Like all volunteers, I was uncertain what it would be like at the SLA School and Home in Tuni. But as we arrived we were greeted enthusiastically by the girls and boys who had lined up at the entrance.
After settling in and our first delicious meal of curry, we helped with the food for the children—quite a physical activity with the amount of rice to be served out. The older children who were managing the process kept a very close eye on how much food we served to each child. The children sat in long lines on the floor to eat their food.
The following day, we started our programme. We had developed a set of activities based on the film “The Lion King”, which was shown to the children, outside, on the first evening. Al led the painting of the boys dorms in Lion King themes, Peter and David taught the children Songs from The Lion King, and Olga, Rona, Venetia and I took the children in groups to colour in Lion King masks. Of course, this was really an opportunity to talk to the children in English. This all culminated in a performance on our last day, when the kids all wore their masks, and sang the songs they had been learning.
We also had planned to get the children to make pipe cleaner animals—which we volunteers had been practicing on the flight out! But it didn’t quite go according to plan…we gave the first group pipe cleaners, and one or two of them dutifully produced animals. But one boy made himself pipe cleaner glasses, and suddenly the whole school seemed to be wearing pipe cleaner glasses!
As part of our trip we went to a medical camp in a tribal village about 2 hours travel from the school. There was some electricity, a village pump for water, and no toilets (we used the hedge like the villagers). Dr Sowmya saw about 100 patients in a couple of hours, aided by some of the older boys and girls who were training in nursing, pharmacy and lab work. It was important for us to see that this was the sort of environment the children came from, but like children across the world, they were lively, engaged, responsive. It was a wonderfully life enhancing experience to spend time with them.