Week 1 – Bangalore

By Anne McGuiggan

My overriding feeling when arriving in India was one of relief. Relief to have gotten here safely, relief to find that the heat wasn’t too overwhelming, and relief that I was finally here, that all the planning, fundraising and anticipation was going to become a reality.

Since being here, I have found the people to be very gentle and friendly, the food amazing (no sign of the Delhi belly) and the sounds, smells and sights to be totally unique. Rickshaws (or autos) seem to be the best way to experience them!

It was good to have a couple of days to acclimatise, to get our bearings and to get to know each other better as a group, although travelling together to Bangalore definitely made us more comfortable with each other! We arrived on Thursday evening, visited 2 of our placements on Friday (Jyothi Seva & APD) and then Morning Star and Sumanahalli on Saturday as they are further out of Bangalore’s centre. It was great to finally visit the places we’d be working in and get a sense of the people we would be with for a month.

The rest of the weekend was spent getting resources, getting to know Bangalore better and resting up for the week ahead. The heat seems to make me more tired and it’s been early nights for everyone so far.

Nerves set in at half 8 on Monday morning as Terri & I travelled to Jyothi Seva with Dominic, who collected us in the jeep that the school/home have. We met Sr. Clare, who is the head of the school, and Sr Catherine, who gave us our timetable for the week and showed us around. She teaches many of the classes and they were keen that we should start teaching as soon as possible. We took Monday to observe, then dove straight into lessons on Tuesday, beginning with English for 6B. The children are so eager, so polite and so warm – they all call us ‘Auntie’ to show their affection.

What I’ve been so impressed with so far is their independence – Jyothi Seva really foster that in the children and it is evident in the way they move around the school: they move up and down stairs with ease, they move around the classrooms without guidance, they know their routines and timetables so that they know what lessons they should be in, and they are so punctual. They are bright and knowledgeable too: one lesson I observed was an English grammar lesson with 6th standard class and they were able to tell me about abstract, common & collective nouns (I wasn’t sure either!) as well as pronouns, and they use their Braille slates and Braillers with ease. I am still confused about Braille after a week!

What we can help with is teaching the correct pronunciation of sounds in English as well as grammar. Sr Catherine has also asked for teachers to stay in our lessons to observe our teaching methods and learn from us. They want to learn as much as possible from our methods so that they can transfer them to their own practice, and they also need resources that are appropriate for blind / low vision children, particularly in craft/art lessons.

This week has been quite overwhelming in terms of getting to know the children, the staff, our group, Bangalore as well as what we’re going to teach, but it was necessary to feel that way in order to feel a bit more settled now. I think I now have a better idea of what I can do to help Jyothi Seva, and what I need in order to achieve that. Week 2 will definitely bring more challenges but more learning for me too.