Wednesday, May 28, 2014

A Volunteer's Story

My few weeks of fun and joy at Satsang Vidyalaya
When I came across Satsang Vidyalaya, Madanappale in my search for places to volunteer, I did not know what to expect, or if they even needed volunteers with my skillset. On my first visit, I spent some time with Mr. Stephen Kollamala, the director of Satsang Vidyalaya (SVM), who showed me around the school, introduced me to the teachers and suggested a few ways in which I could be of some use.
After my discussions with the teaching staff at SVM, Mr.Ravindran Cheerath and Ms. Radhika Ravindran,  I decided to focus on introducing computers and its potential to the kids. For this, I had to choose a tool that was visual, flexible, promoted creativity and logical thinking, and most importantly had a gentle learning curve. My search led me to Scratch 1.4, a visual programming language from MIT Labs. Scratch is widely used at many schools in the USA and a few hours with it helped me decide that it was the right tool. 

Having never taught at a school or anywhere, I was quite apprehensive about how to go about teaching. My plan was to structure each class to demonstrate a concept on the big screen and then quickly follow up with a hands-on session.  All my apprehension dissolved in the first few minutes because the way you learn Scratch is by making small animation movies and if there is one thing the folks in Madanapalle love, its movies. The kids quickly embraced the idea of making movies and eased into the role of directors/ junior programmers. As days went by, I was amazed at how smart the kids were and how quickly they learned. The students were quite creative and innovative in their solutions to exercises in class. 

I stayed at the Foundation's campus located next to SVM in a picturesque natural landscape and ate the food that the kids had every day. It was awesome to see kids being taught responsibility by encouraging activities and habits like washing their own dishes, cleaning school surroundings and stacking library books. An eye opening moment was to see Mr.Stephen Kollamala and students enthusiastically clearing and leveling their volleyball court so that they could use it. 

Satsang Vidyalaya is a school with no pretensions. The kids and the teachers know that they have to improvise, innovate and be self-sufficient with limited resources that are available. But they do it with grace and joy.
Back home and settled into my regular work routine, I now realize how much of an enriching experience it was to have spent some time amongst the kind teachers and cool kids at SVM.  Thank you.
Here are some photos I took during my stay at Satsang Vidyalaya, Madanappale: 

Ranjit Thayyil is a volunteer who recently came down and spent time with Satsang Vidyalaya. If you would like to spend a similarly enriching few weeks at our campus, please contact Mr Ravindran: with details of yourself and how you can help us on campus.


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