and the next moment I was drawing this cartoon! This is my very first attempt at cartooning and though I took the arc and the animals and the titanic from different places, I really like the end result ; therefore sharing with all.

Categories: development, Volunteer, work | Tags: , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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