Kelly is a math and science teacher from California. She volunteered teaching children in India with World Endeavors.
Kelly had just turned 30 when she decided to do a volunteer abroad program with World Endeavors. “I’m not married, and I don’t have kids, and I thought this would be a good time to have this kind of adventure.”
A high school math and science teacher, the California native loved her job and didn’t want to leave it. As a result, she wanted to find a program that would allow her to volunteer on a short-term basis. She found such an opportunity with World Endeavors.
“I found very few programs that offered short-term alternatives,” said Kelly. “Most want you to stay for a year, if not two or three years.” World Endeavors, on the other hand, allowed her the flexibility to volunteer abroad for a shorter period of time. “They were also very attentive to my inquiries, which was important. It’s comforting to know that you’re not alone, and that there’s always someone you can call to ask questions.”
With the help of World Endeavors, Kelly arranged to volunteer as a teacher for two months in Kanyakumari, in southern India – a place she describes as being geographically “exactly straight across the planet” from where she lives. Stepping off the plane right into the chaos of motorcycles, noise, and overwhelming visual stimulation, she might have also felt that India was culturally “exactly straight across the planet.” And yet with a World Endeavors contact to meet her right off the plane and help her to clean up, find food, and get her on the train to her next destination, the culture shock was somewhat eased.
Once in her village, Kelly stayed onsite, where the school maintained extra rooms for visitors. Her accommodations, while modest, were enhanced by a large bottle of filtered water delivered daily. “I was the only one who received this,” admitted Kelly. Her neighbors were the headmistress and the headmistress’ family, as well as some of the children who stayed at the school full-time. These were children who had been affected by the tsunami – mostly children whose fishing families had lost boats and nets, and who were struggling to get back on their feet.
“At the time, they did not have a biology teacher,” said Kelly, relating how she was able to slip into teaching after a few days of observing. “The kids were so excited that I was there. All they wanted to do was talk about America and my life.” In stark contrast to her teaching experience in the U.S., the children wore uniforms, had longer school hours, and considered it to be punishment to have to leave the classroom.
“One of my favorite things was riding the bus with the kids when they went home,” said Kelly (the other teachers thought she was crazy). But her daily bus rides gave her a chance to get to know the children outside of class, to see the surrounding villages where they lived, and to get to know the parents. On and off the bus, she observed a society in which most people don’t have much money and many children have to work to put food on the table. It is a society in which tight-knit communities depend on each other on a daily basis – a place where people will give a guest their last piece of food, simply because they want to talk and come away having learned something.
“It was hard coming back,” said Kelly. “My biggest wish is that every student in the United States would be required to go overseas to see the way people live in the rest of the world – places where most people are sleeping on the floor, and running water is a mile’s walk away.” She consoles herself, however, with the fact that her role as a teacher allows her to share what she’s seen and what she’s learned in her time abroad. “I wear my sari sometimes to school and the students love it.”
Kelly’s experience in India inspired her to go abroad with World Endeavors again; this time in Costa Rica, where she volunteered at a middle school in English classes.