In my university summer holiday, I chose to volunteer in India for three weeks with Volunteer Invest. On my first day in Jaipur, I had an incredible opportunity, meeting both boys and girls for the first time at the organisation.
The children’s home was separated into two, boys and the girls. I went to the girl’s house first and introduced myself by making each child participate in a fun name activity.
They had to pass around an object and when the music stopped the person holding the object had to explain to the group who they were and either dance, sing or act. This helped break the ice to make the children feel comfortable with a new person being around and it also helped them express themselves through being creative.
Each child began to open up straight away and began to be confident in expressing themselves through their creative talent. This activity helped build up an interaction with each child which helped them ask me a few question in terms of who I am? And what I do? I ended up dancing and teaching the children a few dance-moves, which was very important because this kept the children engaged and happy.
After the introduction, I sat down and ate lunch with the children and then I was escorted by a member of staff to the boy’s home. Once I entered the boy’s house they all greeted me by touching the floor where my feet were with the words ‘Narran, Narran’. After this greeting all the boys gathered in a circle and introduced themselves and their favorite activity one by one.
I felt very welcomed through this greeting and taken back by the discipline these children had.
The boys were more confident then the girls and expressed themselves clearly and with great detail. The older boys seemed a lot more confident and there charisma was very high compared to some of the younger ones as I notice the younger boys followed what the older boys did.
Once they all explained who they were and I explained what I do and also the reason I travelled to India to help out at the children’s home and make a film, we started to organise ourselves into teams to play cricket. This was very relevant and an important factor into the interactions I had with the children and it helped engage the children. The boys really enjoy cricket and get very competitive throughout the whole game, which keeps the tension levels quite high. After a long sweat and intense game the day was coming to an end and I was picked up by the driver and taken back to my accommodation.
AND SO THE FILMING BEGINS
On my second day at the organisation I got stuck in straight away and had an incredible opportunity to film an event run by an India organisation that both the girls and boys participated in. The event consisted of a variety of role-play activities and a talent show, which engaged and created a lot of laughter for all the children. Upon arrival to the boy’s house where all the boys and girls were I heard echoes of laughter, which created such a positive environment.
All the children were very energetic and hyper throughout the day. My job within this activity was to capture the whole event through my video camera, making sure I gather shots of the children laughing and engaging in the activity. I managed to capture the whole event. What helped a lot was how energetic and eager some children were to be filmed, which made my job a whole lot easier.
What stood out for me was when the children got into groups and performed to an audience. I feel the idea of making the children feel included and making them express themselves is vital towards their growth and confidence. Just before the event was coming to a close, an activity to round off the day involved all the children getting up and dancing to some Bollywood music. All the children really enjoyed this activity and all joined in. After a short period of time I was persuaded to dance and before I knew it I got all the children following my dance moves.
This was a good way to interact with the children and they seemed very curious with my dance moves, which they seemed to love. Also another factor I notice throughout this day was that everyone participated and no one felt left out. After this event the children and I started to eat a very late lunch, which involved everyone praying and being quiet while we were eating. We then played board games, which is something the younger children liked more.
After a few days, I was starting to adapt to my new environment and the days were very eventful as I began to get to know the children. I involved the children in more indoor activities such as Ludo, Jenga, snakes and ladders and cricket. Throughout playing these board games I noticed the boys were very competitive and as a result a few harmless arguments would arise. However this was easily solved as I introduced the boys to a new game called ‘pat ball’, which involved hitting a ball on the wall and you can only hit the ball back onto the wall after one bounce.
They really enjoyed the game and would constantly want to play this game for hours. After ‘Pat ball’ and a few board games it was time for food and before the children would eat, everyone would be quiet while eating so they can appreciate the food. This I felt was a very good tactic for the children to understand the main importance of eating food. Once the children finished eating everyone sat down to watch a Bollywood movie.
I noticed the child were more prone to get restless when watching TV, and get bored easily. So I made sure I engaged the children more when hosting indoor activities. Keeping the boy interested for a long time was difficult. So I used my communication skills and I would engage the children in conversation in order to improve their English.
GIRLS VS BOYS
The following day I spent most of my time at the girl’s home, I arrived in the morning. Each of the children had a few questions for me in regards to where in the UK I was from? And do I study? And where? So after answering these questions for them, I involved all the children in following a dance routine I knew.
I noticed that all the girls liked to dance because they can express themselves fully through this activity. So at the beginning I allowed the children to play 3 of their favourite Bollywood dances and then they had to teach me a dance routine. I feel it is very important to empower the children because this gives them a sense of confidence and they are more likely to engage in the activity this way.
The girls were very excited to take part in this activity and really enjoyed getting me involved in following their dance steps. I noticed that some of the girls however sat at the back and didn’t get involved in this activity. So I tried really hard to get everyone to engage in this task so everyone could enjoy it. After a while most of the girls were teaching me some Bollywood songs.
After a short period of time, I taught the children a few English songs and I split the group into two and we all had a dance battle. The dance battle involved one person from each group dancing against each other and the audience had to decide who the better dancer was.
This was a hit and I noticed for the girls, the more constructive and hands on the activity was, the more the children enjoyed it. Afterwards, everyone was tired so we all sat down to eat lunch and after lunch the children wanted me to continue to teach them a dance routine. At the end of the day we showed members of staff the dance routine I taught them which they really enjoyed.
CREATIVE ARTS IN ACTION
This was a very creative day and I planned an activity where both the boys and girls had to draw what their home looked like to them and then write a sentence or a funny experience they have had there. I felt this would be a good idea so they could learn how to express themselves more. During the morning I went to the girl’s home first and explained to them what I wanted them to get involved in. At first they weren’t too sure about the idea but eventually they started to get involved. From this activity you could see, which of the girls were more reserved and which were confident enough to get involved. After a short period of time everyone got involved and you could see who enjoyed arts and crafts and who wasn’t so keen. Each child would come up to me and ask me if I liked their drawing, which made me realise they were engaging in the activity.
When it was time for the girls to write their funny experience there was a lot of laughter and positive energy. One story that stood out to me the most made me notice there was a strong foundation of family between the girls. After this activity, I went straight to the boys to eat lunch and explain to them the idea I had. What was so surprising was when introducing this idea to the boys; I noticed everyone was very creative when drawing what their home looked like to them. Most of the boy’s drawings were so detailed. However some of the boys needed the right incentive before they actually started the idea. The boys seemed to lose interest quickly especially the older boys, however when we played cricket later they appreciated that so much more.
INTERACTING TO STRENGTHEN RELATIONSHIPS
This was a very productive day. In the morning I taught the girls how to make pancakes which they thoroughly enjoyed. They seemed to be very happy when creating something as a team. Once I gave the children more leadership in the task of making the pancakes they seemed to enjoy it more. The responsibility helped engage the children. Another activity I did with both the girls and the boys was playing four songs and the task required them to draw how the song made them feel with their eyes closed. Each song that was chosen was to create certain feelings. Throughout this activity I noticed the way the songs made them feel represented a part of their personality.
What I notice about Sariia is the songs showed she likes to laugh and is a happy and bubbly person. What I noticed about Bhavana was she listened to the songs with her eyes were open and I noticed she got bored easily, however the songs reflected she was a very positive person by the way the songs made her feel. Another person whose personality shone through this task was Rada, the songs made her draw the sun and beaches and in her short sentence she wrote she felt happy. Her personality is very upbeat and she likes it when other people are happy and she remains positive at all times.
One of the boys who participated in this activity showed his passion for music by nodding his head to the beat each time a song was played. Monu from the girls home’s personality was shown clearly to me through this activity when I saw her drawing it was very expressive, with musical notes, which made me realise she enjoyed music and dancing. This activity was a hit and all the children really enjoyed the day so much.
CREATE AND PAINT
This was another creative day for the children and involved getting very messy with paint, however before I carried out this activity I first went to the girls home. I had to gather all the paint and set up the task before the children could enjoy the task of hand painting a tree and painting the trunk of the tree brown. Once the task was set up, all the children were told to put newspaper down in the hall and to draw a trunk of a tree on a giant piece of paper. Once this was completed the children got stuck in with the activity and started to use hand paint to create the leaves of the tree.
I noticed once a few of the children got stuck in, the others began to copy and then they all started to enjoy the activity. I got the older ones to draw the trunk of the tree brown and the other children were using paint for around the tree. The children that participated in this activity enjoyed it; I feel the younger ones enjoyed it more as this was their chance to get messy. Once everyone imprinted there hand, I wanted each child to write their name on the paper where they could find space. This was where most children started to lose interest in this task, however once I said they could draw a face or something funny they began to enjoy this too.
Throughout this activity photographs were taken and overall the children did enjoy this and were happy to take a picture with their work. After I finished this activity with the girls I went to the boys home where I ate lunch and then did the same activity with the boys. The boys did engage more with this activity then the girls and enjoyed this task. However at first the older boys were reluctant to take part in this activity so it took some encouragement before they got stuck in. I noticed the boys were more focused when you gave them clear instructions and they would participate and become very creative. This was a good activity for the children to open up to their creativity.
FILMING FOR MY DEGREE
This was were I started to focus on my filming task set by my university placement coordinator. I was asked to write a brief and interview two children; a boy and a girl about their journey of coming to this home. With the help from another volunteer I interviewed a boy from the home, Shubham. It was interesting to get to know about his goals and the whole reason he came to the home. This lasted about two hours and Shubham was very comfortable with us filming him and he seemed happy to tell his story.
After this was done I then went to eat lunch and played some role-play games with the younger children. I noticed that once you engage the younger children once, they will always want to play more games. This was a very productive and eventful day.
I continue to conduct my interviews the following day, and this time I interviewed someone from the girl’s home. I wanted to hear how she ended up in the home and what advice she could give to people in her situation. The interview went really well with help from another volunteer who translated my questions in Hindu. I found it very interesting to understand more about what the girl went through and also how positive she is. This interview lasted about an hour and a half.
After this interview was completed I went to eat with the children and then afterwards involved myself in a variety of role-play games to keep the children engaged. I also made sure the girls soaked some kidney peas in a pot of water for our next day’s cooking lesson. I really enjoyed this day and found it very rewarding.
My day started at the girl’s orphanage where I hosted a cooking lesson. I taught the children how to make rice and peas, so by following my instructions they began to start preparing for this dish. While this was happening another girl taught me how to make a dish involving potatoes. The children really enjoyed the cooking, focused and worked really well with each other. Not all the children were interested in cooking, however the ones that were, worked really hard. There was a girl who was taking pictures of everyone cooking and preparing the food.
I noticed the children really liked cooking and hardly needed supervision when involving them in this task. After the cooking was completed, we all ate together the food we had made. We then played some role-play games and then I worked in the office for the rest of my time at the home.
The following day I went straight to the boys home, it was such a cool day so in the morning we all played cricket. The boys take cricket very seriously and are very competitive with each other.
After we played cricket I gathered the children in a big group to play a game called ninja. Some of the members of staff took part in this activity as well. We played four games and the children really enjoyed this game, everyone was very focused throughout this activity.
After lunch I got a group of children together and we all participated in a drawing exercise. I notice that the children were very creative and enjoyed drawing a lot. There was a lot of talent and the children were better at drawing than I was. I also encouraged the children to create flowers and planes from paper.
I also introduced the girls to a game called ‘Pictionary’ where they were selected into two teams and had to guess what the other person was drawing without seeing the card. The children really enjoyed this game and expressed themselves very creatively. After this we played some badminton which was really enjoyable and then it was time for me to leave.
On my last day in Jaipur, I went to the girl’s home where I did some admin work and then played with the children. This was an enjoyable day and very sad as it was my last day with the children.
I have always been passionate about working with children, India helped reinforce my mindset of helping people for a living. India just gave me an experience that made me realise I was destined to help people and touch people’s soul the best way I can.
Reuben produced 2 short documentaries during his stay in India, you can see them here
If you would like to follow in Reuben’s footsteps, participate in rewarding projects that give back to children, or discuss a creative project you would like to take to our partner NGOs in Jaipur, get in touch here
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We interviewed Reuben about his time in Jaipur, you can watch the full interview here