Student Leaders: SPRINT

Summer 2010 SPRINT Teams: India

Trip Dates: June 21-July 26, 2010

Project Description:
Learn about the Dalits’ quest for religious freedom, social justice and human rights as one of the most oppressed people groups. Students will assist teachers at Dalit schools in a variety of subjects and host fun activities for Dalit children on weekends.

Dalit Freedom Network

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India SPRINT Team

Team Updates

July 24

This is our last weekend in India! We cannot believe that we have been here for nearly five weeks now. We leave tomorrow night around midnight to begin our journey home (or as one of the children told us, "Happy Germany!" instead of journey).

We finished off our last week at Jeedimetla school last Thursday. This week we worked in the same classes as two weeks ago and also led PE classes in the afternoon. We taught the children to play Steal the Bacon and kickball! In Steal the Bacon, we would add our own twists to the game like having the students run to the ball by screaming with their hands waving in the air or hopping like a frog. Because we were at this school for almost two weeks, we really got to know the children and the teachers. As a thank you, some of the classes and teachers thoughtfully handmade cards to say thank you and goodbye. Everyone always asks not "Are you coming back?" but "When are you coming back?" We were sad to say goodbye, but took lots of pictures and gave many hugs :)

Yesterday we had the opportunity to visit the pipe village! This village is about a half hour away from the base at OM and right outside a pipe factory. The families in this village have husbands who work at the factory and many of the children attend school at Jeedimetla. The people there have built their homes based around large cement pipes from the factory. When we visited in the middle of the afternoon, the husbands were at work, so we met about five women and their small children and babies. Although the women only spoke their native languages and Hindi, it was powerful to communicate simply through touch and looking into each others eyes. The man who took us to the Pipe village is a pastor who has started many ministries in the surrounding slums. It was truly and eye opening experience to see where some of our students live and sleep. The women there were incredibly kind to us and proud to show us their homes. This tour was short, but definitely a highlight of our trip.

Last night we also got to visit another slum in a rock quarry. We recognized many of our students and were able to gather with the community there as well. The same pastor from the pipe village also reaches out to this community. We look forward to being able to share more stories of this when we return!

Today and tomorrow are our last full days here and we are trying to take advantage of them. We have been spending time with our new friends on campus, have plans to go downtown soon, and get henna tonight! Tomorrow we will go to church in our saris, pack, and be on our way. We wanted to thank you for the prayers you have been sending for Carlie and wanted to tell you that she is doing much better! She is healthy enough to fly home, which was our main concern. We still have mixed emotions about leaving, but are excited to see family and friends and eat good food (we would never know how much we would miss vegetables!).

Have us in your thoughts and prayers as we fly home! We look forward to seeing and talking to you soon!

Sprint team India

July 21

A quick update and prayer request from the team - Carlie's asthma has been giving her trouble; she's visited the on-campus clinic at the DFN headquarters, and is receiving good advice from her mother, a nurse.  However, Carlie's symptoms aren't responding to the medications as well as expected - please pray that she'll be able to breathe freely for the team's last few days in Hyderabad and for their travel home.

July 19

We have only one more week left of this crazy, curry-laden adventure in India. We definitely have mixed emotions about leaving, but we are so excited to come back and share all of the details and stories that couldn't fit into these e-mails.

This past week, we worked at two schools, Udamarry (Monday through Thursday) and Nandigoma (Friday and Saturday). Udamarry was really different from the other schools we have been to thus far. There were murals all over the school and the classrooms and tables were painted bright, fun colors. The school also had a few instruments that the students could play. They also showed us that there were baby animals on campus- water buffaloes, puppies, and bunnies. Some of the little boys also decided that they should catch a butterfly, hold it by its wings, and show them to us because we are apparently obsessed with animals.

Interesting fact- the town was close to several vineyards and, consequently, was filled with flies. The children would sit to eat their lunches and their hands and food would be covered with flies. The children did not seem to notice or care, but we couldn't get used to it.

We also discovered that there was supposed to be a dance competition on Saturday and we were so disappointed that we weren't going to be there for it. Two of us were in the eighth grade class on Thursday when a teacher came in to announce that she wanted to write down the names of the people who would be performing in the dance competition. There was one eighth grade boy who was much taller than the other kids and had the most magnificent mustache known to man. He stood up, looked up at the teacher and said, "I will not be in a group. I will be performing solo, individual, alone...SPECIAL." We were highly amused.

Another funny anecdote- one child at Udamarry asked one of us, "Do they have dinosaurs in America?" Cute :)

After Udamarry, we went to Nandigoma, which was much smaller than any of the other schools. They only have grades LKG (lower kindergarden) through second grade. They are a fairly new school, but they are attempting to expand and bring in a new LKG class next fall. The kids were so sweet and SO well-behaved. We taught the UKG class how to sing lots of songs, corrected notebooks, and had some great conversations and play-times. Even though it was only 2 days, it was wonderful :)

Yesterday, Sunday, we wore our sari's to church and then got to do some sight-seeing. Bassava, our host, took us to Golkonda Fort and hiked with us up these beautiful stone steps to the top of the fort. We discovered, though, that there was a Hindu festival going on that day and the place was packed with people, some of them with giant flame-filled pots on their heads. This was the first time that we felt overwhelmed by the sheer amount of people in this country. As we walked through the festival, people would slyly and not-so-slyly take pictures of us with their phones and cameras. It was seriously overwhelming. We couldn't go anywhere in the fort without people staring at us or trying to talk to us or taking our pictures or grabbing our hands.

Later, we went to Charminar, which is a huge shopping area with a beautiful tower-like structure. We got some good pictures and a real feel for what Indian shopping is like- busy, chaotic, and vocal.

This week, we are supposed to be at Jeedimetla again. Unfortunately, there was another state-wide bandh (strike) today so schools and businesses all shut down. Instead, we got to catch up on laundry, reading, and sleep. We are excited to go back to school tomorrow and finish off our week with the kids we started to build relationships with two weeks ago.

Please keep us in your thoughts as we finish up- that we would be able to keep loving these children like we have been and to keep up our health and energy for this last work.

July 14

This past week in India has been a great new experience for all of us. We worked at Jeedimetla school, which is here on the OM campus. It was a different experience because these children are more "city kids" rather than the rural village kids we worked with previously. We each worked with different age children again following one teacher throughout the day. In India, the teachers switch classes every period rather than the students. Therefore, we got to see one teacher's style in many different settings. We simply assisted the teachers this past week instead of full on teaching as we did at our first school. This was much more of what we had anticipated and was much less stressful.

One particularly exciting class was the UKG (or upper kindergarten) with 50 five-year olds. At first only Natalie and her teacher were assigned this class for the after lunch period. The children were energetic and a bit out of control, but still adorable. If you are familiar with the cartoon "Recess," the students were reminiscent of the "kindergartners" on that TV show. The next day, Carlie and Amy came in to help with this class because they had that period off. After singing songs, passing out crayons, and making up quick rhymes, we have a new respect for kindergarten teachers. They experienced children jumping off desks, covering their faces in chalk, and screaming just for fun. Although it was chaotic, they loved the children and were happy with the overall experience. At least it makes for a funny story.

This past weekend, we had sometime off for the first time in a while, so we made the most of it and took the bus downtown! The bus system in India is quite different than what we were used to. The bus was very crowded and simply slowed down to drop people off. Downtown, we did a bit of shopping for souvenirs and even learned to bargain a little. We also enjoyed a great meal at an Indian called "Paradise."

This week we are working at a new school called "Uddamarry." It is another village school and we are already learning a lot from it. We will have to talk more about this school in our next email. We hope everything is going well at home, and ask you to keep us in your thoughts and prayers. Thanks again for your support!

July 6

Surprise! We're back in Hyderabad a week early. We were told to be flexible when coming to India so when our plans quickly changed this week we were prepared. Instead of going to Kawkutla (our second school) we will be working at the DEC (Dalit Education Center) school on campus called Jeedimetla.

Our last week in Papaiahpet was a valuable and eye-opening experience. Initially expecting to be teachers' assistants we were surprised on the first day when we were each handed textbooks and scheduled to teach six periods a day. The experience was hard work, but also a blessing that we each would like to share about:

Amy-- This week I taught mainly elementary age math and science classes. Teaching was a challenging, but rewarding experience! I especially loved teaching the children some American songs and games like 'Chop-Chop Timber' and 'Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes' and learning some Indian games like Cricket. As valuable of a learning experience teaching was, my true joy of this week was talking, laughing, and playing with these wonderful children!

Natalie-- I taught a range of classes from first grade to ninth grade, the most challenging of which was ninth grade physical science. Having never taught before, it was definitely an opportunity to rely on God! I learned so much from the kids-- mainly the importance of touch, what generosity is, the struggles of language barriers, and even how to say "Good morning" in Telegu. I also have great memories of teaching the children the song, "pharaoh, pharaoh." They LOVED it and would yell, "Pharaoh!" at me when I would enter class. All in all, it was a wonderful but trying week

Carlie-- This past week, I taught kindergarten through third grade classes full of 40 to 50 children each (except the kindergarten which had 90 children in one classroom!). It was an incredible challenge but a rewarding blessing as well. I am learning a lot about being a teacher and how I want to teach someday in my own classroom, as well. Overall, the best part of the week was making the children laugh and smile through playing silly games, singing fun songs, and learning new dances! Life in India is great!

Karie-- When the school manager asked us what subjects we would like to teach I chose Math because I thought numbers would be the same in all languages. I taught 4th, 5th, 7th, 8th and 9th grade math and 6th grade social studies. I soon found out that math is not universal-- in India they have their own place value system, methods of calculating and terminology that made teaching much more challenging than I had anticipated. But, the love and excitement from the students made it all worth it. My highlight was a little boy in my 6th grade class who would become so excited when he knew an answer his eyes would get really big and he'd jump out of his seat yelling "Teacher! Teacher!"

Kira-- So many adventures have already happened in our first two weeks: wearing Indian salwar kameez, drinking chai with the Good Shepherd Community Church, driving past herds of water buffalo, and most of all teaching and learning from the Dalit children of Papaiaphet. I made a lot of friends with the kids in the classes I taught-- English for grades 2nd through 9th and social studies for the upper levels. I had to adjust to the Indian school system, how to teach kids who mostly spoke Telegu, and diving head first into a new culture. Learning new Telegu phrases, teaching fun games and doing henna with some bright-eyed girls was so rewarding. My favorite kids were the 9th graders who I had for two classes. I was able to make them laugh and learn at the same time. I was humbled by how poor the village was, yet amazed by how many kids desired to have a good education. They were the ones hungry to grab my hand, but I was the one hungry to learn to be more like them.

In summary, we have seen a lot and are learning so much, yet we still have so much to do. We are thankful we have the next three weeks to work at various DEC schools and get to know these kids who touch our lives so much. Sunday night, since it was the 4th of July, a few Americans on the OM campus set up a fireworks show and we had a little taste of home and USA pride.

Last night we witnessed our first Indian thunderstorm-- the lightning literally lit up the entire sky and the storm went on for hours, followed by rain all through the night. Today we start our first day at the Jeedimetla school, so as a team we are preparing to meet new challenges while always keeping flexibility in mind.

Thank you for keeping us in your prayers and we send blessing from India!

June 24

We all arrived safely and are enjoying the food and the people we are meeting. We got plenty of sleep last night so we can adjust to the time difference. The monsoon season is really good, we are happy it is fall here, because they had a REALLY hot summer, so we came at just the right time. Since being picked up from the airport, we have been drinking in the culture and the chai! The busy streets, the pretty clothes, the spicy food, and the smiling faces here at the Operation Mobilization campus. We have been learning a lot about the organization here and the Dalit Education centers we will be working in.

Unfortunately, for the next two weeks we will be out of any contact, because we are traveling to remote villages to work in two different schools there. We will not be around any of the computers of phones here on the OM campus. So adventure begins right away! The good news is that after those two weeks, the next three weeks we will be staying in Hyderabad at the campus and working in nearby schools (one even here on campus). It is going to be long and hard work, but we can't wait to play with the kids and help out the teachers and this great ministry.

We hope that you all are well in the States, and we want to thank you for your prayers! Everything has been smooth and good so far! A little tired, but nothing we can't handle. God is looking after our health and protection, and as a team we are bonding closely and are so thankful for each other.

June 23

The team arrived in Hyderabad, India yesterday afternoon, Seattle time.  Over the next four weeks they’ll learn and serve alongside local leaders of the Dalit Freedom Network, committed to providing education, religious freedom and opportunity for India’s lowest caste.  The team will visit a number of DFN projects in the region and will help with children’s activities in a number of DFN-supported schools.

Here's the update from India:

The girls arrived safely and with all their luggage. We are doing their orientation.  They all say Hi :)


June 21

Four member of the team departed SeaTac Airport this morning. Karie, Kira, Natalie and Amy will meet Carlie in New York before the team departs for India. Sadly, Kate's ill and unable to make the trip. More updates soon.

India Departure

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