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India, Voluntourism

Hangin’ with street kids

Life in Delhi has been going smoothly. I’ve already fallen into a routine: I go to the center in the morning and work with the boys on their English, then we do physical education in the afternoon. After I leave the center, I take a tuk tuk to some Delhi sight to make sure I get in some sightseeing while I’m here. The other day I saw Humayun’s tomb, which pre-dates the Taj Mahal; and Gandhi Smriti, a lovely monument made of the place where Gandhi spent his last 144 days before he was assassinated.

At the center, the boys call me “Colleen-didi.” “Didi” is like saying “older sister” and considered an affectionate term of respect. As you might expect in any group setting, some boys are eager to learn and participate—one particular boy, Ankit, is extremely intelligent and far ahead of the others—while others are more shy or less trusting, preferring instead to hang back and watch. On my first day at the center, one boy named Ramesh refused to participate and looked upon me with frank distrust. However, he silently watched me interact with the other boys all day long and by my second day, I was thrilled to see that he was one of my most enthusiastic participants. I guess he decided the American woman was okay 🙂

Yesterday was a particularly difficult day. The temperatures here have hovered at or above 100 degrees (before I came here I checked on the temperatures and it said between 75 and 85—either this is unseasonable heat or that data is sorely outdated). Anyhow, temperatures like these would make the most mature, well-behaved person cranky. You can just imagine what it does to a cramped room full of boys aged 6 to 14. Every lesson and game was interrupted with me breaking up fights. If it weren’t for the fact that I am taller and stronger than they are, it would be a little frightening.

But aside from this, the boys are essentially good kids in a desperate situation. Jitaen, a boy who literally hangs on me because he wants and needs so much attention, is terribly undernourished and was severely abused before he came to Delhi. Others came from horrible poverty—and the poverty really must be horrible to prefer life at the Nizamuddin railway station. Before coming to the center, some had experience with drugs on the street. Begging is one way that they get the money for the drugs, but trading sex is another way. It’s the kind of stuff that makes your heart ache.

About colleen f

Colleen is a globe trotting, sight seeing, day tripping, frequent flying traveler with a penchant for voluntourism.


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