While traveling abroad in itself encompasses uncertainty and ambiguity, there are few things that are bound to expose certainty: volunteering abroad is one of the experiences that reinvigorates you to a new altruistic direction, and I had my share in Korando!. After spending a month in Kenya, Kisumu, I have been reciprocated with some priceless lessons! Most people know Korando as an educational institution that caters towards providing quality education for the children of Kisumu, who cannot afford the price of education. That’s exactly what Korando is. In addition to that, for me, Korando embodies a family where there are sheer love, compassion and the strong sense of camaraderie. A family where all the children come together on Sunday’s to sing together, where kids in each classroom share the common interest and love for football. A family where girls stand in hand to hand to kick the football when they confidently compete against boys. A family where students warmheartedly open their hands and hearts to visitors, and volunteers. A family where, the meaning of family is redefined as Mama Dolphin, the founder of the school, gives students new life by providing the education, shelter, and most importantly a love and care, every child gets from their mother.
Every morning as I go for a run, tentatively around 6:30 am, I am greeted by familiar faces, big smiles and warm handshakes and constant hand waves. These are the students that I see on a daily basis at school, and most of them, I even take classes. The school starts early for them, at 6:00 and over the time, I sprint past them, a breeze of happiness surmounts me, an euphoria bestows upon my heart as I see these students saying, “See you in the computer class” or “We have a PE, creative arts class today”. My heart would leap with happiness when I see students getting excited about my class, and that automatically propelled me to work harder to make the class fun and exciting. The class at Korando would last until late at 5:30 pm, and sometimes it baffles me to comprehend the amount of time these students spent at school. Initially, it baffled me, but with each passing days, my admiration and respect just get deeper as I was thoroughly impressed by the sheer dedication catered towards education. However, it compelled to feel despondent for the students as these students are taught, based entirely on the idea of repetition. There is a change that I can observe as the incoming volunteers, are helping to break that conventional method, and it’s amazing to see students and teachers actively participating to make the education system better.
When I look back at retrospect, my life in Korando life can be safely segregated into two different phases. Firstly, my time at school as a volunteer/teacher where I would be in the classroom, teaching computer lessons, conducting P.E. classes, conducting writing programs. The second phase is the time after school hours, where I spent most of the time with the residential students, joining them in the evening prayer class, spending time with them during their study hours, having a family dinner together on Thursday. Most of the night after the homework session, I would go into the room of the students, and we would interact with different topics. We would interact about our different lives, my life as a student in Nepal, India, share our interest, life goals and get engrossed talking about serious topics like politics, and philosophy and bible, of course. One of the few things that fascinated me the most was to see the profound faith the students have on god and to see how big of an influence it has dwelled upon the lives of the students. On one hand, it forbids the student a freedom of expression or voices their opinion openly, as the students repeatedly have this innate habit of referencing bible in most of the conversations I had. On the other hand, it’s amazing to see how the deep faith in God and religion have given these students an optimistic outlook towards life, and have given them the hope and positivity, irrespective of having endured several life struggles. It was absolutely impressive to see students thriving, and see them smile their hearts out. It’s a sight I will never be able to forget!
One of the things that I really enjoyed was spending the time with students over the weekend break, especially Sunday afternoon. Normally, I’d be working on my own computer, and the students would just pop up, with an indication for asking the question, and I would just let the students do their own work, doodle, scribble, color or write something on the papers I would give them. The students, as obedient as they always are, would sit quietly on the fancy wooden
chair, and start crafting their masterpiece. I was so impressed by the student when they would draw a house, flowers, or even just doodle on the paper, or write something about me, something silly and humorous. I wish I could have done this more often, as most weekends I was out of the school. It was a real delight to see students using their time productively, and use their imagination and creativity to produce something that was praise-worthy.
Initially, it was hard to connect with the students while taking classes with them. A student in the class would give me a blank stare, as I spoke. I speak pretty fast, and that fast-paced speech was getting my way while I was communicating with the students. So as a remedy to that problem, I learned to slow down my speech, enunciate my word, and fairly keep my sentences short and simple, but straight to the point. Inside the classroom, I learned to be patient and constantly check on my students to make sure my students understood what I taught. They were generally shy, but I made sure that I keep repeating to make them say something. Writing instructions, and using the board, as well as using props was one strategy that I implemented to ensure clarity, and teach in a more interactive manner.
Each and every student I played alongside at Korando, I was constantly reminded that everyone in this world deserves a safe and secure place, a place where they can safely call their home, a place to seek comfort. And Korando was that place where everyone was welcomed to seek asylum, and enjoy the safety, comfort, respect, that the foundation bestows. Immersing myself in this family, was a small but meaningful contribution to a larger context of the societal obstacle.