Jyothi Seva


By Ciara O’ Malley and Ciara Golden

This week offered us a completely different experience. There was a Bus strike in Bangalore Monday which affected the number of students who made it to school each day during the week. This weeks blog we will focus mostly on Music. The children are so talented. They pick up music lyrics so quickly and are constantly looking for new songs to learn. They are intrigued by our tin whistles and are not impressed when we are unable to play some song requests!!

The children love to greet visitors with their songs and this week was no exception. A Japanese music group came to the school to sing for the children and they repaid the favour by introducing them to their favourite songs. The children and the young adults in the hostel surprise us more and more every day with their musical abilities- singing and playing instruments. Hearing songs such as Fields of Athenry, Molly Malone and I’ll Tell Me Ma being sung by the children is amazing and three weeks on still brings the goosebumps!! Here is a clip of our talented bunch!! :-)

Video of performance

Final week in Morning Star


By Sarah Delea

Our last week in Morning Star began with an eventful night of traditional Indian music and dancing as the centre came together to celebrate Sarah’s birthday. The fun continued with an afternoon of face painting which saw the boys transform into tigers, rabbits and their favourite superheroes! More creativity followed with the boys creating a welcome poster and decorations for Morning Star. Little instruction was needed as the boys took to the artistic task naturally and as usual showed initiative and focus when making the poster.

During this week we also felt our confidence growing with every task including hand feeding of the disabled boys. Developing our understanding of the people in Morning Star over the last few weeks and their way of life has equipped us with the ability to communicate and interact with them in a meaningful way. It’s hard to believe our time is almost up just when we are starting to feel like part of the family.

Association of People with Disabilities: Week 3


By Sarah Armstrong and Sharon O’ Sullivan

On our 3rd week in APD our involvement was based on our own experience in our work life. We held classes on interview skills as well as verbal and non verbal communication to benifit students who would be interviewing for potential jobs this week in the retail and hospitality industry. They were very nervous about these interviews but equally capable. We also held arts and crafts classes for the students to distract them from the nerves of the future and encourage their creativity and help them unwind.

We were glad to be of help to students beginning a new chapter their new lives and encourage and guide them. We felt humbled to contribute to the students we had come to adore and eagerly waiting the interview outcome as themselves. Last week being our final week we look forward to hearing of all the students stories and enjoying our last few days connecting and having fun with these amazingly talented teenagers.

Out and about in the community


By Mairead Finn, Rebecca Jones and Andreas Paffenholz 

In the last two weeks we have been exposed to a different aspect of India, a side which showed us a great sense of community from visiting the different ‘wards’ which are neighbourhoods within a parish to medical clinics in rural areas and different parts of Bangalore.

Stepping into the small grey mini-van which was our transport for the day, you could feel the heat hitting you as the door opened. The leather seats exemplifying just how hot the day would become even though it was only 6:30 am and the sun wasn’t even fully radiating in the sky.   As we picked up two nuns and two novices on the way to the clinic the droplets of sweat increased. The lack of air circulating was becoming evident as we all shifted and stirred in our seats in an attempt to make the bumpy journey more bearable.

Arriving at the clinic we stepped out into the hot sun, the landscape resembling a desert. Houses were dilapidated all around us yet the people living there still had smiles on their faces as they set about their daily tasks. As the patients began to arrive we unpacked the medical supplies and prepared ourselves for the challenging morning ahead.

We were privileged to work alongside Sister Jean ‘The Mother Theresa of Bangalore’. Sister Jean epitomises what every volunteer strives to achieve. With over 35 years of experience, she negotiates the language and poverty barrier excellently. Her medical knowledge of the patients and their families helps to identify their needs in advance which is a skill only acquired through years of hard work and experience. She has done immense work for and with people who have been effected by leprosy, a disease which can be detrimental.

The clinic supplies medication, performs wound dressings, provides education and cares for the individual needs of the patient, medically and financially if necessary. These clinics are often situated in the slums or very rural areas and face extreme challenges such as acquiring clean running water and unreliable power sources.

We were able to experience a different aspect of ‘normal’ medical care which we are accustomed to providing in Ireland. The people and services in the clinics exemplify the true spirit of community. The sense of togetherness was evident in the manner in which people interacted with one another. An unspoken level of respect lingered in the air.

On another occasion we were invited by one of the priest’s based in Sumanahalli to join him and parishioners to visit his parish. We were warmly welcomed by a group of youths who were practising for the upcoming independence day celebrations. At 6pm, we attended mass which was celebrated in Malayalam, the local language of the Indian province Kerala, deep in the south. The hour and a quarter long mass was dominated by music and singing which we were very appreciative of as we didn’t understand one word which was spoken. Music’s universal language helped us to thoroughly enjoy the experience and brought alive the mass. We then went to one of the homes of the parishioners. The whole ward which incorporates thirty families from one neighbourhood attended the prayer meeting which is held monthly, similar to the ‘stations’ back home. Squashing this large amount of people into one room was no easy task, many were left a standing outside but the prayers were loud enough that there was no doubt that they could here them clearly. A key moment during the meeting was the celebration of the birthdays which had occurred during the previous month. Rosary beads were gifted to the appropriate people including us, to our surprise, signifying their welcome of us into this close community of people. We were honoured to sit at the top table to eat. We tried to convey our appreciation of the culture through the customs which we had learned thus far in India. We left our flip-flops at the door, tried to eat with our hands and attempted to thank them in their local language. They got great entertainment from us trying to eat with our hands as we didn’t do a great job and our mispronunciation was a constant source of humour.

The familiarity of the sense of community and welcoming nature of the people was a comfort and reassurance to us. Getting offered a cup of tea after the ‘stations’ almost brought us back to home, except for the lack of power and heat which jolted us back to reality fairly swiftly.

Jyothi Seva, Week 2


By Ciara Golden and Ciara O’ Malley

The children have been very busy during our second week in Jyothi Seva.  Not only have they exams but they are working extremely hard in Craft class!  They are thoroughly enjoying working with lots of tactile materials and we’re delighted to be able show off their finished products this week!  Below are some examples of the pieces the children have created. We are so proud of them!

There is only one way to see things, until someone teaches us to look at the world with different eyes


By Sarah Armstrong

The Association for People with Disabilities (APD) in Bangalore is an organisation whose main goal is to recognise each and every individuals strengths and abilities. Their purpose is to focus on such and to ensure that their students are provided the means and support necessary to be confident in these abilities, to be confident that they are contributing members of society and most importantly, to be confident in themselves.

During our second week in APD, it was clear to see the bonds which have been formed between students themselves as well as students and teachers. The work, such as electronics, fitting and algebra, which seemed difficult and hard to comprehend for us, was almost effortless to them. For me, it just goes to show that there is no such thing as being “disabled”, just differently abled! It is clear that a strong work ethic has been instilled in the students at APD, however there was always time for a laugh and a joke as well! More often then not it was on our behalf, as they teased us for our lack of skill when it came to eating with our hands.

Many of the students who undertake the ITC courses at APD have speech and hearing difficulties, however even those who do not are taught how to sign and this is the communication which must be used every day in their classes. I think this is just a beautiful way of conveying how APD have a strong belief in inclusion for all, and never want to leave anyone behind. As we walk down the Corridors every day we are welcomed by beaming smiles and waving hands, 2 weeks into our placement and we are still overwhelmed by how kind and welcoming everyone has been! We have had the pleasure of conducting two art and craft classes as well as classes on interview and communication skills in the workplace. The students really seemed to enjoy the art and craft, a fun way to get their hands dirty and have a break from the study! And the interview skills were invaluable to them, as the majority of them are going for job interviews next week! We even overheard them practising at lunch time, which was fantastic to know we had helped them in some way! We wish them all the best of luck in their interviews, but know there’s no need for luck really, they will absolutely smash it!

Rickshaws become submarines and Scooters become Jet Skis


By Rebecca Jones, Mairead Finn and Andreas Paffenholz

We spent a delightful afternoon with our new friends in the “SUPPORT” centre, which caters for women and men, who are living with HIV. The women there welcomed us into their home and provided us with a warm and friendly atmosphere. We felt immediately comfortable and really enjoy spending some of our afternoons engaging with the residents here.
We laugh and joke, while playing ball and ring. We even learned a traditional Indian game, a small version of pool using your hands instead of cues and chips instead of balls.

In the middle of it all the monsoon season showed us its face.  After a while we bravely weathered the storm. What we encountered, when we stepped outside, was an ocean of vehicles, people and water. Rickshaws became submarines and Scooters became Jet Skis. However we navigated our way through and an Indian Policewoman with whistle and torch became our Lighthouse on the busy road.
When we arrived back in the end we jumped in for a hot shower and a cup a Barry’s was sorely missed.

India: Morning Star Learning Center update


By Sarah Delea and Dervla Deacon

Our blog for week two is a compilation of photos from the different activities undertaken during the day in Morning Star.

  • Photos 1, 2 and 3:  Morning painting session with some of the boys in Morning Star who have both physical and intellectual disabilities.
  • Photo 4: In the “cot room” in Morning Star where we helped feed the boys with severe physical and intellectual disabilities.
  • Photo 5 and 6: Some of the boys in Morning Star enjoying some sports in the afternoon!

India: Challenging persectives


To encourage SERVE’s 2016 volunteers to think critically about common perceptions and misconceptions relating to developing countries, they have been given the task of taking photos that we think will challenge the perspectives of people in Ireland.  These photos are coming from our volunteers working in India during July and August 2016.

While so much has changed, developing countries continue to be described through a series of lacks and absences, failings and problems, plagues and catastrophes.  The challenge we set our volunteers was to be open to seeing things differently, to fight the stereotypes and exhibit the reality.

The photos featured here aim to challenge perspectives around such things as consumerism, gender stereotypes, wealth and nature, which may not necessarily be the common images we associate with India.

At all times the volunteers will be keeping in mind the Dochas Code of Conduct on Images and Messages.

Click on the photos below to get an explanation of the context of the photo.

India: An introduction to Morning Star


By Sarah Delea

Being greeted at Morning Star with hugs and kisses from the entire centre immediately revived us from our long journey and we were overwhelmed with excitement and intrigue as we toured the grounds and thought about the work we’d be doing with the SERVE partners.

Our day began with interacting with the disabled men and boys in the courtyard. At first we were unsure how to engage with them in a meaningful way but soon found conversation and painting to bring everyone together. We were later informed by John, the leader of Morning Star that keeping the boy’s minds active in this way was important for increasing their autonomy. This instilled more confidence in us that we were carrying out our work effectively.

This activity was followed by lunchtime where we helped the other volunteers to feed the disabled boys. I found the initial feeding session challenging as I had no prior experience. However, long term volunteers guided me through the process and I eventually became more comfortable with this task.

At 4:30, it was time to aid the children with their after school activities. This began with a short homework session where we helped the boys with their English pronunciation. In turn, we found the boys were teaching us their own language, Kannada creating a two way learning experience.

From 5:00 to 6:30, we engaged in sporting activities with the kids. Morning Star is home to a fantastic outdoor sporting facility consisting of a basketball court, volleyball net and large field for sports such as football, legaru and wheel spinning. This part of the day helped us to build a rapport and trust with the children who we could not communicate with clearly through language alone. It also tested our athletic stamina!

At 7pm we recited prayers with the children and were treated to traditonal song and drums which helped everyone to unwind- A nice contrast to the busy activities of the day. 8pm to 9pm was our time to engage with the children in art and practice our Kannada. This was a creative and enjoyable end to the day.

Despite having come from such diverse and difficult backgrounds, the children of Morning Star showed great respect their carers and teachers and the benefits they receive from being here are evident in their positive attitude and joy they derive from the simple pleasures in life.

Great artwork being completed

Great artwork being completed

India: inspiring Stories

by Sarah Armstrong and Sharon O’ Sullivan



At first glance you might not expect a man in a wheelchair, who suffered from polio, resulting in the paralysis of both legs to achieve much due to the stigma surrounding disabilities in India. Subash is a man I met with today in the APD horticulture centre for men. He was returning to where he had originally trained in horticulture 5 years ago, to employ 3 more trainees for his own business. He shared with us the story of his life which involved very difficult stages immersing in deep depressions and hardships. Due to the help of APD and his own will power he has challenged all typical perspectives of a disabled man in India without the use of his legs, as well as being an inspiration to other boys in the horticulture centre with the promise of a brighter future.

India: Overcoming preconceptions and expectations

by Ciara O’Malley & Ciara Golden


Our first impressions of Jyothi Seva has contradicted our preconceptions and expectations of what a school for the blind is like, especially in a disadvantaged area, be it in Ireland or India. The school itself has four flights of steep stairs. We watched as the children made their way efficiently from classroom to classroom without any aid or need for one. It was clear that the children were comfortable in their surroundings. Each child politely greeted us without prompt ‘Good Morning Auntie, How are you?’ From the warm welcome we received from the sisters, staff and children we immediately felt appreciated and were excited to start teaching!
We were given separate timetables and the opportunity to teach different standard classes from nursery up to standard 7. The classes were much smaller than anticipated but this gave us a chance to listen to each child and get to know them (even if we could only pronounce a handful of names). Throughout the week we taught classes of English, Arts and Craft, Music, and low vision classes. In addition, during any spare minute we are enjoying helping with the process of printing books in Braille with Sister Catherine – who has the patience of a Saint as this process is extremely tedious and time consuming.
The children in Jyothi Seva are happy, lively and achieving academically and socially. It is amazing to see the positive relationships these children have with each other and with all their teachers. They act as a support network to each other and are more like a large family than a school.

The children follow a routine that works simultaneously with the hostel where the majority of the children board. They begin their day at 5.30 where they prepare for school, attend mass and eat their breakfast. The school day lasts just over 6 hours. Extra support classes run throughout the evening and each child knows their time slot and when to arrive throughout the week. After dinner the children once again cross over to the school building to attend study. The sisters have a great system in place that works effectively for all.

As we planned and prepared for our lessons, we were adamant to introduce new teaching methodologies, ideas and resources that will be sustainable for the teachers long after we leave. They are open to new pedagogies and excited to see what we have planned for the weeks ahead. No pressure!! By the end of this week there were handprints on every wall, ‘I Tell me Ma’ echoing throughout the school and recitals of Irish poems being rattled off.

Jyothi Seva, School for the blind

Making our way to Jyothi Seva by rickshaw

India: Subtracting and adding, Religion and Culture

by Mairéad Finn, Andy Paffenholz and Rebecca Jones


As we walk along the streets of Bangalore there are temples, mosques and churches nearly side by side, surrounding us. This leads us to think about their meaning and impact on society and the people of India. It poses the age old question of culture vs religion – Are they one in the same or separate entities?

As volunteers moving from the bustle of Bangalore city to Sumanahalli, we are experiencing the culture and religion of Indian people first hand. Sumanahalli cares for people who are not accepted by society due to living with HIV/AIDS, leprosy and other afflictions. The people living here are from all different backgrounds with different cultures, religions and origins who live and work harmoniously side by side. Sumanahalli caters for the person and their individual needs in a non-judgemental manner. Sumanahalli in its essence is challenging not only our perspective but that of the Indian society.

“Sumanahalli incorporates the individual needs of the people that live and work here in a person centred approach, therefore cementing my belief that religion and culture can stand side by side equally” – Mairéad

“Even though Sumanahalli is a Christian run organisation, it employs Hindus, Muslims and Christians, whilst respecting the people of different denominations. This ties in with my personal view that we should stop labelling people and just provide care for people who need it” – Andy

“Seeing all the people of different religions living in such close proximity of one another allows me to think that there is hope on a global level that people of completely different religions, cultures, customs and backgrounds can live peacefully together without one religion or race dominating or dictating how others should live” – Rebecca

For some countries the religion may depict their culture or highly influence it through laws and customs. However, culture in other countries may stand alone.  Every rectangle can be a square but not every square can be a rectangle.

India: First Impressions

By Sarah Delea


Day 1: My first impression of India started on the plane to Bangalore where I was surrounded by indian people and given traditional Indian dinner and breakfast. I guess you could say I got a taste of what was to come!

Arriving in Bangalore on the first day, I noticed cultural differences immediately. From the carpet adorned airport to traditonal dress worn by locals. The bus trip from the airport to NSK gave me an opportunity to see the city and the people of Bangalore. I found myself glued to my window watching the seemingly chaotic traffic, hoards of people walking on the street and cows wandering the roads without a care! I was left in no doubt that I was in India!

One of the main things that struck me while driving through the city was the amount of men that could be seen walking on the road and hanging out outside shops and the noticeable lack of women, with rare groups of women travelling on their own. It made me think about women’s vulnerability in India and the safety in numbers. This stuck with me as I knew how, I myself, as a woman would have to keep this mind when travelling anywhere in this new country. I also thought of my hometown in Cork and how independent and safer women are there doing day to day activities compared to those in India and I felt grateful.

Upon reaching NSK I felt happy and relieved. Happy to be staying in such a peaceful and beautiful centre and relieved to finally be here after 18 hours of travelling!

After a much needed rest the group of 12 headed out to the nearby shops to find our bearings and get a feel for the city. I was surprised at how everyone that came in our path looked at us as if we had landed from Mars! I knew it would take some getting used to. After a quick bite to eat it was soon nighttime again. We were excited to recuperate ahead the next day when we would start visiting our work placements. Day one in Bangalore and we had already learned so much about the culture and environment that we would be immersed in for the coming weeks…

India SERVE Volunteers at Sumanahalli