On the second day of January, we were went to two places. The first place was a little school. ARV gives the funds to this school to pay the salaries of the teachers. The students who attend the school are mostly Dalit children who would not otherwise be able to attend any school at all.
We were welcomed and invited to teach special English lessons. Karl and I team taught the little preschoolers while Denise and Heather split the older children into two classes.
After our impromptu lessons, there was more cake and speeches. (It happened to be Ravi’s birthday-this was the first of three cakes.)
For lunch we were able to drive to one of Ravi’s brother’s homes for lunch. This brother is a protestant minister and lives right next to his parish with his lovely family. (Ravi also has a brother who is a Catholic priest.)
The second place we visited that day was another Dalit village. We were going there to speak in particular to the young adults of the village. One of the biggest struggles for Dalit children growing up into young adults is the significant lack of self confidence. We spoke to them, trying to encourage them to continue working towards their goals.
It felt strange…they told us that just the fact that we came to visit them meant the world to them. And here I felt like I could do nothing for them. Being in India was a real lesson in perspective for me-you simply cannot gauge or judge other peoples experiences for yourself. It is wholly unfair to them.
It is possible to do something for someone that seems perfectly trivial from your perspective, but for them could mean the difference of life or death. You can never truly know how important your actions might be for someone.
Coming to India to work with the Dalit people as an American who is living Japan was an awakening. I struggled with feeling guilt simply because of where I came from and the opportunities I have been given in life. I wanted so much to do more for the people we met…but what? Trivial gifts like pens and candy do nothing for the long run and real changes. I honestly felt helpless.
Over the past few months since the trip, I have reflected and thought of ways to help. How can we possibly make real significant changes to help these people? This is difficult because once you leave a place like Chevuru and return to your own life, it is astonishingly easy to slide back into your routine and forget what you saw and experienced.
We are voices. We took time, resources, and money and gave them to help the Dalit people. We did make a difference. I feel that the most important thing for us as volunteer alumnae is to not forget and continue to be voices for the people we helped.