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Our first Week Volunteering for Ukindo
Posted on February 16,

So, Joe and I have been in India for just over a week now and so far everything has been a bit of a blur. As much as I'd read about it beforehand in all the travel books, I was still not prepared for how much India would be an assault on your senses. The beautiful and vibrant dresses of the local women, the random bursts of music and car horns, the fragrant wafts of spices, the vast array of tongue-tingling tastes and the endless shaking of little hands. It was all-consuming, over-powering, and I loved it.

During our first week, we had little opportunity to get started with the schools as there was a three day holiday before the weekend, however we went to meet Viniyaka our contact at the Ukindo school and who was to be our guide/chaperon for the majority of the time.

Viniyaka took us to Goshala slum, which Ukindo are hoping to be the site of a brand new school of theirs. On arriving to the area, we were immediately at the centre of many people's attention; Viniyaka informed us that most had never seen an English person before. The road to the slum was dusty, littered with rubble and lined with many staring faces. We wandered down it to the area where the locals' house were, just before the entrance to where they kept their cows, where people lay in the sunshine on their beds – just some fabric stretched across a few pieces of timber.

The children, barefoot and grubby, gazed at us, unsmiling despite our gentle waving and tentative 'hello's. Viniyaka suggested that we "take a selfie" (her favourite phrase and past time!!) with the children. Initially, I was reluctant. These children didn't know who we were or why we were there, didn't look happy to see us and couldn't understand our polite queries as to whether it was ok to take photos. It felt a bit like an intrusion.

How wrong I was! First photos taken, we showed them back to the kids and their faces lit up. They were excitedly pointing at themselves and chattering away in Hindi, suddenly full of broad, beaming smiles. My discomfort had definitely passed.

Viniyaka discussed the plans to adapt a building in the slum into a school with the locals, and as we left she pointed out said prospective building. It was literally just four rough, white walls, no roof, no doors or windows, but filled with rubble. It wouldn't be an easy job but I could almost already picture the perfect, welcoming little school it could become with some hard work, persistence with the locals and Tim and Amar's pure determination. How could I not envisage it?? It was just what these kids needed – an escape from a life living in the dirt, scraping by and struggling to eat. It was the start of an opportunity for them to aspire to more, to change their lives for the better, with the hope that from their generation onwards they would not need to continue to live in extreme poverty and squalor. We left, inspired and excited.